Tag Archives: freedom

To Be Governed…

To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so…. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality. And to think that there are democrats among us who pretend that there is any good in government

— Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, John Beverly Robinson’s 1923 translation of Idée générale de la révolution au XIXe siècle

A well known quote in anarchist circles (in various translations), but more than that, a sentiment familiar to many in history with experience to know better than many people right now.

I worry about anyone naive enough, or brief enough in their momentary span of historical (and cultural and geographical) awareness, that they would believe one recent election could make all the difference. Only now does it perhaps begin to occur to them that political power was not centralized in the state just for their benefit. Only now do they look with any real suspicion at the exercise of it.

The institution of the state is not some new problem for people who have suffered under bureaucracy, or the whims of political leaders, or the systematic and recurring uses of power at their expense for the advantage of one agenda or special interest or another.

For example, the troubles of an immigrant coming to America certainly did not begin with the Trump administration, as many young protesters seem to think. It would doubtless surprise most of them to learn that the Obama administration deported more people than any other administration (and all others before 2000), and pushed other enforcement policies such as criminalization, internment, and border militarization.

The abuse of power concomitant with power itself is not a partisan problem but an institutional one. It’s noticing the evidence of the problem (or failing to notice, and rationalizing) that turns partisan, and biased according to party, faction, and animosity.

The original monopoly of “the state” or “government” (on which all other attempted monopolies depend) is that of an exclusive claim to legitimate force, to compulsion—a claim to deserve obedience but also the right to compel it. This remains the essential formula of a hierarchy of political power to this very day.

Those who believe they and their agenda rule, believe power is rendered fine and respectable as long as they rule, and only feel it is corrupted and dangerous when they lose power. It’s a strange alchemy, and a secular faith.

If only it would occur to more people that any state powerful enough to give them things they demand, or dream of—if indeed their wants and dreams can truly be delivered and sustained by demands on other people—has to be powerful enough to take away what they hold dear, also.

With loud report

Fireworks are awesome.

Fireworks are designed for fun. They are designed to look pretty, and make booms to let you know you’re alive. They are designed to surprise you with what something small, like a rocket, a whizzing bee, or a firecracker, can do. They are designed to make you smile without realizing it, and maybe startle you a bit.

They aren’t designed to start fires, or to blow off your hand, no matter what nanny-statists and media fearmongers say around this time, every year. If someone does these things with them in your neighborhood, believe me, they are more dangerous behind the wheel of a car.

It’s sad that people fear what they don’t understand. Like guns, fireworks are safe to use as long as you act responsibly. From chrysanthemum balls to Roman candles to sparklers to quarter- and half-sticks (not actually made of dynamite, contrary to popular belief!), fireworks were designed to please you, not to explode with maximum force like bombs, nor to set people and things on fire, like napalm.

When I was a kid, I learned about making fireworks (and explosives) as well as setting them off from my father. In the heritage of this country, learning to set off fireworks yourself was normal, like learning how to shoot, and other cool and fun things, like how to handle knives, climb trees, or find your way alone in the woods. Sadly, once kids stop learning how to do things responsibly as they grow up, they grow up to become increasingly risk-averse and credulous about fears. They let other, official people provide the circuses to go with their bread, while they’re told they should just watch, and do as they’re told. That’s not what independence is about.