After surviving tragedy at the World Trade Center on 9-11-2001 (I escaped from building #5, which was engulfed in a fireball 30 to 45 minutes after I evacuated), I became driven to find out the underlying causes of that event. My studies took me toward subjects in sociology and political history as well as military history. I focused on varying proposals to right the wrongs of US military and social injustices that were being unleashed at home and in our foreign interventions abroad.
I have come to three conclusions: 1) We can’t count on social movements to rein in an empire that is galloping out of control; 2) Political revolution is too risky as an agent of change, as history shows; 3) A small number of specially trained personnel, beholden to no nation or corporation, offer the best chance for true change in this tortured world.
I long ago came to the conclusion that social movements as proposed by Noam Chomsky and others as bulwarks against injustice had never been feasible in any age let alone our current one, which is being rapidly being transformed by new technologies. As a senior software engineer professionally, I have yet to witness radical change being effected by aggregates of people brought together by technology. Instead, technology is being used to manipulate the masses while distracting them from their disempowerment.
Another inherent disadvantage to social movements is their lack of cohesiveness, which allows them to be co-opted by outside forces. A classic example of this was the 1960s anti-war movement that was infested with FBI informants.
A third disadvantage is that social movements cannot stop ongoing injustices and mayhem. The result is that thousands of people, and in the case of Iraq, hundreds of thousands, are left to suffer, often facing death from US interventionist policies of imperialism gone mad.
Revolution, a smoldering alternative to social movements, is the eventual consequence of a society in distress. Unfortunately, here too such counter-conflict often simply replaces one set of psychopathic rulers with another.
A classic example of this is the American Revolution, which did not promote democratic idealism or the welfare of the general public but in fact was an outgrowth of colonial elite desire to maintain and manage their wealth on their own terms. Rhetoric to the contrary, the American Revolution changed very little for the average colonist turned American citizen, while at the same time forcing British sympathizers to flee to Canada or return to England.
That the US Constitution was nothing more than an economic document has been demonstrated by Charles Beard, America’s greatest conservative historian of the 20th century, in a book published in 1913 and subsequently by two other historians in 1953 and in 2005. (For those of you interested in reading such material I have all three of these books and can refer the names upon request.) Indeed, the US Constitution is a fairly flimsy document that mostly parrots 17th-century English Common Law with a few twists.
Returning to my original contention regarding revolution, one would be hard pressed to find one that actually turned life around for the better for all concerned. The Russian Revolution in 1917 successfully changed the face of Russia for the better but was quickly turned into simply another extension of psychopathic power interests. First Lenin allowed the social organizations that successfully supported such a revolution to be disbanded and destroyed, then Stalin jockeyed for absolute power as Lenin closed in on his early death. Stalinist purges followed.
No more need be said here.
So in essence, two mechanisms that have been historically used to rectify injustice – social movements and political revolutions – are themselves either too weak to perform the necessary job or too destructive to merit consideration.
Despite this, there is an excellent example of a third option that has worked as far as it has been allowed to work. Americans haven’t heard anything about it because it’s in Cuba. In the 1950s, Fidel Castro engineered social change that prevented Cuba from being dominated and exploited by capitalism as sponsored and enforced by the US government. Refusing to be an American stooge, Castro paid the price of being a demonized Communist, the target of innumerable US assassination attempts.
Yes, Castro set up a government that ruled with an iron fist, but paradoxically it helped to safeguard the more important community democracies that flourished under his rule. Today, Cuban politics remain primarily at the community level and not at the federal one. That Cuba today is still close to its original 1956 form with strong support from its people is a testament to the longevity of such a project. It hasn’t been equaled in any quarter in the United States or its history.
Today, the citizens of the United States cannot hope to emulate such a radical change as occurred in Cuba. There is no reforming the current ruling powers. They are too corrupt.
How should the US be rebuilt, and who shall do it? I submit for your consideration the concept of a third alternative that supersedes those that have not proven to have enduring capacities, The Knights of Earth.
In the movie, “Star Wars,” the Jedi knights were not formed to rule but instead to ensure that those who did rule do so fairly and equitably.
If you can take a young man or woman and train them to be efficient killers, you can do the opposite as well, and train them to be efficient guardians of the public welfare. Selected students starting in middle-school would be trained in law, history, ethics, psychology, sociology, and compassion while being exposed to and taught what human cancers are and how they appear.
The US government now has men and women who have no ability to think in terms of the general welfare of the society they have been elected and appointed to serve. With the exception of those who are marginalized or eventually forced to leave, such as Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich, there is not a single member of Congress, the Judicial Branch, or the Executive Branch who has the general welfare of the nation as his or her first priority. Our elected officials have been completely co-opted by elites and powerful interests to serve their needs, not the needs of the people.
Surely we can do better than this. Instead of training Special Forces in killing, why not educate a new group of Knights in effective and humane law so they are grounded in what is fair and just? Such Knights would then be guardians to all. And they would have the power to remove judicially those elected officials who abuse their position for their own gain, while doing the same to those who seek to influence them.
There are those who will decry such a concept by claiming that such an organization could also be turned, but there are mechanisms that can be used to reduce the chances of this. For example, the psychology imbued in such young people would instill a moral code that stressed chivalry and compassion, not dominance and death.
There is evidence in history that this can be accomplished. The Knights Templar developed along similar lines. In their day they ruled much of medieval Europe until the Catholic Church stepped in and began disbanding them. One has to wonder what good the Church did for Europe compared to the Knights Templar.
The evidence I present is suggestive rather than conclusive. But if we don’t begin thinking toward alternative possibilities, we as a species will be truly lost.
Steve Naidamast is a senior software engineer by profession and a military historian by avocation.
29 thoughts on “The Knights of Earth”
Steve.. Thank you for a most thought provoking article. Things must change in this country or there will be vast social unrest and government suppression. All human ‘rule’ is imperfect and all humans aspire to peace and a small portion of happiness. These two are in contradiction. Once any human gains a modicum of power he becomes tempted into corruption so it is a battle that is never ending. Your “knights” of righteousness will be corrupted ultimately of power. It is only skepticism and “contrariness” of the ruled that will maintain any semblance of social justice in any human organization from the PTA to the US government. .
Thank you for your kind thoughts.
I am not so sure about The Knights being corrupted that easily. The examples I gave actually lasted quite a while. In addition, If enough psychological bulwarks can be built into the organization (in this case personnel in such areas would have to be constantly rotated to avoid complacency) than there would be strong mitigating factors towards corruption.
If Earth has become so devoid of people of Honor than all is lost and Humanity will continue on its self-destructive path. However, I am not sure that such Honor no longer exists and I am about as pessimistic towards the Human species as one can get…
Steve. It took me many years to comprehend what a centuries old philosopher, Epictitus, said; ” NO MAN KNOWINGLY DOES EVIL”. That’s a hard concept to bend one’s mind around and apply to all the self serving evil we are surrounded with. But it is true. The most destructive things are done by people who zealously believe they are doing “good” for humanity. Just reference the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, our forefathers crushing the native Americans, the slave owners who looked at Africans as only 5/8ths of themselves, the Holacaust, and ISIS, and of course to bring it up to date Messrs. Obama , Bush, et al who are bringing “Democracy” to the world. Epictitus brings a message of skepticism which means that one should beware of Savior “Knights”. Only you are” the Captain of your ship, the master of your fate”. There are no Knights.around the corner. The answer lies in each of us. Our skepticism and contrariness is the light at the end of the tunnel.
We see this today in Hong Kong, where the people are showing their skepticism of the promises of the Central Chinese government. they may be temporarily crushed but they will make a difference in the long run.
To borrow from “Star Trek” instead of “Star Wars,” it’s fascinating to witness how the United States has morphed from an exploratory United Federation of Planets to a war-driven Klingon Empire. After all, it’s the U.S. that spends the most on “defense,” it’s the US that dominates the world arms trade, it’s the U.S. that seeks “full spectrum dominance” and that glorifies its “warriors” as “heroes.” Indeed, the Klingons were more honest in their desire to dominate through force. They didn’t cloak their warrior urges in democratic rhetoric.
The idea of “knights of earth” is attractive, but I can’t see it flying in the U.S. without major changes. Any “outside” force that tried to effect change within America would be instantly painted by the powers that be as meddlesome or terroristic. Consider the way that the United Nations is consistently vilified as a threat to America. The powers that be will not concede power unless threatened by guns (or perhaps light sabers). And right now it’s America that has the most guns.
The U.S., it seems to me, is becoming increasingly like the Byzantine Empire, overly complex and bureaucratic, riven by tensions and suspicion, pursuing courses that will ultimately lead to collapse. I see no philosopher-kings, whether external or internal, ready to step forward to reform the system; indeed, the system would probably prevent such a person from stepping forward.
Is collapse inevitable? As long as we keep spending a trillion dollars a year on war while expanding our goals of world dominance, whether achieved through military bases or cyberwar or drones or whatever, I think the answer is “yes.”
Here I think Ike was right again. He said that only Americans could hurt America. Our government’s policies are slowly strangling our republic, mainly because, to borrow from “Star Wars” and Dick Cheney, we have turned to the Dark Side.
Cheney, who avoided the Vietnam war through student deferments and because he had “other priorities,” was proud of his embrace of the Dark Side. Americans should not be. But we continue to be seduced by all of the warrior trappings of empire. I wonder when we’ll begin work on our very own Death Star?
I agree with your comments, Bill. However, your comparison to the Byzantine Empire I believe is incorrect. The Eastern Roman empire was actually a model of efficiency when compared top its brother in the west.
This is why it outlasted the western Roman Empire. In addition, the Byzantines were very careful about the development of their army, which was a very highly sophisticated, small mobile force, the first in history until Radetsky and Napoleon came along.
As to the US having turned to the Dark Side; well there is no argument here. However, there are theories about that postulate that some members of the Dark Side can actually do good. But I wouldn’t hold your breath here.
The Knights surely would not be able to come into existence in the same way a social movement does. It is not designed to do so. Its first task unfortunately, would be to eliminate those who have been oppressing the US and the rest of the world. This will happen at some point given the trends in the United States and the growing movements around the world. It is simply unavoidable just as climatic catastrophe is (unless we start doing something about it).
However, I am not a proponent of revolution since as I said in my piece,historically with rare exception,has it accomplished anything.
So one must then consider that there is control over the inevitable and that is what The Knights must be formed to do first…
Steve–The monks of the Shao-lin Temple may be your best candidates to fulfill this fantasy. But the greatest masters of kung-fu cannot stand up to modern military hardware, which they would now encounter on the local police level, let alone taking on the US military. I found your most interesting phrase (not in original post, but your last comment) “…to eliminate those who have been oppressing the US and the rest of the world.” But that is revolution, and as Mao said it “is not a tea party.” The so-called democracy proponents loved to vilify The Chairman for his statement “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun.” He was, of course, merely observing how the ruling classes of the western powers maintain their domination and urging that the tables be turned on them.
Social movements can, at best, force a measure of reform on a regime. But to struggle in this manner, despite the appearance of futility, is better in my view than complacency followed by flat-out apathy. (Or as Phil Ochs brilliantly observed in song, “And I’m sure it [the problems of the world] wouldn’t interest anybody, Outside of a small circle of friends.”) The Anti-Vietnam War Movement, in which I played a solidly committed role, was not defeated–though it certainly had internal divisiveness–by all the dirty tricks the Nixon/Hoover COINTELPRO threw at it. Social networking media are being used these days in attempts to change the world, but they are subject to being hacked for intel gathering and being shut down by repressive regimes. The very brave crowds of Egyptians in the streets thought they had overthrown the old regime but look who’s back in control; only the name and face of the dictator have changed. Because, again, bullets stifle Tweets! This is the harsh reality.
It is said that “Every revolution devours its children.” Mao’s revolution racked up many amazing accomplishments but now the nation is in the hands of billionaires. Oh, that reminds me to say that I fully agree with you about the shortcomings of the so-called American Revolution, which I myself have pointed out here was simply a change of nationality of the exploiting elites. Sentimentally, I remain a revolutionist. Intellectually, I am fully aware of the vanishingly thin odds of such an event taking place here. What is the alternative? Let us turn to no less a figure of revolution than Leon Trotsky! Even before the outbreak of World War II he recognized the tremendous potential of the United States as a global force. He said the US is the oven (in the sense of a steel plant) in which humanity’s future would be forged. Then he warned that if that nation’s powers were not channeled for the collective good of the human race, we would likely slip back into barbarity. Take a look at the state of the world today. In which direction do you think we are headed?
Interesting essay and concept for a “third option,” although communist Cuba and the Knights Templar were hardly exemplary. If I understood correctly, the author is advocating for benevolent-technocratic-authoritarianism which certainly doesn’t have much prevalence in human history. It also brings to mind Lord Acton who wrote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Democracy and the idea of citizen participation in government were created in response to authoritarianism. However, its fundamental flaw – dependence on a stable, informed, and responsible electorate – has been purposely and repeatedly exploited by its opponents. Furthermore, a case could be made that the world has become too large for democracy – logistically. The aftermath of WWI and global economic depression doomed the Weimar Republic in Germany. The U.S.-led western democracies will soon likely face a similar catastrophe, albeit for different reasons. The rise of a globally hegemonic plutocracy is eroding democracy from within, while escalating worldwide environmental degradation is pressuring it externally. I hate to say this, but our future doesn’t look too good right now.
I don’t have the answer, and time is running out. If we can’t educate and train people to think and act civically and collectively, we’ll have no choice but to rely on the empowerment of selected leaders and hope they would behave altruistically. That prospect, by the way, really scares me.
OMG, but of course! “benevolent-technocratic-authoritarianism”!! Whether this is what Steve was getting at or no, the phrase lighted a huge bulb in my noggin: “Wings Over the World”!!!–the coalition of “airmen and technicians” in the 1936 film (with screenplay personally overseen by H.G. Wells) “THINGS TO COME.” They restore order and Science to a world fallen back into barbarism, ruled by local war lords, after a devastating global conflict. With war clouds already hovering over Europe when produced, this movie was a plea against the madness of repeating the first world war. Wells’s detestation of war shines through brightly. Yes, it’s a dark, faded old movie with less than pristine audio but I highly recommend it if you’ve never seen it.
Yes, Robert, things look very bleak indeed for the human race. I believe we have passed the tipping point in the declining quality–and at some point we will be forced to use the term “collapse”–of the environment. There are numerous ways an individual may choose to react to this reality. I believe it preferable to continue to struggle for a better future, degraded though it may inevitably be, than to surrender to despair. To continue to try to be part of a solution rather than the problem. I seem to recall that Epictetus, brought up by “b. traven,” was a noted Stoic. There were different schools among the Stoics. They did not all advocate surrendering passively to one’s Fate, as Stoicism is commonly (mis)understood. A good subject to read up on in this day and age.
Thanks, Greg. I’ll have to check out Wells’ “THINGS TO COME,” it looks to be right up my alley. And yes, we simply cannot surrender… everything depends on it.
A good comment, Robert. The theme of benevolent autocracy goes back at least to Plato’s Republic where — in theory — supposedly enlightened Philosopher kings would rule the unwashed and uneducated masses. Which reminds me of a comment Bertrand Russell made in his History of Western Philosophy:
“Plato possessed the art to dress up illiberal suggestions in such a way that they deceived future ages, which admired the Republic without ever becoming aware of what was involved in its proposals. It has always been correct to praise Plato, but not to understand him. This is the common fate of great men. My object is the opposite. I wish to understand him, but to treat him with as little reverence as if he were a contemporary English or American advocate of totalitarianism.”
I certainly agree that “benevolent autocracy” sounds like an “illiberal suggestion dressed up in such a way as to deceive future ages” — if not the present. As a college student, George Lucas read Joseph Cambell’s classic study of archetypal mythology, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, which he used as the framework for his Star Wars films. That he called them Star “Wars” instead of Star “Peace” ought to indicate that he had no vision of a universe any more enlightened or less brutal that all the ages that have gone before. As luck would have it, I came across the first episode (IV) of the original trilogy a few days ago on HBO Asia and I found it pretty much a video game production with a bit of cheesy Chinese fortune cookie mysticism thrown in for unimaginable purposes.
As for the Jesuit Jeddi or Knights Templar crusaders, I’ll leave comment on those for another time.
Plato’s Republic was required reading in my high school. After finishing it – a rather arduous process, I might add – I was flabbergasted. The concept of benevolent philosopher kings seemed disconnected from the all-too-obvious reality of human nature with respect to the allure of power. However, I didn’t put much effort into criticizing it at the time because I considered my perspective as biased against authoritarianism (I was one of those anti-establishment types from the Sixties). Now, four decades later, I’m not so timidly anti-authoritarian!
I am not sure where everyone is getting the idea that The Knights would rule anyone. Didn’t anyone read my essay?
Yes Steve, I read your essay thoroughly. It makes some excellent points, particularly on social movements and revolution. However, I believe we see the nature and application of administrative power somewhat differently.
Well then, someone better come up with a better idea and soon…
[This post relates to several of the most recent comments by others.] I believe the original “proposal” was that the Knights would “ride shotgun” on those administering society, a check on their conduct. By Jove, that’s not so different from the Commissars of the early USSR! A Commissar was to be a revolutionary official possessing a large pistol who “guided” (that’s where the pistol came in!) the work of the officials of the old regime, whose expertise was still needed to keep the economy functioning.
I escaped “THE REPUBLIC” in my school days but read it voluntarily relatively recently. Yes, it’s a bit of a slog to get thru, but I was rather fascinated by the proposal to raise a whole generation to serve the state (and by extension, the good of society) by taking them from their parents, making the state their mothers and fathers in essence, to be inculcated with a strict set of ethics and values. Hitler Youth in the making? Well, that risk is what this discussion started out assessing. I think we’re all in agreement that the world’s status quo is a godawful mess and something has to give, perhaps sooner rather than later. Mother Nature has a cure in mind for Man’s folly, but you ain’t gonna enjoy it, folks!! “Extinction is forever.” How’s THAT for an inconvenient truth?!?
To Mike Murry: I was sold on the “Star Wars” saga from the first TV trailer I saw, introducing Chewbacca! I was in the queue to see Episode IV the Memorial Day weekend of 1977 when it premiered. The early episodes were just bloody-rollicking entertainment, in the style of the old Saturday matinee serials. Also, it’s known that, Joseph Campbell’s work aside, the first installment was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “THE HIDDEN FORTRESS.” That said, you either dig it or you don’t. “Star Peace” instead of “Star Wars”? Well, the primary theme is that Evil does indeed exist, and must be combatted for peace to be possible. Evil does not have much of a track record of surrendering voluntarily.
Whoa there pardner… The Russian Revolution actually succeeded until the second wave of psychopaths in charge ruined it. What you are referring to there is the aftermath of that ruination, which came to be known as Stalinism, not Communism…
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said he wouldn’t recommend a revolution for any people, since they unleash the most elemental barbarism. What we need is not a revolution but a reformation or revival. A reformation of American politics that removes big money from the equation, and a revival of civic duty and community spirit. To borrow from the Air Force, we need leaders with integrity, committed to service, and devoted to excellence. And we need to defeat the fear that has gripped this country, and that is both exacerbated and channeled by the whole national/homeland security complex that is feeding off of that fear.
To cite “Dune” yet again, fear is killing our minds.
Col. Astore–I must repeat what I have opined here before: US society is way beyond any hope of reformation. The privileged elements are far too well entrenched, and now they have militarized cops everywhere to protect their interests. We all seem to agree that revolution here is NOT just around the corner. Sorry to be the bearer of this news, but that pretty well narrows the options to societal collapse. You know those “Doomsday preppers”? They’re onto something!!
Not so, Steve! I am very well read in the Bolshevik Revolution. The concept of the Commissar with the large pistol had to be deployed to save the revolution during the Civil War, 1919-21, the period of Trotsky’s formation and leadership of the Red Army, employing what was called “war communism”–if X number of units of this or that industrial item or foodstuffs were required for the defense of the regime, they were simply seized (“requisitioned” in more polite terms). Only later came the introduction of the “New Economic Policy,” with concessions to the private markets to try to keep the economy afloat while the USSR was economically blockaded and isolated from the capitalist world. Stalin would eventually reverse all that violently, after establishing himself and his cronies as the new elites. Lenin was long in his mausoleum and Trotsky in exile by then. This is all very fresh in my mind, as I am 2/3 way through reading Isaac Deutscher’s 1,500-page biography of Trotsky.
In reply to wjastore who wrote: “What we need is not a revolution but a reformation or revival. A reformation of American politics that removes big money from the equation, and a revival of civic duty and community spirit.”
Agreed, and this actually occurred in America in reaction to the Gilded Age. Known as the Progressive Era, it was spearheaded by Theodore Roosevelt, Robert La Follette, and other notable leaders who aligned institutional politics with grassroots populism. Today, no such alignment seems possible with the current state of both political parties (i.e. the Tea Party-controlled GOP being ideologically authoritarian, and the Democrats fearful of losing their hard-fought access to corporate funding).
So, it begs the question. How can we initiate a “reformation or revival” in the face of such entrenched opposition from The Establishment?
I don’t know the answer to that, Robert. But I do know that history is unpredictable, and that revolution or collapse is not inevitable. Perhaps the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The ideas are there, but corresponding actions are not. Will there be a moment, an events or events, that galvanize change, that push the needle in a more positive direction? Or will we continue to slip toward decadence and decay? What makes living exciting is we don’t know; that, and perhaps the chance we can and will make a difference.
I believe just about everyone here has missed the point… Too bad… The species is surely doomed…
You may have intended to make certain points, Steve. You may also have made other points that you did not intend to make. That does not necessarily mean that readers have missed either of them. For example: you state above:
“I am not sure where everyone is getting the idea that The Knights would rule anyone. Didn’t anyone read my essay?”
Yes, I did. Especially the part toward the end where you say:
“The Knights Templar … in their day ,,, ruled much of medieval Europe until the Catholic Church stepped in and began disbanding them. One has to wonder what good the Church did for Europe compared to the Knights Templar.”
You used the word “rule,” Steve, and you did so rather approvingly. Apparently the glaring irony of your choice of words escaped you. Personally, I do not see how anyone could have missed it. As for the relationship between the Church in Europe and its “Warrior Monks” sent to attack and dispossess the so-called Muslim “heretics” in the so-called “Holy Lands” (before branching out into international banking), I highly recommend reading the bloodthirsty exhortation of Bernard de Clairvaux (whom the Catholic Church later made a saint):
In Praise of the New Knighthood (Liber ad milites Templi: De laude novae militae)
As we used to say in Vietnam: “Fighting for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity.” The very mention of “rule” by “elite” warrior monks makes my skin crawl. And since the Medieval Western Crusades have resumed again after a pause of only eight centuries, I would agree that the species — or at least the Anglo-Zionist component of it — does appear doomed. But not from the inability to read and understand the word “rule” when encountered on the written page.
I believe you took my example of the Knights Templar out of context. The fact that they did rule medieval Europe for a while did not mean that I intended to The Knights follow in the same path. True, I could have been clearer,but the fact that the Knights Templar were strong enough and cohesive enough to actually supersede the current ruling institutions of the day proves my point that a unit could be formed that could be as cohesive and successful.
Unfortunately, the Knights Templar used a fallacious foundation for their development with the church, which had its own rot and hypocrisies.
Again, I never said that The Knights were to rule…
However, to date no one has suggested an alternative to the failed concepts of social movements and revolution. I see a number of posts describing how my concept could not work or would fall into the same corruption as other groups but nothing to suggest an alternative.
So far, the conclusions being drawn here is that basically nothing is possible when you apply a lot of theoretical think against it and so the species is doomed considering that Mother Nature will destroy it before anyone lifts a hand to stop what is happening.
Steve–I think you’ve pretty well summed matters up. My prescription for revolution is, by my own admission, improbable. Humanity has survived previous major calamities, as “b. traven” points out, but global climate chaos is a whole new ballgame. The machinery of Nature is in motion and regime change in human societies will not undo the damage. Amelioration is the best we could hope for. And who will lead the way? It sure doesn’t look like the USA!! We are collectively responsible for allowing “our leaders” to behave so disgracefully (in servitude to polluting corporations) and harmfully to our welfare, ignoring decades of warnings about environmental degradation. Let us face the future as clear-mindedly as we can, and try to treat our fellow suffering beings (being a Buddhist, I don’t limit this to humans) with compassion.
Thank you again grelaxer for clear-sited words.
I tend to agree with your assessments concerning Human nature and we may be to far gone to do anything but minimize an increasingly bad situation.
When you look at current US activities in the Mid-East, they show a clear sign that years of incompetency, greed, and arrogance has culminated into pure, clinical insanity.
How does one stop this among all the other horrendous things the US is doing around the world and to its own citizens is a question that appears to be unable to be answered simply from all the competing viewpoints on the matter.
We have been discussing here, largely, a sclerosis of intellectual analysis and paralysis of political will among the US citizenry. (I almost said electorate, but we know how low voter turnout has become as the candidates of capitalism’s “two parties” become more and more indistinguishable.) On the one hand are the devotees of Fox “News” and their ilk, with their knee-jerk criticism of whatever Obama does, be it pretend to make peace or launch a new military adventure. On the other hand there are those of us who “feel in our very bones” that The System that governs us has gone terribly wrong, but we feel helpless in the face of the immense power opposing us, the juggernaut of exploitation that just rolls on. It exploits the earth, it exploits human beings and it exploits the tendency to apathy of the latter. (Mother Nature is proving anything but apathetic in demonstrating the folly of human society.) Though the Founding Fathers earned my criticism by designing a system of governance to maintain the privileges of the “upper crust” of society, stifling any truly revolutionary direction for the young nation, I still believe they would be horrified to see how we are governed now. We, the commoners, have been denied any real say in all this. Oh, to be sure, we have a crowd of demagogues claiming to represent the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, but their sole motivation for complaining of excessive taxation is to increase their personal incomes while hankering to throw all the poor into the harbor, thus eliminating welfare expenses.
The above is a long-winded introduction to a quotation I discovered just last night (serendipity!) in Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Leon Trotsky (first published c. 1952). Francois-Noel Babeuf (he later took the name Gracchus, from a prominent figure of the Roman Republic) was a participant in and analyst of the French Revolution (1789-c. 1797). After the downfall of Robespierre and the right wing’s ascendance he continued to agitate for “Liberte, egalite, fraternite” [sorry, I lack capability of appending the proper accents] as a member of “The Conspiracy of Equals.” He ended up under the guillotine himself. This statement of Babeuf, as quoted by Deutscher, resonated with me: “To re-educate the people in the love of liberty is more difficult than to conquer [i.e. seize or gain] liberty.” [bracketed clarification by GL] Deutscher then comments: “The French had ‘unlearned’ freedom.” So I ask you now: Have not Americans “unlearned” freedom? Do we not sit passively by while our supposed civil liberties are daily eroded by the “War On Terror”? “America the Dutiful” (see Mike Murry’s poem of that title) indeed!! There has been an upswell of Americans leaving this country and renouncing their citizenship–for which the Federal Government recently raised the fee from $850 to $2,350! I think they may be on to something.
It is interesting to note that you brought up the name of the Roman noble, Gracchus. The Gracchus family were truly some of the greatest social reformers in history.
Unfortunately, the father and the two brothers who all stood by their convictions, were murdered for their stands on the common Roman peasant farmer…
Steve.. Your article was a big success because it got people thinking. Remember, this blog is “contrarian” so it’s hard to ‘herd’ those contraryian cats.We look fwd to hearing more from you.
We are living through very dangerous times. I remember before WW II we had very visible openly fascist movements in this country; William Dudley Pelley’s ‘Silver Shirts’, the German-American Bund’s ‘Brown Shirts’, the Catholic’s ‘Father Coughlin. All were fringe movements but very visible. The’ species’ survived this and we will survive this much more dangerous onslaught by the rich oligarchs. “Keep on truckin”