If the over-optimistically misnomered “free world” is no longer anything like free, what about it could possibly be worth striving to save?
Why Preserve a ‘World Order’ Without Freedom?
It has become fashionable now for lawmakers to demand accountability for the social media site TikTok because it is finally being correctly acknowledged as both an intelligence-gathering net and propaganda fire hose for the Chinese Communist Party. The irony, though, is that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google Search provide the U.S. government with identical tools. The D.C. Deep State does not mind if Americans are spied on and psychologically manipulated by government actors; on the contrary, it seeks a total monopoly on such influence operations.
To enjoy personal liberty free from the arbitrary intrusions of government nosy-bodies, you have to get pretty far away from the shadow of State authority. Even then, because the national security surveillance structure is pervasive, an isolated campfire in a remote wood is still most likely being caught by somebody’s overhead satellite for some unknown reason. If you are unable to escape from the watchful eyes of the government’s complex monitoring system, then the inner mind becomes the last refuge for any freethinker — so long as those personal thoughts are not communicated out loud.
So freedom is chased farther and farther away from hubs of government tracking, farther and farther into the recesses of one’s mind, until it can be exercised only in the silence of one’s imagination. Make no mistake: the imposition of “silence” is intentional. Governments understand that the best way to prevent the spread of ideas that might threaten their grip on power is to prevent those ideas from ever being spoken out loud. To silence dissent is to squash opposition. To criminalize thought is to enslave the mind. That’s the “freedom” enjoyed by a prisoner, not a living, breathing citizen of any “free world.” If you have been corralled into a mental prison against your will, though, then the best question to ask is this: what would you be willing to do to escape?
Cameras, computers, artificial intelligence — there’s just no way out! Do you know that every generation of humans confronted with new technological weapons has said the same thing?Their cannon are too powerful! Their ships are too many! It is futile to resist! Yet people do resist, and over time, they realize that it is ultimately not the technology that threatens their freedom, but rather the governments that would choose to use that technology without respect for human rights or natural liberties.
Precisely, indubitably so. Over the course of my life, I’ve heard the exact same bitching and moaning over the advent of color TV, then cable TV, then VCRs, then the Innarnuts, then cell phones, then smart phones and tablets, etc etc ad infinitum ad nauseam. No, no, and oh hell no. No grumpy comment-section Neo-Luddite screaming “we must get rid of (insert name of new tech here), we must get rid of (insert other new tech here)!” is at any real hazard of being enslaved by said new-tech devices. Not as long as they retain the intestinal fortitude to simply put the blasted thing down, they ain’t.
Bottom-line summation: it’s the government, stupid.
To create and sustain a “free world,” citizens actually have to be willing to stand up to their governments and say, “No, you cannot do that; you do not have that power; now go away.” Usually, governments (which exist purely because they assert a monopoly over the legitimate use of force) then load their cannon and surround rebellious ports with an overwhelming number of ships as a demonstration of how their “legitimate” force somehow justifies the theft of others’ freedoms. For the citizenry on the receiving end of such violence, this translates to nothing more than “might makes right.”
What they learn in the process is that government power untethered from principle is neither righteous nor worth preserving. The harsher and more unjust governments become toward their citizens, the more likely movements for freedom take hold. When scrappy underdogs prevail over unbeatable foes and “turn the world upside-down,” they do so with tremendous help from their tormentors’ hubris.
Lindsey Graham is right about this much: the world order is at stake. Freedom around the world is under attack from those governments sworn to protect it, and their betrayal imperils peace. I saw a headline recently that blared, “Rogue Hog Turns Tables, Kills Butcher.” Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the news had nothing to do with politics. Although, given that the homicidal hog had been repeatedly shocked with a stun gun and kept in a tiny enclosure on his way to becoming BBQ, his story could be a prudent allegory after all.
Freedom ain’t free; never has been, never will be. It is not a gift from some benevolent and wise government; no government in history has been willing to even pay lip service for very long, as ours no longer bothers about doing, to “preserving” and/or “defending” it as it grows ever larger and more intrusive. The priceless jewel of freedom can only be seized and then scrupulously maintained, nearly always by force of arms wielded by strong, determined lovers of individual liberty resolutely unwilling to ever take “no” for an answer.
“Violence is not the answer”? The hell you say. It’s the ONLY answer, once a certain line in the sand has been stepped over. Unfortunately for us all, in Amerika v2.0 that grim threshold was crossed long ago.
This essay is depressing as all hell, but it’s also one of the estimable JB Shurk’s very best yet, of which you’ll surely want to read the all.