One of the most challenging obstacles working against ordinary citizens in the West is the self-satisfying presumption that Western institutions and philosophies are inherently immune from the rise of totalitarianism. This is an understandable blind spot. Their identities have been forged, to various degrees, in the great traditions of Enlightenment notions of liberty, free speech, and natural rights. Surely the victors over communism, fascism, and Nazism cannot then fall victim to the madness of those same philosophies collapsing their systems from within. This “Us/Them” self-delusion has kept the citizenry from recognizing tyranny inside its gates.
It is good for people to take pride in the achievements and histories of their nation-states. It is natural for the inhabitants of countries founded in fights for freedom to assume that the costs of obtaining that freedom are behind them and not ahead. It is easy to self-define the victors of WWII as cultures standing firmly opposed to authoritarianism, to believe that nations not bound by the Iron Curtain would never choose to build their own and to assume that millions of graves and monuments attesting to the great human sacrifices over the last century in the defense of freedom are sufficient safeguards against future generations ever detouring from the blessings of human liberty. But all of these good and natural and easy mental prisms become mental prisons when they keep us from seeing what is happening in our own backyards.
The growing tyranny in the West has not happened overnight. It did not suddenly arrive at our doorsteps with the Chinese Flu. It has been a nightmare decades in the making. The difference today is that previously slumbering citizens once sublimely content in the normal humdrum of their lives are waking up to realize that the enemies from our past have returned with a vengeance. Free speech is treated as dangerous. Western governments, corporations, and social media platforms engage in rampant censorship. Race and sexual identity are used as the defining attributes of a person to the exclusion of talent, character, and achievement. Teachers’ unions openly demand the right to indoctrinate children according to the interests of the State. Parents are threatened for believing that their children belong to them. The criminal justice system is used as a place to punish political opponents and to protect political friends. Religious expression is outlawed. Leftists’ “secularized religion” is imposed. Freedom is disparaged as “right-wing.” Coercion has replaced consent. Victimhood has replaced virtue. Conformity has replaced individuality. “Correct” thinking has replaced freethinking. “Social justice” has replaced real justice. And the protection of government has become more important than the protection of human rights.
For the newly awakened, there is a tendency to see all this carnage for the first time with fresh eyes and become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the rot. The corruption, criminality, and chaos have infiltrated everything once held dear, and the future seems hopelessly lost. That hopelessness, however, is not based in reality but rather the “Us/Them” self-delusion that tyranny could not happen here. It’s not easy to accept that the great sacrifices of the past made in the struggle for human freedom have once again been squandered by a new generation of despots. It is a necessary first step, though, before the righteous can throw themselves into the fight and get back to work. And once people come to terms with the fact that tyranny not only could happen here but that it is happening here, then they will realize that the struggle has only really begun in earnest.
Does anyone think the perverse and heavy-handed responses by the American government to the January 6 election protesters is a sign of strength? Does anyone believe that the Canadian government’s decision to enact emergency powers and martial law to manhandle peaceful demonstrators protesting medical mandates showcases institutional confidence? Do the U.K. government’s attempts to paint Brexit as a “Russian operation” project healthy trust in elections? When French president Emmanuel Macron feels compelled to go politicking with tear gas and heavily armored vehicles near his side, does he strike yellow-vest-wearing Europeans as fully in control? Does the Department of Justice’s habitual harassment of conservatives across the United States for their beliefs or its repeated attempts to put President Trump in criminal jeopardy really seem like the actions of a federal system secure in its future? Of course not!
Western governments are terrified of their people today. They are terrified of what their people believe, or else they wouldn’t feel compelled to criminalize thoughts as “hateful.” They are scared to death of what their people might say to each other, or else they wouldn’t engage in mass surveillance and blatant censorship. They are fearful of free and fair elections, or else they wouldn’t work so hard to manipulate and undermine them. And they are absolutely petrified of a future where cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies free their citizens from the consolidated control imposed by central banks and spendthrift treasuries. If discouraged and demoralized Westerners doubt that they have more power right now than their governments could ever possess, then take a hard look at the obscene lengths to which those governments have gone in order to maintain and preserve their jurisdiction. Embracing tyranny under the sickening pretense of “preserving democracy” betrays just how weak these governments have become!
Václav Havel — dissident, political prisoner, and eventual president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic — wrote a sledgehammer of an essay in the late ’70s entitled “The Power of the Powerless.” In that indictment against the oppressive nature of communist regimes, he demystified totalitarianism as a system that forces citizens to “live within a lie.” What each citizen secretly believes does not matter. Whether a citizen privately contests in his mind the State’s constructed truths is irrelevant. What is crucial for totalitarianism, however, is that each citizen repeats the State’s lies, lives within the system based on those lies, and perpetuates that system of lies in everyday life. He uses the example of a grocer displaying a Workers of the World, Unite! sign because failure to do so could be seen as a sign of disloyalty to the State. By displaying it, the grocer isn’t expressing truth or personal enthusiasm for a cause, but rather proving his humiliating submission to a system of control.
Now consider all of the slogans we daily encounter from government and corporate mouthpieces alike: Black Lives Matter!; Build Back Better!; Trans Rights Are Human Rights!; The Science Is Settled!; Save the Earth!; Stop Global Warming!; The War on Women Is Real!; We’re All in This Together!; Abortion Is Health Care!; My Body, My Choice! It doesn’t matter how vapid, factually incorrect, or contradictory the political slogan. What matters is that all of us repeat them obediently to prove our allegiance to and faith in the system. And therein lies the key to our salvation.
Question the lies, and you question the system. Push back against the State’s monopoly over truth, and you cripple the State’s legitimacy. Celebrate individuality, and you fracture the mental prison of groupthink. Live “in truth,” and you erode the control of State dogma. When people realize that they individually strengthen the State by submitting to its lies, people then understand that the whole artifice of the system survives purely through their individual consent. At that point, it becomes obvious that the small number of people at the top of the system is not really in control at all. It is the large population — psychologically abused and tormented by their government — that wields power when it chooses. Once the powerless have this epiphany, they alone control their destiny.
Identify tyranny. Question lies. Resist oppression. Assert truth. Empower the powerless. Destroy the system’s illusion of control. Be not afraid. It’s that simple.
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