May 23, 2013
Dallas, Texas, USA
Last week when I arrived to Bangladesh, the immigration officials there were positively ecstatic to see a foreign tourist entering the country.
I’ve also been to places in Africa and the South Pacific where you’re greeted upon arrival by dancing tribespeople singing songs of welcome.
It’s not quite the same in the Land of the Free. In fact, before they even let people in the country, they program us to be afraid and intimidated.
For one thing, all the immigration officers are armed. There’s absolutely no reason for a government agent to carry a loaded pistol when all he does is stamp a passport. This is EXTREMELY uncommon in the rest of the world. Only in the Land of the Free.
Just like the airport security farce, which has millions of travelers assume the “I surrender” pose inside a radiation machine, US immigration checkpoints are there to train people to be afraid and submit to the state’s authority.
When you step back and look at the whole government apparatus, it’s apparent that this culture of fear and intimidation applies across the entire spectrum.
We’re programmed, for example, to be terrified of the IRS. It’s to the point that getting audited consistently ranks among people’s top fears in the Land of the Free, right up there with snakes and unexpected death. It’s quite sad, actually.
And whether this Soviet-style idea to target opposition political groups came from the top or from the lower ranks, it smacks of an entire organizational culture gone awry… one that thinks it has unlimited power and authority to squash anyone it wants.
We’re also programmed to fear the police… who are more commonly donning combat boots, assault rifles, and these hideous Urban Assault Vehicles as a show of force, as if they’re on patrol in Kandahar.
And we’re programmed to subordinate ourselves to the interests of the state… whether it’s “shared sacrifice”, i.e. everyone must universally suffer because politicians are incompetent, or ratting out our neighbors to Homeland Security (if you see something, say something) or the IRS.
There’s so much more. We’re told that we can be attacked by drones, held in military detention, or have our children taken away by the government. These are powerful tools in stoking a culture of fear to keep an entire civilization under control.
Yet these constant abuses of power are diametrically opposed to how a free society is supposed to conduct itself.
You’re probably aware of a particularly fitting quote, most frequently credited to Thomas Jefferson– “Where the people fear the government, you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.” It’s absolutely true.
(There is no evidence that Jefferson ever said this, nor is the phrase contained in his works. It was first seen in print in John Basil Barnhill’s article, ‘Indictment of Socialism No. 3’ in 1914.)
Jefferson did write in a 1789 letter to Welsh philosopher Richard Price that “wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
Unfortunately this isn’t happening; ‘the people’ aren’t rising up to set things right.
And this is an important reminder: we cannot rely on a government or society to provide us with freedom or the economic opportunity which stems from it. We can’t wait for tens of millions of people to ‘wake up’ and ‘vote the bums out’. Or take to the streets.
If history is any indicator, the fear and intimidation will likely get worse. This problem doesn’t just go away, and it doesn’t resolve itself.
The only viable strategy is to abandon the herd and focus on what we can all do as individuals to safeguard our wealth, preserve our liberties, and ensure the continued safety of our families.