"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
July 4: A Promise Betrayed
In the early 80s I was in New Zealand. I was an ardent admirer and supporter of the USA and everything American. So much so, that one particular evening I deliberately took myself on to the streets of Auckland City to take on the mindless hordes who were marching up the main street in protest at the visits of American nuclear-powered warships to New Zealand waters.
I was livid. I can recall yelling and arguing with various left wing toadies, trying in vain to counter their assertion that such ships were dangerous. Of course, the real reason I was angry was that I knew the root of these protests was anti-Americanism. If ever anyone hated America's freedoms, it was these people!
I loved America, because it was the first country explicitly formed on the basis of a document asserting the rights of the individual - The Declaration of Independence. Because it was the true land of opportunity. And because it shone like a beacon of hope in an otherwise dismal, socialist world.
I view that document as a global treasure. It asserts man's sovereignty--anywhere and everywhere. It is a world first. Nowhere and no time in previous history has such a declaration been made on behalf of the rights of man. Nowhere has anyone audaciously suggested that man is sovereign over his own life.
To say, as it does, that we all have unalienable rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"--is to say what history has hitherto suppressed and denied. And because of this, it is a truly radical document.
The greatness of America was built upon the greatness of its founding principles--The Declaration of Independence.
Boy, how times have changed!
Americans still celebrate July 4, Independence Day, but judging from actual reality, it would appear the majority have either forgotten what those words really mean, or don't care any more.
It would seem that Americans are more concerned with flag-waving and patriotic slogans, as expressions of the July 4 spirit, than concern for the principles that mark that day as unique. Form has replaced substance. Slogans have replaced thinking. Spin has replaced truth.
How did all this happen?
Well, America's abandonment of freedom as a guiding principle did not happen overnight. It was a slow process of erosion and decay--a gradualist departure from the ideals that made it great in the first place.
But if one can put an exact time on the open declaration of this decay, it was the USA's response to 9/11.
I was in London at the time, heading back to my hotel after a few hours of shopping. I noticed all these people standing in front of a shop window. It turned out they were all watching multiple television screens, which were simultaneously announcing that the USA had been attacked and that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. The images were literally "out of this world"!
I was like everybody else, shocked and angered--and appalled that such a thing could happen. At first, I could hardly bring myself to believe it!
Little did I know that this event would trigger a major catastrophe for both the USA and the world at large--the declaration of the "war on terror."
I see this Declaration of War as the complete opposite to the earlier Declaration of Independence. One opened the door to human advancement and progress. The other opened the door to possible human annihilation.
The first declaration is about individual freedom. The second declaration is about human slavery.
It seems the world turned, in one breath, from a place of hope and fulfilled dreams, to one of horror and despair. And the reason for this sea change in the world's psyche was America's turning from being the champion of freedom to an active proponent of its demise--all in the name of protecting freedom.
Millions of words have already been written on the war on terror, so I will simply say that a war on terror is a war on an idea. A war on a strategy. It cannot be won. It can only lead to more and more degradation and decline, as ever-expanding draconian legislation is enacted in the futile attempt to stamp out terror.
One may as well stamp out evil. It's a fool's game. War won't eliminate terror, but it can certainly eliminate freedom.
Like I said, the erosion of individual liberty has been a "work in progress"--a series of small steps in the wrong direction. It didn't start yesterday--and in fact probably started the day after the original Declaration was signed!
Every minor loss of freedom sets a precedent for the next one. One law here, one regulation there. One tax increase here, one property rights violation there. Over time, the situation becomes like the veritable frog in boiling water--which ends up dying because the water temperature was heated gradually, so it didn't notice the impending danger.
But the war on terror has brought this process to an entirely new stage--the overt, in-your-face abandonment of any pretence of freedom--all in the pursuit of fabled security.
And that's the deal the world is being offered. Your freedom for your security. A trade made in hell. Except, it's not honestly stated. No politician is actually saying "give up your freedom in exchange for security." No, what they ARE saying is that this war on terror is necessary, precisely to ensure freedom!
War, I venture to say, is not a human activity at all--not if you consider humans as individuals. War can only be fought by states--or humans in the collective sense. Sure, individuals often resort to violence, but it is limited to one on one, or a few against the others. Only the state can bring individuals together on mass--and turn the propensity for a fist fight into a potential nuclear holocaust.
War puts everything up for grabs--including enshrined freedoms. Nothing can stand against the state as a war machine. And if you try, you are a traitor.
War reveals the very worst in human nature. Men, who at home wouldn't hurt a fly, will turn into butchers, torturers and rapists in the theatre of war. Individual responsibility is replaced by the obedience to authority. Individual conscience is replaced by herd instinct.
War is the health of the state. States need war. They need it to instil a sense of fear and insecurity. Like any effective protection racketeer, you can hardly expect your clients to hand over their money and freedom, unless there is a demonstrated need for the services you are offering.
War is the ultimate "create fear - provide protection" racket.
The "war on terror" is diabolically clever for a number of reasons: first because the enemy can be anywhere, which causes more fear; secondly because the war is never-ending, as terror (like evil) will likely be with us forever; thirdly such a war cannot be measured or graded for success. It is undefinable, malleable--the perfect tool for the nascent totalitarian.
There's a well-known phenomenon in politics. It's when a party promises one thing, and surreptitiously goes ahead and does another. It's much more likely for a leftist government to succeed in bringing about rightist policies. And vice versa, for a rightist government to implement leftist policies. For example: a leftist government is more likely to succeed in getting industrial relations laws changed, in favour of the free market, than a rightist one. This is because liberals are wary of a right wing party's intentions and will scrutinise every move. Whereas their faith in their own party's ideological slogans blinds them to its actual actions.
You can see this all over the world, from the US Republican Party's embrace and furtherance of socialist, welfare state policies, to the UK Labour Party's embrace of neo-Thatcherist economic policies, to the radical surge toward the free market which New Zealand underwent in 1984--under a Labour government!
It seems that people's defences are down when their "own" people are in control.
Well, the same phenomenon is happening on an international scale. If any number of people were asked to name the freest country on earth, I'm sure the majority would immediately say, "the USA!". And it is precisely because of this reputation, that the leaders of that country can now be pushing a totalitarian platform. No one expects the "land of the free" to be promoters of, and the catalyst for, a "world of the slaves."
On this memorable day, July 4, I ask all right-thinking Americans to consider the true meaning of their founding charter. I urge them to compare their country as it was, to the one it is becoming--under the banner of the "war on terror."
A country at war is never a free country. Yes, it's possible to fight a war to secure freedom--as was the original American war of Independence. But a war on terror is a different type of animal altogether. A war on terror is not a war to secure freedom, but to obliterate it. Not overnight. Not at once. But gradually, step by step--one lost freedom at a time.
There is one glimmer of hope, and that's the fact there IS such a thing as the true American "spirit"--the sense of life that knows, understands and values true freedom.
America has many such people with the freedom spirit. And all it needs is for this force for freedom to wake up and take action--before it's too late.
July 4 is a time to celebrate freedom and all that entails. Let us hope that enough Americans grasp the true meaning of it, and realise that the course the USA has currently set itself is not about freedom, but about slavery.
America is both the hope and fear of the entire world. Its size and power make it capable of influencing the entire planet for good, or ill. The America of the Founding Fathers is the hope--but the USA of the "war on terror" is the fear.
Where it chooses to go from here, remains to be seen. But there is always a choice.