"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
Blowing Away the Illusion
What do 9/11, the London bombings and Hurricane Katrina have in common? They all demonstrate the failure of the state to do what it claims is its two primary responsibilities - the preservation of domestic law and order and defence against foreign aggression. Most people who support minimalist government place a heavy emphasis on the state's monopoly role of policing, system of justice and national defence. While leftists and liberals demand the state take care of a much greater range of issues - the general social welfare being on top of the list. Between them, rightists and leftists agree, the state is our great hope and saviour of last resort. All praise the state. But just stop and think for a moment. If the job of domestic security and national defence was carried out by non-government agencies, i.e. private defence companies, don't you think people would have been calling for the CEOs' heads by now? You bet! When it comes to private companies, we expect accountability. And if we don't get it, we demand it. But when it comes to the state, it seems we are under a strange hypnotic spell, which blinds us to its colossal failures - in every realm. Where is the accountability? Where is the outrage? Where is the demand for heads to roll? Nothing, nada, zip - barely a whisper of discontent. If George Bush or Tony Blair were the CEOs of large corporations, charged with providing such law and order and defence, they would have been history long ago. I often ponder the question as to why someone like Martha Stewart was jailed (for what, to me, was a non-crime), while people like Bush and Blair walk the earth with cheesy grins on their faces - immune and apparently teflon-coated as far as taking the blame for anything they have initiated or are responsible for. However, you don't need to contemplate big issues like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina to realise all this. Just ask yourself a much more personal and pertinent question. Does the machinery of the state make you feel more personally secure in your home? Will the state protect you from muggers, rapists and murderers? Of course not! What it provides is an abysmal sort of "rearguard" action. It cannot prevent you or your property from being violated, and at best can only follow up on such abuses by attempting to catch the perpetrators - after the fact. And even that is done badly. What's worse, the state makes it practically impossible for you to defend yourself! We are used to such everyday, small time failure. We don't even consider it extraordinary. But when some BIG event comes along, and blows everyone away, and where the state appears to be the obvious means of dealing with such, its failure is larger than life - wide out in the open, where everyone can see it. Or can they? The "war on terror" is perhaps the most obvious example of the failure of the state - and quite likely a terminal failure. There it stands, as our accepted last line of defence against barbarity and lawlessness - and yet the state fails this most important litmus test of its viability and competency - and dare I say, legitimacy. We are told the "war on terror" must be waged to destroy the enemies of our freedoms - those same freedoms the state is determined to obliterate in order to fight the war. Tell me, what will be the justification for fighting the "enemies of freedom" when we no longer have any freedoms left to defend? The state has failed at its self-declared most important job. And it is using all its powers of propaganda and spin to convince us otherwise. Think of it this way. There is the USA, with the most powerful military in the history of the world, and yet it cannot find Osama bin Laden. It cannot stop a handful of people from flying planes into buildings. It cannot control any more than the "Green Zone" in Iraq. Its client regime in Afghanistan is in reality only controlling Kabul. Its firepower cannot crush a few thousand insurgents. Failure, failure, failure. What this brings out into broad daylight is the absolute limit of state power under present conditions of social acceptance. Oh sure, there are state-worshipers who say the USA is simply not "tough" enough - and could easily stop terror in its tracks by nuking the entire Middle East. And that's true. If the whole of Islam was taken out, then one could reasonably conclude there would be no more Islamic suicide bombers. So there's the choice. We can have the state as it is, in all its abysmal failure. Or, we can have the TOTAL state, unrestrained by moral considerations, which can obliterate its enemies (and its citizens) by unlimited military power and force of arms. Your choice. But remember, the total state kills innocents - and increasingly so. It's fascinating to read history, and to realise that in the "old" days, the various kingdoms would wage war under quite restrictive conditions - often in the space of a large open field of grass, and according to very strict rules of engagement. The civilian population was largely unaffected by such squabbles - as they were fought, won and lost by just the soldiers themselves, with the King safely in the rear. All that changed in the 20th Century - with the arrival of "world" wars. It's no secret that states employed mass civilian bombing as a matter of military policy. London, Dresden, Hiroshima. No scruples then, about the state's role in targeting civilians. "It's worth killing 100,000, to save a million", they said. State terrorism. The total state was showing its true colours. And this is just how it should be. After all, the state is nothing more than brute force, the power of the gun. It has no other tools at its disposal. The problem is, we're a much more sensitive lot now. Most of us don't like the idea of mass bombing of civilians - at least not if it's an openly declared military objective. Why, hell, that would make us as bad as the terrorists we are fighting! So, the dilemma is this: the USA, with the most powerful military on earth, cannot unleash the full force of its might, precisely because of public sensibility. It has to cloak its military strategies in the talk of "compassion". That it doesn't deliberately target civilians. That it doesn't really condone torture. That it is doing all this for the highest moral reasons. This is hogwash of course. What is the moral difference between bombing a town full of civilians, to kill 50 insurgents, when you KNOW there will be civilian casualties - and a "terrorist" who blows himself up outside an Iraqi army recruiting centre, and KNOWS there are children playing outside? Just "collateral damage," they all say. The "war on terror" has brought into sharp relief the true nature of state power, and more importantly, the state's inability to fulfill its stated purpose of defending you and me against "terrorists." It's terrified we may discover the Emperor has no clothes, so is throwing all it has into the military and propaganda end game. What's more, the "war on terror" cannot be won. It cannot be won because it is a war fought by states against non-states - using the old methods of state-to-state warfare. Previously, wars have always been between states, or kingdoms - using the agreed principles and strategies of warfare. A sort of "Gentleman's Agreement." But now, states are fighting a war against individuals who are not aligned with any states as such, just a belief, an ideology, and certainly no agreement as to how such a war should be waged. So you have the phenomena of the mighty state, with all its military power - warships, guns, tanks, nukes, jet fighters, drones, surveillance, intelligence - being taken on by individual fighters for a cause. Individual fighters with home-made bombs, second-hand guns, and improvised rocket launchers. And still the state cannot win. By declaring a "war on terror," the modern state has bitten off more than it can chew. It has declared a war on individuals who are motivated by belief - the belief that they have been wronged in some way or other. And as long as there are people who believe this, then there will be no shortage of recruits to their cause. When Tony Blair declares his disgust at the bombings in London, or the British press talks of the "chilling" message of the suicide bomber - that they are soldiers fighting a war - does it not strike you as incredulous that our leaders can claim to see no connection between their actions and the actions of these terrorists? Surely, if we are at WAR - then we can expect the enemy to strike us at home? Why are we shocked when they kill innocents - when we do the same? And so the fantasy of the state is unraveling before our eyes. We are witnessing the gradual erosion of belief in the state as the all-powerful solution to all our problems. We are being forced to face up to the fact that the means of social organisation we have grown up with, is in fact failing on so many fronts. We are confronted with the choice of either accepting and welcoming the TOTAL state, or watching the state wither away into irrelevance. Already, the fellow-travelers of the state - the leftists, the liberals, the Marxists, the warmongering right-wingers and the welfare-statist looters - are all braying that these "disasters" only go to prove the state is not nearly powerful enough. Just read what some of them said after the Katrina/New Orleans debacle - that this represents the failure of market ideology. Sheesh! Some people just never get it. It's not the failure of the market, it's the abject failure of the state. Meanwhile, in the "other" world of private enterprise and voluntary social interaction, life goes on. Goods are being produced and sold. Services are being delivered. All that we take for granted as being necessary for the good life is being created by science, technology and business. The state, on the other hand, creates absolutely nothing, and yet has a mystic grip on our misplaced loyalty. Just look around you: Your home; your car; your business; your job; your iPod; your mobile phone; your computer; your annual holiday; your retirement fund, your health; your favourite restaurant, your entertainment; your local supermarket; your community; your family; your life. Everything of value to you is created by individuals, going about their own business - voluntarily trading value for value on the open market. The state is but a parasite on this process, and on civilisation itself, which is a creation of civilised people - i.e. free people who take responsibility for their own lives and decisions. The state has nothing to offer such people. Nothing that could not be done far better by private companies and voluntary organisations. We have reached a point in history where a monumental decision needs to be made. Either we continue to believe in the myth of the state, and grant it ever more power over our lives, in order that it may fulfill its avowed purpose - or we discard this outmoded method of organising society in favour of one based on mutual recognition of property rights and personal sovereignty, where free individuals deal with one another on the basis of voluntary agreements and contracts. The choice is a stark one. Either we move forward to a genuine freedom and consequent peace, or we march "backwards" to an Orwellian future of totalitarianism and perpetual war. But don't count on this choice being decided at the ballot box. No, the democratic process is thoroughly corrupt and incapable of delivering any meaningful change. The choice must be made by individuals, and where possible by individuals acting in cooperation with other, like-minded, individuals - to create alternatives to state power and organisation. Real change begins at "home." You can begin by making the state irrelevant to your own life. I can tell you, if you are prepared to take 100% responsibility for your own life, you don't need any state to manage, control and own it. At that point you'll realise the state is just a cunning moocher, conning you out of a large proportion or your life's energy (like all parasites). And just as you'd feel a lot better for having some dreadful tapeworm removed from your intestines, so you will feel decidedly better for removing the state (as much as possible) from your life. Why not take the first step now?