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The liberty movement is all about revolution, whether it be a cultural revolution where individual respect and honor are reclaimed (or established, depending on your perspective), a financial revolution whereby fiat is thoroughly discredited (again) and people value their productivity against hard standards instead of political whim, or a military revolution, with the eradication of the mindset that increasingly views domestic peace-keeping as a war-time occupation, or all of the above (apologies for this sentence, and for anyone who subconsciously waits for punctuation to breathe while reading an article and are now gasping for air and cursing my verbosity). Libertarians, anarchists, voluntaryists, anarcho-capitalists, minarchists, old-school small-government conservatives, and European-styled small government liberals are all hoping to set in motion a sweeping social awakening resulting in a shift in values, perceptions, and attitudes towards government in America. It is our great weapon; our words, our ideas. "Ideas are bulletproof," is the vernacular of the moment.
We have websites and forums and articles like this one that we toss into the most receptive and pervasive communication maelstrom mankind has ever birthed. We have people in jail, people in morgues, and people on the lam screaming liberty and freedom the whole way. We can arguably posit that the meme of liberty is more accessible and widespread than ever in the total history of humanity, particularly in America , which boasts the highest per capita internet connectivity and use in the entire world, all in the effort to provoke a social and conscious change in the way we govern ourselves and each other.
Sorry to disappoint.
The simple fact of the matter is that the politicians (voiced with extreme venom and malice) have the single greatest weapon against conscious revolution ever discovered and, as strong as the internet is, as widespread as the memes have been sown, as loud as the song of liberty rings and as shrilly the howls of outrage echo across the digital plain, it is not enough to overcome apathy. And no, I'm not talking about "get out the vote" apathy, everyone reading this should at least have an inkling of the futility of that exercise, but the "butts off the couch" apathy; the kind where blue-collar folks give up the six-pack of beer to stand down a storm trooper aiming an electric torture device at their wives and kids; real action versus real apathy.
H.L. Mencken once wrote, "No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby." He was spot on. He could also have written, "And no one ever lost power underestimating their apathy," but I suspect that would have been too many qualifying phrases even for Mencken; not so for me.
Many in the liberty movement are standing aghast at the state of things today, not at the tortures and the black-bag ops and the imperialism and the human rights violations and the bald-faced open aggression of this government against humans domestic and abroad, but at the complete lack of popular action against it. Oh sure, the normal groups are humming along, printing websites and collecting donations and getting thrown in jail for the weekend, but many seem to be genuinely flummoxed that there can be so much tinder and so many sparks, and not a single flame blooming across the culture like a scarlet flower on a warm summer morning.
Unlike the politicians, we have underestimated the American capacity for apathy. There is precedent for this apathy. It is our most favored example of Governments Gone Awry. The Nazi (and here I Godwin my own article) regime did in ten years what the American government is only now approaching after 60 years of political frog-boiling. In ten years the Nazis waged aggressive war on their political neighbors, their geographical neighbors, their racial neighbors, and their religious neighbors, took their businesses and placed them into fascist control, and tortured, mutilated and burned their own citizens in their back yards. A mere ten years of social conditioning, and the apathy of the German people allowed this to occur. And while there were undergrounds and secret groups working against the Nazi government, there was no popular uprising. All the horrors of the Nazi program were not enough to jar the German people into action away from their broken radios and phonographs.
And today, Americans have six times the practice at apathy, with 160 channels to Tivo and a hundred different beers and circuses of every shape and style imaginable. Humiliation is public sport ranging from the seediest 'reality' broadcasts right through to food preparation. They stare at the TV and wax poetic about how, "Aw'd never be cawt DED on one o' them showz!" while secretly thinking they could insult Simon into speechlessness if only they could get on.
No, folks, there is no tearing (or tearing) away the eyes of this America from their idiot box, and they wouldn't dare risk their cell phone bars. Rome did not fall to the Romans. The Nazis were not defeated by Germans. The sole example of genuine popular uprising and destruction of government is the French Revolution, which soon fell to Napoleon, who did not abdicate to any Frenchman. Indeed, the Constitution itself was not an act of popular demand. The Second Revolutionaries of Washington, Paine and Hancock, et al met in secret, and spent years brokering the political deals to eclipse the Articles of Confederation; politicians overthrowing politicians in a new country's elimination rounds.
Fundamental changes in government are almost universally external. The spark of the French Revolution was massive foreign debt (including funding the American Revolution as a method of covert war with England ) resulting in extreme taxation of which an absence of fiat money offered no veil of disguise. The Romans imploded against Germanic tribes, and the Nazis fell to American carpet bombings. The collapse of the USSR was not at all a proletariat revolution, but a combination of internal corruption and superior American fiat finesse (a point of pride for many Reaganites, but ultimately no better than proudly proclaiming, "My rapist is slicker than yours!").
So why, in the face of history, do we insist we can manufacture lightning and catch it in a bottle?
The conclusion to all of this is one that even I did not want to think of until recently. But the Revolution will not be American. Not anymore. We have learned our lessons well. Modern Americans are riddled with apathy. If you want to know how far it can go, think of the worst atrocities the Nazis committed and realize there were no crowds storming the gates of Auschwitz . Foreign, invading soldiers opened those gates. And so shall it be with us.
We can't wake the sleeping giant. But someone, somewhere, can club it in the head. When the Empire is too big, too aggressive, too starved and internally paralyzed (vibrantly demonstrated by Katrina, thank you, Ma'am, for that performance), and it finally oversteps one border too many, China , India , and Europe will implement, shall we say, 'corrective procedures.' And if we're ready, if we've planted our seeds and cultivated our memes strongly and deeply into the somnambulistic consciousness, the giant might just stumble a few bloody paces in the direction of liberty before slumping over the TV tray.