Column by Mark Davis.
Exclusive to STR
“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see." ~ Ayn Rand
The good old “argumentum ad populum” or “appeal to the people” is a logical fallacy that has been used by countless children the world over for time immemorial. Unfortunately, the equally old lesson traditionally imparted by parents to children who use this appeal “Would you jump off a bridge if everybody does it?” no longer seems to be, well, popular. Independent thought, much less personal sovereignty, are no longer in vogue. Collectivist thought and state sovereignty are all the rage now. Popularity polls are used to determine musical tastes, fashion trends, places to eat, what to drink, which liar to vote for and what law to pass. For many, the basic concept of self has eroded over the past few generations as recognizing popularity has come to permeate modern society as the standard for all that’s good and right. Perpetual childhood is not just the modern ideal of self, it is the dominant social meme that the elite have instilled upon each of us through the authoritarian state institutions so many easily accept as credible, if not transcendent. Now let’s have a look at that bridge.
First, primarily for the progressive “it takes a village” crowd, I want to point out that I completely understand that “no man is an island.” We each have a mother that gave birth to us after our father impregnated her; each of us have had to depend on caregivers, teachers, providers, roads paved by others and a multitude of other people that have positively affected our lives from birth. So the “strawman” argument popular among progressives these days that libertarians/anarchists believe every person must be a “go it alone” automaton is absurd on its face. Just because I believe that every human has a natural right to think for themselves and to decide for themselves what human action to take (as long as it doesn’t harm others), does not mean that I want to be a hermit living in a cave at the top of a mountain. Indeed, this is the type of silly, childish belief that I hope to provide an antidote for here. If you think this way, then it’s time to grow up.
The family that we are born into provides the basis for developing our individual understanding of collective organization, for better or worse. This natural condition can lead to warm and fuzzy memories or to dysfunctional psychosis. Parental authority when impressed by loving, caring parents can be more easily accepted than hurtful, tyrannical parents, at least for those who have been exposed to more palatable alternatives. If a child is raised in an environment devoid of examples of loving, caring people where violence and abuse are what everybody does, then that child will see this type of behavior as acceptable, perhaps even desirable. Further, a child born into an environment that contains elements of both types of behavior will come to accept unconscionable acts of violence and tyranny as part of a nurturing, caring lifestyle. People who grow up desensitized to violence because it was seemingly balanced out by acts of kindness will pass this mindset down to the next generation. Such is life.
The unhealthy habits acquired as children will manifest themselves in adulthood in a variety of ways. It is not uncommon for battered children/wives to defend their abusive fathers/husbands against outside interference that is meant to alleviate their abuse. This type of loyalty is due to fear and dependency, yet often rationalized as love and affection. This type of cognitive dissonance is mind-bending to the extreme. Still, most people will retain some fond memories of early childhood/marriage that were of “the good times” and wish for a return to these days when the world was simple and they felt safe. Adulthood is then seen as the culprit by those who wish they didn’t know now what they didn’t know then. Childhood is seen as the ideal for a happy life, so holding on to it or trying to get back to it is seen as the path to happiness. Liberty and freedom from these conditions requiring maturation are seen as “unrealistic” or “idealistic” or “utopian” because these individuals believe that they have “no choice” but to endure abuse while forming delusions of childhood fantasies for escape. Sound familiar?
Now, I’m not saying that most people in modern society have come to be dependent on the state because of the failure of families; quite the opposite. Families have indoctrinated their children to serve “King and Country” for many millennia, but loyalty to family and personal virtue remained intact until more modern times. That the family unit has been undermined by elite manipulations using modern tools that the kings of old could only dream of is well documented. Indeed, children who form worldviews based on following the examples of their hard working, independent-minded parents are the conduits for the ideas of liberty and freedom that we still enjoy today. No, I contend that the state has commandeered parental authority in order to expand its own authority by promoting perpetual childhood as an ideal.
States set up institutions, subtle and official, that genuflect to this desirable institution (the family) through word association in order to steal from its goodwill. Hence we have states claiming to be the Fatherland, the Motherland or the Homeland. States claim to provide security as the basis for assuming the role of parental authority and then they expand that role to include providing transportation, food, shelter, telephones and various other needs and wants. The price is submission and obedience to the state. This too seems like a natural thing because, as statists say, everybody does it.
How can so many people come to accept the state as their protector, caregiver and provider? Through baby-steps over a long period of time, but the seminal turning point (after, of course, the initial establishment of a monopoly on violence for security purposes) was when the state assumed the traditional parental responsibility of educating children. Unlike good parents, the state does not teach children to become self-governing, self-determining, self-regulating, self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-supporting adults. No, no, no; can’t have that. State schooling is not about providing an education; it is to train children to be good citizens, which means obeying authority and submitting to those who know better what they should do for their own good. This is why state schools so closely resemble prisons.
John Taylor Gatto, in his essay, "Some Reflections on the Equivalencies Between Forced Schooling and Prison,” puts it well:
“Corporate culture has become a resonator of low-level fearfulness to such an extent that we gladly throw huge numbers of our fellow human beings in jail, just as we abandon our children to penal institutionalization in schools; the constant presentation of prison as our salvation, or school as the essential trainer of children, makes us all prisoners. It corrupts our inner life, it divides us from one another so that relationships lifelong are thin and shallow. School teaches us to divorce one another, to put aside loyalty for advantage, to quell our inner voices, subordinating them to management.”
“School is the processing center for its mercenaries, who, of necessity must needs be made incomplete. This could not have happened without first rendering our people frightened of personal sovereignty, by making them childish and dependent. But is it now too strong to be overthrown?”
Mr. Gatto’s question at the end has perplexed me much recently. In the short run it appears that the state will continue to grow as it consumes more and more of the responsibilities and authority traditionally assumed to be individual and parental prerogatives or rights. But in the long run, the state is a self-defeating parasite that kills its host society. Those who see the growth of the state and the shackling of individuals into the collective as “progress” appear to be in command, but they are just scared little children afraid to grow up.
You see, when the people who have grown up and assumed responsibility for their own lives speak to those engrossed in the self-delusion of perpetual adolescence about security, homeschooling, housing, roads, food and other goods and services, frustration is inevitable because progressives really believe in the state. Their entire worldview is based on a foundation of fear that only the state can provide salvation from, even though it never does. Statists really believe that the state can take away everybody’s guns and protect them; that nobody would have roads to drive on if the state didn’t build them; that only rich people would have homes, food and clothing if the state didn’t regulate the free market; and that without fiat money, there would be no money to exchange goods with so that we would forever have a barter economy. You can give countless examples of these goods and services being provided today and throughout history by individuals and not the state’s minions, but it will do little good penetrating the lifetime of schooling they have had. Events in the near future should provide a rude awakening for the self-deluded while the self-reliant will survive and prosper.
Self-government is the only system of social organization that is compatible with liberty and freedom. The state is an enduring popular method of submitting to elite rule because the empty promise of being protected and provided for is so enticing. The former requires men and women to grow up and take responsibility for their decisions and actions, while the latter requires the self-delusion that one can live in Neverland forever so as to never grow up. It isn’t hard to see why the state is more popular than self-government, but what is good and right, what is truth cannot be determined by a poll or a majority vote. No, maturation and overcoming indoctrination takes self-reflection, questioning core beliefs and an ego based on personal recognition instead of group affiliation. Luckily the human spirit to be free is eternal while childhood is surely fleeting. And life goes on.
As a parting aside, I’d like to point out one of the most insidious programs ever instilled in state indoctrination centers (AKA public schools) in the Progressive Era circa the early 1900s, the Pledge of Allegiance. This obvious brainwashing technique has performed its function so well that most people will jump to attention, put their hands on their hearts and start reciting the pledge like Pavlov’s dog whenever requested. The little tweak of changing this ritual from using the second part of the Roman Salute (extending arm out as a hail to the flag/state) to the first part (hand or fist on the heart) apparently didn’t give many in the “Greatest Generation” a clue that they were being brainwashed. You see, some nasty fellows in Germany used the same salute for the same purpose, so the fearless leaders in the US figured they better hurry up and change that before someone noticed any similarities. I doubt that it mattered much, though, because, well, everybody did it.