"It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." ~ David Brin
Millions of Petty Tyrants
Column by tzo.
Exclusive to STR
The empirical evidence that power corrupts goes a long way in explaining the inevitable one-way course to tyranny trod by all governments. Having a monopoly on force, corruption within the government monopoly cannot be effectively checked, and growing corruption and its attendant increasing power eventually congeal into absolute power and absolute corruption.
Kurt Vonnegut turned a slightly more colorful phrase in articulating the association of power and corruption by claiming that human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. It must be pretty heady stuff indeed to be in a position within the U.S. government in which you effectively are part of the controlling mechanism of over 3.8 million square miles and 350 million human lives, not to mention the power projected out over the rest of the entire globe.
The most dangerous aspect of our “democratic” government, though, is the fact that the reg’ler folks are made to feel that they are part of the system. Shareholders, as it were. "We" is thrown around a lot, even when the government seems to be spinning out of control. The situation is rarely articulated as “us versus them,” but rather "we are the government and we are doing it to ourselves," and “we have to work within the system to fix the system.”
This is an extremely dangerous perspective for the subjects to have, because as the government slides into tyranny, it is encouraged and pushed along by millions of petty little tyrants—a vast multitude of power-drunk chimpanzees.
What should "we" do in Afghanistan? Wow, what a power-tie-wearing question! "We" must decide. It is up to "us." They are "our" troops. What should be “our” objective?
See what's happening here? The chimpanzees have been given a powerful intoxicant, and they love it. Oh, look, they want some more!
The citizen, being part of the government, feels that the 3.8 million square mile empire with its 350 million subjects is his to play with. By exiting his mother’s birth canal within certain ranges of latitude and longitude, he has acquired property and innate power over other fellow human beings. Good for him and his kind, and tough luck for the others. The power-drunk chimpanzee slumps down on his couch in his 800 square-foot apartment and is lord over all he surveys through his television set, tuned to CNN.
How are the troops doing? Are illegals trying to get in? Are there people not paying taxes? Why is there salmonella in the spinach? Who needs to get bailed out? Who's running in the next election?
Important questions requiring his considered opinions.
Isn’t it just mind-boggling amazing? Invite a person from Mexico to your house, and someone in North Dakota has an opinion on it and also has the guns to back his opinion up. Homeschooling children where it is not permitted? Moe from Oklahoma says lock up the parents and take the kids! Busybodies with opinions on all sorts of things that shouldn't concern them, but it’s “our” country and so “we” have to be involved in everything that happens.
Queens of Hearts residing in every domicile, rendering judgments on events occurring many hundreds of miles away, involving people they never have met and never will meet. The kingdom is large. Off with their heads!
You see? The citizen is not pitted against the government, he is a part of it. And he is willingly a part when he feels that he has a hand on one of the controls that guide Leviathan. Play by Leviathan's rules, and you, too, can rule. You can join the army of the righteous and fight the good fight against the pot smoking, non-voting, raw-milk-drinking hooligans. Here’s your gun and brown shirt—go git ‘em!
Like the international scene better? Well, you can participate in the killing of hundreds of thousands of brown people in remote parts of the world and suffer no consequences! How can you beat that deal? Power of the gods in your very own hands! What does it matter if you cannot write a complete sentence, read an entire book, or pinpoint on the globe just where those unfortunate brown people with targets on their foreheads live? Willful ignorance in exchange for power, heck, even just for the illusion of power, is a pretty sweet deal, my friend.
Besides, the Average American Citizen is not really responsible for any of the bad stuff his government may be doing. Although he is part of it by way of the democratic process, he is not really part of the stuff he may find reprehensible, right? Or maybe he subconsciously accepts that he is responsible, but also knows he is addicted to the power associated with it, and so cannot or will not admit to himself what he is advocating in exchange for this intoxicating power.
This is not a new mindset. George Orwell saw it and dubbed it “doublethink” in his novel 1984:
"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink…”
Let us not forget that fear is the ultimate basis for such a paradoxical mindset, even though other justifications are claimed in order to avoid the admission of cowardice. Justify the actions of the bully and join his gang so as not to receive a bloody pug yourself.
War is peace. Slavery is freedom. Ignorance is strength. And now another: To be ruled over is to rule.
When a democratic nation becomes tyrannical, this is a description of the majority of the population, not just the elected officials. Power-drunk chimpanzees, all. Everyone is tying them on, and it's a long, lost weekend filled with blackout drinkers. C’mon, another round for everyone!
Wuzzat? Hey, buddy, just love it or leave it pal, OK? Stupid hippie pinko commie. People died so you could be here, so just kiss my red, white, and blue butt.
These chimps have absolutely nothing over the syphilitic, inbred monarchs of old in their deft wielding of might-makes-right wisdom. These newfangled enablers of power who are themselves enabled by their betters with the illusion of power—all are tightly clusterstuck together in a death spiral right on down to the cold, hard ground. The crash will not be pretty, but for now, it’s full steam ahead. It just feels too good to stop.
So pardon me while I leave you now, as I must go and decide upon the proper inflation rate necessary for a healthy economy. It’s not all glitz and glamour running the most powerful empire the world has ever seen, you know. My input is needed on a wide range of issues.
After all, I am large and in charge: I am the government. *Hic*
Millions of petty tyrants
The mucilage that binds together
What you do is my concern
And what you own is mine.
If you don't like the way it works
Then hit the road, Sunshine.