State of Civilization

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Column by Paul Hein.

Exclusive to STR

I didn’t watch the president’s State of the Union address, and I haven’t read it. Even so, I can state confidently that Union is strong! We need only to consider what happened to the 13 sovereign states that tried to extricate themselves from it to see just how strong it is: almost 800,000 people dead! Today we hear tantalizing talk of secession in several states, which is encouraging; but if the rumors result in concrete activity in the direction of freedom, we’ll see again just how strong the “Union” is.

But I’m also able to state quite confidently that the president’s address had little to do with the “union,” per se, as in his mind, there is only one nation--his--with political subdivisions of little power and importance, slavishly doing his will.

Here in Missouri, we also had a State of the State address by the governor—to which I also gave no attention. I’m sure that, like the president, he outlined his plans for Missouri, all splendid and grandiose, to be financed by compulsion, of course.

Inspired by the “state of--” addresses, I found myself pondering the State of Civilization, modestly limiting myself to civilization in the Western hemisphere. It doesn’t look good.

Decades ago, I decided that historians of the future would term these days “the decline of the middle class.” I think that is an accurate description of our times. There are, in addition, other aspects of the crumbling of our civilization that impress me.

There is, for example, a sort of pervasive fear. I don’t mean a fear of venturing outdoors, although in some neighborhoods that could be dangerous. I don’t mean a fear of earthquakes, tidal waves, or tornados, although such things are indeed fearful. I’m thinking of a more subtle fear, almost never expressed, and seldom given specific thought. Call it a fear of doing something wrong, something that might result in unpleasant, or worse, consequences. For the most part, it’s fear of doing something that might offend our fearsome rulers, whose wishes are “law.” A better word might be “dread.” Or perhaps “apprehension,” or “worry.” Regardless, it’s well founded.

As a result, when a company advertises a (mostly unnecessary and undesirable) new drug on TV, for example, it must accompany it with a litany of possible side effects more dire than the treatment for which it’s prescribed. It does this out of fear, of course, because there are rules regarding what can be said, and it dare not ignore them.

Dare you construct a gazebo in your back yard? Sure, if you can get the necessary permits from the Rulers. It’s your yard, your materials, your labor, and you have the approval of your neighbors (they’ve said, “Sure, why not?”) but you’d better be afraid if you don’t get the approval of those strangers who count. Better to abandon the project than run the gauntlet of bureaucratic obstacles.

It doesn’t have to be so specific. You consider whether you should hold stocks, or sell them. You fear a possible—maybe even probable--stock market collapse, but you also fear the tax consequences of liquidating them, even though that is merely a transfer of your property from one form to another.

If you take a trip by automobile, will you be stopped for a warrantless search by the police? Dare you resist? If you plan to fly, dare you purchase your ticket with cash, or object to the “security” check at the gate? Dare you ignore a stop sign at a deserted intersection at 5:00 AM? Not if there’s a camera at the scene.

If, in a fit of temper, you describe someone with an epithet which is considered “hateful,” you better be afraid! You live with a vague dread of doing something wrong, or not doing something right--as dictated by nameless rulers. There are so many things to fear that you fear NOT fearing, lest you overlook some threat or another.

Anger accompanies the ever-present fears, and that, in itself, can lead you to do something of which you should be afraid! Give vent to your frustrations and lo! you could be a terrorist! That’s something to be afraid of!

A corollary to an almost subconscious dread is another concern--a concern about money. I don’t mean greed, but rather, a reasonable worry about your financial future. As you see your assets shrivel, and as you fear--rightly--that your retirement funds may be seized (they’ll call it a “tax” of some sort), you must give thought to protecting what wealth you’ve accumulated. Maybe you get a second job, or your wife goes to work, if she isn’t working already. The kids look for summer jobs.

Or maybe you figure to spend your money while it’s still worth something--a new car, a boat, a really big TV, a vacation home--whatever. In that case, you’re living well, but drowning in debt. What’s the safe path? How can you be sure that a lifetime of work isn’t going to leave you with little to show for it, except, perhaps, massive debts, or savings that have lost most of their buying power? That’s something to be afraid of, in the richest country on earth! So what is the state of civilization today, at least here in America?

We live in a state of inchoate fear, and constant concern about money, and there’s precious little we, as individuals, can do about it. Or perhaps there’s a great deal we can do about it, but we’re afraid to try it!

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 135

Comments

Samarami's picture

Interesting essay coming from you, Paul.

Funny when you mention it. I find myself in "...those twilight years..." (as spoken by the octogenarians of my vintage), but not depressed. In fact, I look at myself as being advantaged -- far beyond the privileges of most. Why? Primarily because I've invested the last third of my life to becoming free, that's why. I'm a sovereign state.

And the state of my state is not bad, as states of states go. Whenever I traipse out into my neighboring Occupied State I see that the huge elephant down at the end of the block has not moved, and I have to bike around him (or her -- haven't decided the gender of the beast yet), as usual. I used to think that perhaps I should try to get some of the neighbors together to move the elephant -- a genuine nuisance, since it sits in the way of everything, and constantly must be side-stepped and navigated around -- but I think many of them hesitant to agitate their Senator, who is my good neighbor across the street. He is beholden to the beast, of course.

It seems not that long ago that I would have joined the chorus of folks wailing and lamenting over the fact that "our" high school students "...why, they don't even know the name of 'our' senator..." Now I see that as a badge of high intelligence -- especially those who have progressed beyond the Ron Paul phenomenon, and who understand that their "senators" and their "representatives" and their "presidents" are those who maintain the rotation of the earth on its axis, some of whom sit on the Committee for Photosynthesis, etc.

I'm a little sad as I sit here typing, because most of those with grit and spirit, who would have challenged my "wild assertion" (of being a sovereign state), have moved on -- left STR for (I presume) "...more fertile pastures..." I see some of them at other sites.

Glad to see you hanging in here, Paul, and pounding out your thoughts in your good essays to share with us. Sam

Paul's picture

Paul, have you armed yourself yet? With something serious, like a battle rifle? It's not the end-all and be-all of course, but it is the best way to ban fear that exists (in my opinion).