"Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer." ~ Ludwig von Mises
To See, Yet Not to See
Column by Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
All governments everywhere depend for their survival on their victim “citizens” failing to see (that is, to understand) what they are doing. In English, to “see” carries both meanings; we can see what they are up to, yet at the same time fail to grasp its significance.
It's an amazing form of blindness, yet it affects nearly everyone! It affected me, for most of my life. Here are some early examples.
I was born in England. My father had started a career with an insurance firm. We didn't have a live-in servant, though in those days it was quite common to do so in the middle class. My parents did, however, hire a nanny to care for my young self, and they did have a cleaning lady keep the house tidy once or twice a week. The family was well set.
Then when I was five, the King sent Dad a letter and he had to leave his career and go to fight for His Majesty; all their plans for a peaceful and prosperous future were put on hold. Why? What the hell had we to do with the King or his ministers? Those key questions we failed completely to ask. We all saw that buff envelope that drafted my father, but none of us saw what was going on – that it outrageously asserted that he had some duty to be enslaved to someone else. Perhaps you'll think that at five I might be excused; but I'm not sure that's correct. Five is a good age to be asking penetrating and uninhibited questions – yet I didn't ask them. And what of my parents, who saw the same as I did; why did they not see, as well as seeing?
I can perceive only one answer, namely that all of their upbringing, and that of their parents and grandparents, had grafted into their worldview the fiction that in some way it was right or noble or patriotic, or at any rate to be performed without complaint, to Obey Authority. This was the warp and woof of the whole culture, and it ran through all classes, and something very similar runs in every country. Laid out plain in black and white, it's ridiculous and obscene, but there it is; that buff envelope was not welcome (8mm home movies prove that) but there was absolutely no question of challenging its validity.
My father did “well,” in the sense of pushing to get his particular skills used to His Majesty's best advantage (and his own) and was never shot at – though the whole family was bombed with some fairly close calls, after I became six and we moved with him to London; and there I saw some of the rubble and destruction caused by earlier German raids. (That was the government upon which “ours” had declared war, though everyone said they had “started it.”) My friend David and I greatly enjoyed dirt biking up and down the smoothed-over piles of mud and bricks that had once been homes or shops or offices; we were near a critical rail junction and the raiders' aim had been quite good. I saw none of the bodies that had been buried there; they had long since been removed. But I saw the destruction. And yet I did not see it.
I knew it was deliberate, for the raiders came again and I could stand in the back yard and watch the most amazing firework display any kid of that age might enjoy, and exult if “one of theirs” appeared to be brought down. But I did not see what was going on. I did not see that every death, every ruin, was brought about by an act of government and that “ours” was no better or worse than “theirs” and so conclude that the primary activity of governments was to destroy. I've no idea what clearer evidence I could have expected to see, it was right before my eyes and under my bicycle wheels--and yet, I did not see it.
Later I saw photos of the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and read of the numbers irradiated and killed, yet did not see the gruesome cruelty of such mass murder. Nor did I flinch at news of equally deadly firestorm raids on Hamburg and Dresden, by heroes of the RAF whom I could see walking the streets every day in their smart blue uniforms. This was “good” because the victims were the “enemy”; they had culpably elected to be born in Germany or Japan. This absurdity too I saw, yet did not see.
Time passed, and despite Churchill's popularity, his rivals of the Labour Party were elected to power and transformed the society in five or six years – by diktat, taking “ownership” of what they called the “commanding heights of the economy.” I got interested, and didn't like it. In particular, I noticed that health care was being radically changed, for the worse. I saw these changes, and sensed something was wrong about them, but did not see what. Massive assets were being taken from their owners by government, in one of history's biggest heists, but somehow (at age 11) I failed to connect that with common or garden stealing. I must have blindly supposed that one moral standard applied to plain folk, but a wholly different one to government. I saw, yet did not see.
These were my formative years. Everything was being done in the open, all was visible, yet I did not see until decades later what I needed to see and should have seen.
How much clearer could the evidence before me have been? That governments destroy and kill and steal and disrupt ordinary family life, that such is their everyday business? And since I saw it all yet failed to see it, what had to happen to me – and tens of millions of others – for my vision to be corrected? Can there be the slightest excuse for anyone to take a long hard look at what is actually happening in plain sight all around them and not to become a committed anarchist on the spot?
The choice, surely, is perfectly clear. Either one endorses mayhem and murder and destruction and savagery and supports the institution of government, or else one rejects and repudiates the lot and declares oneself utterly opposed to it, root and branch.
We who now try to introduce friends to the notion that government is a ruinous appendage to society begin by facing wall to wall resistance and ridicule, as if the arguments for such an outlandish idea are feeble. The truth is the direct contrary; the arguments are overwhelming, the evidence is abundant and plainly visible. The problem rather is in their failure to perceive, to see yet not to see it. They are looking at that evidence – as I was, as a young boy and for many decades following – through distorting glasses, which deliberately turn it inside out and upside down. Those glasses have been shaped and polished by centuries of cultural influence, that insist that government is necessary and that the morality of its actions are sprinkled by the holy water of religion. If we are to persuade them, we have to start with those glasses and contrast the image they give with simple fact. That starting point is well expressed in four letters: “A is A.” Reality is what we observe; nothing more, nothing less.
Because A is A, when a gang of heavily armed thugs smashes into an apartment and pumps 22 bullets into José Guerena before he can release the safety latch on his rifle, and then impedes paramedics trying to save him, that invasion of normal family life and the murder of its head is precisely what took place. The fact that the gang had been sent by an official of government is irrelevant, except to show yet again what government is actually like. A is A. Simply look at it, see it as it is. Remove the specs.
Because A is A, when the US government uses drones to kill 2,292 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan (through August 2011) including 775 “civilians” (what are those, exactly?) and 168 children, so disrupting ordinary family life in the most brutal and total manner, that is precisely what happened; A is A. That government organized its resources by stealing money to pay engineers to design and manufacture weapons, then to pay others to aim them at what its senior commanders say are its “enemies,” and reporters report the “collateral damage” of that many bodies, including children. This is what governments do, in plain sight. All anyone has to do it to see it, as well as to see it. To remove the specs.
Because A is A, when a bill arrives demanding money in exchange for services you never ordered and do not want, accompanied by a threat to seize your home and evict you upon failure to pay it, extortion is precisely what is taking place, no matter its disguise as needed “education” for neighbors' children, etc. A is A. Just see it as it is; remove the specs.
Because A is A, when a paycheck arrives with deductions you never authorized, a portion of your labor is being stolen; you are being partially enslaved. That is what is happening; A is A. Recognize reality; remove the specs. See, as well as seeing.
Because A is A, when over a million Americans are caged like animals without having done any proven harm to anyone else, it is crystal clear that a well-organized gang of thugs has subjected them to total enslavement, so as to impose on them its will; that is what is taking place. Remove the specs.
To see as well as to see is the essential prerequisite for action, but is not of course the action itself. Having understood what is going on, reason demands we do something about it. The first action is to resolve to oppose the obvious, manifest evil of government; readers who have not yet taken that vital but inward step are encouraged to take it now.
The other needed action is to figure out how the government era can be ended, and get to work. In my opinion, it's surprisingly easy, and this article outlines how. Possibly, you prefer a different way. So long as it involves no violence, that's fine; go do it, and good luck. But whatever you do, please don't do nothing. See, then see, then take rational action.