Chad Perrin: SOB

2 October 2006

Is the dream over?

Filed under: Liberty — apotheon @ 02:30

If you’re a regular reader of SOB, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been updating often. There are several reasons for this. Some are worth mentioning — some are not. One reason is, simply, that the things most worth chronicling in the last week or so are utterly depressing to contemplate.

Political philosophy and ethics are subjects of great interest to me. In part, they are interesting to me because of their importance: there is little in life as important as figuring out how to recognize the right thing to do and how to go about doing it. They are also interesting to me because of the simple fact that I enjoy analytical thinking, logical reasoning, examining fundamental principles, and all the rest of the minutiae of complex systems (such as sociopolitical systems).

On the other hand, I find that politics in practice is a subject that depresses me to consider and discuss. The realities of how political philosophy and ethics are applied (or not) in the material world are enough to make a cynic, if not an outright defeatist, out of anyone who’s paying attention. I don’t much like the direction of my thoughts when considering such subjects. I don’t like the apparent inevitability of bad outcomes, and I’m wearied by the constantly uphill battle of trying to alter those trends.

Ultimately, the only way to arrest the downhill trend of politics in this world is to open the eyes of enough people to get something done, and to give them enough of a kick in the ass to get them doing it. Technically, it’s still possible to fix things legally and nonviolently. We’re not yet to the point where a second American Revolution is literally required to cure the illness that eats at the heart of the dream of liberty that created the United States of America. Technically.

Realistically speaking, one must realize that “technically” doesn’t mean jack. It will always be technically possible, as long as there are still people with the ability (if not the motivation) to think for themselves. In practical terms, it’s difficult to nail down the point when the probabilities have shifted from a reasonable chance at rehabilitation to an unreasonable necessity for armed resistance. How do we know?

Some time ago, I started thinking about this seriously. Years ago, not last week or last month. I started thinking about this during the Clinton administration, thanks to a few laws that were passed during that time. I eventually came to the conclusion that there are a few events that are early indicators that the “end days” of liberty in this country are upon us. If any one of these things happen, it’s no longer safe to be an openly liberty-loving individual in this country, and we must start working in earnest as we never have before to reverse the trend toward curtailment of rights and liberties. If what work you can best provide can only be accomplished from outside the US once such an event has come to pass, you should move. The situation will have reached a point where many of us must make a decision between attempting to rehabilitate the system from outside of it or, more dangerously, run the risk of serving as an example to others of how bad things have gotten.

If all of them occur, your options (if you honestly support liberty at all) are to leave or engage in armed resistance. Period.

Here are the events that have come to mind in contemplating the problem, in an order that might be significant if you’re familiar with the founding documents of the United States of America but, otherwise, is not particularly important:

  1. Peaceful dissent is, in whole or in part, substantively outlawed. This relates to expressing views, gathering with like-minded individuals in public or private to discuss views and future actions in pursuit of those views, unimpeded distribution of those views and any factual information that might inform such views, adoption and practice of philosophical or pragmatic belief systems, and availability of a means of subjecting governmental actions to public review and binding arbitration.
  2. The public is disarmed. When all else fails, when help is not forthcoming with alacrity — when governmental authorities are not enough to ensure one’s individual and immediate security or, worse yet, are threats to that security themselves — one’s right to the means of self defense is most clearly and urgently revealed and demonstrated. Depriving the populace of its means for self defense is a concrete step toward the removal of the final means of resisting tyranny. The words molon labe come to mind.
  3. The sovereignty of private property is directly violated via legal institution for the purpose of the expansion and solidifying of governmental power. This relates to the appropriation of private property for military and/or law enforcement purposes, first and foremost.
  4. The law directly supports violation of privacy and individual liberty. The ability for governmental officials to cull data from one’s private dealings via physical or electronic means, and to detain individuals or forcefully assume control of resources, without resort to judicial authority and presentation of evidence to support probable cause for such actions, defines this point.
  5. Compulsion of self-incrimination, harassment in violation of due process, or suspension of habeas corpus, is enabled by law. These violations include interrogation via violence or threat of violence, legal “double jeopardy”, and the contravention of the power of the courts to order a prisoner produced and his/her imprisonment justified.
  6. The assumption of innocence is reversed and/or the ability to dispute accusation is curtailed. Government should not have the power to violate one’s right to face accusers, dispute evidence brought in accusation, or deny access to public civilian judicial review in defense of one’s innocence, complete with reasonable resources and expertise to that end (meaning, among other things, a right to counsel and a trial by jury).

One might rightly want some help in sorting out what has and has not been accomplished, among the above proscribed acts. Here’s a quick rundown of some related information, of varying degrees of relevance:

  1. “free speech zones”
  2. the “assault weapon ban” (which has since ended, and is currently not at issue, thank goodness)
  3. Kelo v. New London
  4. USA PATRIOT Act
  5. Both houses of Congress have acted to substantially and effectively defang Habeas Corpus and rubber-stamp a somewhat “limited” range of torture for interrogation, at the behest of the Bush Administration.
  6. Again, see both the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bush Administration’s latest pet legislation in the last two links. These both apply to point six of the above list of dangers to liberty.

I don’t see that we’re necessarily to the point of armed resistance, yet. There’s still some wiggle room, especially since some of these events have yet to be challenged in court (though it’s getting increasingly difficult to justify waiting around for that to happen, since some of the legislation passed in the last ten years is tailor-made to provide a potential means of avoiding judicial review altogether). We’re definitely tending in that direction, however.

Because of the fact that the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is the one that is most undervalued and most assiduously lobbied against by the general public, I’m frankly stunned that at present it is the one that seems most safe from governmental elimination. On the other hand, it may be the most difficult to eliminate — it may not be particularly within the realm of possibility without first effectively eliminating the First Amendment, which in turn would require doing something about that big bad Internet thingy. If you are paying any attention to recent legislation, however, you might notice baby steps toward accomplishing just that. While many may not remember it, the DMCA laid some solid groundwork for eliminating digital free expression during the Clinton Administration, too.

In a Smirking Chimp essay titled In Case I Disappear, William Rivers Pitt bemoans the effective (partial?) suspension of habeas corpus and expresses his concern over his potential vanishment. I’m sure he realizes, just as I do, how unlikely it is that he’ll be “disappeared” for anything he’s currently doing — frankly, I’m probably more susceptible to such treatment because of the fact that the words “armed” and “revolution” appear in the same sentence here — but the potential does exist. Regardless of how unlikely it may be, the very real possibility is in and of itself cause for significant concern. Take a good long look at the government you voted into office, and think about whether this is what you want.

Keep in mind that Republicans aren’t the only people who voted for this stuff, either. This isn’t an “us vs. Bush” situation. As long as you’re afraid to vote for anything but a lesser evil, and as long as you’re unwilling to let your so-called representatives in government know just how Wrong they are to treat your rights and liberties so lightly and dismissively, you are to blame as much as they are. When you choose a “lesser evil”, all you get is evil. Try voting for the greater good for a change.

If you, as a whole (not speaking to individuals here — the individuals know who they are, whether they’re willing to admit it or not), continue as you have for the last ten years into the next ten years, you’ll be as culpable as any “evil” you’ve elected, or supported as an alternative “evil”, when people start disappearing, when newspapers get nationalized, when the Internet loses its fangs, and so on. Anyone with a “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kerry!” bumper sticker on the back of his or her car is as much to blame as anyone still sporting a W sticker. Remember that this November, when you have the opportunity to throw the rotters out. Remember it when you’ve lodged a “protest vote” for a Democrat who, during his next term in office, signs off on some Republican-sponsored “anti-terrorism” bill that does more to punish the innocent than track down and capture the guilty.

If all six of the above qualifications for an effectively unsalvageable government are met in your lifetime, I hope you remember how you voted this November — and I hope you remember it with pride, that you actually did something to oppose the bipartisan oligarchy that is the modern US government.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from The Germans, by Milton Mayer. Read it and consider its relevance. We’re always told to learn the lessons of the past, to prevent tragedies in the future: now’s your chance, before the dream that fueled the American Revolution has ended.

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License