Checks and balances are definitely not President Obama’s style. So we shouldn’t be surprised when he pulls another executive order out of his well-stocked hip pocket any time Congress or the Supreme Court doesn’t do what he wants. Some recent developments have proved especially insufferable for him, what with Congress refusing to rubber stamp his immigration plans and the Supreme Court declining to do same for his abortifacient mandate. It seems Obama believes that neither Congress nor the Supreme Court count as branches of the government when they don’t follow suit.
This is simply the nature of what we so euphemistically call “big government.” It’s difficult to come up with a more specific term to describe the current phenomenon, especially since so many Americans seem to be on board with Obama’s style. Big government beckons with promises of a more humane future, total equality, a utopian sentimentality-without-faith. But, to borrow the words of Flannery O’Connor—echoed by Walker Percy—such tenderness “leads to the gas chamber.”
One way to get this message across is to explain that really gigantic government is personified in the Borg of “Star Trek” lore. The Borg is a formidable collection of species that function as drones ruled by a collectivist hive mind. It fuels itself by devouring everyone in its path.
Resistance Is Futile
The Borg’s stated goal is to “achieve perfection.” What’s not to like there? And doesn’t it stand to reason that everyone must be sucked into its vacuum? A Borg’s got to do what a Borg’s got to do. So, if you’re in its path, it first greets you by stating: “Resistance is futile.” It then absorbs you and erases your identity. And thus it propels and gorges itself throughout the universe.
The irony, in this era of bloating government, is that the Borg is still considered a villain in popular culture. Why? The Borg acts just like any blob bureaucracy: it comes, it sees, it conquers. And more young people—especially those inclined to follow in the footsteps of the Obama 2012 campaign’s Julia infographic—seem tempted with the idea of womb-to-tomb care by a Borg-like State. The dirty little secret, which they may or may not see, is that being a wholly owned creature of the state means ultimately becoming a tool of the state, which must “help” more individuals, who become tools, etc. Resistance is futile.
The Borg’s goal of perfection is a classic utopian lure: attaining an almost mechanical precision in society in which all beings operate in symphony, kind of like ant colonies. Unfortunately, its methods to achieve utopia are coercive. But this is logical, Captain. The journey of utopian dreams is always—and, as history proves, always has been—paved with brute force.
That’s because, in the words of University of Hawaii political science professor R. J. Rummel, “Power Kills.” No matter what the stated motive is—peace, love, hope, or change. No matter whether the motive is sincere or, more likely, a fake front to accumulate power.
When power is never limited or checked or balanced, it can’t get enough of itself. When it reaches a tipping point at which a power-mongering clique or dictator can further the goal of more power accumulation (in the name of whatever), it will destroy anything that gets in the way. And it will rationalize any use of force in the name of a better tomorrow. That’s the just nature of the beast.
The End Thereof Is Death
All human beings are flawed. All leaders are human beings. All leaders are flawed. So, it’s worth paying some attention to what some leaders do with power when they get too much. In the worst-case scenarios, we all know that some people actually kill to maintain power. Not only that, but they have a tendency to feel justified in doing so, especially after they get more power.
The reality is that those most attracted to power tend to be control freaks rather than the live-and-let-live types. So in a system devoid of checks and balances you’re more likely to end up with a Joseph Stalin as leader than with, say, Saint Francis of Assisi. And once little dictators have the reins of government power, there’s no way they’ll let go.
It’s time to stop dancing around the issue and to stop talking so antiseptically and academically about limiting government in order to “increase fiscal responsibility” or “reduce the debt.” It’s time to stop merely arguing against executive orders because they “just aren’t the way we do things in a Republic.” We need to get beyond “This could lead to a European-style socialist system.”
The primary reason to fight against big government is that its final destination is Death. As in murder. At some point, someone’s got to say it. So there, I said it. (#bansorry)
The late professor Rummel delivered some hard facts during his career compiling statistics on deaths from various forms of institutionalized murder. In his book “Death by Government” (1994,) Rummel’s first lines read:
Power kills; absolute Power kills absolutely. This new Power Principle is the message emerging from my previous work on the causes of war and from this book on genocide and government mass murder—what I call democide—in [the 20th] century. The more power a government has, the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, and the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects. The more constrained the power of governments, the more power is diffused, checked and balanced, the less it will aggress on others and commit democide. At the extremes of Power, totalitarian communist governments slaughter their people by the tens of millions; in contrast, many democracies can barely bring themselves to execute even serial murderers.
These assertions are extreme and categorical, but so is the evidence . . .
Indeed, the evidence is astonishing. Death by government in the 20th century cost 169 million lives. That’s at least four times more people killed by their own governments than by war. In the 20th century 38 million lives—both military and civilian—were lost in all conflicts combined.
The Link Between Utopia and Terror
First, please note, I’m not saying the administration’s penchant for government by executive fiat, utopian rhetoric, and radical social policy put us on the brink of democide. All I’m trying to say is that those who remain ignorant of history are ill equipped to pass judgment on the wisdom of certain policies and political approaches. Anyone who takes a sober look back at the last century’s big governments would be very motivated to limit government, not grow it.
Every thinking person would do well to listen to the audio course Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century. It was produced in 2003, and the lectures by University of Tennessee professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius are an absolute tour de force that will help you connect the dots and understand patterns in the history of 20th-century human violence. Liulevicius describes the general scope of his course:
A bitter contradiction is revealed between the age’s promises of progress and its bloody record. The twin concepts of utopia and terror are defined and their linkage is examined: The aim of achieving a perfect society was supposed to justify violent means. Utopia refers to the perennial human impulse to imagine a flawless society, free of contradictions and conflicts. Terror designates the deliberate and systematic use of fear and violence to achieve political ends. The 20th century saw the rise of dynamic and brutal ideological regimes that promised total solutions.
Then he asks a chilling question about the past century’s terrors: What if these things are not throwbacks, but signs of things to come?
Naturally, we’d all prefer to see these things as throwbacks. If you live a carefree life in America, you’re possibly offended by this as beyond the pale, tinfoil hat stuff. Nevertheless, insisting on a comfortable aversion to that question does make you susceptible to manipulation by such forces. However, if you have an inkling of history, then you might wonder about the possibilities of some bad history repeating itself. You might even see some troublesome patterns of too much power in the hands of too few people. Your awareness that power kills would make you a more effective resister.
Utopia’s Cruel Response to Resistance
Utopianism is perennial bait tyrants pitch to the masses. It tends to suck us in because humans want to overcome everything bad everywhere. It’s our deep-seated urge to visualize across-the-board solutions for what ails us socially. But once we’re sold on the pitch, we’re sunk. That’s because elites always use fear to get and keep raw power. In the words of Liulevicius, “Terror seeks to instill fear and panic, aiming at forcing transformation.” He notes that terror and utopia are strongly linked in the 20th century, “because plans for perfection encountered either passive or active resistance. If individuals and society would not willingly submit to being radically remade, compulsion would be used to enforce the planned perfection.”
This last point is key. Every dictator, from Lenin to Stalin to Mao to Castro to Pol Pot and so on, imposed their visions of a greater tomorrow. This tomorrow could only come for them once the problematic people—the resistors, the “undesirables,” the counter-revolutionaries—were eliminated. Liulevicius speaks of the rise of “political religions”—ideologies that promise “ultimate meaning and a perfect future”—that provide supporters both the confidence and justification to suppress dissent.
In fact, political religion does seem uncomfortably real today, and its practitioners have a knack for using fear of persecution and force to try to shut up dissenters. Think global warming, gay marriage, and the transgender push to redefine all of humanity by claiming sex is merely “assigned” to us at birth.
The list goes on, but suffice it to say that expressing opposition to any tenet of this political religion is considered an act of heresy in the public square today. The media, Hollywood, academia, and sundry politicians serve as defenders of the faith. Resisting can get you burned at the stake, socially and professionally speaking.
Four Key Elements of the Utopia-Terror Dynamic
How can so few end up imposing their iron-fisted rule over so many? Liulevicius identifies four key elements in the road from utopian vision to dystopian reality in the 20th century: Masses, Machines, Mobsters, and Master Plans. The masses and machines provide the means. The mobsters and the master plans provide the motives.
1.) Masses. In order to consolidate support, 20th-century regimes had to mobilize masses of people. They “exploited societies in turmoil, full of uprooted and atomized individuals.” (Does this sound a bit like our borders right now?) “Humans caught up in ideological movements were often uprooted, members of ‘lonely crowds’ seeking escape in promises of belonging, anonymity, and equality.” (The constant media harping on “inequality” certainly foments this sense today, as do speech codes. Other slogans such as “spread the wealth” and the Occupy movement’s “We are the 99 percent” call for mass mobilization.)
2.) Machines. This would include not only newly devised instruments of war, but also modern technologies and media for propaganda use, to manufacture public opinion “approval,” to bloat bureaucracies and to use police and data collection to gain compliance. A system of surveillance by neighbors was, and still is, standard practice in totalitarian societies. In the 21st century we see the explosion of social media as a means of driving public opinion to grow support for utopian agendas. The invasion of privacy by Big Data looms ever larger.
3.) Mobsters. These would be the elites who drove the 20th century’s mass movements for transformation: “They gathered into organized conspiracies to achieve political power and often using criminal methods, inspired by gangster bosses.” They act as though above the law. One can see this in unsavory alliances between government and big business, abuse of executive orders, codes of silence that include cover-ups for wrongdoing among the elites, but also the silencing of dissenters through threats and fear. Joy Pullmann recently illustrated how an era of “mafia government” is being played out today.
4.) Master Plans. These are “ideologies championed by mass movements, total blueprints based on ideas, promising utopia as an outcome, with comprehensive visions of a future society. They could be adapted to changing conditions, while still claiming to be infallible.” It’s not much of a stretch to see Obamacare and Common Core as examples of “master plans.” They are enormous in scope, taking over both the medical and educational sectors of society. There is also a push for the philosophy of communitarianism, which is basically a softer term for communism: both prescribe a relationship of community to individuals that trumps family and any other autonomous relationship.
The main purpose of mass movements is to create an aura of dynamism that creates an illusion of a juggernaut that helps push the elite’s agenda forward. Utopian visions, whether left or right politically, are all similar in their actions and their structures. They require centralized power to force a vision of transformation on the whole society. A common theme that runs through these movements is that a “vanguard,” or power clique, is necessary to protect the masses.
But in order to effectively prop up government, or get out of the government’s way, the masses must be made up of isolated individuals, atomized and unable to have independent relationships with one another. This requires sowing a culture of distrust. Dictators, and even utopian democrats, are really good at this. As more and more people fear social punishment for speaking their minds, people become more isolated. The bonds of personal relationships weaken. People are divided as never before. This state of affairs always serves mobsters very well.
Is Resistance Futile?
When the Borg begins to suck in a victim, it warns: “Resistance is futile.” As powerful as the Borg is, why would it do that? Two reasons, I think. First, it needs to heighten the sense of inevitability for the victim. Second, it needs to heighten the sense of inevitability for itself.
Resistance is still a nagging challenge for the Borg, even though it prevails. That’s because resistance forces the Borg to see its behavior and existence rejected. And that doesn’t compute. So I wonder: Is the Borg also really using the meme to convince itself, to reinforce its own sense of mission? All autocrats expend vast amounts of resources and energy fighting even the tiniest bits of resistance. And they always expect resistance.
For example, there is an interesting YouTube interview on this tendency, from an infiltrator of the terrorist organization Weather Underground. Larry Grathwohl is the author of “Bringing Down America,” and was an FBI informant who joined the Weather Underground during the 1960’s. Bill Ayers, the group’s leader, today is a strong supporter of Barack Obama. Although Ayers always likes to claim there is distance between him and Obama, their ideologies are very much in sync, and he is known to have groomed Obama for office.
During a meeting in 1969, Grathwohl asked Weather Underground leaders about the aftermath of taking over the government: What would they do with Americans who resisted the revolution? Grathwohl says they told him such Americans would go into re-education camps in the Southwest. Any who couldn’t be re-educated in the new way of thinking would need to be eliminated (as in killed). When asked for an estimate of how many might need to be killed, Grathwohl reports Ayers and company told him: “about 25 million people.”
Do you recall Rummel’s “extreme and categorical evidence?” That evidence is impressively depressing. The 169 million government-sponsored murders in the 20th century indicate unchecked domestic government is lethal. Perhaps resistance is not futile. Perhaps submission is far more futile and far more deadly.
Atomized Versus Healthy Individuals
Whatever you think of Grathwohl’s account of Ayers (which of course Ayers denies,) it’s interesting that Ayers has spent decades as an academic in Chicago, an education reformer dedicated to bringing his radical “social justice” ideas to public education. For at least the past 40 years, he has advocated for politically correct policies and school curricula that essentially cultivate ignorance and stunted thinking. By replacing the study of history—whether Western Civilization or any real survey course—with a disparate package of “relevant” ethnic/gender identity studies, we’ve made it harder for students to develop the ability to think coherently about the past and about patterns of human behavior.
In addition, speech codes and political correctness cause people to fear speaking out. (“Question authority!” used to be a rallying cry of Ayers’ radical Left. We don’t hear that so much when they’re in charge, do we?) This causes a spiral of silence that leads to social isolation. People become distrustful and less able to share their innermost beliefs with others. In short, relationships become weakened throughout society. People become atomized, or disconnected. They become the perfect drones for strongmen.
The net effect is a vacuum of knowledge and amnesia of history. That basically removes much of the will to resist whatever transformation might be pushed. People become more at sea mentally, and so more inclined to latch onto big government as though it’s an anchor.
But there are signs of hope. As Liulevicius notes, there is enormous power in human individuality. This individuality, he says, is “embedded in true, everyday human community, rather than given over to loneliness in crowds. . . Genuine individuals resist the ‘marching impulse’ of organized crowds.”
When people hold on to their individuality and resist absorption into group think, they have so much to offer in relationships with those who might feel more isolated. They can reach out with kindness and understanding. They can build trust as they share their knowledge of the wider world. This creates an irresistible ripple effect that injects strength into the bonds of those relationships, which are the building blocks of real community. True individuals offer the polar opposite of the type of “community” now advocated by communitarians who aim to stamp out individuality once they’ve trumped it.
Whenever power seekers talk about “community,” they generally mean masses of atomized individuals whose first loyalty must be to the fount of power, generally the State. It’s not a real community because it doesn’t allow for personal relationships that cannot be controlled by the State. It’s a Borg community, a “hive mind” without distinct individuals. In the end, these systems are really fragile house of cards when exposed to resistance by true individuals. Why else would political correctness be so tirelessly applied to punish dissenters?
The big little secret—and the great truth it represents—is that resistance is not futile. Submission is futile. Resistance is the only hope, the only way out. The Borg knows this very well. So do the likes of Bill Ayers, Incorporated.