"History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind." ~ Edward Gibbon
The New Freedom
'Few traits of totalitarian regimes are at the same time so confusing to the superficial observer and yet so characteristic of the whole intellectual climate as the complete perversion of language, the change of meaning of the words by which ideals of the new regimes are expressed.
The worst sufferer in this respect is, of course, the word 'liberty.' It is used as freely in totalitarian states as elsewhere. Indeed, it could almost be said...that wherever liberty as we understand it has been destroyed, this has almost always been done in the name of some new freedom promised to the people. Even among us we have 'planners for freedom' who promise us a 'collective freedom for the group'. . . .
' FRIEDRICH A. HAYEK
(The Road to Serfdom, Chapter 11: 'The End of Truth')
I guess it all depends on what your definition of 'freedom' is.
I'm sorry to report that I did not have the opportunity to bear witness to history on January 20th and watch the live broadcast of the Great Leader's second inauguration. That evening, however, I was quick to download the full text of his inspirational speech to The People so I could prepare myself for the shape of things to come. I have to say, even though I gave up any childish delusions about politicians and government long ago, somehow I was still blown away by the mindboggling ramifications of King George II's words. Just when I thought Leviathan couldn't be any more transparently obvious in its bloodlust for omnipotence, its current High Priest brazenly peeled off yet another layer for all to see the brown shirt beneath the red, white and blue costume.
People I know who watched his performance have said that all things considered, it was a pretty good song and dance. From what I gather, there wasn't quite as much of the alarming appearance of a disoriented, recovering dry-drunk and former cokehead in his delivery. He was actually somewhat articulate; there wasn't too much stumbling over his words, nor did he sound so much like a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur. I asked one friend if he had what I call his serious-and-sincere-puppy-dog expression on his face, the mask he wears for such occasions as going on national television to tell The People that billions and billions more dollars are needed for the U.S. Federal Megastate's never-ending Operation: Global Democracy--his eyes get all wide and his voice takes on the condescending tone of a stern but affable uncle gently lecturing his little nieces and nephews on the importance of charity and doing good works for those not as fortunate to have grown up under the firm but loving tutelage of Uncle Sam. I was told that though he sounded no less condescending than usual, the face he wore for this particular occasion was more like that of a stern, Churchillian-like statesman. Heaven help us.
Every good actor knows that beneath the text of any script lies the subtext. What is not said is usually more important than what is said. A truly skilled actor reads what is implied between the lines in order to make strong choices regarding his performance. The hoped for result is that the illusion unfolding on stage becomes all the more believable for the audience.
This is no less true in politics.
'Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country,' proclaimed John F. Kennedy at his inauguration.
Ask what I can do for my country? I ask for nothing from my countrymen other than to leave me be to pursue my own happiness in peace. If I simply show them the same respect, what more could they possibly ask of me? Besides, even if one does buy into the idea of duty and responsibility to a 'country,' how exactly does one ask an entire country what you can do for it? There may be times when I may be so inclined to ask individuals--a relative, a friend, a neighbor--what I can do for them (if I so choose), but how am I supposed to gauge the needs of hundreds of millions of individuals?
The answer, of course, is that government will deign to decide what The People 'need' at any one time and it will assign you your duties accordingly. Kennedy's exhortation was a call for servitude to The State.
Or take Franklin Roosevelt's famous 'Four Freedoms' speech to the U.S. Congress in January 1941, in which he declared the U.S. government's mission to establish 'a world founded upon four essential freedoms.' Golly, four whole freedoms, one of which was 'freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world.' That sounds awfully swell if you're not someone who thinks too much. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence, however, would realize that to be guaranteed freedom from want--a steady supply of food, shelter and the other necessities of life--would mean that one would have to be nothing more than a kept household pet, much like a dog. After all, a pet dog is 'free' from want, as his master feeds him and shelters him, bathes him and gives him water and general care. Of course, the dog goes nowhere outside his master's home unless he is led about with a leash.
As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and George W. Bush does indeed stand atop the shoulders of giants, as evidenced by his Second Inspirational Address to The People a week ago Thursday. If there is an afterlife, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon and all the other past Great Leaders of the U.S. Federal Megastate must indeed have been smiling down upon Dubya, beaming with pride as he spoke at great length about 'our duties,' 'our deepest beliefs' and 'our goal,' which 'is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way.'
Indeed, Mr. Bush spoke at great length about freedom. As was much touted by the news media, he mentioned the word 'freedom' more than 25 times throughout his address. What was not much discussed, however, was Mr. Bush's rather peculiar interpretation of the term.
'We are led'--Bush hardly ever mentions freedom and liberty without simultaneously invoking the royal 'we'''by events and common sense to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.' (Emphasis mine.)
In other words, it's a damn good thing 'we' invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in order to bring them 'freedom,' for certainly to not have done so would have meant less freedom here in the United States. You know, mushroom clouds over major U.S. cities and Iraqi drones spraying poisonous chemicals and biological agents on defenseless Americans, that sort of thing. Funny though, how since the U.S. invaded those countries, Americans have lost freedom, not retained it. Draconian laws such as the PATRIOT Act, random searches and detention of people at American airports, not to mention Federal authorities detaining U.S. citizens indefinitely without due process, and the declining value of the Federal Reserve Note as Uncle Sam heaps war debt on top of welfare debt have all done far more damage to American liberty than Saddam Hussein or the Taliban ever did.
Mr. Bush continued: 'The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.' (Emphasis added.) Now, while I can certainly get behind a line of reasoning that asserts that a society which allows maximum individual freedom is more likely to be far more peaceful and harmonious than a society that doesn't, Bush's statement begs an important question: Who exactly is to be charged with the 'expansion of freedom' all over the entire world? Obviously, Bush thinks it should be the United States government, of course. And how exactly does the United States government 'expand' freedom? Why, by invading and occupying those countries that have been deigned by Bush as not meeting his rather peculiar standards of freedom, resulting in massive destruction of property and loss of human life abroad, in addition to further depletion of the treasury at home. Bush then hand picks puppet-sycophants in the conquered country to implement and administer a system of government to his liking, preferably a democracy, because after all, being able to periodically get in line to mark a choice of master(s) on a piece of paper and drop it into a ballot box is the very essence of freedom, is it not?
It is somewhat later in the speech that Mr. Bush deigns to inform The People what 'freedom' is, at least in his mind, and apparently it has absolutely nothing to do with individual freedom and everything to do with the freedom of government and the great collective it purports to represent, thus revealing his enormous sense of gratitude to statism and his direct lineage to the U.S. government tyrants of the past.
Our first clue is his quoting Abraham Lincoln:
'The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: 'Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.'' Libertarians and market anarchists understand that Lincoln's notion of 'freedom' meant that he was free to forcibly conscript men into the Union Army and then send them into the southern states to maim, slaughter and destroy at will in order to keep southerners forcibly subordinated to the yoke of politically connected Northern industrialists and their economic fascism. It's no surprise that Bush is so fond of Lincoln. I suspect that to Bush's way of thinking, the total destruction of Atlanta by Lincoln's generals set a precedent that justified his own scorched Earth policy in Fallujah.
After quoting Lincoln, Bush then adds a dash of JFK:
'I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers . . . Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself, and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country but to its character.' (Emphasis mine.)
Perhaps Bush decided to throw in the old 'ask what you can do for your country' sentiment because the rate of new volunteers joining the U.S. armed forces has dropped considerably since Bush invaded Iraq under extremely exaggerated if not patently false pretenses. Any of you young people out there who are now much less inclined to join the military need to remember that it's not about you, okay? Sure, you may get screwed over. You could get an arm or a leg blown off and wind up in some godforsaken hell hole of a VA hospital, but think of how much wealth you would be adding to Halliburton! Er, I'm sorry . . . to your country! You may wind up permanently disabled and thus shortchange your own opportunities for personal wealth, but at least you'll be making 'your country' richer, and with that $7 trillion debt looming over his head, Uncle Sam can use all the wealth he can get his hands on, believe me.
Oh, and you'll be contributing to our country's 'character,' to boot--whatever that means. Perhaps Bush is trying to inspire all you good apples out there to join up so as to cancel out all the morally abominable acts committed by those few bad apples at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
After heaping praise upon such great achievements of the Federal Megastate as the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act and the GI Bill, which in Bush's words were all motivated by the 'broader definition of liberty' in which Americans find the 'dignity and security of economic independence,' the Great Leader then informs The People of his own grand Utopian plans to prepare them for the 'challenges of life in a free society:'
'To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance . . . .' (Emphasis added.)
I don't particularly care to have a politician 'give' me a stake in the promise and future of 'our country,' thank you very much. All I ask is that the politicians leave me alone to labor for the fulfillment of my own promise and my own future in a manner of my own choosing. Quite frankly, with the ever mounting public and private debt, the endless cycle of foreign wars and the steady decline of the Federal Reserve Note, the future of 'our country' doesn't look so bright from where I'm standing. Besides, why should George W. Bush assume that 'stakes' in the 'promise and future of our country' are his to give away in the first place? Is he saying that essentially he and/or the U.S. government own this entire country outright and they're deigning to give The People 'stakes' or shares or whatever out of the benevolent kindness of their privileged hearts?
And just how exactly can the Federal government increase private ownership of homes and businesses and retirement accounts and health insurance? The notion that government can increase private ownership is oxymoronic, a contradiction in terms. On second thought, I do know how the government has increased home ownership over the last 50 years or so . . . .
In 1950, just a little more than half of all U.S. households owned their own homes. That number has increased since then to more than sixty-eight percent today. One way in which government accomplished this was by artificially inflating the supply of credit to the housing market, such as through the Federal Housing Administration raising its caps for insured mortgages, the U.S. Congress establishing the murky private/government corporations 'Fannie Mae' and 'Freddie Mac' to provide liquidity for residential mortgages and the Federal Reserve artificially depressing interest rates from time to time. Voila! Increased home ownership! Of course, the price of real estate and housing has correspondingly skyrocketed, too, as has personal debt.
If Bush is dissatisfied with the fact that 68 percent of U.S. households own their homes, I can only assume that his ultimate goal is 100 percent, and heaven knows how much more his Utopian 'ownership' scheme will drive up the cost of housing and real estate, or how much deeper it will sink Americans into debt.
And as for increasing private ownership of retirement accounts, all that needs to be done about that is to abolish Social Security outright and simply allow everyone to keep their own money to save, plan and invest for their own retirement in a manner of their choosing, but considering Bush's statement that the Social Security Act was one of those great acts of Congress that helped secure Americans their 'economic independence,' I'm not exactly holding my breath, though I'm sure FDR's ghost is quite pleased.
If referring to Social Security as being something that helped secure The People's economic liberty strikes you as a bit odd, Bush's following statement in his speech should make it all crystal clear for you:
'In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service and mercy and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love.'
So there you have it-- Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Of course, in my mind, this begs a rather nagging question, that is, what the hell does liberty mean if not independence from one another? Just to make it a bit clearer, Bush declares just a few paragraphs later that all Americans are 'bound to one another in the cause of freedom (italics mine).'
Liberty does not mean being independent of other people . . . We are all bound together in the cause of freedom . . . Oh, I get it!
Freedom is bondage. Bondage is freedom. 'We' are The People, and there is no way any individual may escape or circumvent his duty and responsibility of service to 'Us.' One should be happy for any and all opportunities to exercise one's rights to serve The People, for such duties ennoble the character and lift the spirit. And one should heed the Great Leader's words when he speaks of showing mercy for the weak, for that is what motivates the great crusade of Operation: Global Democracy. The tens of thousands of lives lost, the untold thousands of others permanently maimed and crippled and psychologically scarred for life, the homes and businesses forever destroyed . . . he does it out of mercy and love for the weak, of course, so that they may partake of the sweet fruits of democracy and the wonderful liberty that it brings.
All hail the New Freedom.