"The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do." ~ Eric Hoffer
Radicalism in an Era of War and Terrorism
Many libertarians have become increasingly mainstream since 9/11, shrugging off or outright defending numerous policies of the Bush administration ' including, in my opinion, its very worst ' and celebrating wildly every time Bush advances his phony 'privatization' schemes or mentions that he once sent us each a check for three hundred dollars of our own money the government had stolen (properly devalued, of course, from Bush's and Greenspan's war inflation).
On the other hand, many of us have become increasingly radical, realizing that we are confronted with one of the rockiest times America has seen in some years. We find ourselves more willing to decry the mass murder committed in our name. Now, more than ever, we see that we must prioritize the US warfare state as a focus of our criticism and protest.
To be radical is simply to return to your philosophical roots, without which the entire intellectual belief system one holds is defunct. The roots of the radical anti-statist correspond precisely to the roots of what he opposes ' state violence and abuse. The root of the latter being, of course, the state itself, and, arguably, its most central components, such as war, taxation, inflation, and the prison industrial complex.
Radicalism need not transform into counterproductive sectarianism, and it is good to appreciate the contributions and efforts of others with similar enough goals, even short-term ones. Celebrate the solidarity with all of those with whom we hold the mutual aspirations of peace and a return to normalcy! Who would have thought five years ago that there would be such common cause between the paleo-conservatives, the libertarians, the left anarchists, the radicals of all stripes, and everyone else from the Left and Right who fears the relentless growth of US empire and police statism? Who expected so much agreement between the neo-conservatives, the neo-liberals, the neo-libertarians, and the mainstream establishment pundits, media, politicians, columnists, authors, talking heads, corporate big wigs, and talk show hosts that US empire must continue unabated, indeed accelerated, until American bombs and homegrown tyranny give way to a Good greater than the insignificant lives, liberties, or principles of mere, mortal individuals? Who would have foreseen this peculiar realignment?
Still, for the most radical anti-statist, it can be more frightening than for his well-meaning fellow travelers. With people talking favorably of FDR's Gulags and having police go to door-to-door looking for bin Laden in all our homes, it's very possible that the assaults on liberty that America will see in the next several years might include a crackdown on dissent. During Lincoln 's war, dissidents were locked up and even deported. During Wilson 's war, they were held in prisons. What can we expect will soon befall the radical dissident, as the stakes grow higher, and the US war machine and anti-US terrorism ascend together, causing many Americans to relinquish the remaining sanity that has survived these last three years?
Will the government ever shut down Strike The Root, or other radical publications? Will enemies of the state find themselves imprisoned for their ideas and the audacity to voice them? Is this possible in America ?
Of course it is possible. It has happened before, and it can happen again. Which is all the more reason that we speak up.
Speak loudly against the growing warfare-police state! We must, for the sake of our liberty, survival and dignity.
We must speak up! Any particular danger to the dissident cannot possibly be far greater than the threats against all people that the state generally poses.
The US government has always been a threat to Americans, and for most of its history, a threat to others as well. Since the beginning of the Cold War, it has posed a constant threat to the entire world ' and not due to any singular maliciousness on the part of Americans, or even American politicians. No, no, no. The threat has simply been material, institutional, philosophical, and psychological.
The threat has been real and material because the US government uniquely has come to possess the firepower, hypothetically speaking, to destroy human life on earth. Only one truly insane and determined president or a series of serious but feasible human errors could deliver instant death to hundreds of millions, even billions of people worldwide. The threat is still here, and perhaps more overt now than even during the Cold War, frighteningly enough.
The threat has been real and institutional because of the sheer size, influence, and concreteness of the US government. It is unspeakably huge. It has long been the largest government in the history of the world, and the fact of the matter is that unrivaled power produces unrivaled corruption, regardless of the intrinsic honesty or good intentions of the American people, or even the relative good nature of the best of its politicians.
The threat has been real and philosophical because Americans have yet to outgrow a primitive affinity to government ' on the contrary, Americans have steadily become increasingly favorable toward totalitarian bureaucracy at home and empire abroad over the last hundred and six years, and the trend continues. Although the philosophical understanding of the state has hardly improved in the modern age, technology has rapidly advanced '' making it all the more likely that primitive values will combine with modern tools to yield technocratic oppression, micromanaged and centrally computerized surveillance, and the most disturbingly efficient methods ever seen for the disposing of unwanted or interloping individuals.
The threat has been real and psychological because Americans in particular seem mostly unaware of the universal problems with the state, the mortality of civilization, and the tendency for tyranny to triumph and liberty to yield whenever the people let down their guard. Americans have been told all their lives that the United States is uniquely free. If Goethe was right that 'none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free' ' and I believe he was indeed right '' how true it must be that 'none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free and always will be free, and who believe they are in fact indisputably, axiomatically and irrevocably the freest people in the world, no matter what their government does'!
The collective delusion of Americans that it can't happen here, the psychological conditions that have led so many out of fear to cling on to the discredited central state, the mob rule that typically prevails when crisis hits a psychologically traumatized people, along with the ongoing philosophical, institutional, and material threats of systematic human suffering on a hardly imaginable scale, together make the present era, an era of growing state and private terrorism, very unsettling, to say the least, for the radical. But although the radical knows, more than others, the true nature of the threat, and may feel more threatened than the complacent mainstream citizen, he recognizes the threat is very real for all of us, and so he must, and does, speak out.
We must speak out, now more than ever, if we want to restore our freedom and save our people and the people of the world from mass destruction. At a minimum, we must do it to maintain our dignity, so as to give hope to future generations who will see that there were some who struck at the root even as the beastly tree threatened to crush them.