Insurrection Of Thought
by Bruce Patterson, May 27, 2011
“Give to every other human being every right you claim for yourself — that is my doctrine.” — Thomas Paine
“What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not. . .our army and navy. . .Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has implanted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which primed liberty as the heritage of all men everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your door. Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.” — Abraham Lincoln
“The economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power.” — FDR
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Sometimes I think the conglomerated media moguls that have destroyed any appreciation of social reality in this country have done so because, like needy spoiled brats, they want to see just how much bullshit they can sling and get away with. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and no doubt our coddled kleptocrats have convinced themselves they stole America’s hearts and minds fair and square, and that the Invisible Hand of Justice has anointed them with blank checks drawn on schoolchildren’s piggybank money, lifetime get-out-of-jail-free cards plus unlimited free lines of credit co-signed by us, their loyal and grateful audience, financiers and enablers, and I can’t say I can blame them much. You get treated like conquering royalty and pretty quick you start thinking like conquering royalty, and the world and all things in it become but the rude means to your noble ends.
You want to have some malicious fun? You want to create a little hell on earth? Make it so dog-eat-dog gangster capitalism is seen by most Americans as the Best of All Possible Worlds. Better yet, convince them it’s God’s Way. Make it so about the only doctrinaire Social Darwinists left practicing their black arts in this country call themselves “Fundamentalist Christians” and the sky’s your limit. Having taken the Jesus out of Christianity, it’s a cinch taking the equality out of liberty, the commonwealth out of democracy, reason and integrity out of the law, equity out of economics and the American out of Americans — that last being an especially interesting achievement seeing how, simultaneously, they’ve used Old World jingoism to take the human out of humanity. If you consider yourself an American first and a human being only a very-distant-second, and yet you are, at best, an imitation American, or a would-be one, or a used-to-be one, what does that make you? The shadow of a dream you never had or have forgotten?
With all this nonstop conglomerate media celebrity gossip about who is, and is not, a real American, I wonder if any of these nattering nabobs know what they’re talking about. Maybe I was just lucky, but as a little boy I learned my American ABCs and I’ve always known the difference between what is and what should be, promise and payoff, words and deeds. The American Dream has never been about accumulating gadgets and gizmos, ribbons and bows, much less about having money for power’s sake, and power for money’s sake. To the contrary, the American Dream has always been about realizing the unfulfilled promise of the American Bill of Rights strictly constructed and equally applied, since the American Revolutionary creed begins with the idea that none can really be free until all are free. Without human equality established as a matter of law and custom, or at least a reasonable facsimile of it, our lives are facsimiles, ourselves just hostile little private interest groups devouring each other in drops of swamp water, our deepest human aspirations and highflying imaginations locked tight inside the box of the tribal/historical, our futures late night black and white TV reruns we’ve seen a dozen times and will watch forever.
It’s an established fact that, when it comes to building something complicated, two people get more than twice as much done than one does. It’s also well known that, when it comes to correctly solving a complex problem, a small group will nearly always outsmart an individual. Yet, at some point, adding more and more people leads to insanity and so the rule becomes: “The larger the group, the stupider the individual.” Because of the relentless cradle-to-grave pressure, official and social, to conform in all ways to whatever society one is born into, a million people are infinitely more gullible than three, thirty or three hundred. A whole lot more cold-blooded, too, loyalty to one’s group — herd mentality — being responsible for all of the world’s most despicable atrocities, be they midnight masked-mob lynchings or wars of extermination. A little girl is brutally murdered and everybody in her tribe is heartbroken and scandalized. But sic that same tribe on the one living over the mountain and they’ll slaughter little girls wholesale as if they’re scything wheat or raking up leaves.
Have you ever wondered why all of the modern world’s great butchers — hang life-sized oil paintings of them decked out in their nationalist/militarist/royalist regalia and you would fill the walls of Auschwitz — love holding elections? It’s because elections are so easily fixed. Once you’ve convinced a mass of people that they’re “good guys” surrounded by “bad guys” having evil designs on what’s rightfully theirs, you’ve got them to where they’ll believe anything.
I myself know how that feels. Convinced poor, besieged America was mortally threatened by war-battered, poverty-stricken, communal rice farmers living beyond the wide ocean sea, I joined the army infantry and volunteered to follow the sunset. Certainly I was monumentally gullible way back then, but I wasn’t alone. While strutting our spit-shined Airborne stuff on parade grounds in battalion-sized formations marching this way and that, handling our rifles this way and that, we were giving physical form to our people’s somber meditation on matters of War and Peace. Like bumper-to-bumper, stop and go traffic jams spewing earth-killing poison, our regimented ranks and files flashed any mass of people’s darkest and most secret yearning: the sometimes irresistible urge to form-up and goosestep into the Promised Land, trampling the unworthy underfoot as we advance.
The notions of “Personal Security” and “National Security” possess an immediacy and predictability that “liberty” and “justice” — mere ideals — can’t match, and death-dealing politicians of all stripes have always banked on it. You wish to make the suckers love you? Save them from the boogie man or, better yet, hurl a bloody scapegoat to the ground at their feet. The Police State is as certain as cold steel, as comforting as a time clock and as fulfilling as following the dictates of the One True Church, whereas liberty is wild, unpredictable and scary, and justice downright dangerous if the mighty can be brought low alongside the weak. So it is that educated “middle class” Germans, to cite the one 20th Century example most Americans have a vague recollection of hearing about, freely and proudly voted themselves into Nazi slavery. Seeking safety in armies, navies, a glorious manifest destiny abroad and a Lord Protector at home, instead they got death, disgrace and ruin. The point being that the great mass of Germans wholeheartedly embraced total evil not so much because they were evil but because, as a people, they lost their nerve. While it can be argued that the German men who took up the gun, along with those who lined the streets celebrating their departure for the Fields of Glory, got what they deserved, their dependent women and children certainly didn’t. Not that it helped them any once the bombers appeared in the skies overhead.
It makes historical sense that today the most hateful, subversive and dangerous people in America are media stars claiming to speak for both God and Country. Absolutely refusing to acknowledge the equality of women, and especially women of childbearing age, or of “social deviants,” foreigners, immigrants, homosexuals, colored people or poor children of whatever age, sex or skin tone, they’re acting like they’ve always acted. The revolutionaries of song and story won on the battlefields the American War of Independence, but the Tories won the peace. That’s how the would-be republic got saddled with not just the abominations of chattel slavery and frontier genocide, but also with a King elected by a venal and senile House of Lords.
A lifetime later, the Union armies won on the battlefields the American Civil War, but the Confederates won the peace and today we’re still suffering the consequences of that, the Tea Partiers and the newly-reconstructed Republican Party being the 21st Century’s versions of our 19th Century Know-Nothings, themselves being the children of the staunchest of the Tories. So about all our revolutionary fathers really gave us is the Declaration of Independence they were bold enough to put their names to; that plus the now abolished Bill of Rights, which they themselves warned were just sheets of paper, “equality” being an idea whose time had not yet come, given the still primitive state of people’s minds, they being uneducated and hogtied by tradition and all. They also knew full well that their victory over England started a quest far more than it ended one. They were aware of their failures — they came a lot closer to abolishing slavery than they’re generally given credit for — and, in spite of what today’s chest-pounding “fundamentalists” recite in lockstep, hands down their proudest achievement was, after a thousand years of enduring violent superstition and pompous decadence, mercenary Holy Wars and moral hypocrisy so rank it fouled the high heavens, finally, with their own hands and without asking anybody’s permission, they’d freed themselves of the putrid and putrefying Church State.
The Protestant Idea began with the notion that you didn’t need a priest to find your way to “god,” and the revolutionaries took it to its logical conclusion by trying to establish it as a cornerstone principle, a birthright; a someday gift to children yet unborn: the “inalienable” right to use one’s own eyes and ears and follow one’s heart, to think and speak independently and to be treated as all wish to be treated. If there’s one place where the Gospels of Jesus and the American Revolutionary creed intersect, it’s there in the appreciation of Golden Rule — the one rule the militant God and Country crowd has never had any use for.
While the great mass of people occupying this country could be said to be suffering from a case of terminal gullibility, that’s only because we’ve been fed a lifetime diet of lies and still it doesn’t apply to most of us as individuals. Forever ruling classes have known how to bring out the worst in masses of people — dividing to rule is their bread and butter — but just as long there have been others seeking to bring out the best in groups, whether teachers, spiritual leaders, tribal leaders or merely enlightened individuals living their lives as lives should be lived. Besides, nobody is more gullible than the vainglorious, and our rulers excel at curling lies around lies because they’re habitual and pathological liars. Those of them that have a small voice inside telling them they’re a disgrace never have the courage to listen — they love their money and power and pretensions too much. Yet the fact that they’ve lost their grip on reality shouldn’t discourage us as much as steel us for the task ahead. Since there’s nothing more dangerous than crazy vainglorious corrupt fools in power, replacing them with people who are of fit character is the best way to secure our survival both as a nation and a civilization; perpetual warfare and class warfare, environmental depletion and ecosystem collapse being a death sentence for both.
Since courage is the virtue that makes all of the other virtues possible, listen to Ben Franklin: “. . .Taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly, and from these taxes the commissioners cannot easily deliver us by allowing us an abatement.”