Thursday, March 26, 2009

On The Dangers of Liberal Society, pt. I

I am re-posting an old note from my archive of Facebook notes to serve as a preface to some things I hope to write about in defense of fascism--yes, you read that right. But first things first.

The saying goes, "You get more bees with honey than vinegar." In other words, there is really nothing sweet about the honey other than being really good at trapping bees.

In a similar way, it might be plausible that other seemingly sweet, innocent, and good things can serve as "honey" for less than sweet, innocent, or good purposes. Anyone skilled at marketing or sales understands that the best way to peddle something is by being nice to people, making them feel cared for, and gaining their trust in as personal and authentic a way as possible. That way, people lose focus on the thing being sold.

Many times people remind me that the very fact that I am free to question and even dissent is proof that things are better than they seem. And, of course, this is a very reasonable thing to assert. The fact that I feel confident enough to show strong disagreement without repercussions is certainly a good thing. However, I wonder: Is it sweet or is it "sweet"? In other words, could it be the case that the hallmark "freedom" we supposedly enjoy in the US is largely a means of appeasement or even oppression?

I think this could, in many cases, be true. You see, when freedom serves as the sole idol, then, as long as things are not overly intrusive no one will complain. And, paradoxically, if intrusiveness is needed for more freedom, then, most will agree to it; and those who disagree will do so thinking they are already free enough. But these are all relative judgments about how "free" we assume to be, when, in fact, we may be quite indoctrinated.

For example, the idea of compulsory school attendance was considered a radical intrusion on American freedom from the revolutionary period to the last state (Mississippi) to ratify it in 1916. Now, even school choice advocates agree that school attendance is a perfectly normal--and good--thing to have.

This is not to digress on to the issue of schooling (frequently confused for education); rather, it is just one case in which there is historical proof that what we consider to be "freedom" is a rather elusive thing that, over time, erodes silently. As true freedom erodes, we find that we are peddled a different type of "freedom" that, many times, is used against those who assume to be free--us, you and me.

So, it seems (at least to me) that the greatest marketing icon of the US--"freedom"--might be one of the very things that oppresses us. It is much more effective to let people do things you don't want them to, and then remind them that they are "free," to suppress their ability to effectively protest or revolt, than to beat or kill them. Do not be mislead, whether violent or benevolent, oppression is oppression.

As the saying goes, "you get more peasants with freedom..."


brogonzo said...

It's difficult to talk or write about freedom analytically because "freedom" is a sort of umbrella-term that could mean any of a multitude of different things. Also, there's a sort of multi-dimensional aspect to it -- freedom from one thing, say, the rule of law, might mean the loss of freedom in another area, such as personal security. There is no single "freedom" variable that can possibly capture the reality of the situation.

I do think, however, that the term has been used as a bit of a milksop to soften the blow of policy that has in fact reduced the net level of freedom in our country and worldwide. I never quite understood what people meant when they thanked me for "Defending Freedom" while I was on active duty. Which freedom did they mean, exactly? It's been a while since we had to fight off the British...

brogonzo said...

Oh, one other thing -- and not to deliberately keep picking fights over rhetoric -- but:

"In other words, there is really nothing sweet about the honey other than being really good at trapping bees."

I really don't think that's what the saying means at all.

Rocco said...

I can't read this. I'm way to curious about your "defense of fascism" to concentrate.

samrocha said...

Ian, what I mean by freedom is not very sophisticated. It is just the basic thing we expect to find different between a liberal society and a illiberal one.

Regarding the bee interpretation there is a lot of nuance in the "really" in that statement. I know you hate it when I use nuance, but, I think you should get over it.