The nasty, murderous old communist Leon Trotsky was wrong about almost everything. He died as he lived, as a bandit, with an icepick jammed in his head. Few men deserved it more. But one thing he said is correct: “You may not be interested in politics. But politics is interested in you.”
Trotsky helped V.I. Lenin set up a system where that statement was truer than ever before. Where the state would forbid mothers and fathers from teaching their children about God. And citizens who wrote unorthodox opinions in private letters would disappear into gulags. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a decorated war veteran, was sent to Siberia for writing a friend a joke about Stalin’s moustache.) Where the state made national heroes of children who turned in their parents to the secret police for torture over what they said at dinner.
The People Were Once Spectators
Under the most tyrannical tsar, the peasants gave little thought to the politics in St. Petersburg. Most citizens even there in the capital doubtless went for days without giving thought to the doings at court. Nor did they have any influence over the government, of course — no more than medieval French, English, or German farmers.
But the state left them alone. They might pay excessive taxes, or be subject as serfs to landlords. But their innermost thoughts, stray complaints about the local baron, and what they taught their children, were none of the government’s business.
Politics wasn’t interested in Joan of Arc, until she decided to enter it. Then and only then did she enter the world where court intrigue, backdoor whispers, and at last a literal witch trial would consume her time and her life.
Ordinary People, Ordinary Lives
For most of human history, apart from the side-effects of periodic wars, common people like Joan were unaffected by ideologies. Before the French Revolution, no national government ever dared to conscript ordinary people and force them to fight in the army. That was the domain of aristocrats and mercenaries.
But average folk like you and me also had little influence over the course of events. The decisions of kings and dukes were far above our pay grade. Our distant ancestors were spectators, not players, watching the pros down on the field, maybe cheering on their teams.
What made America exceptional was that our founders tried to change this ancient arrangement. They hoped to accomplish something rarely seen in the world — and only in a few little republics here and there, like the cantons of Switzerland. That is, a system where ordinary people would be encouraged to take a healthy interest in government, without the government taking an unhealthy interest in them. A country where liberty would be founded on solid moral order, encouraged by religion. Instead of subjects, the people would be citizens. Their votes would be sovereign. But the system of government itself would be almost impossible to pervert into a tyranny.
Our System Was Tried. Has It Failed?
That’s the word we stumble over and bloody ourselves on today. “Almost.” More and more I fear that our society has outwitted our founders, and rewritten America’s source code to make it totalitarian-friendly. In retrospect, it really wasn’t as hard to do as it seemed. The founders themselves gave away the secret, right at the beginning. John Adams wrote in 1798: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
These are words to think about, as we stand just a few more vote counts and two Georgia Senate elections away from the end of that Constitution. From a packed Supreme Court declaring that the First and Second amendments should properly be read as … Martha Washington’s recipe for hot toddies.
Make no mistake, that’s what our post-Christian left has been preparing Americans for. The unfounding of the U.S.
Hence their incessant drumbeat, from the streets of Seattle to our public schools. Hence the endless half-witted wailing about how some of our founders were slaveowners. And the assaults on statues of Washington and Columbus. Then the conspiracy theories that claim the U.S. was founded to stop King George III from freeing the slaves.
And hence especially the well-funded gibberish professors, teachers, and preachers keep repeating about “Systemic Racism.” Apparently, it lies behind not just the Electoral College and the Senate filibuster, but the nuclear family, classical music, punctuality, professionalism, and the free market economy. (If that really were the case, every person of every race should rally around the principle. “I dunno what this ‘Systemic Racism’ is, but I want a lot more of it!”)
He Who Controls the Past Controls the Future
All of it has a point. And that point is to rewrite the past in shades of toxic jaundice, so we won’t cling to the liberties our ancestors left us. We’ll be so disgusted at the flaws and sins of past Americans, and so convinced of our own purity and enlightenment, that we’ll trust ourselves to throw out everything. To shake the Etch-A-Sketch and start from scratch.
We’ll wave off those historic protections against an all-powerful government in bed with the rich and the “righteous.” And we’ll just let Caesar, and Google, and Facebook redesign our lives. All those brakes on angry majorities, those checks and balances meant to protect the people from the government? We will toss them away like 18th-century powdered wigs we found in the attic.
We’ll think it’s perfectly normal for mentally ill billionaires who sliced off their own penises, banded together in the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT juggernauts, to impose “transgender education” on our own children in school. To subject kindergarten kids to sex workers. For the government to discriminate against religions whose moral teachings offend those billionaires. For the media, government, and massive corporations to normalize events such as this one:
In a civilized society, this would be illegal. pic.twitter.com/rY8SwQE5Mo
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) November 23, 2020
We’ll nod, “Of course!” when the state decides that this disease or that gives it the right to restrict our travel, destroy our livelihoods, and force us to take experimental vaccines. In fact, we might decide it’s not so bad that a few dozen very rich people decide what we get to say to each other, over the tech monopolies they created with government help and protection.
Prepping for the New Order
We’re already almost there. You know it in your bones. If a mob comes to your home because it objects to your politics, your religion, or even the color of your skin, you know better than to defend yourself. You know that the whole power of the state will be turned against you, as if you were the criminal. You may not be interested in Anarcho-Tyranny, but it’s already stalking you.
We know better than to publish opinions that offend the powerful groups and people. We fear we will pay a price in the future, once the screws have really tightened. What I’ve written in 2020 (and long before) might land me in a very bad place in 2025, once the “slaveowners privilege” of free speech has fallen on the dust heap. Maybe not a prison cell, though I won’t rule that out. More likely a place like those allotted to dissidents in Czechoslovakia, after the Soviet crackdown in 1968. One of Milan Kundera’s stories depicts a gifted writer who wasn’t murdered or tortured. Instead, he was merely silenced, and prevented from working in any field where he was qualified. He ended up washing windows. And counted himself lucky.
What menial or manual work are you young enough and strong enough to do? I’m afraid for me the list is very short. As I fear that our time is, too.
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This article was originally published in The Stream.