Monday, October 31, 2011

You don't want to vote (or shoot) your way out of this.

Robb Allen has a very thought provoking post up today.  Go read it if you haven't. 

For the most part, I tend to agree with him.  Where we disagree comes down to how much we each have to lose.  I have relatively little.  Robb has a lot.  I'm leaning more towards, "Fuck it, it's broken.  Let's take our chances by scrapping it and start over" without really being willing to start the party by myself.  Robb is of the mindset, in my opinion, of, "Well, it's not that bad.  Sure, there is a lot that could be better, but we're a hell of lot better off than most and why not enjoy all the wonderful things we have and be as happy as we can."*

Robb says we're not voting our way out of this.  He's right.  We are not going to get a person through the political process who has enough power to shrink the government and reintroduce individual responsibility at the cultural level.  We'd basically need a benevolent dictator, and we'd need that person to have absolute control in order to control and eventually dismantle the bureaucracy that runs this country.  First we'd have to find someone capable of it, and then we'd have to take the risk of giving that person all that power and hoping he or she didn't get either replaced with someone not so benevolent or that they didn't become an American Robert Mugabe.

He also says we're not shooting our way out of this.  I think he's wrong on the this count.  Dead wrong.  We could very easily shoot ourselves out of this.  In fact, shooting our way out of it would be a hell of a lot easier than trying to work within the stacked deck that is the American political process. 

The problem, however, is not getting out of it.  The problem is what we'll be in once we're out of it.  That is what most people are not willing to risk.  Most people "are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." 

Right now in the United States quality of life is so high, things are so good, pleasurable things are so damned easy to attain, that we're willing to put up with the violation of every single one of our rights,** especially when those violations are so light, and since we're so accustomed to a lot of them.***  The most brutal violations of rights, while generally highly visible, are largely ignored because we're willing to take the word of those in power that a few transfers or demotions are going to keep it from happening again even though we see evidence every day that this is not the case.  They're also largely ignored because the only effective response would be to kill those doing the violating, and in turn kill those who would retaliate in response to that.  I'd rather see them in prison, personally, but when the only people capable of putting them in prison are thinking, "Well, if I look the other way for him/her, he/she will look the other way for me," then that just isn't going to happen.

So, we put up with it.  We put up with it because the only other option left to us is a highly risky one that is just as likely (probably more than likely) to lead us into an even worse situation.  And when the chance that you, as an individual, will have your rights grossly violated is so small why would you risk making things worse?  Fact is, while the government grossly violates individual citizens' rights everyday, the population of the nation is so huge that, even though the vast majority of those who do the violating get away with it, we are not likely to be a victim of it.

And because the vast majority of those who do the violating do so often get away with (aside from the occasional sacrificial lamb here and there), we are vastly more inclined to ignore the violations when they happen to someone else.  When we are the victims of those violations ourselves, assuming we actually survive, we are generally so afraid of it happening again that we'll let it go with nothing but a lot of grumbling and maybe a lawsuit.****  We're allowed the grumbling and the lawsuit because it gives us the illusion of having a meaningful recourse to government abuse and because it gives legitimacy to the powers that be. 

I mean, hell, if this were a real police state they'd be beating us for talking out of line and they certainly wouldn't be giving us monetary restitution, right?  Ever wondered if maybe they're just smarter than your average tinpot dictator, and know that if they allow us this they can, quite literally, get away with murder?

I guess what I am trying to say here is that ultimately we are all of us just going along to get along.  We've got no real hope of getting anything better without taking a chance that will most likely leave things even worse.  And why complain when I've got internet (and free porn), a smart phone, plenty of food, Dish Network, and Netflix?  The odds of the government violating my rights in a spectacular enough fashion to have lasting consequences are far lower than me losing all of those things I listed in previous sentence if I were to choose to start shooting the bastards.

I'm content to go along to get along.  For now. 

*This is the more practical and safe course.  It's the best one if you have a family to protect.  And to be fair it's the one I'm following and will probably continue to follow all by my lonesome.  After all, it really isn't all that bad for most of us. 
**To avoid pointless digressions we'll define rights as Life, Liberty, and Property.  "I can't remember having to quarter any troops lately nyuk nyuk nyuk."
***I've always needed a license to carry a pistol.  So did my parents generation.  My grandparents were white, so they got to carry whether it was technically 'illegal' or not.  I say technically illegal because it boggles the mind how it can be illegal for a person to do something the Constitution clearly says they can do, but I digress.  I've also always had to put up with an officer being allowed to pat me down any damned time he wants because the powers that be say his safety is more important than mine.  I have to put up with unreasonable searches and seizure (I've experienced this first hand and it's certainly changed my view of the police from highly positive to mostly negative).  I have to pay rent, in the form of taxes, on property I supposedly own.  This list could go on and on. 
****That, if we win, will be paid for by the citizenry rather than the individuals responsible for the wrongs, so why would they care if they lose, right?  And talk is cheap.  People will forget as soon as the person in charge says, "We deeply regret what happened and those responsible have been punished."


Kevin Baker said...

I first read Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress when I was 11 or 12. The thing that struck me most strongly about that novel was the fact that the conspirators had to first work at making the Lunar Authority more oppressive in order to motivate the population to rebellion.

Many, many years later when I read John Ross' Unintended Consequences I was not at all surprised to see his protagonists using similar tactics.

Yes, most of us will suffer that which is sufferable - until we're not. And we're a long way from "not." At least until the jackboot comes down on our necks - at which point it's too late. Those of us who refuse to suffer? They're labled "fringe lunatic" and dismissed - or used as further evidence of the need for stronger regulation, or both.

The American Revolution was successful after the fact because the major movers and shakers shared a common philosophy - that of John Locke. The French revolution failed for a similar reason: their movers and shakers shared the philosophy of Rousseau. Today? I doubt a plurality can properly spell "philosophy," so violent revolution seems contraindicated.

But we're most emphatically not voting our way out....

Old NFO said...

Concur on the not voting ourselves out... As far as shooting? When it becomes personal to 'enough' people, then it will start... And I'd guesstimate it will be in the NE quadrant or California, when 'enough' people get fed up with the BS and are pressed to the individual point(s) that they feel there are no alternatives.

RobertM said...

Kevin, I largely agree. The ignorance and apathy out there are appalling. But I've never really placed any hope in revolution, violent or otherwise, being able to save the whole of the United States. Our best bet is to save a small part of it. I always thought that the way things played out in Molon Labe! were about the best we could hope for.

NFO, I hope you're right. My biggest worry is and always has been organization. Without it all you've got is a mob and it doesn't take much to deal with a mob. Whatever happens there would need to be some kind of a legitimate go between that has it's hands clean that can at least run PR. Otherwise no matter how justified a violent action may be all you will get is condemnation, even from the people you would think would be on their side.