Ben Stone recently coined a term I like: “pacifiers” (BadQuaker.com podcast). It’s those little bones that government throws out to make some think that there is hope that the chains will loosen. Ben warned against taking hope from such things, both because they are merely the one step back that often follows tyranny’s two steps forward, and because they pale in comparison to the innumerable atrocities that continue to be perpetrated every day.
The mirror image of pacifiers is outrages. The barrage of injustice, illogic, and advancing tyranny can be a huge drain on time and energy. They can mirror the pacifiers’ false sense of hope by creating a false sense of dread. Just as the hope can lead to a relaxing of one’s vigilance and energy, a false sense of dread creates stress, hopelessness, and a feeling of having to do something about it, and do it now.
A litany of “Tyranny Today” is as big a distraction as a list of pacifiers, and worse because the barrage of tyranny is relentless and constant. If “something” becomes “anything”, it is more likely to make things worse than better. Of course, we can’t ignore that barrage of tyranny, but worse than ignoring it is being constantly reactive to it, being endlessly focused on it.
The outrages really are outrageous, and they have real effect on real people. I’m not suggesting one should turn coldly away from those upon whom the randomly (or not so randomly) swinging hammer of government enforcement comes down. It’s true, you can’t save every starfish, as the story goes, but you might be able to save this one, or that one. Or if not save them, at least help them and their loved ones to endure. In doing so, we also can practice and refine those skills we will need for the long haul.
Nor am I suggesting ignoring every outrageous law. That law can and will be used against you or someone you care about, someday. I am not suggesting we should dismiss the wishes of overzealous politicians as mere daydreaming, and the dodged bullet of some onerous bill’s death in committee as the end of the volleys aimed our way.
“Most players skate to where the puck is; I skate to where the puck is going to be” –Hockey great Wayne Gretzky on the secret of his success.
What I suggest is that we keep our attention on the long view, and integrate the knowledge gained from present actions and events into it. Most acts of government thugs, or onerous new laws, or inane wishes of a politician are not part of some grand plan, but they are emergent properties of a mostly mindless bureaucracy doing what current circumstance allows. The outrages provide clues to where things are headed, and where at least some faction of the government wants to take them in the future.
Those arrests and abuses tell us how far we’ve come. That they are willing to pepper spray a row of seated protesters, or kick an handcuffed woman in the head, tells us a lot about the state of the culture, of the law, and of the complacence of our fellow men.
New legislation is usually a “fencepost”; in conjunction with other laws and decrees, they form the line of fencing that once in place will be connected, constraining us all into an ever-shrinking perimeter of autonomy.
The wishes of politicians are not idle remarks, but trial balloons. The reception they receive, even if not fully supportive yet, is an indication of how close the world is to accepting such things, and what may be part of their long-term goals.
We need to watch these clues closely, to prepare ourselves for where things are headed, while at the same time attending to immediate needs and crises. What we can’t afford to do is to mistake the crises for events that, if successfully countered, will lead us to freedom. Freedom is a long-term proposition. We can’t afford to sink our energies entirely into every immediate outrage. We’d use up all we have and still not make a dent.
It’s in the long run that freedom will come. It’s not inevitable, but it is right, it is rational, it is correct, and it will “work” by any reasonable standard. The long run consists of a lot of short runs, and a lot of medium runs, and they all have to be taken into account. We can’t see forever, but the further ahead we think, the more advantage we have over the blind, lumbering evil that is the state. The more we understand the patterns revealed by the outrages, and the more we can deal with them as necessary while still not letting them consume us, the shorter our long run to freedom can be.