…The problem now facing liberty is a new form of tyranny, a “social tyranny” exercised by the populace itself over the individual. – Pages 76
That is a portion of one of my favorite passages from On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society by Gertrude Himmelfarb. It may be strange that it came to mind as I am now reading about one of the most fearsome abysses in modern times…but I do sense distant echoes of current themes in there:
Russian public opinion by the beginning of the century constituted a marvelous force, was creating a climate of freedom. The defeat of Tsarism came not when Kolchak was routed, not when the February Revolution was raging, but much earlier! It was overthrown without hope of restoration once Russian literature adopted the convention that anyone who depicted a … policeman with any hint of sympathy was a lickspittle and a reactionary thug; when you didn’t have to shake a policeman’s hand, cultivate his acquaintance, nod to him in the street, but merely brush sleeves with him in passing to consider yourself disgraced. – Page 92
Interesting the timelessness of the power of “social” pressures…on the grand scale like that or even more local sources. Often from within your own team’s perimeter (i.e., the stoolies, the talebearers and traitors). Because I am wired that way, I sense similar echoes of the “time to get in line” hectoring we are being inundated with form the softie-class this weekend in this interesting passage from that same Volume III:
“There was a committed escaper!”
A committed escaper! One who never for a minute doubts that a man cannot live behind bars—not even as the most comfortable of trusties, in the accounts office, in the Culture and Education Section, or in charge of the bread ration. One who once he lands in prison spends every waking hour thinking about escape and dreams of escape at night. One who has vowed never to resign himself, and subordinates every action to his need to escape. One for whom a day in prison can never be just another day; there are other days of preparation for escape, days on the run, and days in the punishment cell after recapture and a beating.
A committed escaper! This means one who knows what he is undertaking. One who has seen the bullet-riddled bodies of other escapers on display along the central tract. He has also seen those brought back alive—like the man who was taken from hut to hut, black and blue and coughing blood, and made to shout: “Prisoners! Look what happened to me! It can happen to you, too!” He knows that a runaway’s body is usually too heavy to be delivered to the camp. And that therefore the head alone is brought back in a duffel bag, sometime (this is more reliable proof, according to the rulebook) together with the right arm, chopped off at the elbow, so that the Special Section can check the fingerprints and write the man off.
A committed escaper! It is for his benefit that window bars are set in cement, that the camp area is encircled with dozens of strands of barbed wire, towers, fences, reinforced barriers, that ambushes and booby traps are set, that red meat is fed to gray dogs.
The committed escaper is also one who refuses to be undermined by the reproaches of the average prisoner: You escapers make it worse for the rest! Discipline will be stiffer! Ten inspections a day! Thinner gruel! He ignores the whispered suggestions of other prisoners—not only those who urge resignation (“Life’s not so bad even in a camp, especially if you get parcels”), but those who want him to join in protests or hunger strikes, because all that is not struggle but self deception. Of all possible means of struggle, he has eyes only for one, believes only in one, devotes himself only to one—escape!
He cannot do otherwise! That is how he is made. … – Pages 125-126
Because the Progressive-Lite agenda is the path of least resistance and a few additional hollow electoral wins in the Right column along the way will make the soft underbelly of the of the artificially enlarged big Republican tent feel a little better, the faux-conservative town-criers are out in force this weekend to bully the
escapers fighters back into line. So the question is: Are you committed to Liberty or are you going to join them in their self-deception?
That is all.