July 11, 2005

How to become ill in one easy step.


I had this link thrown at me in an insulting message a few days ago, in response to a post I made on the internet. I have no problem with that. I made the post, and invited the comment. I hadn't read the diatribe before, however, and was somewhat fascinated to finally do so.

I can't figure out what's worse, however, the...no, of course I can. It's the response postings.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the nature of government, most especially the one I deal with daily because it holds sway over the land I live in. I have no special qualifications to sound off about this. I am no sage. You shouldn't listen to me. I'm just posting this because sometimes it helps me to write this stuff down.

This thought train was nudged by the recent bombing attacks in London. The (unfortunately) standard aftermath of argument between the Security-versus-Liberty simplified talking points flared up again immediately, particularly in the specific issue of national identity cards in the United Kingdom. I won't go into the actual arguments of whether the things work or not, leaving that to those more qualified than I. However, it brought up one of my more well-worn thought tracks - that of the increasing amount of power available to the individual actor in modern society.

This is something that my compatriots and I have been discussing for quite some time - and yes, folks, since long before 9/11. Airliners were specifically used as examples (and of course not just by us - examples abound now of those warning of that danger). In essence, the amount of energy that an individual actor can seize and wield has risen geometrically since the advent of gunpowder arms. Even discounting high energy WMDs (although of course that may be premature), the amount of energy available to the average non-criminal in Western society is immense compared to, say, the serf of the 1600s.

And, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility.

The problem, of course, is that people are opting out of responsibility as fast as they possibly can. Personal responsibility is a thing of the past. Not my fault is an even bigger and more popular mantra than visualize world peace. This isn't an attempt to blame lawyers, before anyone accuses me of that; I'm not actually sure where the cycle starts. But it's fairly clear. It's not my fault, and even more pernicious, it's not my problem - these are the watchwords of the day.

As Fuckwit Boortz says, "Individual achievement." Make your own pile, and don't let the feds take it from you! Damn those poorly-choosing junkies and poor people, and damn Hillary for trying to spend your hard-scrabbled cash on their medical care. Not my problem. On the other side of the coin? "Not their fault." Kids shoot up schools because nobody noticed they were stockpiling firearms in their rooms? Oh, it's not their *parents'* fault, it must be those evil video game companies. Spill coffee? Burn yourself? Not *your* fault. (I'm gonna get shit for that reference). A burglar breaks into your house and drowns in your pool? It's not their fault - it's yours for having an unsafe pool.

Yes, those are two sides of an argument. Yes, there's a nebulous center.

It's called judgement.

It used to be, as far as I can tell, available to all. What the fuck happened? Apparently now, it needs to be defined in thick contract law and insurance waivers the size of telephone books - because no-one is capable of exercising it anymore. Or perhaps it's too profitable not to.

Back to the thread.

Here's the problem. The 'conservatives' (I have to use quotes, because I'm talking about the ones who support the Bush administration's ballooning of the Federal government's policing, spy, and fiscal powers into something the 'liberal' administrations haven't even come close to in fifty years) would have us believe that liberals are woolly, groupthink, wishy-washy pack thinkers who value equality over liberty and would (as Rove said) would offer 'therapy' to our enemies.

On the other hand, their solution to the ever-increasing amount of individual power is to try to police it. To stomp down on the individual and the individual's freedom. To deal with the increasing energy available to the individual in the form of larger SUVs and private aircraft and, yes, industrial processes which can produce explosives, and public transport systems which deal in the production and control of large amounts of kinetic energy, by trying harder and harder to put the genie back into the bottle. By trying to pursue the fantasy of absolute control over the actions of people. Whereas at the same time, the base (the proper philosophical base) of their own party is founded entirely on the notion that it is impossible to stamp out the freedom that an individual wields if he or she wants it badly enough - that the one thing a government cannot do (in the ability and the moral sense) is to try to exert positive control over a single actor at all times. That what a government can (and should) do is to aggregate the power of those single actors, so that they can stand up to aggregated external threats greater than any they might face alone.

I'm sorry, this is getting muddled. They always get muddled coming out of my brain onto the screen.

Essentially, though, I think that's it:

Industry, science and technology means the energy available to people is increasing.

The American Revolution and resultant government is based (at least in part) on the assumption and plan that you cannot positively control the actions of individuals at all times - and that because of this, you must rely on the actions of those individuals to maintain aggregate (not perfect) order in the society.

The mechanisms the Bush administration and the Neocon movement and the paranoid component of the American public are fearfully pursuing are designed and intended to pursue positive control (or, at the very least, absolute negative control, which is terrifyingly close) of the actions of all persons within the continental U.S. and no few people without.

The 'liberals' - and, thank whatever we all hold Important, some few Republicans, finally - who deign to question the wisdom of these measures, are being denounced as 'traitors' and 'treasonous' - which, for those who have problems with that description, is what 'giving comfort to the enemy' is officially called. Look up Rove's comment again.

Therefore, I have to ask -

Where the fuck are the so-called Conservatives?

And what the fuck have they done with my Constitution?

Because I want it back.

Posted by jbz at July 11, 2005 8:58 PM | TrackBack


A fair question, and one which deserves a thoughtfully written answer instead of an answering rant. Please accept my assurances that I am composing one, and not ignoring you - I would rather produce that, instead of go off as I am wont to do in screeching true (pointless) affronted liberal frenzy. Look for said answer in the next couple of days as I catalog, trim for brevity (snark :-) and most importantly, formulate for explanatory power and reasoned response to query rather than outrage. Thanks for reading.


Posted by: J.B. Zimmerman at July 13, 2005 6:13 PM

Other than increased security at airports, could you possibly post specifically where increased "control" has affected your every day life?

Posted by: Jon Johnston at July 12, 2005 5:19 PM
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