Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Fictions Which Bind Us

There are, in our lives, far too many things which seem to me arbitrary and slightly absurd that we have all seemed to agree upon to be true. We have created in our minds this vast game of make believe, and it all seems true because we all play along. In fact to make the statement that many of these things are but figments of our imagination will bring howls of descent from the greater portion of the population, but on close observation it is quite clear that they exist in no true form. Two of the biggest fictions are the existence of countries and governments (the subject of this post) followed closely by our financial systems (possibly the topic of a future post).

It should be clear, on any reasonable inspection that countries don't exist in anything more than a loose reference to a geographical area and the people who occupy it. The lines that divide it from other countries are arbitrary mythology. For instance there is nothing more Chinese about one side of Mt. Everest or Nepali about the other. There is nothing American about one side of the Rio Grande, and Mexican about the other. These lines exist only in our minds, and they can be enforced because people with guns are convinced they're real. Increasingly I'm starting to think that this is an outdated bunch of garbage that humanity would do better without. For what purpose does these lines serve, aside from dividing us? One answer may be the appropriation of resources through our governments with a sense of shared values.

If our history has shown us anything it is that our concepts of government have brought forth more suffering and disaster than any fiction with which we cling to. There are many definitions of government one could use, but the one I like is as follows;

Government: (Noun) A fictional entity used to describe a group of people who have been granted, by consent of the population, a monopoly on the use of force in a specific geographic area.

This even goes too far in that this might be what is defined as "legitimate government" as in some cases the consent of the population at large is not needed, and may in some cases be enforced through fear and force by a small minority of the population. Aside from the crucial insight that government is a figment of our collective imaginations, we must also see that its inherent flaw is that what separates government from other institutions is its ability to make legitimate use of force. Behind every law and act from the obvious deceleration of war to the collection of taxes or the enforcement of seatbelt laws is the barrel of a gun. This is why government has a tendency to devolve into tyranny, why it is the enemy of human progress and why it has silenced millions and is the targeted partner of the powerful to shut out competition. George Washington, one of the founders of my country, saw this quite clearly;

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master."

Because of this principle it becomes clear that behind even the best of intentions is the lurking threat of force, the promise of detainment. The further legitimization of force over a naturally free people all of it permeating from this central fiction that legitimizes the use of force for some and a crime for others, is the antithesis of freedom. The simple question comes down to, if it's a free country why can't I opt out? What if I don't want to invest my labor in the ponzi scheme that is social security? What if I don't want the sweat from my brow funding bombs that are dropped on people that never did me any harm? What if I want to use a medium of exchange that keeps its value instead of these crappy devalued Federal Reserve Notes? Wat happens is that you "break the law", because eventually if you continue to not comply the end result is people authorized to use force coming to take you away against your will.

The central fiction that makes this tolerable to many democratic countries is that "the people" are "the government". But this equation is entirely fictional as well. The ability to occasionally vote for a person, not usually of your choosing, to make decisions about what the government's authority is should not be confused with the consent of the governed. Whenever a decision is made about what happens to a citizen or the fruit of their efforts without their consent then government has stopped being of the people and has become a tyrant over them. As soon as it is not willful giving but instead forceful taking, this myth that binds us has stopped being our servant and has deemed itself our master.

I've never been a big John Lennon fan, and I'm certainly not someone who would like the hippie theme song that Imagine has turned into- but think about it for just a minute. Imagine all the people living for today. Imagine there are no countries, no heaven, no hell and no religion too. It's not that we have to imagine most of those things in that song, they are already true, we just have to let go of the myths that bind our societies to these antiquated fictions that work to make us servants of unjust powers. 

I'll finish this with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, another founder of my country;
"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."

1 comment:

  1. Another useful quote from Paine, since I've been rereading him:

    Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best stage, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.

    There was another somewhere in The Rights of Man, but I can't find it at the moment. Something about how Government is great right up until you are giving up more freedoms than it is protecting. But it's basically what you said.

    Oh, yeah, another great post, btw.


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