Read any of the founders of the United States or their predecessors in reformation Europe and you’ll find a common trend: these are serious men. Men of gravity. Men who even centuries after death still haunt our nation.
Our age is defined by how unserious adults are. Children should be less serious than adults, but in our civilization, they never mature. When I was in school, even up through high school, I remember the reaction my class had to learning about some of the gravest events in history, from the world wars to Communist terror to concentration camps to the Great Depression. The reaction was always unbridled levity. We were concerned with our friends and what we’d do after school. We cared about the next competition or the next vacation. That would have been acceptable if everyone had grown up in their minds along with their bodies, but few ever did. We can’t take seriously anything important because we can’t take seriously anything at all.
The Way People Used to Talk
There’s a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin to the effect that “if you sacrifice a little liberty for a little security, you deserve neither”. I think that doesn’t go far enough. If you sacrifice a little liberty for a little security, you can’t have either. The best governments run by the most competent, wise, and good administrators can at best encourage you to live a good life without threat of local turmoil or foreign invasion, but those governments can never give you true security. Life is never safe. Our government is a Mediocracy of incompetent, scheming frauds who steal from and abuse everyone they can.
The problem is, when you present that quote to people, they don’t take it seriously. They don’t take talk of “tyranny” and “oppression” seriously (an exception to the latter is when women, racial minorities, or sexual deviants are in view). Some on the Left speak in reflexive, insane hyperbolic terms when a Republican is president, but no one means it. Talking about tyrannical government is something people used to do. We’re smarter now, because we can entertain ourselves every waking moment.
The Drift to Sanitary Dictatorship
I made a habit of reading the stupid comments of government and health department social media accounts throughout the Great Hysteria to watch the trajectory and rate of descent into tyranny. When my governor decided to declare a state of emergency, I received several hostile remarks from people who were shocked I would question such an open-ended power grab by the state. As these two years have passed by, I’ve noticed a trend among those who never abandoned their commitment to obey the state. This has been especially apparent among the comments on said social media accounts.
At first, the defenders of the state mocked anyone who criticized the government. Some attacked the character of the critics for daring to put “freedom” above “safety”. In general, the response was that “tyranny could never happen here” and “this is just temporary”.
As it became obvious that nothing was temporary and tyranny was, in fact, happening right here, the defenders of the state drifted into full acknowledgement. Yes, the state was becoming a sanitary dictatorship, but that’s the New Normal, and we need to get used to it. The drift is the slow but sure move from mocking something as a conspiracy to embracing and defending it as necessary.
It Can Happen Here
Whatever horrors have happened in the past can happen here, and if they do, the thing most responsible would be the attitude that they never could have happened here. Our unserious culture is more susceptible than most to that self-fulfilling prophecy and it is that lack of seriousness to blame. We don’t take warnings of tyranny seriously because, as I’ve said, we don’t take anything seriously that is important.
Returning to sufficient but not excessive gravity is going to be difficult. If we want to have the wisdom to avoid the creeping tyranny that is so natural to human civilization, we need to recover this lost virtue.