Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Murdering the Group; Saving the Individuals

Once more, bombs rain down in the Middle East, Arabs and Jews hurl fire and murder children, the world turns pale with horror and empty words pour from televised heads – and as usual, the obvious and effective solution can never be discussed!

It’s the same with immigration, the national debt, welfare, the war on terror and all the other state-driven and media-obscured questions of the day. Obsessed by details, blind to the obvious, we are like swimmers in shark-infested waters worrying about cramps.

The saddest thing is that we know exactly how to bring peace to the Middle East – and everywhere else for that matter! Solving the problem of collective violence might have been a real head-scratcher in the Middle Ages, but it takes a truly modern education to pretend ignorance now!

It’s embarrassingly simple, of course, but you’ll wear out the batteries on your TV remote scanning for a mention of it anywhere.

What is the solution to the problem of collective violence? Why, just this:

Stop believing in groups!

“Groups” don’t exist, any more than a “forest” exists independently of the trees it describes. A “Jew” doesn’t exist. An “Arab” doesn’t exist; neither does “Israel” or “Muslim”. There are people and land and trees and sky. There are no “groups”.

If people surrender their moral independence to some “morally-superior” collective (or, more accurately, some madman claiming to speak for such a non-existent entity), then of course violence is the inevitable result. Irrational and collectivist moral absolutes are the fundamental WMDs of our species. Believing you are part of the “master race” because you’re Jewish, or the “chosen of Allah” because you’re Muslim, opens the path to blood, tears, flames and graves. Such delusions are both false and absolutist – the most deadly combination. Irrational moral ideals which must be enforced always end up murdering the innocent and the not-so-innocent en masse.

Beliefs that are irrational, required, universal and absolute will always put swords in the hands of men. Illogical and anti-empirical beliefs cannot be validated by external and objective factors. Two scientists who disagree on a theory can resolve their dispute via the scientific method; they can defer to logic and reproducible experiments – they do not have to bomb each other into submission. Mathematicians can disagree over a proposition, but in the end it is not personal – it is not the dominance of one over the others, but of logic and proof over one, or all.

The free market runs on the same principle. “Value” is not decided by committees, or leaders, but by individual decisions. If I think that my product is better than yours, I don’t have to blow up your offices, just appeal to the consumer, the final arbiter. Consumers don’t have to burn down a Ford plant if they prefer Volvos – individual decisions determine the value and success of each company.

In religion, politics and nationalism, things are very different, because no objective method exists to resolve disputes. Who can prove that “Jewish” is better than “Christian” or “Muslim” or “Buddhist”? How can these absolute and irrational fantasies ever be reconciled in reality? They are impervious to logic and experimentation. Universal truth is willed, not proven. This irrationality creates instability, hostility and the endless desire for expansion. The more collectivist a society becomes, the more expansionistic it becomes. Witness Israel, Islam – and America.

The solution to the crisis in the Middle East is not easy, but it is simple – and the alternatives are stark. We must outgrow our addictions to the false gods of history – be they religious, political or national. Giving the modern equivalents of witch-doctors access to twenty-first century weapons has become far too dangerous.

If we cannot break our addiction to our fantasies of collective virtue, the slaughter will only increase. And so we must say to the warring tribes of the Middle East – and indeed to the whole world:

“As long as there are Arabs and Jews and Americans and Iranians, our natural brotherhood remains drowned in bloody tribal fantasies. If we refuse to give up our gods and groups and leaders, we will forever live in war and fear and hatred. If we can find the strength to outgrow this madness, we may not all find heaven, but at least we will be free to escape hell. The solution to violence is not vanquishing our foes, but our own illusions.”

Monday, July 10, 2006

Despot Cagematch: George III vs George III

If the Declaration of Independence were written today…

In June of 1776, when Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he took great pains to detail the abuses heaped upon the Colonists by George III, then King of England.

Now we have another ‘George III’, the third President to bear that name. How do the abuses the original George III was charged with compare with our current administrations?

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.
George III has invaded Iraq without a Congressional declaration of war, and has suspended the Geneva conventions for ‘enemy combatants’. Violations of signed treaties include the UN Charter, the International Court of Justice, the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and so on.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
George III has used Federal Marshals to interdict against Marijuana users in California (where, as a state, the substance is legal as a medicinal drug). Then there's the needle exchange plans many large cities wanted to implement, that was blocked by George III. After the Terry Schiavo case had been heard by 19 judges in six courts and been appealed to the Supreme Court three times, the Fed intervened. State-level decisions on euthanasia, minimum wages, medical insurance, food contamination and warning labels, financial privacy laws. The Federal government regularly uses the blackmail of the federal income tax to “force” states into adhering to all sorts of Federal regulations – the speed limit, the education standards, OSHA regulations, and on and on.

Last but not least, you might just remember the obscure Fed-influenced Supreme Court decision to overturn Florida’s court-ordered vote recount in 2000.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.
The U.S. Constitution applies on Guam, as do all federal laws, but Guamanians have no voting representation in the electoral college for the selection of the President, and no U.S. senators. Guam is represented in Washington by one non-voting congressman in the House of Representatives. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands both have diminished representation in Congress. And how much does the average Iraqi’s vote count for anyway?

HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.
If you are willing to brave the violence of Washington, you can go and visit the White House and Congress. Just keep your voice to a murmur. And if you want to trail George III around the world to his various tight-security conferences, you’d better have some frequent-flyer miles.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.
George III claims the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. The “Decider” can now directly bypass military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, “whistle-blower” protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Bush is also fast becoming the grand master of “States Secret Privilege” – it was invoked only four times in the first 23 years after the U.S. Supreme Court created the privilege in 1953, but now the government is claiming the privilege to dismiss lawsuits at a rate of more than three a year. Some of the targets include a lawsuit striving to penetrate the fog of secrecy regarding ‘torture extraditions’ and a post-9/11 investigation.

HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of the Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and the Convulsions within.
If the danger that Jefferson was most concerned with was civil revolt, or foreign attack, then surely by shipping hundreds of thousands of troops overseas, and provoking a rather excitable Muslim population, George III has ‘exposed’ the US to both external attacks and internal convulsions.

HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
Well let’s see… You are soon going to need a passport to get into the US from Canada, the Mexican border swarms with guards, and the process of getting a Green Card has become about one chicken entrail away from pure voodoo.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
Not only has George III said that the Constitution is “just a goddamned piece of paper!”, but he also appointed the freedom-loving Attorney General Alberto Gonzales – who, while still White House counsel, wrote that the “Constitution is an outdated document.”

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.
Well judicial appointments come straight from the White House, and we are not exactly facing a buffalo stampede of independent judgment here.

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.
Gosh, where do we even begin? The Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, the new drug prescription program, the expanded war on drugs, and deficits that will swallow future generations whole.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures.
Fortunately for this point – but not fortunately for us – George III has sent a good deal of our standing armies overseas. Yay, I feel safer already.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
I think that this has, by now, become a bit more than an affectation! George III has declared that he alone will decide on when – or whether – to inform Congress about how the FBI is implementing its expanded powers in the new Patriot Act. His “guiding compass” is the “unitary executive” power of the commander in chief – thus neatly avoiding his oath to abide by the Constitutional separation of powers.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
Does anyone really take the Constitution seriously any more? What with the Israeli lobby the Saudi hand-holding, and the Middle East nation building, it’s hard to imagine that US electors really have the ear of the president these says.

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us;
Don’t bother checking your basement for Marines – just check your personal bill for national defense – or, more accurately, foreign offense. Oh wait, that cost is actually going to your children, who can’t vote. “No taxation without representation?” Right.

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Iran, Panama, Haiti, the War on Drugs et al. Note that Jefferson was not attacking the ‘rank and file’ British soldiers – he went straight for the leader, King George III. Under our George III, the rank and file go to jail; the leaders are rewarded.

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:
The Federal Registry currently lists hundreds of thousands of statutes controlling foreign trade. U.S. import tariffs on clothes and shoes average 11 percent and go as high as 48 percent. (In 2001, clothes and shoes accounted for only 6.5 percent of US imports, but contributed nearly half of the $20 billion of tariff revenues!) In the first three years of his presidency, George III punished foreign companies 25 times for ‘anti-dumping’ violations – i.e. they were punished for selling goods too cheaply, a crime that enrages consumers no end! Add to that the 2003 imposition of 8-30% tariffs on foreign steel imports (ruled illegal by the WTO), and the general trade problems created by a weakening US dollar, and I think the Jeffersonian arrow hits this particular bulls-eye square on!

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
There wasn’t even an income tax in Jefferson’s day! If we could resurrect ole Tommy J and show him the current US tax code, his head would surely explode.

FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:
Well, we have the Patriot Act, and Gitmo, and all the gulags in Iraq. George III doesn’t even need a court order for wiretapping any more. Search warrant? Yawn – how passé!

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:
George III is very keen on ‘torture express’ airplanes which regularly ferry victims to allies with more, ahem, flexible legal systems. These cases of “extraordinary rendition” are even worse than what Jefferson describes, since few of these victims end up being tried at all. Why bother, when you can go straight to torture?

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rules into these Colonies:
Iraq. ‘Nuff said… A whole other article could be written about how Jefferson’s objections to arbitrary despotism apply to the average Iraqi’s view of the US occupation.

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
This process has been occurring ever since the early 20th century in America, but George III has sped it up just a notch! The Patriot Act, extraordinary renditions, the scorn for the Constitution, the abandoning of the Geneva Convention, the unilateral breaking of international treaties, growing disdain for property rights and the separation of church and state etc. etc. etc.

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.
Sadly, our own Legislatures have not been suspended, but feel quite comfortable passing laws affecting a single high-profile individual, such as Terri Schiavo. Going to war without a Congressional declaration might just qualify in this area though.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
More than 2 million Americans are incarcerated in the vile and overcrowded ‘rape rooms’ of government jails. Deficits and national debt are at all-time highs. And if you think the government is not interested in ‘waging war’ against you, try to stop paying your taxes! And let’s not forget the wire-tapping, the no-fly lists, the profiling, and all the lying

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.
Those in New Orleans might have something to say about this, as would those trapped in the welfare state, the mind-numbing state educational system, and the non-violent offenders entombed in the dungeons of state prisons.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.
True enough, except the mercenaries are going overseas, rather than being deployed at home. So far, at least…

HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
No draft yet, although it would be interesting to see how many people would pay for the War on Terror if they got a monthly bill for their personal share of the expenses. And if you talk to a new recruit, ask him how accurate a story he got about his obligations before signing up…

HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.
No particular problems here, although the treatment of the Native Americans by the Federal government continues to be horrendous.

IN every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.
Petition for redress? Perhaps if your house is seized through Eminent Domain, or through Asset Forfeiture, you can get it back with an apology and something to sweeten the pot. Good luck with that. Let us know how it works out.

The Colonists underwent terrible struggles to throw off the yoke of George III’s oppressive tyranny – and it took less than a century for Lincoln to undo most of what had been achieved, and less than another century for America to turn into just another colonial warlord nation.

It is for this reason that we anarchists keep saying that government is an evil that can at best be only temporarily restrained. It is at best a dangerous servant inevitably becoming a terrible master. Power corrupts. There are no exceptions.

Every generation faces an age-old tyranny that must be overcome. Previous generations successfully ended slavery, reversed the subjugation of women and children, broke the unity of church and state, extended both property rights and the rule of law, and began the process of restraining government power.

Now it is our turn. As unimaginable and unprecedented as the extensions of human freedoms have been in the past, we are not done yet!

Now, instead of striving to cure the state of its corruption, we aim for prevention, which is the dismantling of the state itself, so that its power can no longer tempt and destroy the souls of men. Naturally, this is a shocking idea to many, but there is no reason to be alarmed. Once, slavery had lasted as long as mankind, and ending it was almost unthinkable. The state is not a law of nature, but an invention of mankind, and its legitimacy – the only source of its power – can vanish in a flash of honest thought.