L. Neil Smith's
Number 300, December 12, 2004

Bill of Rights Day December 15

Cassandras, etc.
by Scott R. Griess

Exclusive to TLE

In the 23 May 2004 issue of TLE, ["Cassandra, Censorship, and Credibility"] Ron Beatty decried the "progress" that our nation is inexorably making toward authoritarianism, while the people reject the ideals of liberty in a desperate search for a sense of "security", and disregard the warnings of the Cassandras among us. He wrote of us being in the worse period of time since the war of Northern aggression (agreeing as a transplanted Yankee, who has made the South his home for 17 years...) and ended with a paraphrase from the quote from George Santayana: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it"

Some may be familiar with another quote, in a similar vein, from another Sci-Fi / Social commentary author of once-fair-renown, Frank Herbert (Author of the Dune novels). But for those that are not, here it is: "Those who would repeat the past must control the teaching of history"—Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse Dune.

While I haven't done exhaustive research to prove the theory, I would hazard a guess that various forces in our society, and the "bipartisan" professional politicians that have remained in power for decades, have in fact been controlling the teaching of history and "social studies", as well as controlling the news media, and every other form of public information dissemination. With decades, if not multi-score years' time, to influence (re-educate) the American populace, is it really any wonder that the sheeple of these United States have become complacent, pacified, and apathetic in regard to their liberty? "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." —Robert Maynard Hutchins

I work in a profession that involves a lot of daily contact with people. When the Bush administration began the process of passing the Newspeak-named "Patriot Act", I asked people what they thought of loosing their personal liberties, and allowing the various branches of the government to essentially spy on them at will. I was shocked to find that most clearly approved of losing personal liberties and privacy for "safety and security" from terrorism. This reminded me of what H.L. Mencken had to say about such matters: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins...." When I probed these same people for their opinion of whether or not the measures being enacted would actually be effective at stopping terrorist attacks, they admitted a doubt that the government could keep them completely safe. When I asked their opinions with respect to personal safety measures—such as the right to keep and bear arms, and defend oneself from enemies (foreign and domestic)—the reaction was predictably anti-Bill of Rights.

I often see references to "anti-utopian" (or "negative-utopian") literature on various libertarian websites. These often contain references to "Orwellian" societies, Newspeak, and other similar concepts. For those familiar with "1984", you will recall that one of the agencies of the controlling government was MINITRUE, or the Ministry of Truth, which "employed" countless minions who disseminated propaganda and rewrote history on a daily basis. Comparisons to government-sponsored "public schools", and mainstream media outlets spring easily to mind. Events of late, involving media revelations of "abuse" of Iraqi prisoners and the subsequent beheading of Nick Berg, remind me of another passage from 1984: "...war hysteria is continuous and universal in all countries, and such acts as raping, looting, the slaughter of children, the reduction of whole populations to slavery, and reprisals against prisoners ... are looked upon as normal, and, when they are committed by one's own side and not by the enemy, meritorious."

To Mr. Beatty's question: "Will all the Cassandras out there, crying desperately for the people's attention, go unheeded until it is too late...?" I tend to believe that it is already too late to re-educate the general population back to an understanding of what it means to have true freedom, to have real liberty. Even if the message could be proclaimed, it is doubtful that the majority of the American people would accept it, being as bent toward comfort, peace and safety as they are. For as Robert Heinlein said, "You can have freedom or you can have peace. Never count on having both at once."

Pro veritas et libertas!

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