Authoritarianism: “1) Favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom; 2) of or relating to a governmental or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state.” Think about America, on the verge of 2015 — how far removed are we, really, from the one word that has defined every oppressive regime in history?
It starts as fear. Fear of an enemy, real or imagined — like the Soviet Union in the 1950s, or the killer, terrorist hordes that police think they’ve been facing since 9/11. Then, fear is alleviated by rhetoric on the value of strength — like Reagan’s grandstanding in the 1980s, or Bush’s in the 2000s. The worship of power follows, and from that a fascist obsession with might making right. Then, then means to be “more right,” like the U.S.’s massive military budget, or police requisitioning military equipment from the DHS, as surplus from The War, or from their own bloated budgets.
From there, it’s a short step from “might makes right,” and “the means make the might,” to “means make right.” Those who have the power to build power are morally obligated to do it. From moral obligation follows the justification for spying on citizens, violence and oppression. Authoritarianism.
In the video below, Thom Hartmann explores America’s terrifying slide into authoritarianism as “the new normal.” Invoking a well-used (but eerily apt) comparison to Nazi Germany by way of the classic book “They Thought They were Free,” Thom gives us some frightening insight on how close we are to accepting authoritarianism as the new “normal.”
“Authoritarianism rears its ugly head in America every time a police officer uses excessive force. It rears its ugly head every time we stop ourselves from making jokes while waiting in airport security lines, or we self-censor ourselves when interacting with police officers, or other figures of authority. And it rears its ugly head every time we think twice about what to say in our emails or text messages, because we realize someone might be reading them, or might publicize them.”
And it rears its head every time someone blames the victim of a murder by police. “Why didn’t they just…” is always a call to surrender. Indeed why don’t we all just…surrender our wills, and worship authority.
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