I don’t know Larken Rose but I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a fine writer and a hardcore thinker, and he’s clearly a man who lays his own life on the line for what he believes.
I don’t agree with everything he says here. But he asks some damnfine questions.
Do good, upstanding citizens have a moral obligation to allow themselves to be oppressed, harassed, terrorized, assaulted, and wrongfully detained or imprisoned? Most people would say “no.” But would most people actually mean it?
There are many examples of “law enforcers” treating innocent people like dirt. Random stops at “sobriety checkpoints” is a favorite of mine, since the local jackboots do that in front of my house on occasion. (In fact, they’re doing it right now, as I write this.) The border Gestapo is even worse. And a YouTube search for “police abuse” will provide you with hours of infuriating examples of fascist pigs in action.
So, do we have an obligation to put up with being treated like that? Think carefully before you answer. Because an answer of “no, we don’t,” implies that we have a right to resist it, to not cooperate. And, of course, the control freaks and megalomaniacs with the badges aren’t going to react kindly to anyone disobeying their gang. They will always escalate things to violence until they get their way.
If, for example, you believe that you have a right to not be searched without cause, a right not to be interrogated for no reason, and a right not to be detained for no reason, then logically you must also believe that you have the right to drive right through a “sobriety checkpoint” without stopping. And what if they try to forcibly stop you–as they certainly would–for exercising your rights? Do you then have an obligation to be oppressed? Or do you have the right to respond with force against force, in whatever degree it takes to overcome their attempts to detain you without just cause?
This is the horrible choice tyrants force everyone to make, on a regular basis: you either submit to their will, or you react with violence. And, unlike the badge-wearing crooks who call themselves “law enforcers,” the good people don’t like to use violence.
I don’t agree that our only choice is between cowering submission and violence. There are alternatives, even when face-to-face with force. Even in these brutal days, you may be able to stand up to a cop with knowledge and dignity and assert your legal rights as the good people of the Flex Your Rights advocate. (And BTW, I’ll soon have a review of their latest production, “10 Rules for Dealing with Police”.)
Even if you get tased or beaten or arrested, you aren’t necessarily submitting to oppression. You may instead be using your own life to show others what oppression looks like — thereby turning your suffering into a form of activism (as many members of the Free State Project have done. ADDED: Not to mention members and supporters of FIJA.)
Plus there are all those wonderful things I’ve always advocated: monkeywrenching and creative disregard (as opposed to in-your-face civil disobedience). That is — living around the state and its rules — subverting “authoritah” by living as you please, out of its sight. And let’s never forget the power of ridicule. And now, the power of YouTube and the cellphone cameras in our pockets.
No, we don’t always face a yes-no, black-white, no alternatives choice between slavish submission and violence.
Still, Larken’s right in another sense. Tyrants always do succeed at one type of force: Whatever we do, however we live, whatever choices we make, whatever risks we take, we’re constantly forced to pay attention to the wishes of tyrants and their bully-boy agents. We may scorn their rules, but we can’t escape the need to be constantly aware of both the rules and the potential punishments. We may calmly assert our rights, but to do so, we’re forced to study law and work out scenarios of confrontation in our minds when we’d be happier and more productive thinking of other things. We may practice creative disregard, but even that requires using our creativity in ways we wouldn’t resort to in a truly free society. Even those who simply turn their back on their increasingly unfree country and go elsewhere are doing it because they got tired of being forced to pay attention to the constant threats of official thieves and bullies.
And sadly, sometimes we’re forced to pay attention to tyrants because their hired thugs bust right into our houses and kill the people and the creatures we love. And they do it no matter how many times people point out alternatives. Because of course, terrorizing us is the power of tyrants and the joy of thugs. Not to mention that millions of fools find official violence entertaining — and so satisfying when it happens to other people.
And there’s no getting around it. Ultimately, Larken Rose is right that we need to think about this:
With that in mind, ask yourself, what would your local “law enforcers” have to do before you would resist by force (thereby making yourself a “criminal” and/or a “terrorist”)? Try to take your guns away? Try to take your children? Try to arrest you for criticizing “government”? In other words, what level of oppression will you actually not tolerate. Because so far, you’ve tolerated pretty damn much. Yes, lots of people whine, complain, and criticize, but until you actually resist, you are, by definition, tolerating the injustice, by allowing it to happen (to you and others).
Of course, I “tolerate” it, too, as demonstrated by the fact that I’m not dead, and not a fugitive. I’m not advocating martyrdom here. But it’s about time for Americans to start thinking about things they’ve been trained to not think about. The bogus tripe about “land of the free and home of the brave” is sounding pretty lame these days, when you look at what Americans quietly submit to on a regular basis. Of course, it’s not up to me to tell you at what point you should resist. But you ought to start thinking about it. Because somewhere between where we are now, and complete totalitarianism–and that gap is shrinking all the time–you will have to decide between being a slave, and being a “terrorist.”
… Not only the point at which we’ll resist, but how we’ll resist. Because despite all our civility and restraint, “our” government has already decided we’re all criminal suspects and dangerous “extremists.” And we know that their criminal violence is getting worse every moment. A day will come when we don’t have much left to lose.