Someone asked me why I don’t write about freedom as much as I used to.
Every time I pick up a pen or put fingers to keyboard I’m writing about freedom. I just don’t write as much about politics any more. Or techniques of anti-politics.
But it’s all about freedom.
People also come around once in a while, hoping to learn new techniques for alternate ID so they can live their way around “enhanced” government drivers licenses, e-verify for employment, facial recognition systems, and such.
I have nothing for them.
Not that there aren’t ways. I’ve said it before; there are plenty of ways if you want to live like Joel. But if what you want is an easy way to slip between the cracks and still have a nice, normal life with modern cars, a big-screen TV, health insurance, and a good job … nobody has what you’re looking for — unless you have deep connections and large amounts of money to pay for witness-protection level identity. It’s different than it was in 1996.
The real frontier of ID protection is maintaining privacy online. And information on how to do that is everywhere, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to the deep web. But online privacy is “too hard” for most people even though it can be done pretty well with minor inconvenience. Still, even we who try have to be ever on alert for the newest hacks, tech, and catastrophes. It’s not a “set and forget” process.
At least we can still foil facial ID systems. That’s something. Of course, these days the snoops also imagine they can tell how nefarious we are by anything from the pattern of our typing to the way we walk to whether we look nervous at the airport. (And who the hell isn’t nervous at the airport, these days, what with the place being full of tax-paid doofuses who earn their status by pretending they can tell terrorists from innocents based on who’s looking nervous?)
But here’s something about politics.
The other day I mentioned owing Michel de Montaigne for filling my head with brilliant nonsense. One of my random Montaigne-inspired thoughts was about Calvinism and how Calvinistic thinking permeates our politics even as Calvinistic religion fades to a long overdue death.
As Americans we tend to get our view of the Reformation through an Anglo-focused lens. History goes something like this: “Martin Luther nailed … um, a thing to a door, and pretty soon Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon without the Pope’s blessing and started his own church. Then Protestants settled in New England. The end.”
But the real action of the Reformation was in Switzerland and Germany, and in France, which was riven with war and Catholic-Protestant massacres. Which is another story. But Calvin …
You’d think that Martin Luther’s philosophical challenge to the all-powerful, all-corrupt Church would have given birth to an era of great intellectual inquiry and personal freedom. Which did happen in the very, very long run. But one of the first things the Reformation produced was one of the nastiest, most restrictive, and cruelest forms of Christianity ever to fester in the deranged mind of man. Calvinism — which still casts a long, dark shadow over many branches of Protestantism — preached (among other things) a doctrine called Total Depravity.
In short: Every human being on the planet is a worthless POS, utterly without redeeming qualities. Totally steeped in sin and serving sin with every breath and gesture. Not only could we do nothing to please God, willingly choose God, or grow closer to God, but the very attempt to do so was in itself a grave and prideful sin.
God was all powerful. Humans were helpless, valueless scum, no better and perhaps worse than insects. But — here’s the catch — we lousy, pathetic, little humans were somehow responsible for everything that ever went wrong with the state of the world. Therefore, we should be laden with guilt from before birth to death.
BUT … as terrible as ALL humans were, somehow there were still certain humans who were good enough to have godlike power and keep everybody else under their unrelenting thumbs.
(Okay, Calvin might put it in different words. But I was raised with the remnants of that religion and that’s sure how I experienced it.)
Anyhow … does that sound familiar?
Yeah, it’s the entire modern environmental movement in a nutshell. Humans suck. Humans are veritable machines of destruction. Every inch of human progress comes at the dire expense of some pure, innocent spotted owl or snail darter or the very air itself. Hellish destruction awaits us! We deserve nothing less. But somehow certain humans (Al Gore, AOC, Beto) are good enough to have godlike power and keep everybody else under their unrelenting thumbs.
It’s not only the environmental movement. Calvinistic thinking even infects the freedom movement and politics everywhere. It’s all your fault — yes, you, you little out-of-work commercial fisherman or part-time kindergarten teacher or idle reader of blogs — that the country is going completely to hell. It’s all because YOU don’t v*te for the right people or YOU don’t write to your legislators or YOU failed to attend the meeting I held last night. If YOU would just change, we’d all be free!
Attend the meeting I held. Or send enough money to the causes I support. Or buy my newsletter. Or …
Because, as always, there are self-appointed somebodies who are inherently better than the rest of us. They Know The Way, if only We The Inferior would listen. Somehow they are lifted above the inherent badness inborn in all humans. They are the elect, as the Fans of Calvin might have put it.
Of course, holding “little people” responsible for the sins of the powerful isn’t new. It wasn’t even invented by John Calvin. Guilt tripping has surely always been a useful tool of control. Blaming the nobodies also enables the bigshots to feel superior, even as everything they touch turns to sh*t. You really can’t picture some Divine Right king, pharoah, or god-emperor admitting, “Golly gee, I really don’t know what I’m doing — and neither does anybody else who pretends to be in charge.”
It’s the same whether you’re talking about dysfunctional families, governments, religions, or any other institutionalized systems. Make you hate (or at least doubt) yourself, then blame you for failings that are not your own. Once you’re properly burdened with generalized guilt, you’ll take whatever blame is heaped upon you — to a point.
That’s the thing. The nobodies will bear seemingly endless guilt for problems not of their making. Then one day, something cracks.
There’s more to say. On Thursday while sitting in the sun I made about seven pages of slightly stoned notes on politics, dogs, neighbors, men and women, canonical gospels vs suppressed gospels (reading Elaine Pagels’ Beyond Belief), and the best uses for former presidents of the U.S. (No, compost wasn’t one of them.)
But enough. More on another day. I hope you can go out and enjoy whatever spring is offering you.