Monday, July 8, 1996

Week of 07/08/1996

What is Tyranny?
It's not what many picture it to be.
- By David Matthews 2

What is tyranny?

To most people, tyranny stirs pictures of armed troops goose-stepping through the streets. Concrete and metal walls lined with razor wire and watched by guards, designed to prevent people from entering or leaving without permission. The media being nothing more than instruments of government propaganda, reporting only what the government allows them to report. People living in fear even within the comfort of their own homes, not knowing if members of their own family will turn them in. Scenes such as those from Nazi Germany, or written by George Orwell in his book "1984."

But what many don't realize is how tyranny really begins. The images that most people associate with a tyrannical government are only seen when tyranny is firmly entrenched in society. That isn't when tyranny really begins.

Tyranny begins when one person says that they have the solution to all, or at least some the ills of society. And the price? Only a portion of your freedom.

Tyrants always justify the sacrifice of freedom. They always say it's for a greater good. That the limitations of freedom and liberty would only affect a small portion of society- often a portion of society that are "benefiting" from the current crisis.

Consider how Germany was before the Nazi takeover. The country was suffering not only from the Great Depression like any other country during that time, but also had to pay huge war reparations to the other European countries from World War I. Morale was low, and the people were poor and hungry. Then a house painter from Austria named Adolph Hitler stood up and said he's got the solution to Germany's problems.

Of course, there's no talk about goose-stepping troops, or the Gestapo, or anything that one would usually associate with Nazi Germany at the time. Just talk about a strong country, deeply rooted in - dare I say it?- traditional family values. And the price to pay for that dream, Hitler told people, would only be paid by a small portion of the population. Those who supposedly prospered while the rest of the country suffered. The Jews, the gypsies, the foreigners, anyone who was considered different from the mainstream German populace.

Had the German people known what Hitler's plan would result into- the concentration camps, the secret police, the death and torment of countless millions- they no doubt would have rejected it. But instead it was sold to them a piece at a time. First to pin the blame on a certain party or group. Then when the people believed that group was guilty, they were inclined to punish them with laws and regulations. They would humble and humiliate these people by forcing them to identify themselves only by their group or belief, and usually in demeaning fashion. Exile them into certain sections of society. Most wouldn’t even know what happened to them after that point. And by then the public would be too far conditioned to even care.

One would think, though, that after Nazi Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust, the people wouldn’t be so willing to go down that same path again. And yet, only a few years after World War II America was doing the same thing to it’s own people- actors, writers, directors, teachers, social activists.. people whose only crimes were having social or political viewpoints different than the "mainstream." Fortunately the people saw the folly of such activities and put a stop to them before they went the way of pre-war Germany.

But now those same arguments have been spoken again, this time to a generation that has yet to know tyranny first-hand. A generation of people who did not learn the lessons of Germany fifty years ago, and certainly not the tyranny of over 200 years ago; which was the tyranny that caused our founding fathers to say "forget England, forget King George, we’re forming a new country, and we’re so pissed off by their tactics and games that we’re going to make sure OUR government can’t do to it’s people what King George and Parliament did to us!"

But the tyrants haven’t learned this, and in fact they want us to forget these things ever happened! All too often they have equated the surrender of our liberties something that is worthwhile and beneficial to society as a whole, when in fact the only people who benefit from such tyranny are the tyrants.

Perhaps it is high time for us as a people to tell these tyrants that their days are through. We need to remind them, and ourselves, that bartering off liberties and freedoms on the promises of greater security is a devil’s bargain that leads us to the same path as Nazi Germany.

Whenever the next Adolph starts pointing at some group and suggesting that it’s perfectly fine and dandy to limit their freedoms and liberties "for the greater good" we need to remind ourselves that the freedoms and liberties they have are the same ones WE have, and that to restrict that group gives the tyrants the same authority to restrict US. And whenever the Hitlers of this generation stand up and start pinning the blame on other people we need to stand up and say "HEY, just who the hell appointed you the moral conscious of this country? What have YOU done to fix these problems beside whine and complain and poke fingers at everyone but yourself?"

Quite recently we celebrated Independence Day, but I sometimes wonder if what we’re really celebrating are nothing more than symbols made meaningless by the tyrants who make them so. What good are rights and freedoms if the subsequent generation of tyrants can whittle them down under the guise of "the greater good of society" to where they aren’t even worth the paper they’re printed on? And what does that say about us, the people who have to live under those bastardized freedoms and are being told to accept them? Well that tells us we’re just dumb sheep needing to be herded around by these people because we don’t know any better!

And THAT is what tyranny really is!

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