Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune – Noam Chomsky
There’s a website called Imgur that I often peruse, more often than I care to admit; it’s an image hosting website, and it’s a lot more addictive than you would think.
Aside from the pictures of cats, wondrous plant life, great artwork, and adorable animals, there are often pictures of “decorated war heroes,” and pictures dedicated to “respecting fallen war veterans.”
I’m not writing this post as an attack on people who choose to go to war; I may be a pacifist, but I’m also a pseudo-Buddhist, and so, I live by a sort of, “each to their own” motto.
However, there are some things that should (cause I feel like it) be mentioned.
In one specific photo, there is a caption annexed to it stating, from the lens of someone who’s actually a part of the army: “Politics is not the reason we serve.”
First of all, and to again reiterate, no, I don’t agree with war, in any circumstances, with the only exception being self-defence (which is a difficult concept to unfold, and not what this post is about). But here’s the thing; regardless of my own opinion of war, generally, if there’s one thing that should be said, it’s that the only, I repeat – only – reason that people serve, is most certainly because of politics.
If you’re not bothered to read the article, in the sentence following, “Politics is not the reason we serve,” the poster (who, by the way, I’m not at all having a go at, he’s entitled to his own thoughts) goes on to say, “It is not a factor and will never be a factor. We serve because of love; we serve because of freedom; we serve because if we don’t, who will?”
Which about sums up the point countering what I’m about to say: “We don’t serve because of politics, we serve to protect our country, which stands for freedom, democracy, and everything good; we serve out of love.”
But here’s the thing; all of those reasons mentioned are only there … because of politics.
When Uncle Sam was a legitimate thing, only few people ever questioned his message. And they were scoffed at for being un-American. Now, although the Uncle Sam logo is notoriously known as something symbolic of only propaganda, and in spite of this retrospective understanding, his message stands firmly, still without question, still without thought. (Sweeping statements intended for effect. Some people question U(ncle) S(am), surely?)
I don’t see how it is so difficult to understand that, without politics, there would be no war. Ergo, without politics, there would be no reason to serve.
Politics is what fuels war. It’s quite simple. It is only through the power of political leaders that wars can begin, and cease. Generals die in bed. And they recruit “servants,” which is all someone who “serves” is, in order to materialise this greedy, power stricken, hysterical, nationalistic hypochondria, which is enmeshed in blind hypocrisy and paranoia.
How do they do this? By convincing people, usually uneducated people with few other alternatives (a broad generalisation, I’ll concede) that their country, their rights, their freedom, their homes, their very families, are under attack, and that they need to be protected.
It’s a shame that the people who run around shouting these slogans have never stopped, just for a second, to ponder what they are actually saying.
Let’s start out with freedom.
What is freedom? Who determines this definition? What makes one definition of freedom more correct than another?
I didn’t take many units in philosophy during my time at uni, but it doesn’t take a philosopher to fathom that the word “freedom” is a term so tricky and ambiguous, that it’s practically meaningless, unless applied in a very specific framework. For instance: “In this role, you’ll have the “freedom” to take lunch whenever you like.”
Through the eyes of many however, democracy equates directly to freedom. A democratic nation is a free nation. And anything else is not.
But let’s take a look at what democracy is: A system of government whereby “the people” – ‘the people’ of course, meaning an abstracted entity, comprising the thoughts, emotions and perspectives of millions and millions of individual people – are represented through elected governments.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel very represented through my governments.
I don’t have a say in what happens politically, nor do I have a say regarding what laws I’m to be governed by. And I have a fucking degree in law. If I don’t have a say, who does?
The (simple/vague) answer:
We don’t live in a democracy. Our respective national populations have grown to a point that make the term democracy completely useless. Technically, as defined by Robert A. Dahl, we – those of us who are supposedly living in a democratic world – live in a polyarchy. Or, as I prefer to phrase it, and in a light that most of us should understand; we live in a slightly evolved aristocracy; a system whereby a select few rule the classes, dictating their fates; providing them with the comfortable illusion that they, the beguiled masses, are in control of their own lives.
The terms “freedom” and “democracy” really don’t mean much. If you think about it for more than a second, without referring to a textbook that’s aim is simply to perplex you further, they are concepts – abstracted ideas, notions, ideals, arbitrarily coined terms – that hold very little grounding in reality.
Democratic “freedoms,” democratic “rights,” everything to do with anything purportedly “good,” is no more than an illusion intended to keep people marginalised, stupefied, standing in support contrived governmental mottos, in unity, with one voice – “The People’s voice.”
And what’s worse, people like me, who’ve an opinion that goes against the collective norm, are typically ostracised for speaking up. And yet … and yet, this is the exact sort of “freedom” that we’re apparently fighting for: the freedom to speak up, freely.
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all” – Noam Chomsky
I don’t ridicule anyone’s right to disagree with me, in fact, I encourage it (I’ll learn more if someone can make me think); but simply telling someone to “shut up” or to hurl abuse at them for holding views that are “anti-freedom,” or, “anti-democratic” is a clear cut abuse of the system … a system that these same people so vehemently, with a tummy full of hypocrisy and a mind filled with nothing of their own, stand by, fight for, and defend, at all costs.
Personally, I’m grateful that I live in the country that I do. I like it here. I’m glad that I can write articles such as this one without being put under a guillotine for my efforts. However, to think that this here, right here, in the land down under, is the “greatest, most free” country in the world, amounts to no more than a fantastical illusion, an idea that is plainly absurd.
Every country’s freedom (in some narrow sense) can only be measured by their legal system. In Australia, I’m not “free” to murder someone. I’m not “free” to have have sex with whomever I like. I’m not “free” to steal someone’s property. If I choose to employ these “freedoms” I will be promptly punished for it by incarceration. Therefore, I’m not “free,” totally, indelibly, or absolutely. (In this single sense, at least).
In fact …
I’m not even “free” to marry a man.
Not all so long ago, I wasn’t even “free” to take my own life. (Suicide was punishable by 5 years in prison up until the 70′s, from memory).
I’m not even free to participate in consensual sexual activity that has potential to cause severe bodily harm. (Sorry, can’t remember the case that set this precedent).
The point is, “freedom” and “democracy” are only as good as we make them; their relevance is bound by how we treat their terms.
To think that the terms are, in and of themselves, worthy of admiration – especially if this is assumed according to their current application – is to be comforted by an illusion; an illusion capable of causing a lot of harm.
Blind hate. Uncontrolled rage. And centralised power.
The only true “freedom” that we all individually possess rests in our own minds, within the binds of our human imaginations. There, in our imagination, we are free to explore all possible outcomes, to venture into unknown territories, to create completely new worlds from connecting unconnected dots in old ones.
Our imagination is the only place we can properly and rightly call, “the land of the free.” Where the only laws that we must live by in our heads are those that govern our own chemistry.
That’s the only freedom that no one can ever take from you. And the one I personally value most.
Humans-are-easily-deceived. We’re naturally more inclined to believe people in power; it’s probably an evolutionary phenom.