I’ve recently moved. As a result, I’ve been meeting new and interesting people. The more neighbors I meet, the more common folk I speak with, the more I realize that the vast majority of people realize and understand the principles upon which this country was built and that our government and governments around the world have subverted these principles. As a society, we have entrusted groups of people to uphold the values that made this a great and prosperous nation and slowly over the decades those values have been degraded. We have problems even defining what it means to be principled anymore. If we wish to live as peaceful and prosperous freemen, we should try to understand the motivations and mechanisms of those who wish to prevent us from realizing such a society.
A couple nights ago I got into a discussion with Kamyar, one of my new neighbors. I got to know him a little better. He explained to me that he was Persian (from Iran) and that he was a member of the Baha’i faith. I know next to nothing of the Baha’i faith, so I was curious about it. He told me it was a religion based on peace, much like many religions have claimed to be. He also explained to me that he had come to the United States of America back in the late seventies and that he was unable at the time to return to Iran for fear that he would be persecuted there because of his religion. At the time of the revolution in Iran, Baha’ists were being jailed and killed.
I, in turn, told Kamyar some of the things I have heard about the persecution of such groups as the Buddhists, the Falun Gong, and the Quakers back in colonial times. This conversation started me pondering, “Why is it that those in power have a tendency to crack down hard and bring violence upon otherwise peaceful people?”
It occurs to me that throughout history the human race has experienced this scenario time and again. It is particularly well documented in modern times, but persecutions of peaceful peoples have been occurring for millennia. Why should this be? I suppose it’s not so hard to understand when considering a warlike people attacking another people to steal their lands and natural resources and to enslave them. This is particularly true of ancient times when perhaps the natural world, and life itself, was a little harsher on mankind and survival a bit more uncertain and dependent upon forces outside man’s control. It is perhaps a little more complicated or difficult to understand when the peaceful elements inside a given society are violently targeted.
One explanation that certainly seems reasonable is that the peaceful people present an easy target for those in power. Indeed, when considering the similarities between the techniques of coercive authoritarians and schoolyard bullies, one can easily note that both have a tendency to pick on the weakest element they can find. They seemingly wish to bring harm to another, either to exercise some inhuman sadistic drive or to feed their own overbearing egos and solidify some needy superiority complex they may be feeling, while minimizing the risk that they may actually be harmed.
As intriguing and complete as the above explanation is, would it not be wise and prudent for one pondering these issues to consider other possible explanations? Perhaps there is more to these peaceful philosophies than meets the eye. Perhaps there is more to this esoteric practice of bringing violence upon the peaceful then fulfilling the psychological needs and the self gratification of a few powerful psychopaths. Perhaps these peaceful philosophies are a greater threat to the established powers than many may realize.
If one looks at philosophies revolving around the concept of peace, one might come to the conclusion that these philosophies are diametrically opposed to governing philosophies. Peaceful people, for the most part, just want to be left alone. While they might espouse their philosophy rather fervently, they can really only try to persuade others to embrace it. There is no threat they can carry out that would cause undo stress upon an individual to coerce them to follow a truly peaceful philosophy. If there were, or if the group tried to implement such actions, then the peaceful philosophy they espouse would not be a truly peaceful philosophy, at least not in practice.
Peaceful people, following peaceful principles, do not wish to exercise power over others. They do wish to make their own decisions about their own lives and how to go about living it, however. Governing philosophies, however, are quite a bit different. As George Washington so succinctly put it, “Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. Government is force; like fire it is a dangerous servant -- and a fearful master.” Those who would govern others believe in the use of force to do so. They believe that they must use force to cause others to embrace their philosophy. They do not wish to leave others alone to make their own decisions, but wish to control everyone’s life as much as possible and are forever trying to expand their influence and purview. Of course, the fact that by doing this those at the top of the heap can often enrich themselves serves as quite an incentive to those who wish to play with the fire that is government.
And so it is that these divergent philosophies often collide in a given society. A philosophy of peace will begin to gain support and recognition amongst the populace and the authoritarians in control become nervous or frightened as their legitimacy comes into question. Those in power know that their power comes from the bottom and works its way up. They know that if the base erodes their ability to threaten, coerce and use physical force against those they rule is weakened. They don’t wish for these ideas to spread amongst the masses and so they strike viciously at those who threatened not their physical form, but their perceived privileges. Those who would rule and praise the ideals of exercising power over others care nothing for equality, or laws, or justice, or righteousness, or principles when it comes to their own actions, they care only for the seductive high produced by the process of controlling one’s fellow human beings and by the privileges and benefits gained by such practices. They care so much for such things that they have no qualms in seducing others with lies and propaganda and then carrying out state sanctioned pogroms of imprisonment, torture and even murder of those who simply wish to be left alone. And so the blood of the peaceful is spilled while the violent authoritarians are protected not only by the state, but by the beliefs and principles of their victims, by the very philosophies they seek to destroy.
It is in this way those in power seek to influence the masses. Should those who espouse a philosophy of peace try to defend themselves, then it is likely they will be quickly portrayed as violent militants who are a threat not only to those in power, but to the peace loving society underneath them. The masses of the populace may see the carnage taking place and so become fearful of following such a peaceful philosophy. They may even take up arms against such a resistance in an effort to gain a portion of the benefits and privileges they see those in power enjoying. On the other hand, if those espousing a philosophy of peace refuse to become violent and stick to their principles even in the face of unjust state power levied against them, they will likely experience great suffering at the hands of the powerful, but the populace might just begin to recognize the inherent corruptibility of such power and turn away in disgust from those wielding it. They may even flock to the aid of those practicing such peaceful philosophies out of human decency and despite the dangers.
The philosophies of freedom and individual liberty are peaceful philosophies. Those who practice them wish only to be left alone. They do not wish to force their will upon others, but they do desire the freedom to be able to express themselves to those who would listen. They wish only to be able to practice personal responsibility for themselves and their families. They wish only to keep that which they have earned, to decide for themselves how to best spend their money or where it would be best to apply their efforts and wealth for the betterment of their community and the world. They seek only voluntary interactions between themselves, their friends and anyone they might do business with.
This is, of course, a threat to those who wish to maintain power over the populace. It is even more of a threat to those who wish to try to centralize power and keep it in the hands of the few. While self defense remains a human right, it should be used judiciously and it would be prudent to remember that those in power at the moment can easily twist the words and motives of those who defend themselves with violence and make them seem to be the aggressor. It is my hope that as this peaceful freedom movement grows those involved remain brave in the face of state violence and adhere to their principles without resorting to the cruel and inhumane methods used by the powerful. It is my hope that, especially in these modern times with all our video and communication technology, those who espouse the philosophies of freedom and individualism and practice peaceful civil disobedience will be able to finally show even the most indoctrinated statist the violence and inhumanity of the organization he supports and worships.