I have been called arrogant myself in my time, and hope to earn the title again, but to claim that I am privy to the secrets of the universe and its creator — that's beyond my conceit. I therefore have no choice but to find something suspect even in the humblest believer. Even the most humane and compassionate of the monotheisms and polytheisms are complicit in this quiet and irrational authoritarianism: they proclaim us, in Fulke Greville's unforgettable line, Created sick — Commanded to be well. And there are totalitarian insinuations to back this up if its appeal should fail. Christians, for example, declare me redeemed by a human sacrifice that occurred thousands of years before I was born. I didn't ask for it, and would willingly have foregone it, but there it is: I'm claimed and saved whether I wish it or not. And if I refuse the unsolicited gift? Well, there are still some vague mutterings about an eternity of torment for my ingratitude. That is somewhat worse than a Big Brother state, because there could be no hope of its eventually passing away.
Let us fool ourselves no longer. At the very moment Western nations, threw off the ancient regime of absolute government, operating under a once-divine king, they were restoring this same system in a far more effective form in their technology, reintroducing coercions of a military character no less strict in the organization of a factory than in that of the new drilled, uniformed, and regimented army. During the transitional stages of the last two centuries, the ultimate tendency of this system might b e in doubt, for in many areas there were strong democratic reactions; but with the knitting together of a scientific ideology, itself liberated from theological restrictions or humanistic purposes, authoritarian technics found an instrument at hand that h as now given it absolute command of physical energies of cosmic dimensions. The inventors of nuclear bombs, space rockets, and computers are the pyramid builders of our own age: psychologically inflated by a similar myth of unqualified power, boasting through their science of their increasing omnipotence, if not omniscience, moved by obsessions and compulsions no less irrational than those of earlier absolute systems: particularly the notion that the system itself must be expanded, at whatever eventual co st to life.Through mechanization, automation, cybernetic direction, this authoritarian technics has at last successfully overcome its most serious weakness: its original dependence upon resistant, sometimes actively disobedient servomechanisms, still human enough to harbor purposes that do not always coincide with those of the system.Like the earliest form of authoritarian technics, this new technology is marvellously dynamic and productive: its power in every form tends to increase without limits, in quantities that defy assimilation and defeat control, whether we are thinking of the output of scientific knowledge or of industrial assembly lines. To maximize energy, speed, or automation, without reference to the complex conditions that sustain organic life, have become ends in themselves. As with the earliest forms of authoritarian technics, the weight of effort, if one is to judge by national budgets, is toward absolute instruments of destruction, designed for absolutely irrational purposes whose chief by-product would be the mutilation or extermination of the human race. Even Ashurbanipal and Genghis Khan performed their gory operations under normal human limits.The center of authority in this new system is no longer a visible personality, an all-powerful king: even in totalitarian dictatorships the center now lies in the system itself, invisible but omnipresent: all its human components, even the technical and managerial elite, even the sacred priesthood of science, who alone have access to the secret knowledge by means of which total control is now swiftly being effected, are themselves trapped by the very perfection of the organization they have invented. Like the Pharoahs of the Pyramid Age, these servants of the system identify its goods with their own kind of well-being: as with the divine king, their praise of the system is an act of self-worship; and again like the king, they are in the grip of an irrational compulsion to extend their means of control and expand the scope of their authority. In this new systems-centered collective, this Pentagon of power, there is no visible presence who issues commands: unlike job's God, the new deities cannot be confronted, still less defied. Under the pretext of saving labor, the ultimate end of this technics is to displace life, or rather, to transfer the attributes of life to the machine and the mechanical collective, allowing only so much of the organism to remain as may be controlled and manipulated.
They found records and video-cassettes at their place, a deck of cards, a chess set. In other words, everything that's banned.
It was sometimes feebly argued, as the political and military war against this enemy ran into difficulties, that it was 'a war without end.' I never saw the point of this plaintive objection. The war against superstition and the totalitarian mentality is an endless war. In protean forms, it is fought and refought in every country and every generation. In bin Ladenism we confront again the awful combination of the highly authoritarian personality with the chaotically nihilist and anarchic one. Temporary victories can be registered against this, but not permanent ones. As Bertold Brecht's character says over the corpse of the terrible Arturo Ui, the bitch that bore him is always in heat. But it is in this struggle that we develop the muscles and sinews that enable us to defend civilization, and the moral courage to name it as something worth fighting for.
Off goes the head of the king, and tyranny gives way to freedom. The change seems abysmal. Then, bit by bit, the face of freedom hardens, and by and by it is the old face of tyranny. Then another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent — the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free.
The reactionary of any kind condemns sexual pleasure because it stimulates and repulses him at the same time. He is unable to solve the conflict within him between sexual demands and moralistic inhibitions. The revolutionary refutes the perverse, unhealthy kind of pleasure, because it is not his kind of pleasure, because it is not the sexuality of the future, but the sexuality which results from the conflict between instinct and morals, the sexuality of authoritarian society, a debased, smutty, pathological sexuality.
I am not interested in having freedom from burdens. I don't need any authority to free me from responsibility.I am not interested in having freedoms within an authoritarian's parameters. I am only interested in self-determination.I have only respect for liberty as I am a libertarian.
Social conservatism and neoconservatism have revived authoritarian conservatism, and not for the better of conservatism or American democracy. True conservatism is cautious and prudent. Authoritarianism is rash and radical. American democracy has benefited from true conservatism, but authoritarianism offers potentially serious trouble for any democracy.
The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.
The liberal state has no view on whether witchcraft is more valuable than all-in wrestling. Like a tactful publican, it has as few opinions as possible. Many liberals suspect passionate convictions are latently authoritarian. But liberalism should surely be a passionate conviction. Liberals are not necessarily lukewarm. Only the more macho leftist suspects that they have no balls. You can be ardently neutral, and fiercely indifferent.
It is possible that the next economic downturn--or stock market crash--will bring on further developments. During the recession at the end of the 1980s, ex-Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke gathered strong support from disgruntled citizens in Louisiana for his gubernatorial and US Senate races. Voters did not seem to be bothered by his record, which included plenty of statements like: The Jews have been working against our national interest. . . . I think they should be punished.Bertram Gross and Kevin Phillips had each foreseen part of a process that engendered remarkable tolerance for authoritarian political solutions. Gross correctly identified the kind of authority that the corporate world wanted to exercise over working- and middle-class Americans. Phillips was perceptive about the way ordinary Americans would participate in actually constructing a more harsh and restrictive social milieu. By the 1990s the two strands were coalescing into something we could call Authoritarian Democracy. Today it is clear that the goals of the corporate rich can be furthered by the enthusiasms of the popular classes, especially in the realms of religion.
Pretty soon, I'll be decomposing into phosphorous, calcium, and so on. Who else will you find to tell you the truth? All that's left are the archives. Pieces of paper. And the truth is... I worked at an archive myself, I can tell you first hand: paper lies even more than people do.
Any religion-based state has a mission to limit the minds of its people, to fight the developments of history and logic, and to dumb down its citizens. It’s important to stand in the way of such a mentality, to deny it from continuing its mission to murder the souls of its people, killing them deep within while they are still alive and breathing.
States that are built on a religious foundation limit their own people in a circle of faith and fear.
If you are for gun control, then you are not against guns, because the guns will be needed to disarm people. So it’s not that you are anti-gun. You’ll need the police’s guns to take away other people’s guns. So you’re very pro-gun; you just believe that only the Government (which is, of course, so reliable, honest, moral and virtuous…) should be allowed to have guns. There is no such thing as gun control. There is only centralizing gun ownership in the hands of a small political elite and their minions.
Are you for peace? The great test of your devotion to peace is not how many words you utter on its behalf. It’s not even how you propose to deal with people of other countries, though that certainly tells us something. To fully measure your “peacefulness” requires that we examine how you propose to treat people in your own backyard. Do you demand more of what doesn’t belong to you? Do you endorse the use of force to punish people for victimless “crimes”? Do you support politicians who promise to seize the earnings of others to pay for your bailout, your subsidy, your student loan, your child’s education or whatever pet cause or project you think is more important than what your fellow citizens might personally prefer to spend their own money on? Do you believe theft is OK if it’s for a good cause or endorsed by a majority? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then have the courage to admit that peace is not your priority. How can I trust your foreign policy if your domestic policy requires so much to be done at gunpoint?
The people in charge can always justify doing terrible things in the name of the greater good. A slaughter here, a little torture there. It becomes moral to do things that would be immoral if an ordinary individual did ’em.
No teacher has the right to cure a child of making noises on a drum. The only curing that should be practiced is the curing of unhappiness.
And is this not the very reason for the establishment of the State? If there were cause and reason for confidence among individuals, the State would never have come into existence. The sacred and essential foundation for the State is our mutual and well-founded suspicion of each other. Anyone questioning this foundation throws suspicion upon the State.
Sooner or later, all talk among foreigners in Pyongyang turns to one imponderable subject. Do the locals really believe what they are told, and do they truly revere Fat Man and Little Boy? I have been a visiting writer in several authoritarian and totalitarian states, and usually the question answers itself. Someone in a café makes an offhand remark. A piece of ironic graffiti is scrawled in the men's room. Some group at the university issues some improvised leaflet. The glacier begins to melt; a joke makes the rounds and the apparently immovable regime suddenly looks vulnerable and absurd. But it's almost impossible to convey the extent to which North Korea just isn't like that. South Koreans who met with long-lost family members after the June rapprochement were thunderstruck at the way their shabby and thin northern relatives extolled Fat Man and Little Boy. Of course, they had been handpicked, but they stuck to their line.There's a possible reason for the existence of this level of denial, which is backed up by an indescribable degree of surveillance and indoctrination. A North Korean citizen who decided that it was all a lie and a waste would have to face the fact that his life had been a lie and a waste also. The scenes of hysterical grief when Fat Man died were not all feigned; there might be a collective nervous breakdown if it was suddenly announced that the Great Leader had been a verbose and arrogant fraud. Picture, if you will, the abrupt deprogramming of more than 20 million Moonies or Jonestowners, who are suddenly informed that it was all a cruel joke and there's no longer anybody to tell them what to do. There wouldn't be enough Kool-Aid to go round. I often wondered how my guides kept straight faces. The streetlights are turned out all over Pyongyang—which is the most favored city in the country—every night. And the most prominent building on the skyline, in a town committed to hysterical architectural excess, is the Ryugyong Hotel. It's 105 floors high, and from a distance looks like a grotesquely enlarged version of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco (or like a vast and cumbersome missile on a launchpad). The crane at its summit hasn't moved in years; it's a grandiose and incomplete ruin in the making. 'Under construction,' say the guides without a trace of irony. I suppose they just keep two sets of mental books and live with the contradiction for now.
No one will shake my conviction that those leaders of men, who are in the nature of carbuncles, of semi-conscious abscesses, who draw feverish crowds to them like noxious humours, have an innate knowledge of arrested time. They play with those vacant moments as though at a game of chequers. A fraction of suspended, frozen time, of inert time, jammed like a wedge into the most wonderfully oiled cogs of the most lucid of minds: and the whole mechanism is brought crashing to the ground, prepared to accept any authority, to endorse the most monstrous aberrations, especially collective ones.
Some clever and honourable nations change their regime from authoritarian to a democratic one, and some weak-kneed dictator lover miserable nations do the exact opposite! Don’t try to look for a character in a person who gave up his freedom, because he does have none!
It is curious to note that when for reasons of conscience, people refuse to kill, they are often exempted from active military duty. But there are no exemptions for people who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to financially support the bureaucracy that actually does the killing. Apparently, the state takes money more seriously than life.
One of the arguments that authoritarian governments use to ward off the call for greater political freedom is to argue that American-style democracy is no guarantee of good policy.... Over the years, I’ve grown used to these arguments, and my response has rarely wavered: Sure, we might make dumb choices sometimes, but we will defend, to the end, the right to make choices at all, because we believe that our collective conscience, freely expressed, will eventually lead us in the right direction. When it comes to guns, it is getting harder to muster that argument abroad. Every new shooting, every new failure of will and citizenship, slashes another hole in our credibility as a way of life.
30 or 40 of such voluntary gentlemen would do more in a day than 100 of the rest that must be press'd to it by compulsion.
The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.
Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free.
Thus we arrive at the problem of the relation of religion to the negation of sexual desire. Sexual debility results in a lowering of self-confidence. In one case it is compensated by the brutalization of sexuality, to maintain sexual repression, in the other by rigid character traits. The compulsion to control one's sexuality, to maintain sexual repression, leads to the development of pathologic, emotionally tinged notions of honor and duty, bravery and self-control. But the pathology and emotionality of these psychic attitudes are strongly at variance with the reality of one's personal behavior. The man who attains genital satisfaction, is honorable, responsible, brave, and controlled, without making much of a fuss about it. These attitudes are an organic part of his personality. The man whose genitals are weakened, whose sexual structure is full of contradictions, must continually remind himself to control his sexuality, to preserve his sexual dignity, to be brave in the face of temptation, etc. The struggle to resist the temptation to masturbate is a struggle that is experienced by every adolescent and every child, without exception. All the elements of the reactionary man's structure are developed in this struggle. It is in the lower middle classes that this structure is reinforced most strongly and embedded most deeply. Every form of mysticism derives it's most active energy and, in part, also it's content from this compulsory suppression of sexuality.
Even if Zuma was to develop the authoritarian impulses of a Mugabe, he would be checked—not least by his own party, which set a continental precedent by ousting Thabo Mbeki in 2007, after it felt he had outstayed his welcome by seeking a third term as party president. The ANC appears to have set itself against that deathtrap of African democracy: the ruler for life.
I was astonished, bewildered. This was America, a country where, whatever its faults, people could speak, write, assemble, demonstrate without fear. It was in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. We were a democracy...But I knew it wasn't a dream; there was a painful lump on the side of my head...The state and its police were not neutral referees in a society of contending interests. They were on the side of the rich and powerful. Free speech? Try it and the police will be there with their horses, their clubs, their guns, to stop you.From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. I was a radical, believing that something fundamental was wrong in this country--not just the existence of poverty amidst great wealth, not just the horrible treatment of black people, but something rotten at the root. The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society--cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.
Open confession of dictatorship is far less dangerous than sham democracy. One can defend oneself against the former, the latter is like a creeper attached to the body of a drowning man.
Men in western governments who were themselves are often modern men, did not understand that freedom without chaos is not a magic formula which can be implanted anywhere. Rather, being modern men, it was their view that, because human race had evolved to a certain level by some such year as 1950, democracy could be planted anywhere from the outside. They had carefully closed their eyes to the fact that freedom without chaos had come forth from a Christian base. They did not understand that freedom without chaos could not be separated from its roots. (…) Many countries where democracy has been imposed from the outside or from top downward, authoritarianism has increasingly become the rule of the day
We live in a time that demands a discourse of both critique and possibility, one that recognizes that without an informed citizenry, collective struggle, and viable social movements, democracy will slip out of our reach and we will arrive at a new stage of history marked by the birth of an authoritarianism that not only disdains all vestiges of democracy but is more than willing to relegate it to a distant memory.
Every time I do an interview people ask similar questions, such as What is the most significant story that you have revealed? […] There really is only one overarching point that all of these stories have revealed, and that is–and I say this without the slightest bit of hyperbole or melodrama; it's not metaphorical and it's not figurative; it is literally true–that the goal of the NSA and it's five eyes partners in the English speaking world–Canada, New Zealand, Australia and especially the UK–is to eliminate privacy globally, to ensure that there could be no human communications that occur electronically, that evades their surveillance net; they want to make sure that all forms of human communications by telephone or by Internet, and all online activities are collected, monitored, stored and analyzed by that agency and by their allies.That means, to describe that is to describe a ubiquitous surveillance state; you don't need hyperbole to make that claim, and you do not need to believe me when I say that that's their goal. Document after document within the archive that Edward Snowden provided us declare that to be their goal. They are obsessed with searching out any small little premise of the planet where some form of communications might take place without they being able to invade it.
Equality of condition, though it is certainly a basic requirement for justice, is nevertheless among the greatest and most uncertain ventures of modern mankind. The more equal conditions are, the less explanation there is for the differences that actually exist between people; and thus all the more unequal do individuals and groups become. This perplexing consequence came fully to light as soon as equality was no longer seen in terms of an omnipotent being like God or an unavoidable common destiny like death. Whenever equality becomes a mundane fact in itself, without any gauge by which it may be measured or explained, then there is one chance in a hundred that it will be recognized simply as a working principle of a political organization in which otherwise unequal people have equal rights; there are ninety-nine chances that it will be mistaken for an innate quality of every individual, who is “normal” if he is like everybody else and “abnormal” if he happens to be different. This perversion of equality from a political into a social concept is all the more dangerous when a society leaves but little space for special groups and individuals, for then their differences become all the more conspicuous.
It doesn't take an army to change the world, or an average-sized militia group, either. All it takes is one individual to say the word No. Be it a man refusing to register for the draft, or be it a gun owner refusing to register his weapons in Connecticut, it is the same: defiance in the face of arbitrary authority.
The Constitution, the National Assembly, the dynastic parties, the blue and the red republicans, the heroes of Africa, the thunder from the platform, the sheet lightning of the daily press, the entire literature, the political names and the intellectual reputations, the civil law and penal code, the liberté, égalité, fraternité and the second of May 1852—all have vanished like a phantasmagoria before the spell of a man whom even his enemies do not make out to be a magician. Universal suffrage seems to have survived only for a moment, in order that with its own hand it may make its last will and testament before the eyes of all the world and declare in the name of the people itself: Everything that exists has this much worth, that it will perish.