After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. – Alexis de Tocqueville
Tyranny thrives by feeding on human necessity. It examines what sustains us, what we hope for, what we desire, what we love, and uses those needs as leverage against us. If you want safety, they will take it away and barter it back to you at a steep price. If you want success or respect, then you must bow to the existing arbitrary pecking order and play the game nicely. If you want to raise a family, then you must accept the state as a part-time parent. If you want kinship, then you must settle for a thin veneer of empty pleasantries and insincere associations. If you want independence, then you are simply labeled as a threat and done away with altogether. Autocratic rulers are first and foremost salesmen; they convince us that life itself has a “cost”, that we are born indebted, and all bills must be made payable to the establishment. First and foremost, we are sold on the idea that in all of this, we are ultimately alone…
It is within these manipulated concepts of cost and isolation that we discover the foundation of all totalitarian cultures: Collectivism.
Collectivism is not a space age invention or a product of the abstract musings of Marxists, though many seem to think that their version of a hive society is “new” and certainly better than anything ever attempted in the past. No, collectivism is a psychological prison derived from a beneficial instinct as old as humanity itself; the instinct to connect with others, to share experiences and knowledge, to build and create together. It is an instinct as essential to our survival as breathing. Collectivism uses this instinct as a weapon. It is a corrupted and poisoned harnessing of our intuitive nature. It is an inadequate and cancerous substitute for something which normally invigorates and supports healthy culture: true community.
In this age, our ideas of what constitutes “community” have been tainted and confused with the propaganda of collectivists. Our instincts tell us that the world we have been presented is hollow, while our controlled environment tells us that the world is just as it should be (or the best we’re going to get, anyway). How then, are we to tell the difference between natural community, and destabilizing and destructive collectivism? Let’s examine some of the root conflicts between these two social systems, as well as the philosophical shortcomings of collectivism itself…
Common Aspects Of Collectivism
Looking back at the single minded and highly dominating collectivist experiments of the past, it is easy to see the common threads between them. Certain methods are always present. Certain actions are always taken. Certain beliefs are always adopted. Here are just a few…
The Blank Slate: In order for the state to elevate itself in importance above the individual, it must first promote the idea that the individual does not exist, that your uniqueness or inherent character are only a byproduct of your environment. There are many methods to propagating this mindset. Junk science and establishment psychological theorists often treat the human mind as a mere bundle of chemicals and synapses. Emotions are pigeonholed as “hormonal reactions”. Conscience and even attachment a result of “conditioning” (i.e. H.F. Harlow’s ridiculous rhesus monkey experiments).
Existentialism attacks individualism from the philosophical end; suggesting that all actions and reactions are random results of a purely chaotic universe, while at the same time peddling moral relativism and apathy. If all is based on environment and chance, and there is no purpose or meaning to life, then why care about anything?
Religious organizations that choose to abuse their positions of trust also feed collectivism by standing in the way of personal awareness, or even making it taboo to value the individual over the collective (though people tend to wrongly blame the concept of religion itself, rather than the corrupt men who sometimes misuse it).
Each one of these tactics is a tool in the arsenal of collectivists meant to degrade our social admiration for individual thought. Of course, if one actually studies beyond mainstream sources for information (as we have in numerous articles) on the many biological mysteries of the human mind, the numerous inconsistencies of clinical psychiatry, the irrational assumptions of existentialism, that person would find that the blank slate assertion is filled with so many holes it is laughable. However, as long as groups of men strive for power over others, the attacks on individualism will continue. As desperate as elitists have been through the years to build an environment devoid of independent thought, they have met only with failure. Perhaps you just can’t remove from all people those values which are inborn and intuitive, no matter how monstrous the world is around us.
Centralization Instead Of Cooperation: Cooperation in society is often spontaneous and dependent on a number of underlying factors working together at the right place, and at the right time. It takes a noble endeavor and even more noble leadership indeed to inspire the masses to step onto the same path towards the same direction. This is why legitimate large scale cooperation is so venerated in the annals of history; such events are truly rare and miraculous. Tyrants and elitists have no endeavors that rank as “noble”. They serve only their own interests. So, instead of trying to encourage cooperation they won’t receive, they centralize various systems by coercion. If you can’t convince the public to abandon their own paths for yours, then forcefully remove all paths until the people have only one choice left.
Economic centralization is very indicative of this maneuver. While we in the Liberty Movement see a whole spectrum of possible options for markets and trade, many other people see only what is right in front of them; the same crooked fiat money system controlled by the same gaggle of fraudulent central bankers. A large portion of our populace has been convinced that there is only one way to participate in the economy, and thus they act collectively, and blindly.
Another obvious example is the false left/right political system. While there are as many political views as there are people, most tend to affiliate themselves with one of two; Republican or Democrat. Even if you were to believe that the two major parties are honestly opposed, you have still allowed the establishment to narrow your choices down to two. Add the fact that both major parties actually support nearly the same exact policies and goals, and now your choices have been narrowed to one. Millions of people jump on this one bandwagon every four years, thinking that they are cooperating voluntarily, when they have instead been centralized, and collectivized.
Constant Fear, Constant Threats: Fear and survival are powerful motivators. Without ample self awareness and strength of character, these base instincts can overwhelm rationality and conscience. Every collectivist feudalist system ever devised has used a “common enemy” or an iron hand, to quell dissent in the citizenry and to forcefully unify them not under the auspices of an honest cause, but a terror so profound as to drive them to malleable despair.
When life and death hang in the balance everyday, and people have no time to relax, they can in fact go literally mad. All logic flies out the window, panic ensues, and the masses turn to whoever is ready to offer them a way to sanity; “sanity” meaning “comfort”. After a period of constant danger and distress, even fascism can feel comfortable for a while. Collectivist systems are always clashing with the bubbling tides of individual freedom. Because of this, they must continuously qualify their usefulness. There must always be an imminent threat over the horizon, otherwise, the strangling regulations of the state serve no purpose.
Individualism Equated With “Selfishness”: One of the inevitable conditions of collectivism is the demonization of free thought. In a collective, every person becomes a cog in a great machine. The majority begins to see itself not as a group of individuals acting together, but as a single unit with a single purpose. Any person who chooses to step outside of the box and point out a different view becomes a danger to the whole. A machine cannot function if all the parts are not working in harmony. Disagreement in a collectivist system is not considered a civic duty; it is considered a crime that places everyone else at risk. As a dissenter, you are not a person, but a malfunction that must be dealt with.
It is easy to tell when your nation is turning towards collectivism; you only have to gauge how often you are accused of “selfishness” every time you question the needs of the state over the needs of the individual. This argument arises incessantly in countries on the verge of a despotic shift. Interestingly, it is selfishness that tends to drive collectivists, not individualists. As we discussed earlier, collectivists act out of base fear, and a personal desire to survive regardless of the expense. They may disguise it as duty, or “universal love”, but at bottom, they are driven by pure self-interested. They are willing to sacrifice anything, including their own souls, to hang onto what little they have. They are especially willing to sacrifice what YOU have, to maintain THEIR standard of living, or to see their personal world view enacted. Is there anything more self-centered than a man prepared to destroy the livelihood and freedoms of others just to feel temporarily secure?
Promises Of A Fantastic Future: “Innovation” and “progress” are alluring dreams, dreams which can easily be realized in a free society made up of intelligent individuals thinking in ways which go against the norm. The more unique insights present in a culture, the more likely it is to surpass itself and succeed. Strangely though, it always seems to be collectivists who throw around visions of high tech trains, floating cities, and sustainability as benefits to relinquishing certain freedoms. The insinuation is that if people set aside their individualism, their society becomes stronger, and more productive, like worker bees who only strive for one thing; the perfect hive.
Now, this has never been proven to be an advantage of collectivism. One could say given the evidence that a society flourishes less and contributes less the more centralized it becomes. Constructing immaculate castles, pyramids, magnetic highways, or space stations on the moon, does not necessarily make a culture great. It doesn’t even make a culture interesting. What is far more interesting is a society that seeks to enrich the lives of common men, rather than fabricating edifices and launching technologies while using people up as fuel for the collectivist fire. At any rate, I cannot think of a single extreme centralized system that actually delivered on the grand promises it made when in its initial stages of power. Whether this is because their pledges were impossible to fulfill, or because they never intended to fulfill them in the first place, is hard to say…
Common Aspects Of Community
Now that we have explored the intricacies of collectivism, let’s take a look at what it is designed to destroy. What makes real community? What are its benefits and its weaknesses? How does it begin? How does it end? Why is it such a threat to collectivists? Here are a few answers…
Real Purpose: Communities develop in light of meaningful exchange. Their purpose is natural and common. Their goals are not fixed, but evolve as the community progresses. The beneficiaries are the citizenry, sometimes even those who do not directly participate, rather than a select minority of elites. Because the actions of communities are decentralized, and based on a sense of honor and integrity instead of egomania, they tend to appear direction-less, while at the same time making vast and concrete achievements. Communities work best when purpose and destiny are self determined.
Voluntary Participation: There is no need to force people to participate in a system that operates on honesty, conscience, and individual will. In fact, many people today long for a system like this. When men and women apply their energies to something they believe in, instead of something they are manipulated into following, the results can be spectacular. Progress becomes second nature, an afterthought, instead of an unhealthy obsession.
Legitimate Respect: The purpose of a true community is not to keep tabs on the personal lives of its participants, nor to mold their notions. The rights of the individual are respected above all else. Again, the more varied the insights of a population, the stronger it becomes. For a community to attempt to stifle the viewpoints of its citizens would be to commit suicide. There is strength in numbers, but even greater strength in variety. Individualism takes effort, time, and dedication. A society made up of people who have made this journey cannot help but esteem each other.
Flexibility Leads To Stability: A wise man adopts that which works, and throws out that which fails. He does not dismiss methods out of hand, nor does he hang onto methods that disappoint simply because he cannot let go. He educates himself through experience. Adaptability, flexibility, agility in thought and in policy creates solid ground for a society to build. Communities survive by being able to admit when a mistake has been made, and by being open to new options. Rigid systems, like collectivist systems, cannot function unless the people conform to the establishment, and its deficiencies. Communities function best when the establishment conforms to the people, and the truth.
Mutual Aid: Collectivist systems are notorious for promoting the idea that “we are all one”, however, they usually end up becoming the most anti-social and uncaring cultures to grace the planet. You cannot centralize or enforce charity because then it is no longer charity, but slavery. Citizens of communities, on the other hand, actually seek to help each other, not because they expect immediate returns, or because it’s “good for the state”, but because they value an atmosphere of benevolence. The generosity of community helps individuals detach from dependence on government, or bureaucracy. The less dependence on centralized authority, the stronger and safer everyone becomes.
Mutual Defense: While collectivism sacrifices its participants for some undefined “greater good”, communities defend one another, knowing that if the fate of one’s neighbor is ignored, the fate of oneself may also be ignored by others. No one is “expendable” in a community. EVERYONE is expendable in a collective.
Building Community In A Modern World
The task of constructing meaningful community today is daunting, but crucial. In an increasingly centralized and desensitized world, the only recourse of the honorable is to decentralize, and to reintroduce the model of independence once again. This starts with self sufficient communities and solid principles. It starts with unabashed and unwavering pride in the values of sovereignty and liberty. It starts with a relentless pursuit of balance, and truth. It starts with an incredible amount of hard work.
The trappings of collectivism sometimes seem insurmountable. The mindless devotion of our friends and family to a system that harms them can cause us to lose hope, and to lose focus. We must remember how collectivism operates; by removing the power of choice from the equation. If we return that power, then many people who we may have once deemed “lost causes” might awaken as well. By exposing the masses to another option, a better option, we undo years of lies, and lengths of chain. If there was ever a perfect moment to begin this battle, now is the time; while Americans are still searching for solutions, and not too fearful to pursue them once they are found.
The Utopian dreams of Socialists, if they could be realized, would not give us a Utopia, for they do not take account of some of the most essential elements of human nature. When we have taken away his property and given it to others, we have not thereby turned the millionaire into a nobleman or the recipients of his money into saints. A drastic law or an economic system, which shall make it impossible for men to corner the market, will not place either speculator or producer or consumer within the gates of paradise. For paradise is first of all a condition of heart: it does not wait for crops and it does not follow the markets. It may exist where food is coarse and scarce; it never comes simply because luxuries abound or because men are at ease.
Even if a man makes two blades of grass grow where before only one grew, the exhortation of Carlyle, the extra grass-blade will not solve the deep problems of his life. It may make his cattle fatter, but will it make his life larger and nobler? No, indeed, for out of the heart, not out of fatted cattle, are the issues of life. Another blade of grass? Yes, by all means, for that is good, if used as means to nobler life. But just the grass-blade or the millions of them upon a thousand acres, will not uproot the vice that kills or take away heartache.
The same truth faces us when we go to the other extreme where poverty pinches. And the pinch of poverty is a real calamity in thousands of lives. Church and state may well unite, not only to stamp out pauperism, but to prevent the conditions that breed paupers. But what we see in nine cases out of ten as the real cause of distress is not so much low wages or an unjust land system, as deficiency of life: weak wilt, disordered body, low vitality, feeble conscience, industrial incapacity. What every charity worker deplores is not so much low wages as low life. The problem is human, not simply economic. There is no more necessity that we equalize things than that we equalize knowledge. There is, however, supreme need that we equalize opportunity for knowledge and for property, but on condition that both become the servants of life. We may well put a high value on these material conditions, which Socialism so overemphasizes, and we may well demand a more just distribution of the goods of the world. But let us not be deceived. It is not by such means that a Paul is created, a Sistine Madonna painted, a Hamlet written, or a Washington produced.
“The Way to Utopia: A Brief Essay”
JOSEPH HENRY CROOKER
August 13, 2012 | Categories: Isms, Society and Culture | Tags: earthly riches, Government control, Joseph Henry Crooker, liberalism, materialism, necessity of God, Socialism, Utopia | Leave a comment