To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right, nor the knowledge, nor the virtue.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon articulated that in 1851. Would he be surprised at just how far-reaching the surveillance state and prison-industrial complex now reaches, a century and a half later? I doubt it. Even though it’s likely he couldn’t foresee global communications and related technological innovations, he was aware of the double-standards upon which arbitrary authority is based, and that until that parasitic entity is cast-off, it will continue to grow at an inverse relationship to the freedom of humanity.
Some conscience of today’s police state, in which virtually all actions – especially those done electronically – are documented, tracked, and possibly flagged and investigated, harken back to the days of the “Peace Officer.” But that is futile. Granted, such a goal is made with good intentions – most living in that era (except for non-whites) had less frequent and severe interactions with police employees, but the same conditions and perverse incentives utilized by its actors then, are used today. History, and incentives, prove that whenever a kernel of double-standards is allowed for, it will grow in size and scope, and become more tyrannical. Unless of course those said to be ruled – the subjects, the “citizens” – opt for a better reality.
… To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.
The fact that police employees act under the guise of “public utility” and “in the name of the general interest” means that police employees rightly – at least, according to their flawed institution – put the interest of an amorphous “society” – which translates into the norm desired by those who wield the reigns of political power – before the individual who they claim to protect. That is the necessary nature of their institution.
Police have no duty to protect the individual, yet they, and their cohorts – from the county sheriff to those at the National Security Agency, pretend in press conferences, and even to themselves, that they exist to serve the public. But what is the “public” to these supposed protectors but an amalgamation of individuals within an arbitrary political boundary seen as malleable when disagreeable to the political whims of the day? How many countless souls have been crushed or caged and forgotten about in the name of “the law?”
This is indeed a battle of ideas. There are no cages so impossible to break free from as those of the mind. It’s why the “education” (read: indoctrination of the youth) is so key to those working to further consolidate power. If the idea of arbitrary authority – of men and women who, based on their title or costume, have the “right” to control others – isn’t discarded, then even if the current tyrannical regime is toppled through force of arms, another will step in.
Coercion can never bring peace – that’s not to discount the use of defensive force, which is couched on principles of the non-initiation of force, and of recognizing and respecting each person’s right to self-determination. The bad ideas that facilitate today’s police state will erode as better ideas are adopted. That’s why sharing ideas and critical thinking is so key, as many of us have been exposed only to those that prop-up and perpetuate the current paradigm. As Leo Tolstoy penned in 1894:
If a man, through the growth of a higher conscience, can no longer comply with the demands of government, he finds himself cramped by it and at the same time no longer needs its protection. When this comes to pass, the question whether men are ready to discard the governmental type is solved. And the conclusion will be as final for them as for the yong birds hatched out of the eggs. Just as no power in the world can put them back into the shells, so can no power in the world bring men again under the governmental type of society when once they have outgrown it.