Monday, June 9, 2014

The crux of the problem

I've heard the question asked before, "What is the most pressing threat that we currently face?" And I usually hear things like 'greed', 'poverty', 'loss of rights', 'corruption', 'war', and an endless list of other answers. Despite the diversity of answers given to that question, most of them have a common theme: The paradigm of one party imposing its will forcibly, directly or indirectly, onto another party.

Think about it for a while. Why is government corruption a problem, except that the government is passing laws on behalf of special interests – laws that are then forced on you with penalties for failing to comply? Why is greed a problem, except that the banks and corporations have used their wealth and clout to force a large degree of dominance and control of the economy, and therefore the livelihood of millions? Are your civil rights being violated? Afraid they are going to confiscate your guns? Concerned over the increased reports of police brutality, no-knock raids, and police militarization? That's the government using force against you or threatening to do so. Tired of toxic chemicals being pumped into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat? Those toxins are a force being exercised against us, often without our consent. Tired of the government spying on your phone calls and online activity, invasively searching you at airports and elsewhere, all the while refusing to be transparent and accountable to the public in its own activities? That's all force in one form or another. And unless it is a defensive action, what is war but using military force to impose the will of one country onto another? Even problems which don't necessarily stem from this situation, such as disease or poor education, have solutions frustrated because of the meddling of governments, corporations, and other groups that use their power to exacerbate the matter. I can keep going down the list if I need to, through issues at federal, state, and local levels, and show how most of them directly result from one party initiating the use of force against another to accomplish its own ends – but I hope you get the idea.

When force is used against someone in a way which harms them, their person, their liberties, or their property without their willing consent, that is violence. Violence does not need to involve shooting, bombing, or beating someone – it can be the use of threats, intimidation, fraud, coercion, deprivation of needs, or any number of other indirect methods. Violence can be justified when used defensively in response to another act of violence. But when violence is initiated against someone else, when it is used by one party to force its agenda arbitrarily onto another, that is wrong by any sane ethical standard. It is rule-by-violence, and it is the most pressing issue we currently face, because it makes all of the other problems possible, or worse than they need to be.

Rule-by-violence is very prevalent in our society, yet it is rarely acknowledged and so rarely questioned. We overlook it as 'normal', or make excuses for it because it's carried out by the will of some majority, according to some law, or for some greater good. And yet, it should be the top issue on every one of our lists, regardless of our political affiliation, whether we consider ourselves 'liberal' or 'conservative' or 'libertarian' or 'green' or whatever. Whatever your issue, if it is a legitimate issue, it can be traced back to this. We should all be in agreement that rule-by-violence is an unacceptable way to govern a society and working together to do everything in our power to bring that paradigm to an end. So why aren't we?

Well, there's a catch. Almost everyone objects to having the agenda of someone else rammed down their throat by force, but many people are more than happy to give their assent when their own agenda is rammed down the throat of someone else. When the politicians of the day force oppressive laws on us, instead of questioning a system that authorizes them to do this, we put in new politicians that use the same abusive power in ways we find more palatable – or at least we think they will be more palatable. Those same politicians inevitably abuse that power and put the boot of authority on someone's neck. Perhaps not ours, but someone's. We perpetuate the system of violence ourselves and empower politicians, governments, corporations, and others to subjugate us. We authorize them to do it to others, then others authorize them to do it to us, and all the power trickles up until these 'public servants' have effectively become our rulers. In order to be part of the solution we have to stop being part of the problem. We have to give up this insane idea that we can make others do things our way at gunpoint just because a majority votes on it, a law is passed, or someone with some clout thinks it's a 'good idea'.

Until this paradigm changes, don't expect things to improve in any meaningful or lasting way. You can vote in 'good' politicians until you are blue in the face, but in a system so susceptible to abuses of power it is inevitable that those inclined to misuse that power will find ways into positions of power. The system itself has to change. That's a tall order, but there is simply no way around it. If you think there is, you're living in a dream world. The only way that we can bring an end to rule-by-violence is to demand it together in one voice. It is going to require that people of every walk of life, every race, every creed, and every political leaning put their differences aside and unite on this single point long enough to affect real change. And that can happen if we decide to make it happen. It has already happened once, briefly, when the US government tried to go to war with Syria and the American people put their foot down. We can do it again. We have to. Because the alternative is a slow slide into overt tyranny, and the loss of every ounce of liberty that those who came before us fought, protested, and died for. The alternative is leaving a future for our children where they are told how they must live their lives at gunpoint, where their rights are not protected, where government protected corporations control their access to goods, services, and jobs, and where liberty is just something they pretend to have in history class and on the 4th of July.

We can't change the nation until we change ourselves. We can't solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them.

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