Will history remember this generation as the one which inherited freedom only to bequeath tyranny to succeeding generations? It increasingly appears that this may be the case. Our unfortunate legacy to the future seems to be an administrative “deep state” that reduces the free human spirit to servile conformity, not by brute force but through carefully planted threats and fears. A postulated health peril, grossly exaggerated and widely publicized, has now effectively paralyzed societies worldwide. The invisible menace induces countless people to passively tolerate the blanket suspension of their natural rights and liberties. The supposed enemy, a slightly altered yet otherwise ordinary virus, has been inflated, through tireless and repetitious propaganda by various agencies, into an existential threat to humanity itself. But what really seems to be in question is the survival of the human spirit, not the human race. Fear has become our true enemy, not some shadowy microbe, as I watch irrational fears reduce once freedom loving men and women into panicky animals sequestered in their holding pens.
“Safe” has become the new irrefutable buzzword for a people more and more averse to assuming the slightest risk. Safety, we are told, trumps liberty, character, virtue, common sense, even truth. Once proud and independent Americans have feebly surrendered to a fatuous complacency that demands we question nothing from above: simply follow orders, no matter how offensive or ridiculous. It was probably inevitable. That brilliant observer of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, gravely warned of this danger nearly two centuries ago, calling it “administrative despotism” which, he observed, establishes itself “under the shadow of the sovereignty of the people.”
“I see a multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls,.. Over this kind of man stands an immense protective power which is alone responsible for securing their enjoyment and watching over their fate… it only tries to keep them in perpetual childhood. It gladly works for their happiness but wants to be the sole agent and judge of it. Why should it not entirely relieve them from the trouble of thinking and all the cares of living? Thus it daily makes the exercise of free choice less useful and rarer, restricts the activity of free will within a narrower compass, and little by little robs each citizen of the proper use of his own faculties.”
Do his words ring familiar today? Modern social engineers, media, and advertisers have become quite adept at exploiting innate human fears to steer us all toward some preferred behavior or product. They display graphic images of some supposed existential threat to pawn off insurance plans or the latest wonder drug. But until we learn how to rationally manage those fears we will remain at the mercy of Madison Avenue hucksters and mendacious bureaucrats. Fear is that primal emotion which, if not subjected to reason, will enslave whomever it captivates. So how is one to recapture any true sense of freedom in a culture brimming with hucksters and fear mongers? Perhaps by reinstating trust ─ not in so-called experts but in a loving God who has “numbered the very hairs on your head.” (Mt. 10:30)
Freedom is a function of trust, but a trust placed in some reliable source who will never abuse that trust, such as we see in the child/parent relationship. The fact that a child implicitly trusts its parents provides it the security and freedom to explore its surroundings, to grow, and to learn. And why do children put such complete trust in mom and dad? Precisely because of the strong bond of love existing among them. But without such intense and solicitous parental love the child would develop along the lines of an abused animal, fearful and distrustful of everyone and everything. It is the parents’ protective love that permits their child to explore and discover the freedom on its own.
In the same way God’s protective love is what gives us all the freedom to live fearlessly and confidently. When we drift away from his love, relying solely on human initiatives, we begin to develop a debilitating psychology of safety; cautionary “do’s” and “don’ts” and regulations piled on top of an already existing mountain of regulations. But are those “experts” and regulators who seem to continually contradict themselves all that trustworthy? Is it loving, or rather phobic, to turn our most familiar neighbors into suspects out of “safety” concerns? We are advised to put implicit trust in the diktats of anonymous handlers whose draconian mandates may mean losing your small business, subscribing to involuntary vaccines, invasive strip searches, or donning dehumanizing face masks whose value is purely “symbolic” as one paladin of public safety recently remarked, echoing the WHO.
How crazy can fear make otherwise normal people act? Under the pretext of public health and safety, civil authorities have imposed isolation therapy on entire populations, which undermines the very social fabric upon which our lives depend. It is one thing to isolate those who are sick or susceptible but to forcibly isolate the healthy is sheer madness. It gets much worse. Certain cynically motivated authorities apparently went much further by moving known infected persons into tight living quarters with elderly residents of nursing homes. Predictably these care centers became major hotspots of viral infection. Fully half of all fatalities in the nation from this coronavirus are elderly residents of such facilities, and as high as 80% in certain localities. Many needless deaths occurred because their families and society were busy “trusting” those same facile authorities and their shadowy advisers. Perhaps the experiment was just a trial run for applying selective euthanasia to persons deemed by the “experts” as having too low a quality of life.
Tocqueville had prophetically foreseen that some overbearing paternalistic power would eventually impose itself over a once free but now fear ridden people. “Having thus taken each citizen in turn in its powerful grasp and shaped him to its will, government then extends its embrace to cover the whole of society. It covers the whole of social life with a network of petty, complicated rules that are both minute and uniform, through which even men of the greatest originality and the most vigorous temperament cannot force their heads above the crowd. It does not break men’s will but softens, bends, and guides it; it does not destroy anything but prevents much from being born… in the end each nation is no more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as its shepherd.”
Tocqueville predicted that it would not take some despotic totalitarian regime to rob us of our cherished freedoms. For in a democracy people are easily convinced to give up their liberties and “put the collar on” in Tocqueville’s colorful phrasing, so long as it is “society itself which holds the end of the chain.” But “sheltering,” hiding one’s face in public, or plain pleasure seeking under the “safe” protection of a government controlled by invisible social engineers is a far cry from liberty. It is thoughtless conformity to the movements of a herd.
Ultimately, our freedom is based on trust, specifically the trust we place in God, as the motto printed on all our currency reminds us because the only true security is of divine, not earthly origins. The trust we place in humans demands a high degree of wariness on our part because, while God may be eminently trustworthy, governments, corporations, even individual experts ─ not so much. There is an added danger in choosing safety over freedom. In the end you may find that you are neither safe nor free.
Francis J. Pierson + a.m.d.g.