by Andrew Fink, MD
In these complicated times, it seems that freedom and liberty are being lost. There are vaccine mandates being forced on the public, and there is a push for correct thinking and ideas; both represent a form of cancel culture. One would think that there should be no contest, and that freedom and liberty should win as ideals, but there are basic flaws in human nature that most people are not willing to overcome to preserve their rights.
People tend to choose having their needs met, rather than risking responsibility to provide for their own needs. This is one of the fundamental observations that Nietzsche makes in Beyond Good and Evil, as he postulates that people for the most part are no better than cattle. He makes this observation in Germany at the time that Bismarck is trying to nationalize health care. One of Nietzsche’s prophetic statements relates how as people look more to others, or to the government to solve their problems, they become more enslaved to the government, and make themselves prone to a tyrant.
This is a fundamental observation made over and over again in the Federalist Papers as well. In their review of history, the framers of the United States Constitution noted that republics/democracies tend to collapse when people vote for their own interests from the public treasure. In their hope to limit that, they purposely created a government that would stall on itself. People had a voice in the House of Representatives, which would be sway to the passions of the people, but this was to be offset by the Senate, which originally, was selected by the state legislatures, and not elected directly. Senators were to be responsible to the State they represented, and represent its independent interest, which could be at odds with the passions of the day. Should something be of urgent nature, it would pass the House and Senate, but still require approval from the executive branch before becoming law. There was yet an additional layer of protection in an independent judiciary which could overrule laws that contradicted the constitution. However, over time, this balance has been eroded by an ever increasingly strong executive branch and most profoundly by the bureaucracy that it controls. Rules are often formed by the bureaucracies, independent of congress, giving them the power to vastly expand their power. The current national vaccine mandates are an example of an executive order.
Fighting this degree of power takes strength that few possess. It is costly and takes several years until a lawsuit may finally result in a government agency being overruled by the courts, and many are incapable of that lengthy fight. It is also a frightening endeavor because one puts themselves, literally, in the cross hairs of the powerful.
The real challenge is in combating this tendency. There is a story at the time of the framing of the constitution of the United States regarding Benjamin Franklin. A woman stopped Ben Franklin one day and asked him what he created for everyone that day, and he replied, “a Republic, madam, if you can keep it.” Keeping a functioning free society requires and informed citizenry. Informed citizenry has two implications: the public is informed, and the public is capable of evaluating the information and coming to its own conclusions. A free society requires a free and intelligent debate, and is the fundamental reason that Americans cherish the first amendment so greatly. There are several comments that were made at the time of the founding of the United States and the bill of rights, but one that applies to the second amendment strikes me greatly, “citizens are armed, subjects are not.” Although it is tempting to take the word “armed” at face value, I believe there is an additional layer too it. An informed and thinking citizen cannot be ruled because he is constantly challenging ideas and authority.
Our society is plagued in two ways: one is that people have abdicated their obligation to think and challenge, and two is that people prefer their comfort, even if it is in a cage. The lack of critical thinking and dialog are painfully apparent to anyone who does critically think, and our woeful education system likewise does nothing anymore to encourage critical thinking. The other issue is also critically important, many of us who are capable of thinking, also have priorities that do not prioritize martyrdom. Most of us want to have a nice dinner with our family, see our children are provided for, and that we can enjoy our time with people close to us. These should be our priorities. Fighting for “truth and justice” take incredible energy and divert our time from family and friends.
However, as everyone ignores the chaos that surrounds them by focusing on their own security in their lifestyle, they wind up boxing themselves into a place with less freedom. People are now afraid to act or speak their mind because they risk losing their job (ability to care for their loved ones). While trying to protect themselves, they place themselves in a cage. This reminds me of another quote at the time of the founding of this country, “those who chose security over liberty will soon find they have neither.”
Zealots in any form are willing to forgo their personal needs to dedicate themselves to their cause. This can be Islamic fundamentalism, this can be socialism, or any other ism we can think of. I have always found it odd that extremists make up a small part of the population, but are the ones that write history. The answer becomes self-apparent, the average person is too preoccupied with normal life to compete with the zealot.
So how does one begin to combat this? That is the difficult question to answer because it requires those without courage to see that they need it and have it. Many of us who are now fighting for our freedom never saw ourselves leading a fight for a great cause. Most of us do not volunteer for this task, but have now been challenged in ways that have forced us to stand strong for ourselves and our liberty. The challenge is to increase the numbers of people with common sense who are still silent before it is too late for them.
I believe that by empowering ourselves and the “silent majority”, we can resist oppression. Dr. Suess has the perfect metaphor for our current situation, the Star-Belly Sneetches. In the modern world the Star-Belly Sneetches have a vaccine card and are free to oppress those that do not have one. Unfortunately, it will not stop with the vaccine card. However, if lunacy continues unchecked, then soon those who had a star, will find that it has been removed for some other pretext, and with all the germ filled disease-spreading Sneetches gone, the wrongthink Sneetches will have no ally.
Empowerment is the cure. Empowerment comes in multiple forms. One is that people prioritize their deeply held convictions. Two, that people realize there is a community for moral support. Three, that they have the resources to stay strong. The last requires some development. People who risk their livelihoods need to believe that they have talent that others need. Can co-workers rally to them? Can they become consultants? Can they start their own business? A network that gives people these tools not only emboldens them but also emboldens others to follow.