Sunday, February 27, 2011

"People Wanna Be Free"?

All the world over, so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
Listen, please listen, that's the way it should be
Peace in the valley, people got to be free.

I've been asked a few times over the last few weeks what I think of the situation in Egypt. Of course, I hope that the people in Egypt, Tunisia, the US, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and others will be better off in a year than they are now, but I don't think they will be. While the sentiments expressed by the Young Rascals in 1968 sound as wonderful now as they did when I was in junior high school, they just don't match reality.

What do people in the US mean when they say they want freedom?

Come on, you say, they mean that they want to be able to do what they want to do. You know: get a job, go to school, watch TV, go on vacation, say what they want, etc.

But, I reply, they also want to educate their children, go to the doctor, be provided for when they're unemployed, and retire at other people's expense. So they want to be free themselves, but they want others to be less free.

Ah, yes, you say, but we accept our responsibility to pay into the system even when we're not benefiting.

Fair enough, but is that really freedom? You are participating willingly, but what about those who would like the freedom to opt out of the system? Suddenly freedom isn't such a good thing, and indeed, those of us who would like to opt out of the system are few, far between, and either ignored or outright disparaged.

So what kind of freedom are the demonstrators in the Middle East calling for? They say they hate the dictators who restrict their rights, torture innocent people, and grow rich on the system of cronyism paid for by US taxpayers, and who can blame them? But what would they replace it with?

Conservative pundits decry the rise of "Islamofascism," and most of these demonstrators are indeed Muslims. Are they also fascists? Before I hazard a guess, I'd like to ask if the pot is calling the kettle black.

Textbook fascism is a social structure in which "private" businesses are an arm of the state. As Mussolini put it, "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." (Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, as it were.)

We're told that World War II was a war against fascism, yet if Rosie the Riveter worked for Boeing or Douglass, she was part of a system every bit as fascist as Hitler's Volkswagen, and so today are those who work for war materiel contractors like Boeing and Raytheon, the mercenary "contractors" of Xe (née Blackwater), and employees of government-run businesses like General Motors; so are those who work for KFC and Cinnabon at military bases overseas, and so are those who run "private-sector" prisons and charter schools. Even "private" colleges that accept students who receive loans and grants from the government can do so only as long as they accept federal restrictions on their policies; that is, they are "private" entities executing the will of the government, the embodiment of the textbook definition of fascism.

Yet most people consider it bad manners for me to talk this way. Fascism is nasty—unless it's our fascism. Then it's "freedom."

So my guess is that the demonstrators in the Middle East, like people in the US and most people in most times and most places, do not want to be free; they want a fascist state. What they want is much like what they have, but they want to join the net winners of the zero-sum game. They want to be free themselves, but they want restrictions on their neighbors.

This seems to be the natural human condition. You can probably scratch any libertarian, me included, hard enough and find a fascist.

And, as the saying goes, the leash has a slave at each end, so no, I don't think today's tyrannies will be replaced by free societies.

True freedom is Jesus, and he tells us that our worst enemies are ourselves: our hearts are so incurably deceitful that we cannot know our own evil (Je 17:9). Governments are vicious, and he tells us to avoid being like them (Lk 22:25-26), but only we can ruin our lives (Pr 19:3). He came to set us free (Jn 8:36), but that freedom is based on and can only follow repentance and a right relationship with God (Mt 4:17).

But back to the original question, if even the Black Regiment, the Protestant clergymen who played such an influential role in the American revolution, brought forth a polity in which not only were there slaves, but those in the "free" states were legally bound to return fugitive slaves to their masters, what can we expect of adherents to a religion as inherently political as Islam? Not much, I'd say: unless the person of Jesus, the Prince of Peace and true "author of liberty" is welcome in the new Middle East, the new boss will be the same as the old boss.

Though I'm open to being pleasantly surprised.

No comments:

Post a Comment