Thursday, November 20, 2014
Orwell’s Pigs Come to the Homeland
[King Saul of Israel] took two oxen and cut them into pieces and sent the messengers to carry them throughout Israel with this message: “This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” And the LORD made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one. (1 Sam 11:7)
King Saul was the answer to apostate Israel’s prayers for a king who “will govern us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam 8:20). Whatever his faults later in life, and they were legion, here he starts out well. He sacrifices (in the secular sense) his own oxen to symbolize his own dedication to the cause and announces that he will lead—not follow, not send, but lead—his people into battle. He demonstrates true leadership. In fact, he was in this sense a leader all his life. He led his men in pursuit of David, and he was still, at the age of seventy, leading his men in battle on Mount Gilboa when he was killed.
Subsequent kings both good and bad followed Saul’s example of leadership: Evil King Ahab and not-so-evil King Jehoshaphat led their men on a fool’s errand to Ramoth, for which Ahab paid with his life (1 Kg 22). Righteous King Josiah also led his men on a fool’s errand, this one against Pharaoh Neco and paid with his life (1 Chr 35:20-24). Fool’s errands though those were, the kings who led their men led their men.
We last saw the same leadership in this country when President GeorgeWashington led an army—not against foreign invaders, but against his own subjects—to end the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Since then, American presidents have followed the example of Saul’s successor, a man after God’s own heart, who after becoming king preferred at least once to take his ease at home while his underlings fought and died (1 Sam 11).
The transition of government from servant to master seems to be inevitable. In 1776 people formed a government supposedly based on the notion that “all men are created equal … endowed by their creator with … unalienable rights” and that people had the right to alter or abolish governments that trampled on those rights. By 1794 the same man who had famously signed the Declaration led a detachment to prevent people from altering a government they felt violated their rights.
So is government servant or master? Specifically, what about the people we today call “public servants”?
In the aftermath of the shooting of a state trooper and the subsequent manhunt, which was orders of magnitude greater than what would have followed the murder of a mundane, I read the following, written by a patriotic conservative:
Let’s face it—if one of us “ordinary” citizens gets murdered, it’s not as significant to society as a whole, as the murder of an authority figure like a policeman or a politician.
Who is the master and who is the servant here? Would the parallel on the plantation be “if the master gets murdered, it’s not as significant for the plantation as the murder of a slave,” or would it be “if a slave gets murdered, it’s not as significant for the plantation as the murder of the master”?
You can’t have it both ways, folks. Either politicians and policemen are servants, in which case their demise is comparable to that of the slave, or they are masters, and to call them servants is dishonest at best.
If you’re still not convinced that those who “protect and serve” consider themselves our masters, consider this tidbit from an article about how our “servants” are being trained these days. I think the mundanes described here can be forgiven for thinking that they were being “served” by Snowball and Napoleon, the pigs from Orwell’s Animal Farm:
A 2007 study found that 49 percent of police departments surveyed used active-duty military personnel, including special-forces troops, to train their SWAT teams. One of the teams competing in Urban Shield was from the US Marine Corps. When the training event kicked off Saturday morning, I sat in an Amtrak train in Oakland as they came through in combat gear shouting at the pretend civilians to “put your fucking hands up! Anyone who puts their hands down will get fucking shot! Don’t fucking move!” Even though they were just shooting little plastic bullets, my heart was pounding. Afterward, I asked a Marine why they trained in exercises designed for police. “To learn different tactics,” he said. “You have some of the best guys out there, and they give their input and we take that back with us and teach our Marines.”
So the most powerful military in the world is taking cues from cops? “It’s interesting that we’ve had a lot of conversations on the militarization of the police, but you could make the same argument for the police-ization of the military,” said Nelson, the Urban Shield spokesman. The modern military is in the business of occupation, he said, of getting governments up and running. When the military fights insurgents, it is “almost acting like a police force.”
If, dear reader, the words spoken on the train were those of someone serving God by serving “society as a whole,” I’m not interested in knowing, let alone serving, that god. And if that’s the only god there is, there’s no good god, and anything we do to keep from getting on the bad side of whatever god is there, far from being virtue, is a survival tactic comparable to a skunk’s scent. Notice that these are not “a few bad apples at the bottom.” This is how our “servants” are being trained to treat us. They are agents of occupation who (rightly) regard us as potential rebels. They are in fact, self-conscious “authority figures,” not servants.
I’d also like to pick up on the idea that it is “society as a whole” that is “served” by our increasingly unified police-and-military armada. This is akin to the idea that “a state has the right to protect itself.” Here we have the collectivist idea that “society” has rights that transcend individual rights. That is, an abstraction—something that lacks mass, volume, and texture—has rights that tangible, sentient beings made in the image of God do not have. This was the idea that Orwell was parodying, guided as he was by common grace to see that evil people hide their true motives behind warm and fuzzy abstractions.
The state is the deadliest warm and fuzzy abstraction known to man. In the name of making a better life for “society as a whole,” it has made life miserable for billions of flesh-and-blood people. Meanwhile, politicians are immune from prosecution for the harm caused by their policies, and police are immune from prosecution when they fail to protect. Both groups are certainly immune from prosecution for acting like masters and treating us as slaves.
As a thumbnail view of politics, I’ll take 1 Samuel 8 over Romans 13 any day.
If indeed the life of a politician or policeman is more precious than that of a mundane, then Snowball and Napoleon were right and Jefferson was wrong: “All men are created equal,” but some people are more equal than others. On the other hand, if all men are created in the image of God, all murders are equally evil.