Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Fourth of July and the Worship of Violence

Why -- when people almost universally say that they think aggressive violence is wrong -- and people almost universally say that they believe it's better to believe truth rather than falsity -- why, when you suggest that human beings could have a society that is not based on violence (via "government" coercion), why do the ones who like you run away with their ears covered, and the ones who don't like you revile you and call you a terrorist?

This year, contrary to my usual habit, I actually went to my hometown flagpole ceremony on the 4th of July. Some local person always gives a little speech, and I really haven't wanted to go since the year the speaker implied that people who disagree with the government about taxes are probably going to hell. As expected, I found the whole aura of the celebration revolting and disturbing. Revolting because all those people were openly worshiping violence -- and disturbing because many of these people I grew up with and loved, and still love.

People reserve their highest praise for trained killers who obey the orders of politicians. All euphemisms and rhetoric aside, that is what soldiers are. There are other ways to "serve one's country," of course, but the very best, and bravest, and most honorable way is to kill people that politicians order you to kill. These people are "fighting for our freedom" as they empower the greedy, bloodthirsty gang that enslaves us all.

If you dare to suggest that our freedom would be better served by getting rid of the greedy, bloodthirsty gang that sends our brave young sons to their deaths to increase its own power and wealth, they look at you as though you just shot Jesus in the head. Which I guess, in a way, you did.

The people of my hometown generally claim to be Christian; but I believe that the true religion of most of them is state-worship with some Christian decoration on top. I believe their Christian god is subservient to their government god. Let's assume for just a moment that religion really is about love, compassion, and people living together in peace and harmony. Why then -- when you suggest that consistent condemnation of physical aggression would serve those ends better than glorification of it -- why are people so determined to avoid hearing you?

People seem absolutely desperate to identify themselves with what they perceive to be the greatest power. For those who believe in him, God is the greatest power in the universe. But the government is the greatest power here on earth. People don't want to admit that they're siding with the strongest gang because it's a lot safer to be part of it than to pit yourself against it. I suppose it's hard to admire and respect yourself if you see it that way. But if you can convince yourself that the gang is good and that you really believe in what it's doing, then your loyalty to it is righteous and honorable, rather than cowardly and self-serving.

Larken and I have received a lot of disapproval for taking a stand against a very powerful gang called the U.S. government. In this disapproval, there is a strong current of "you got hurt, therefore you were wrong." It would seem that in this moral system, financial self-interest and personal comfort are the ideals to strive for, and any goals that threaten these ideals are bad and wrong. Never mind that two million people are in prison while we picnic happily with our families and friends in our beautiful little community. Never mind that people are suffering and dying and living in desperate poverty all over the world due to war and other coercive government "solutions."

People live their lives as if "might makes right." But don't they really know, deep down, that truth is independent of power, and that aggression is evil? Why do they refuse to give up this addiction to power?

Perhaps the answer is in our biology. We all come into the world tiny and helpless. The first being to impinge on our emerging consciousness is a seemingly omnipotent, omnibenevolent mother. Perhaps it is imprinted on us so early in our lives that power and goodness are one, that most of us will never be able to reason our way out of this emotional box. Perhaps it was imprinted in our genes before we were even born, and it's part of our animal nature to bond with the strongest leader we can find.

But it's clear that some part of the human psyche is not satisfied with this. For hundreds of years, people have schizophrenically wrung their hands over the atrocities of war while glorifying the governments that make them happen. Maybe a better kind of society is struggling to come into being.


  1. If I do have a basic human need to "identify with power" I'd rather worship gravity (a powerful force on this planet). It is a power that I don't always appreciate, but I don't find it capricious or evil.

  2. Or perhaps the sun. People have been worshiping that for thousands of years. It doesn't tend to come to your defense against competing powers - unless you're up against trolls or vampires.

  3. Hey Kent...ya gravity sucks, I'd much rather worship a force - electromagnetism, which is approximately 10^42 times more powerful than gravity.

    You may enjoy a video based on this truth called "Thunderbolts of the Gods"

    Tessa we are up against vampires!
    Unfortunately for us they are savvy to staying in the shadows.

  4. Laurance Vance just posted a column on this very kind of topic. I myself, a former vet and son of a vet, have decided that in a nutshell the military is staffed by nothing more than mercenaries. Plain and simple thats what they are. They get a check to kill or get ready to kill when called upon. Doesn't get and simpler than that. Mercenaries outside of the faux chest beating and songs of glory as displayed by their nationalistic costumed brethren are far more honest about what they are.