Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Game of Freedom

Two teams face off on both sides of the field. The signal is given. The ball is in play. But in this game what's the ball? The ball is your freedom. It's your freedom that's in play here.

This same game is played in various forms throughout the world. It isn't limited to a stadium or a particular season. The game is about power. Different factions contend for it. Eventually one faction gets it and then the game is over for a while, until there's a revolution or a coup. The difference in our version of the game is that none of the teams is actually supposed to win the game. That's why we have the rules that we do.

The game of power has been played throughout history. Kings and Prime Ministers. Queens and Viziers. It's an old timeless game that goes back into the darkest past. But our version of the game is different for two reasons. First the spectators get to help decide who plays and who wins. And Second, we make sure the game is replayed over and over again, so no team ever wins in a final way. Our system of representative government, the Bill of Rights and checks and balances, are not there to help the players for power, but to handicap them. Where many systems of government and their games of power were built on faith in governments-- ours was built on a great deal of suspicion about government power.

And the ball tossed between the teams. That's our freedom. Our freedom exists only so long as the ball is in play. When the ball stops being contested, then our freedom is in danger. Because a victory by one side means that power is being concentrated. And when power is concentrated, freedom is diminished.

But our unique game depends on one fundamental thing. It depends on both sides agreeing that playing the game by the rules is more important than the outcome. It requires that players on both sides believe that losing by the rules, is better than winning against the rules. And the moment one side stops believing that, the nature of the game changes fundamentally. Because a game is defined by its rules. The games we play are based on the rules that we make for them. If one team in a game no longer abides by those rules, then it's no longer a game. It's a war.

The rules of a game define civilization. By playing civilized games, we agree that following the rules is more important than getting our way. That is what separates us from societies where a resort to violence is a solution to not getting your way. In politics, the rules of the game require that everyone believe that they matter more than winning. And the underlying moral logic for a politician to believe that is fallibility. A politician must believe that he is capable of being wrong, and his opponent right, in order for following the rules to be more moral, than winning by any means necessary. Without a sense of individual and ideological fallibility, the only moral logic that remains to a politician is victory at any cost.

This of course is the problem with our not so nice or neat little game. Our rules are a process. By trusting the rules, we keep the process going. And the process is what protects our freedoms, because no individual team gets to keep the ball, centralize its power and gain absolute control over all our lives. But what happens when one side believes that their goal is worth more than the process? War happens. And then tyranny.

Ideology and unlimited ambition form the toxic stew in the mix here. Because both immunize one against a sense of fallibility. The more a political movement becomes submersed in an ideology, the less its followers believe in any kind of objective reality or independent process of transferring power. Because ideology propounds a polar reality, in which there is a clear and absolute truth. And the natural corollary of this is that only those who know and believe in that absolute truth may be permitted to hold power.

Last week, Keith Olbermann delivered one of his patented rants against Campbell Brown on CNN, for giving some amount of equal time to views that he doesn't agree with. Airtime of course is one counter of power. And ideologues do not believe that anyone who isn't them, has any right to hold or have access to any power whatsoever. The idea of equal time or fair play makes no sense to them. They already know who's right and who's wrong. Why even bother giving the other side a chance to talk when it can only mislead the public?

The same thing of course holds true for elections. Many countries have elections, and they tend to have a standard for public office which requires participants to agree with their dominant ideology. You cannot be opposed to Communist rule in China or opposed to Islamic rule in Iran or opposed to national hegemony in Turkey. One of the reasons the left was so outraged and infuriated by Sarah Palin, is that with her unlike McCain, they had no points of agreement at all. And so they predictably reacted as the Mullahs would if some infidel woman were to walk in and propose to turn Iran into a free country. They went howling mad. And they still haven't recovered from it yet.

Ideologies do not play by the rules or trust objective processes. They control them instead. So the left politicizes everything it can get its hands on. Because the act of politicizing something gives them control over it, and in the process diminishes human freedom. For example the left has been politicizing culture for a long time now. Injecting political messages into culture, whether to promote right-thinking or filter out wrong-thinking (political correctness) inevitably leads to propaganda. The purpose of propaganda is to control attitudes and behavior by shaping minds. And the core principle of all propaganda is the reaffirmation of the ruling ideology that is manufacturing the propaganda. This may exist only as subtext, but it is always there. The politicization of culture thus leads to cultural tyranny. 

The game exists only so long as both sides agree that playing is more important than winning. Ideological fanaticism has no use for such thinking however. Its only goal is to win in order to implement the "Best Possible Way for Humans to Live" as soon as possible. Ideological purity is measured by ruthlessness. Any talk of playing fair is clear evidence of corruption and sympathies with the enemy that are to be rooted out. Such movements will exploit democracy, but have no use for it except as a tool to achieve victory. And once victory is achieved, democracy becomes redundant. The logic behind that is quite clear. It is the same logic used by those who torched the Library of Alexandria. "If what is in the books is in the Koran, they are redundant. And if it is not, they are heretical." Similarly democracy is useless. Since if the people support the ideology, then open voting is redundant. If they do not, then voting is counter-revolutionary.

This same logic applies to every aspect of life. Ideological rigidity fears even allowing the question to be asked, for fear that someone will hear the wrong answer. Questions are already redundant, since the answers are available. It is better than to repeat the answers over and over again in creative ways. And that is the wallpaper of propaganda. The recirculation of the same dumbed down ideas over and over again in new and interesting ways.

Freedom of course is the first casualty. Ideologies will elevate leaders who are expert at getting things done. Very soon ideological tyrannies become just plain tyrannies. The ideologues are purged. The dictator takes a firm grip on the reins. And the rest follows naturally. This is how both the USSR and Communist China devolved back into crony capitalism. But the left is ignorant of its own cycle of violence and corruption. Instead it is doomed to perpetuate it over and over again, because they are so certain of the answers, that they refuse to even ask the questions.

The game was designed to prevent this very state of affairs. To stop power from being invested in one faction and one ideology. Because the Framers understood that laws could easily be rewritten by a dominant faction or ideology. Only by keeping the ball in play, could that be prevented. But the left has no interest in abstract rules designed to prevent the monopolization of power, because their driving objective is to monopolize power in the name of the public good. It wants to get the ball and hold on to it. To end the game for good, so it can get down to building the perfect society, without any pesky rules to get in their way. And the spectators won't have any say in it. All they will be allowed to do is stand and cheer, when prompted by their betters.

Thus the radicalization of one faction dramatically changes the game, and endangers freedom. A radical faction will free to ignore the rules or make them up as it goes along. The game spins out of control. And the ball. The ball will end up in the radical faction's hands, unless perhaps one of the spectators catches it first.


Janice said...

Thanks for letting me use that piece Daniel. Like the new look blog.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

thank you janice

Lev said...

Daniel, also I am not always agree with you, I always enjoy your writing. And this time I agree with you 100%.
Sorry for outdated comment, it actually belongs to your previous article, which by the way is brilliant as well, but I would like to express my concern.
Obviously Obama is anti-Semite. Obviously the most liberals ( even Jews) are anti-Semites. There is good chance that they will be thrown out of powers in the next election. And this is good. But what about conservatives? They also prone to antisemitism. Pat Buchanan for example. And even if they are not anti-Semites them-selves they are tolerant to those who express anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli sentiments. S.Palin endorsement of Paul Ron is symptomatic. "He is anti-Semite, but other then that he is a right person and we can accept him". In difficult times antisemitism is usually flourishing as a popular sentiment and Tea Party is a popular movement. So could not it happen, that we will change antisemitic left to antisemitic right?

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Nothing is all good or bad. On the whole Republicans are better than Democrats. That doesn't mean that there still aren't serious problems.

But when Buchanan attacked Israel over the flotilla last week, most of the conservative bloggers I read condemned him for it.

Obviously we have to remain vigilant, because bad guys are always out there. And they can pop up anywhere. Today the radicalization of the Democratic party draws a lot of them in. As does the Paul movement. And then there are those haven't found a home in any party right now, e.g. Lyndon LaRouche etc.

But power attracts those who would use it for evil.

Will48 said...

paraphrasing, that gives us:

ideology and tyranny - pre-KNOWN absolute truth about the WORLD AS IT SHOULD BE;
passive citizenry, COERCION
rigid all-encompassing codes of behaviour,
of how one should think and feel about every little thing
(DENIAL of the elites - rigidity - centralization - unadjustability - societal destruction from without)

freedom and reason - thinking and reasoning ANEW to readjust to REALITY AS IT IS;
active citizenry, NO COERCION
FEW ethical axioms under which a person freely acts on his own volition
(decentralization - the system just "works" of itself;
w/out ethical axioms - societal disintegration from within
w/out common core of ethical axioms - societal split)

Greg RN said...

Refreshing to hear an accurate analysis,I often wonder what has blinded so many to truth, is it lust for power, or acceptance, low self esteem, inability to accept responsibility for one's actions, no moral compass, deception, base behavior,? Ultimately, I think we are seeing a vision of man without God and no understanding of his love for us. I especially like the verse that says "All of Creation Groans", there will be a day of reckoning, there will also be another civil war, the clouds are gathering, I fully expect some contrived ruse by the left to consolidate their power and end the game as you so aptly put it. But ther are real Americans out there who love thier freedom and will die for it. Not many of the vacillating left understand that and will hold up children as shields like the Godless terrorists in Israel. When it comes down to it, they are cowards. God is still looking for a few good men.

Greg RN

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Propaganda. Those who wield power are also invested in convincing the people they would control of the benefits of being controlled. This at its worst leads to magical thinking about the nature of government, which we can see in the supporters of the Obama Administration during the campaign

im2sloe4u said...

I am pretty sure that the 2 main political parties have
outlived their usefulness to America.
Both sides have steadily moved toward a One World government, only at different speeds & employing whichever campaign vernacular people will swallow.

Neither the US nor Israel can survive IN ESSENCE without remaining sovereign over our own affairs.

It is no longer good enough to just vote for something "better than" the lefties.
Look at the Bush Admins pressure for Israel to expel the residents of Gush Katif.
This is like the oxymoron of being killed by "friendly fire", except THAT happens UNintentionally,
whereas Gush Katif was deliberate.

So much for "the greater good", eh?

and that's only 1 example.

Let's face it, we vote along party lines, *mainly because we know that no candidate outside of those lines can be viable anymore.
Our conscience's erode a little more each election.

The parties have too much power. They are no longer our own tools or vehicles.
We are theirs.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

yes, when power is centralized, people become tools of those who wield it

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