Commenter “Mrs Whatsit” observes:
“In my lifetime I never thought I would see anything like this,” said [commenter] Mythx. Oh, me too. In the early 1980s one of my law professors (wish I could remember which one) cautioned us that all that kept the Constitution going was the choice of our lawmakers and citizens to continue to respect it and continue to observe it — that whenever that choice ceased, so would the Constitution cease, and so would cease our greatness as a country. At the time, I listened uneasily and told myself that of course that respect would continue, that Americans would never be dumb enough to toss aside what made us great. Of course not. Only I was wrong, we are that dumb –and here we are.
We are that dumb. We are that ignorant of the lessons of history.
And we are that human. There seems to be something in human nature that inclines societies in this direction. For every person who values liberty, how many are there who would prefer security (or at least what they perceive as security)? I don’t know the ratio and I think it varies over time and place, but right now the latter group appears to be markedly in the ascendance.
But the tendency is there in all times and places, and there are always those who would dearly love to exploit that tendency for the sake of power and control. Sometimes it’s done “for their own good,” and sometimes just for the sake of power and control itself and/or riches and/or glory, although they usually pretend to be more well-intended than that.
In this context, the classic passage from Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor keeps coming to mind. I’ve published it so many times on this blog I’ve lost count, but it never grows old and it never ceases to be relevant—unfortunately:
Oh, never, never can [people] feed themselves without us [the Inquisitors and controllers]! No science will give them bread so long as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, “Make us your slaves, but feed us.” They will understand themselves, at last, that freedom and bread enough for all are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share between them! They will be convinced, too, that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious. Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man?