The Great Inversion
Where does it come from, anyway, this pervasive, persistent thing we call government, this thing that seems to many as essential as air, the solution of every problem, the problem in every solution, that regulates, confabulates, supports, deports, redresses, oppresses, wheels, deals, and steals?
One may imagine that a very long time ago, a fellow named Oog probably told the people that he thought there were more berries in the next valley. They all went to see. Oog was right. After that, whatever Oog said, the people would follow. He was their leader. Some of his decisions, which the people took as orders, were good, some were bad, but as long as they just followed, they never found out, and letting somebody else do the thinking was easy.
Somewhat later, one of Oog’s grandsons said, “The people in the next valley have better berry-bushes than we do here, and lots of pretty women!” The war industry was born. Soon, Oog’s grandson had six wives and grew very fat. Those of his people who lived through the war, got a few extra berries, and preened themselves as being the followers of a Great Leader.
Some Great Leaders realize that it is much safer to accumulate wives and get fat by using their armies against their own people, to seize daughters and collect taxes, than to attack other tribes that have armies of their own.
You can look at history as the slow, hard evolution from brutish beginnings, or as little more than rubble from the Fall, shot with glimmers of Divine light. You can find many instances to fit each model.
In either view, we are taught to see the general conception of human government as organized leadership and the enforcement of laws based on accepted morality. But if we rely on observation, we see the historical fact as mostly a jolly predation and parasitism, brightly painted over with hypocritical slogans. War yields booty and land for the “leaders”, and bragging rights for the survivors on the conquering side. Use of force at home keeps the upper crust comfortably on top, and keeps petty crime from damaging the crop and interfering with the harvest for the tax-collecters.
Lone voice in a dark world, the Bible warned from of old about the dangers of a king or strong government, and affirmed the rights and value before God of every soul. The slow spread of Christianity seeded these principles across Europe as it rebuilt society after the collapse of Rome. The Reformation 500 years ago accelerated the process.
But not until a few centuries ago, did that wisdom become the foundation of a new society, and eventually the centerpiece of a Declaration that shook the world: “[Men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,…”
The fond hope of all civilized people, that government should be the temporal guarantor of justice and morality, suddenly became the Law of the Land.
As it was a tool made of weak human flesh, guided by weak human minds, it worked poorly enough at its sole, lofty purpose. But even its shaky working by the light of that purpose, was enough to allow the growth of our country to a level of general prosperity and a degree of common justice and security, that was unexampled in prior history.
That process suffered a serious interruption in the form of Lincoln’s War, also called the War Between the States. Half the country was hornswoggled then, with the aid of our own uncritical compassion, into fostering our first home-grown terrorist, which subjugated and then colonized the other half: the monster that we call today our federal government
We were encouraged to see this prodigious changeling appear to right the bitter wrong of slavery, so we forgave its lawless, violent means, and wrote the history to make fratricide, pillage, fraud, oathbreaking, and terrorism seem to be simply a sweatier chapter in the march of truth and justice.
Many of the wounds healed, and the rest were papered over by dishonest historians. Our still-strong if easily-confused faith in the Law of God brought us fairly back into the road of peace and justice, at least at home, at least near enough to continue our march to prosperity.
And that prosperity has done its historically predictable work. It has separated us from Necessity, and thus from our neighbors and from God. It has made us decadent, cowardly, and flabby
Cowardice runs from the Truth, and where the Truth is not, here comes the Devil. A few dark seeds have germinated luxuriantly. Our flight from Truth has taken us far from our hard-won culture of honesty, thrift, justice, and realism, and with surprising swiftness, back to the oppressions and perversions of old Europe.
Laziness and cowardice, with a heaping admixture of historical ignorance, led many of us to look to our favorite ancient bugaboo, that is government, as the universal substitute for our own so-terribly-arduous-and-scary thrift, strength, courage, and judgement.
Most of us do not even notice. Having rejected virtue in every form, how would we? Evil sprouts have covered the landscape like kudzu. Once wishfully looked to as guarantor of morality, government has become teacher, nurturer, promoter, and guarantor, of immorality.
Since we have been mistaught to conflate government with law, and both have now been corrupted to actually oppose their legitimate purposes, some among us who are strong enough to reject indoctrination and are trying to feel in the dark toward virtue, sincerely if ignorantly adopt the traditional symbols and rhetoric of death, lawlessness, and violence as badges of their struggle to revolt against evil. But evil knows its name, and responds even to an unintentional summons.
“Woe unto them that speak good of evil, and evil of good, which put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for sour. “, wrote Isaiah.