Or take the right to vote. In principle, it is a great privilege. In practice, as recent history has repeatedly shown, the right to vote, by itself, is no guarantee of liberty. Therefore, if you wish to avoid dictatorship by referendum, break up modern society’s merely functional collectives into self-governing, voluntarily co-operating groups, capable of functioning outside the bureaucratic systems of Big Business and Big Government.
-Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World Revisited (1958)
The single event that changed my life more than any other was TARP, aka the banker bailout. The unfairness, extreme greed and selfishness with which the status quo bailed out financial criminals while leaving the public high and dry changed me forever. When it comes to shaping American history, it is equal in importance to the attacks of 9/11.
As someone who grew up privileged, I never really questioned the criminality of the status quo system. Like so many others who are beneficiaries of the way things are, there’s not much incentive to look behind the curtain. Nevertheless, the banker bailouts shook me to my core and opened my mind in ways that no other event could. At the time, I was happily earning a very large income at a young age while doing absolutely nothing to benefit society. As such, I couldn’t contemplate why government officials were putting so much money and energy into bailing out people like me, while ignoring everyone else. It felt irrational, unethical and dirty. I wrote about all this for over a year while still working in the financial sector, before concluding that it was time to part ways in early 2010. Even back then, I was incessantly warning that tremendous anger from the banker bailouts would ultimately bubble to the surface and create the sort of backdrop in which authoritarians, demagogues and fascists thrive.
The following years have felt like a tremendous rollercoaster ride. My emotions have vacillated significantly from pessimism to optimism, and now reside in a bizarre state in which the two inhabit an uncomfortable coexistence. I’ve previously defined the monumental struggle of our time as: Liberty and Decentralization vs. Authoritarianism and Centralization. For example, I noted in the post, The Comcast/Time Warner Merger and the War Between Centralization and Decentralization:
Until recent years, the struggle between the forces of “centralization” and “decentralization” was more of a full on slaughter-fest than an actually battle or war. As Americans sat there blissfully asleep for decades, every facet of our lives has been carefully consolidated into the hands of a smaller and smaller group of corporations, and hence individual executives. This trend is undeniable in everything from food, banking, media and everything in between.
Myself and many others saw the financial crisis of 2008 as a gigantic wakeup call. The disasters caused by powerful financial institutions and the greedy people that ran them should have been used as a rallying cry to break these institutions up. To recognize the dangers of too much power in one particular place. This is especially important in something as crucial as banking. However, as we are all painfully aware, this is not what happened. Rather, the institutions were bailed out, the industry consolidated even more than it was before, and the perpetrators of the crisis emerged from it even more wealthy and powerful.
My personal focus on this website has been to expose the unique dangers presented by centralization in the financial industry and the monetary system. However, many others are dedicated to the equally important and disturbing trends in other industries.
In the years since the financial crisis, there have been many positive signs which have inspired in me a long-term optimistic view. One of the most encouraging events of this time period has been the creation and success of the crypto-currency network Bitcoin. Some of the smartest minds on the planet are now dedicated full time to pursuing Bitcoin-related projects, and its mere existence has inspired millions across the globe and opened minds to the unbridled explosion of human creativity that emerges from decentralized systems.
Unfortunately, the 2016 Presidential season and the related violence and divisiveness has made me considerably more pessimistic about the near-term. In that regard, this post was inspired by something I read earlier today from John Whitehead of the Rutherford institute. Here it is in full:
“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”—James Madison
America is a ticking time bomb.
All that remains to be seen is who—or what—will set fire to the fuse.
We are poised at what seems to be the pinnacle of a manufactured breakdown, with police shooting unarmed citizens, snipers shooting police, global and domestic violence rising, and a political showdown between two presidential candidates equally matched in unpopularity.
The preparations for the Republican and Democratic national conventions taking place in Cleveland and Philadelphia—augmented by a $50 million federal security grant for each city—provide a foretaste of how the government plans to deal with any individual or group that steps out of line: they will be censored, silenced, spied on, caged, intimidated, interrogated, investigated, recorded, tracked, labeled, held at gunpoint, detained, restrained, arrested, tried and found guilty.
For instance, anticipating civil unrest and mass demonstrations in connection with the Republican Party convention, Cleveland officials set up makeshift prisons, extra courtrooms to handle protesters, and shut down a local university in order to house 1,700 riot police and their weapons. The city’s courts are preparing to process up to 1,000 people a day. Additionally, the FBI has also been conducting “interviews” with activists in advance of the conventions to discourage them from engaging in protests.
Make no mistake, the government is ready for a civil uprising.
Indeed, the government has been preparing for this moment for years.
A 2008 Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report goes on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”
Subsequent reports by the Department of Homeland Security to identify, monitor and label right-wing and left-wing activists and military veterans as extremists (a.k.a. terrorists) have manifested into full-fledged pre-crime surveillance programs. Almost a decade later, after locking down the nation and spending billions to fight terrorism, the DHS has concluded that the greater threat is not ISIS but domestic right-wing extremism.
Meanwhile, the government has been amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. In fact, there are now at least 120,000 armed federal agents carrying such weapons who possess the power to arrest.
Rounding out this profit-driven campaign to turn American citizens into enemy combatants (and America into a battlefield) is a technology sector that is colluding with the government to create a Big Brother that is all-knowing, all-seeing and inescapable. It’s not just the drones, fusion centers, license plate readers, stingray devices and the NSA that you have to worry about. You’re also being tracked by the black boxes in your cars, your cell phone, smart devices in your home, grocery loyalty cards, social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and e-book reader accounts.
All of this has taken place right under our noses, funded with our taxpayer dollars and carried out in broad daylight without so much as a general outcry from the citizenry.
It’s astounding how convenient we’ve made it for the government to lock down the nation.
We’ve even allowed ourselves to be acclimated to the occasional lockdown of government buildings, Jade Helm military drills in small towns so that special operations forces can get “realistic military training” in “hostile” territory, and Live Active Shooter Drill training exercises, carried out at schools, in shopping malls, and on public transit, which can and do fool law enforcement officials, students, teachers and bystanders into thinking it’s a real crisis.
The events of recent years—the invasive surveillance, the extremism reports, the civil unrest, the protests, the shootings, the bombings, the military exercises and active shooter drills, the color-coded alerts and threat assessments, the fusion centers, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, the distribution of military equipment and weapons to local police forces, the government databases containing the names of dissidents and potential troublemakers—have all conjoined to create an environment in which “we the people” are more distrustful and fearful of each other and more reliant on the government to keep us safe.
Of course, that’s the point.
The powers-that-be want us to feel vulnerable.
They want us to fear each other and trust the government’s hired gunmen to keep us safe from terrorists, extremists, jihadists, psychopaths, etc.
Most of all, the powers-that-be want us to feel powerless to protect ourselves and reliant on and grateful for the dubious protection provided by the American police state.
Their strategy is working.
The tree of liberty is dying.
There will be no second American Revolution.
There is no place in our nation for the kind of armed revolution our forefathers mounted against a tyrannical Great Britain. Such an act would be futile and tragic. We are no longer dealing with a distant, imperial king but with a tyrant of our own making: a militarized, technologized, heavily-financed bureaucratic machine that operates beyond the reach of the law.
The message being sent to the citizenry is clear: there will be no revolution, armed or otherwise.
Anyone who believes that they can wage—and win—an armed revolt against the American police state has not been paying attention. Those who wage violence against the government and their fellow citizens are playing right into the government’s hands. Violence cannot and will not be the answer to what ails America.
Whether instigated by the government or the citizenry, violence will only lead to more violence. It does not matter how much firepower you have. The government has more firepower.
It does not matter how long you think you can hold out by relying on survivalist skills, guerilla tactics and sheer grit. The government has the resources to outwait, out-starve, outman, outgun and generally overpower you.
This government of wolves will not be overtaken by force.
Unfortunately, we waited too long to wake up to the government’s schemes.
We did not anticipate that “we the people” would become the enemy. For years, the government has been warning against the dangers of domestic terrorism, erecting surveillance systems to monitor its own citizens, creating classification systems to label any viewpoints that challenge the status quo as extremist, and training law enforcement agencies to equate anyone possessing anti-government views as a domestic terrorist.
What the government failed to explain was that the domestic terrorists would be of the government’s own making, whether intentional or not.
By waging endless wars abroad, by bringing the instruments of war home, by transforming police into extensions of the military, by turning a free society into a suspect society, by treating American citizens like enemy combatants, by discouraging and criminalizing a free exchange of ideas, by making violence its calling card through SWAT team raids and militarized police, by fomenting division and strife among the citizenry, by acclimating the citizenry to the sights and sounds of war, and by generally making peaceful revolution all but impossible, the government has engineered an environment in which domestic violence has become inevitable.
What we are now experiencing is a civil war, devised and instigated in part by the U.S. government.
The outcome for this particular conflict is already foregone: the police state wins.
The objective: compliance and control.
The strategy: destabilize the economy through endless wars, escalate racial tensions, polarize the populace, heighten tensions through a show of force, intensify the use of violence, and then, when all hell breaks loose, clamp down on the nation for the good of the people and the security of the nation.
So where does that leave us?
Despite the fact that communities across the country are, for all intents and purposes, being held hostage by a government that is armed to the teeth and more than willing to use force in order to “maintain order,” most Americans seem relatively unconcerned. Worse, we have become so fragmented as a nation, so hostile to those with whom we might disagree, so distrustful of those who are different from us, that we are easily divided and conquered.
We have been desensitized to violence, acclimated to a military presence in our communities and persuaded that there is nothing we can do to alter the seemingly hopeless trajectory of the nation. In this way, the floundering economy, the blowback arising from military occupations abroad, police shootings, the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure and all of the other mounting concerns have become non-issues to a populace that is easily entertained, distracted, manipulated and controlled.
The sight of police clad in body armor and gas masks, wielding semiautomatic rifles and escorting an armored vehicle through a crowded street, a scene likened to “a military patrol through a hostile city,” no longer causes alarm among the general populace.
We are fast becoming an anemic, weak, pathetically diluted offspring of our revolutionary forebears incapable of mounting a national uprising against a tyrannical regime.
If there is to be any hope of reclaiming our government and restoring our freedoms, it will require a different kind of coup: nonviolent, strategic and grassroots, starting locally and trickling upwards. Such revolutions are slow and painstaking. They are political, in part, but not through any established parties or politicians.
Most of all, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, for any chance of success, such a revolution will require more than a change of politics: it will require a change of heart among the American people, a reawakening of the American spirit, and a citizenry that cares more about their freedoms than their fantasy games.
You may read the above and think he’s being overly negative, but as someone who spends all his time analyzing what’s happening, I think his assessment of the situation is 100% accurate. The American public is by and large being successfully manipulated into cheering on its own slavery, as it remains focused on why other Americans are the enemy instead of seeing the status quo system as the rightful problem.
To hammer the point home, let’s revisit a passage from my recent post, If Senseless Violence Continues, America Will Be a Total Police State in No Time:
While we don’t know who the police murderers in Dallas were, or their motivations, we do know one thing. Their actions will unquestionably have several very counterproductive and dangerous outcomes.
1. Further divide the country in general.
2. Further the already wide distrust between the police and the general public.
3. Increase the likelihood of more violence, and the eventual imposition of a total police state in America.
Either the people who committed the murders had the above goals in mind, or they were just stupid, violent criminals who didn’t have the meager sophistication necessary to understand the extremely negative implications of their actions.
Unfortunately for us, the horrible massacres that occurred in Dallas are exactly the sort of thing that the status quo wants to see. It further divides the public and it creates a justification for more militarization of the police, more surveillance and less civil liberties. Guess who’s going to be most negatively impacted by all of that? Black people, poor people, and the disenfranchised generally.
Anyone who thinks senseless violence will solve the issues of oppression in America doesn’t understand America or the status quo. Executing police in a premeditated manner gives the establishment credibility, and solidifies its support amongst the silent majority as well as the upper classes. The marginalized cannot win a battle if that’s the case. Period, end of story. If you think otherwise, you’re in for a rude awakening.
It’s been eight years since the financial crisis and look at our choices for President. An ego-maniac with authoritarian tendencies and zero respect for civil liberties/the Constitution and a neocon, war criminal, Wall Street-owned corporatist in liberal sheep’s clothing. Unfortunately, this is how far we’ve progressed politically in the near decade since the status quo bailed out the privileged and crushed everyone else.
So what does this mean? It means we are in for a very real struggle in the near-term. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are unabashed authoritarians who worship at the altar of state power and centralization. If I’m right and the real battle of our time is between decentralization/liberty and centralization/authoritarianism, neither one of these candidates offer anything for us in the freedom camp. Unless some sort of miracle occurs, the next President will be someone who strongly believes in the centralization of power and will push with all of his or her might to further aggregate power in the office of the executive and in themselves. The negative macro trends will continue.
All that said, I don’t want to end this post on a negative note. I think the real thing that’s missing from the equation is too many good, talented people are doing nothing. I’m not trying to be judgmental here. I personally had the ability and resources to quit my job and do what I do. I didn’t have a family at the time and didn’t have to provide for anyone else. That’s not the point. You don’t have to do what I did to make a difference and influence people. You don’t have to quit your job and fight the status quo with every breath you take. Life doesn’t need to be seen as an all or nothing endeavor in everything you do. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to consider the following (as an aside, I try to ask myself these questions all the time).
Think about your everyday life. What are you doing to push forward the decentralization of power and unite people? How are you being potentially divisive in life, and how can you bring people together as opposed to tearing others down? If you were brought up privileged and financially well off, you arguably have a greater responsibility to society. What are you doing to give back? Is it sufficient? Is what you do for a living accretive or extractive to society? What are you doing to make the world a better place than you found it? If nothing, why not?
While there are plenty of fortunate people out there doing jobs merely to chase cash and stroke their ego, the vast majority of people genuinely have major financial commitments and therefore have no choice but to stay in spiritless, soul-sucking jobs. I get that. For people in the former group, I ask you to consider the fact that you have one life to live and this battle is an existential one. If you can dedicate your talents and creativity to something positive, consider doing so. If you are in the latter group, I understand that providing for your family is of the utmost importance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make meaningful contributions in smaller ways, even if it’s as simple as trying to be less divisive and more self-reflective. As Gandhi noted:
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
But even this is not enough. We need to heed the words of Huxley in 1958:
“If you wish to avoid dictatorship by referendum, break up modern society’s merely functional collectives into self-governing, voluntarily co-operating groups, capable of functioning outside the bureaucratic systems of Big Business and Big Government.”
We can’t rely on politicians and we can’t rely on hope. We need to rely on the power of our own actions coming together to ultimately make the world a better place. The window of opportunity is now and the world needs you. All of you.
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Contributed by Michael Krieger of A Lightning War for Liberty.