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In a recent article The Economist wrote about Obama’s town hall on guns in America, the author (Lexington, an anonymous author whom this blog has criticized in the past, on this very same topic) was dismayed by what he (she?) saw.
“What came across, with dismaying clarity, was that this president’s critics listen to what he says about guns, and do not believe a word of it.”
Why should we? Why should we believe or listen to anything Mr. Obama says about guns? He says “I respect the 2nd Amendment” and yet he clearly doesn’t. Anyone who actually respects the 2nd Amendment never follows that statement with a “but”–the same way anyone who actually believes in free speech never says “I believe in free speech…but…”
That would be like saying “I respect women, but….”–whatever follows, it is just going to undermine your assertion. Someone who actually respects something usually does not feel the need to qualify it or put conditions on it. Of course, nobody is a mind reader. It is impossible to know Mr. Obama’s true sentiments on the 2nd Amendment, but to those of us who do respect the 2nd Amendment, Mr. Obama’s assertion comes across as pandering at best, disingenuous more commonly, and an outright lie occasionally. Put simply, to many–including this author–it is impossible to have “respect” for the 2nd Amendment and yet still believe in gun control beyond the most basic limitations, and anyone who is in favor of more control–by the government, just to be clear–is given a very healthy dose of skepticism.
However, one doesn’t need to be a mind reader–nor a pro-gun fanatic–to disbelieve any and everything Mr. Obama says about guns.
We the people who actually respect the 2nd Amendment don’t believe anything Mr. Obama says because his words do not match his actions.
Mr. Obama lives in a world where good intentions>results; we, by contrast, live in a world where results are what counts. Mr. Obama predicates his actions on words about mass shootings and yet among rational minds it is widely agreed his proposals would have done nothing to prevent any of the mass shootings he referenced.
We do not listen to Mr. Obama because there is a gap between his stated intent and his proposed action–that gap is what causes among us a lack of belief and a lack of trust. We do not trust Obama; we do not take him at his word, because his word, when compared to his action, makes no sense. The only logical conclusions therefore are either that Mr. Obama is incompetent on the matter–in which case discussion with him is going to be fruitless–or he has an ulterior motive he is not sharing with us. Is it any surprise that we believe a man who is otherwise brilliant in many respects could not be incompetent on this issue?
Equality must by necessity yield to liberty. Though by right liberty applies universally and equally, it yields unequal results. Equality—true, absolute equality—is only possible in a world without liberty, for in a world where every citizen is at liberty to make decisions, that leaves every citizen free to make bad decisions, decisions that will leave them worse off than their fellows.
This is a result of human nature. People are different, and while we may be born a ‘tabula rasa’, as we mature we develop different values which subsequently affect our decisions. People make decisions based on their values, and while some decisions are objectively bad no matter what values belie the decision being made, other decisions are good or bad depending on one’s values. A new father may, for example, turn down a promotion at work to spend time with his new born child and to help his wife; while this is a bad decision if one values money over one’s family, it is a good decision if one values family over material wealth.
Thus, if one defines equality as ‘equality of outcome’, then the goal of equality is little more than a chimera. To enforce equality of outcome is to enforce uniformity. Only by forcing upon everyone a uniformity of values, desires, and a uniform definition of what it means to be ‘equal’ and simultaneously denying everyone the liberty to make their own choices, choices which may leave them better or worse off than their peers…only then will there be equality.
Even in such a world, a world without liberty, however, there is no equality. While perhaps there may be some degree of social equality among the majority of the people, a land without liberty is a land governed by a totalitarian state, and as such there cannot be political equality because by definition in such a system some people will wield greater political power than others. Those in the Government Class will hold tremendous power and will be above the law, in effect certainly, if it isn’t encased in law, while those without the Government Class will be politically powerless and easily crushed by the weight of the state, should it be arrayed against them, obscurity being their only protection.
True political equality is only possible in a state of anarchy. In a land without government, all people are politically equal—equally powerless that is, as there is no political power to be held or distributed unequally. On the sliding scale of government then, with ‘anarchy’ on the liberal side and ‘totalitarianism’ on the authoritarian side, there exists more equality the further a society progresses towards anarchy and less equality as it nears the authoritarian end of the scale. It is then a supreme irony (and non-sequitur) that ‘liberals’ (in the American sense, which is distinctly ill-liberal) seek to increase political equality by growing the power of the state, which will only lead to ever greater political inequality as the disparity of political power grows ever wider.
Achieving equality then in any meaningful way is impossible. To achieve social equality would require a system predicated on structural political inequality. To achieve political equality would require the abolition of the state—anathema to most people who rank ‘equality’ as their top political value. The only equality which might feasibly be achieved is equality before the law, but unfortunately if this is possible it is exceptionally difficult.
The United States—the great experiment—has achieved many great things in its 239 years of being, but equality before the law is not one of them. Although we may have gotten close at several points in our history, until there was universal suffrage—1919—and full civil rights for all races (possible only after the abolition of slavery in 1865 and really only put into practice following the Civil Rights Acts a century later), equality before the law was not possible. Indeed, true equality before the law may not have even been possible until this year when the Supreme Court made gay marriage legal across the land.
However, despite our significant advances towards legal equality, equality remains a goal only, not a reality. Our misleadingly named ‘Justice’ System still perpetrates many injustices based on race, gender, and class and wealth. Specifically, men are far more likely to end up in prison than women, African-Americans are disproportionately likely to end up in prison compared to the numbers of crimes perpetrated by African-Americans vs. other races, as well as being victims of overly harsh sentencing laws, drug laws, and bad lawyers. More than anything else, the color of justice is not black or white, it’s green. Having more money means better lawyers, more lawyers, and a better ability to resist the power of the state—for better and for ill. And that’s without even touching on the inequality of our tax ‘system’.
So is achieving equality before the law possible? Possibly, but it speaks volumes that in more than 200 years, the only country on earth explicitly founded on the principle has yet to achieve it completely.
Ultimately the only equality that matters is that we are all equally free, hence why equality must yield to liberty. If we are all equally free, then while our outcomes will all differ and some will end up better off than others, the injustices which derive from state imposed inequality—the very reason why humans began striving for equality in The Enlightenment—will not exist. And if we are not forced by the State into a state of inequality, where some men are superior to others simply because the State decrees it to be so, is it really so bad if we are not ‘equal’ in all other ways?
Liberals—so called—strive for equality more than anything else (well, the honest ones at least), but the equality they strive for is an equality of misery. They seek to make us all equally enslaved to the power of the state. True liberals—which I consider myself to be—should strive for freedom, not merely to preserve what freedom we do have but to make us more free. In this quest for greater individual autonomy, there is one duty every individual owes to the collective. We all have a duty to ensure that it is not just ourselves who gain the blessings of freedom but all individuals; no one deserves to be left behind in slavery. Indeed, if anyone remains a slave to the state, is any one of us truly free?
 Pardon the apparent oxymoron of ‘state of anarchy’, as state here is used to mean ‘condition of being’ not a synonym for ‘government’
 That is a debatable point, because while the government has long been involved in granting marriage licenses, the number and variety of government granted privileges associated with a marriage license has proliferated greatly since the practice began and our modern definition of state sanctioned ‘marriage’ is arguably completely different from normal ‘marriage’ even 50 years ago. So while equality before the law may have been possible in a time before gays were allowed marriage licenses, equality before the law was only possible when marriage licenses were largely meaningless.
The victims of Wednesday’s attack are casualties of two wars, both undeclared. They are yet more innocent victims of Jihad, of the war being waged by Radical Muslims against civilization around the world, be it in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, or even in such domesticated and familiar places as Fort Hood, Texas or Ottawa, Canada. Civilization takes different forms; there is European civilization, there is Russian civilization, there is Chinese and Japanese and Korean civilization, Brazilian, Chilean, Indian, American, and yes even Islamic civilization. We all have different cultures, different customs, and different ways of living, but what unites us all under the banner of “the civilized peoples” is a belief in the supremacy of words and ideas over violence. We are civilized (among other reasons) because we sort out our differences peacefully, through debate, through satire, yes, even through distasteful mockery, and we do this without resorting to violence.
So when I heard the news that a satirical French magazine was attacked in Paris and a number of its writers were killed as a response to their “defamation” of the Prophet Mohammad, I was of course saddened by the loss of life. But I was also angered. I was angered because this was an attack against the very concept of free speech. It was in a way, an attack at the very heart of our civilization, an assault on our values, the value that words and ideas are superior to violence. It was one, (hopefully) small group of people using violence to enforce their values on the rest of us. They are the barbarians.
Against us, against civilization are the barbarians, and there can be no other word for these people. They are the people who believe that violence and cold blooded murder are an acceptable response to cartoons. Indeed, it is not just one of several acceptable responses, the barbarians who attacked Charlie Hebdo believe it is the only acceptable response, the required response. They seek to undermine our civilization and supplant it with something harking back to the Middle Ages, and they are quite willing to use violence to achieve this end. They do not tolerate dissent, they do not tolerate diversity, they do not tolerate. About the only thing they might tolerate is democracy, and that only until democracy enables them to seize power, at which point democracy will end. They are a gang of murderous barbarians, and they are on the march. The 12 who died on Wednesday are victims of this war against civilization, but I guarantee they will not be the last.
The Jihadists are quite open about the fact that they have declared war against us. Ask any of them, look up their countless propaganda videos; indeed, witness the be-headings of two journalists last year, an act explicitly meant as a message to “the west”. Sadly, this war is one which our leaders, so called, are not only not willing to fight, it is a war they are increasingly trying to pretend does not exist, to our detriment. Many of our leaders and the elites in our society want to discourage us from saying things like what I am saying now. They want to pretend that this latest attack in Paris and the dozens of other incidents like it in years past (be it the Mumbai Rampage, the London Underground Bombings, the Times Square Bombing, the Fort Hood Shooting, or the Ottawa Shooting just a few months ago, and even so brazen an act as 9/11) are just the product of a few, lone crazy people, misguided and misinterpreting the tenets of a peaceful religion; they want to pretend that this is anything but an ideological movement and one which is expanding. Too many people in our society denounce anyone who speaks as I do as “Islamophobic”—yet they never acknowledge that perhaps Jihadist Islam is something worth fearing, and it certainly would not be an irrational fear (the definition of a “phobia”). This is a war which will take decades, if not centuries, to play out, but no matter what happens, it is a war we must acknowledge if we are to have any chance of winning it.
The 12 people who died at Charlie Hebdo are just another 12 names to be added to the list of thousands who have already died—the vast majority of whom are Muslims, by the way—and while their deaths seem like a senseless tragedy stemming from senseless violence, their deaths need not be in vain.
It is a sad business to make martyrs out of anyone, and I’m sure the 12 victims from Charlie Hebdo would gladly echo Winston Churchill’s words that while prepared for martyrdom, they prefer it be postponed—that is, if they were with us here today. The sad truth of the matter is that they are already dead and there is nothing which can bring them back. We have now only their memory and the example of the life they led. If we wish to preserve their memory and ensure their deaths were not in vain, we would do well to follow their example.
Terrorists seek to terrorize; they seek to subjugate us through terror. Charlie Hebdo was not terrified. Their office was bombed in 2011; not only did they continue operating, they doubled down and released this cartoon, mocking the people who tried to kill them. Their bravery, their refusal to be cowed into submission is exactly why the terrorists believed they had to be killed. If we allow ourselves to be terrorized by this act, the terrorists have won, because it shows that terrorism works. If we allow this atrocity to terrorize us, the terrorists will have won because they killed everyone who was willing to be brave and take a stand against Jihadism. The only appropriate response is to do as Charlie Hebdo did: ignore the terrorists, be fearless in mocking them and their beliefs, and carry on life as normally as we can.
I said at the beginning of this that those who died at Charlie Hebdo were victims of two wars. I have spoken at length about the war of Jihadism against Civilization, but what is the other war? It is a war against freedom, and sadly it is one being waged not just by Jihadists but also by our own people. The 12 people who were killed on Wednesday died for freedom. They took full advantage of their Freedom of Speech—a right which has taken hundreds of years of struggle and hundreds of thousands if not millions of deaths to reach the point of being considered a basic right and a core value of our civilization—and they paid for it with their lives.
A few hundred years ago there was another French writer and satirist, one who courted controversy and pushed freedom of speech to the limit much like those who worked for Charlie Hebdo. His name was François-Marie Arouet. We remember him today by his nom-de-plume: Voltaire. And it was Voltaire who said “While I may disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Those are words we should all live by. The people who wrote for Charlie Hebdo lived by them, and sadly they were made to put the principle into practice. They died defending their right to be free to say what they wanted. And we owe it to their memory to continue defending the right of everyone to say what they like, no matter how disagreeable or repugnant. Indeed, even the very barbarians who are waging war against freedom of speech are entitled to use and abuse that freedom. They believe that the Prophet Mohammad should never be depicted. They are free to believe that, but now they are forcing us to abide by it as well (or trying to at least) through violence, and that is something which we should not tolerate. Yet too many of us are willing to accept this.
We should not be surprised that the barbarians are attacking free speech. The barbarians of our day, like so many tyrants and thugs that have come before them, correctly realize how dangerous free speech is to their cause. If we are free to speak against them, to mock their actions, to deride their beliefs, to disagree with everything they stand for, then we are free to resist them and their efforts to erode free speech, democracy, freedom of religion, social tolerance, and freedom of association. A system of beliefs which requires violence to be maintained and relies on violence to spread itself cannot withstand the kind of scrutiny it would be shown under the freedom we enjoy. In our civilization, we have a market place of ideas; the good ones prevail, the rest die off. The Jihadists want to stamp out freedom of speech both out of a dogmatic hatred for any speech with which they disagree but also as a pragmatic means of achieving domination. Freedom of speech cannot coexist with their religious fanaticism, so it should not surprise us that they do not tolerate our exercise of that right. No, we should be surprised that so many of our own people, including so many of our rulers, are so quick to agree with the barbarians.
I should not have to explain why freedom of speech is an important right; I shouldn’t have to extoll its value. Unfortunately, too many people in our society, and far too many of our rulers (that is to say, any of them) are still stuck in the outmoded idea that some censorship is necessary, that speech can somehow be “too free” and that the state must be an arbiter of what speech is “acceptable”. Free speech might be an enshrined right in much of Europe and elsewhere, but almost everywhere it comes with the caveat that speech is only “free” if it is approved by those in power. Currently, the ruling elite in most of Europe believe that anything they define as “hate speech” is unacceptable. For now “hate speech” is largely defined as anything Neo-Nazis say, but it is increasingly being used as a club to silence those who speak out against Islam. And who is to guarantee that while today these laws are only applied to neo-Nazis, they won’t tomorrow be applied to UKIP members, and then newspaper columnists and online bloggers, and finally all of us? First they came for the neo-Nazis…
I hate to use a slippery slope argument (some would say ‘fallacy’) but the reason why free speech is so important (and why it’s so important to defend even the worst of speech) is precisely because if we wait until ‘they’ are censoring ordinary speech or common dissent, it’s too late. By the time they come for you, there won’t be anyone left to speak out. Everyone, be they Radical Muslim preachers or neo-Nazis, should be free to say what they like, just as we are free to condemn and refute what they say.
I do not want this to be an extended screed on the value of Free Speech and why it is not only worth fighting for but also worth dying for. As I said, I shouldn’t have to explain why. But I think it is necessary to shout from the rooftops that any form of state directed censorship, no matter how slight and no matter its stated intent, is a threat to the entire concept of freedom of speech and to all of our freedoms (for how can we have any freedom if we cannot advocate for freedom?).
The 12 who died in the offices of Charlie Hebdo were killed by a gang of barbarians who could not tolerate how they used their right to free speech. If now we continue down the road of censorship by passing more laws censoring speech and enforcing them ever more strictly, we are in agreement with the Jihadists! In fact, we’ll be aiding them! The laws we pass on ourselves will silence far more people than the Jihadists ever will. They are trying to placate the Jihadists by punishing on their behalf those who disrespect the Prophet. The people in our governments who want to pass more laws undermining freedom of speech are our modern equivalents of Neville Chamberlain at best. At worst, they are Quislings.
If we want to ensure that those 12 people did not die in vain on Wednesday, then we must pick up where they left off. We must not be afraid to criticize Jihadism, but above all we must not be afraid to defend free speech. I have no doubt that the Jihadists will fail to defeat us from without. There is only one way in which we can be defeated, and it is if we defeat ourselves by undermining the values we are fighting for and which the Jihadists are trying to destroy. So with absolute glee I will conclude all my condemnation of Jihadism with a quote from the Bible:
“And a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”-Matt. 10:36
Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier
Killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo, January 7, 2015.
Mort pour la liberté.
–Je suis Charlie.
It is and should be the defining problem of our age, as it has been the problem for nearly all ages past. Ever since human beings solved the problem of “we don’t have enough food to eat” we have been faced with this problem. I would say “we have been working on a solution this problem ever since” but alas, history is littered with examples where not only have people not been working on a solution, they have been actively endeavoring to make the problem worse. Here we are in the 21st century and despite making vast inroads on the problems common to all human existence—disease, famine, poverty, and being at the mercy of nature—we still have yet to solve one basic question: how should we rule one another? It’s the problem of government, and if nothing else, the 20th Century was an abject lesson in what happens when that problem goes unsolved.
What do I mean precisely when I say “the problem of government”? If I were being cheeky this is where I’d say “that we have one” but despite the fervent insistence of a few committed anarchists, it appears that simply not having government is not a very wise idea. Human beings have a natural urge to rule over one another. Even if you could form an anarchist society, one where no one has a legal right to aggress against anyone else, without going through the usual unpleasantry of a breakdown in society or the messiness of revolution, it seems inevitable that humans will eventually band together and then start making rules, forming a government of some sort, whether they call it that or not. Or a governed society will roll into town with some tanks and say “We own you now”. No, despite some mysterious, lasting appeal to the fantasy of rugged individualism, anarchism is no solution. If we set out to deliberately construct a government and purposefully structure it, I think the results would be better than what we would otherwise get from anarchy: a government of whichever thugs happened to be strongest and can force their rule over the rest of us.
So what is the problem of government? Well, it’s the conundrum that we need at least a little government but that governments also have a nasty habit of accruing more and more power unto themselves until they rule not citizens but subjects. Governments have occasionally been known to commit genocide, start highly destructive, usually useless wars (sometimes for the purpose of committing genocide), and when they aren’t taxing a people into poverty for the benefit of a few, politically connected elites, governments are generally wasting our money while accomplishing nothing but telling us how to live our lives and getting in the way. In a nutshell, we have yet to build the least-worst government and we have yet to discover the least-worst means of governing a society so people don’t hurt other people or take their stuff. I think we should get right on that.
People uphold democracy as some kind of cure-all: something that will stop war, end poverty, heal the sick, and bring happiness to all. I think Winston Churchill hit the nail on the head when he said “Democracy is the worst form of government we have! Except for all the others…” and I also think Thomas Jefferson had it absolutely right when he declared “Democracy is simply mob rule where 51% of the people can vote to take away the rights of the other 49.”
Democracy is not a solution to our government ills, because it has no inherent means of restricting the actions of government to make sure the government does not abuse its powers. Indeed, as George Will has pointed out, many people (often on the left) champion both minority rights and democracy, but the two are incompatible: democracy is the opposite of minority rights, because in a democracy the minority always loses! However, the principle of representative government, government of the people-by the people-for the people, government with consent of the governed, is clearly a principle worth holding on to–especially since democracy (unlike pretty much any other form of government) allows for the lawful and peaceful dissolution of the current set of rulers to be replaced by a different set. It’s just best that we don’t seek to implement it through pure, unadulterated democracy.
So how do we build a government that will reflect the needs/desires of the people being governed but will respect the rights of everyone, especially minorities, a government which won’t go mad with power, will preserve law and order, and will protect us from the big, bad, nasty world that’s out there? I don’t know. I think the American Experiment, a Federal Republic based on individual rights, personal liberty, and representative government came pretty close when the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were adopted. It wasn’t perfect by any means. There was the whole slavery thing, the lack of rights for women, Native Americans, pretty much anyone who wasn’t a landed, white man (and preferably not a Catholic), but those were blemishes which could be (and were) corrected. However flawed the implementation may have been, the ideas underlying it were sound. Of course, as Lysander Spooner deftly argued, the Constitution isn’t so great: either it has enabled the terrible government the US currently has, or it did nothing to prevent it. This I cannot refute, I can only argue that the government the US has is not a result of the Constitution, but a result of abandoning the Constitution and that the Constitution offers a remedy to US’ current ailment.
However imperfect the Constitution may be, it makes for a good starting point. If men were angels we would need no government, as James Madison astutely observed more than 200 years ago, and it is precisely because humans are not angels that we both need government and yet cannot trust government. We need to solve this. We need to find a way to keep order, to protect the rights of all, and to defend ourselves from foreign enemies without enabling a government which will imprison us in gulags, enforce its own morality on us, or press us into poverty. Human beings are of course flawed, and the institutions we build suffer for it. I doubt we will ever make a perfect government, but since when has the futility of achieving perfection stopped us from trying?
It pains me to watch, via live-stream, the nation that I call home descend so quickly into ignorance and blind rage over something that should be solely regarded as a horrible tragedy, all because of the shameless baiting of a mainstream media that seems to only be focused on perpetuating falsities and stoking a fire that should have been put out at the very start of the investigation surrounding the death of Michael Brown.
As Robert McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, MO, fielded questions after he released the statement yesterday that Darren Wilson was not going to be indicted, reporters tried time and time again to bait him into saying something racially charged, in an effort to change the entire conversation surrounding what he had just said. After being extremely honest and direct during his initial address (something that God only knows we need in this country: someone to tell us to wake up and stop listening to social media and irrational news networks that blew this entire situation out of proportion before the investigation had even begun) the reporters who were sitting in the audience immediately began to attempt to change the subject to race, which McCulloch adamantly and skillfully countered with each response.
The problem here is the underlying motivations that our government is starting to show. A man was killed, and that is not to be ignored; but there is something much larger than Michael Brown’s death going on within our nation. Things like this get sensationalized by the mainstream media all the time. For a while, they tried to make the majority of the argument surround the question of “gun rights,” which honestly shouldn’t be a question at all. The fact that Michael Brown was black and Darren Wilson was white opened up all sorts of doors for the media to try and twist the story, make it more dramatic, draw people in, and start to build tensions as it always tries to do nowadays. The information that was being fed through the pipeline, whether it was network news or social media, was constantly being designed to keep the attention on the incident that happened in Ferguson rather than on other things that are much more important to the advancement and the recovery of the United States of America.
With the trial being over, the only thing left for those people to do that have been–somewhat peacefully–protesting this whole time but to riot. Why wouldn’t they? This is all about race, isn’t it? Isn’t racism something to riot about? If a black cop had killed a white kid, nobody would say anything. But because it was the other way around, this is now a national news story that received, at times, twenty-four hour news coverage regardless of whether or not something was actually happening.
The government now has a reason to move in and start to create the police state that they have always longed for. In President Obama’s address following the news that there would not be an indictment was chilling to say the least. He had just BLATANTLY ignored the Constitution the day before with his executive order that granted amnesty for thousands of illegal immigrants, and yet got on national television to tell the millions of serfs under his absolute control not to break the law or to cause damage to people or property. That was just the beginning. He then proceeded to explain how he was formulating plans to send Eric Holder around telling police departments, both state and local, how they should reform their ways. While this may not sound like much, that’s what scares me. It’s vague. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation and for things to be brought out of it that something that was stated specifically just wouldn’t leave room for.
I am in no way trying to diminish the fact that a man died in Ferguson back in August. I am not denying that Michael Brown was shot multiple times by Darren Wilson, and that his motives may not have been as pure as they should have been. My heart goes out to the Brown and the Wilson family, and I hope and pray that this tragedy can bring some sort of healing elsewhere, if not in Ferguson and St. Louis.
However, the physical evidence, coupled with witness testimony compared against the physical evidence, did not produce enough substantive information with which the grand jury could charge Wilson with committing a crime. That’s it. It’s done. The feds have it now. What we should do, as a nation, is learn from this and better ourselves and those around us. We can’t resort to violence and we can’t allow the media to continue to lie to us and make us believe things that aren’t true, just so they can get a rise out of the populace. By getting people to riot, the media in turn furthers the government’s end-goal, which is to see us all in chains and at the mercy of the proclamations of Washington. Obama has already shown that he will bypass every check and balance that the Constitution is meant to uphold, so we can’t rely on him to make the right decision. We must realize what is going on here, and stop allowing it to happen.
Imagine sitting at the execution of Guy Fawkes, thinking about what had happened and what the man was actually responsible for. He had planted explosives in the basement of Parliament and planned to blow it up in protest of the government that was in power at the time, and did it in the name of liberty. The cool wind brushes your face as you solemnly watch the perpetrator, hooded in black, ascend the steps to be beheaded. He walks up slowly, with dignity, and places his head on the block to be taken by the executioner, because he knows what he’s done. You know what he’s done. But do you condemn his actions?
The Million Mask March, Anonymous’ interpretation of what Guy Fawkes Day should consist of, is a sign that we are beginning to wake up as a nation. The main difference between the Fifth of November in the United States and the United Kingdom is the fact that we value the individual over the collective. Guy Fawkes tried to uproot an oppressive regime during his time, but he was still labeled to be a domestic terrorist and was executed, so that’s what the British think about when they hear Fawkes’ name. They immediately turn to an almost catastrophic event in their nation’s history where their legislature was almost wiped off the face of the planet in a matter of seconds, much like we turn to 9/11 when we hear anything about what’s happening in the Middle East. These events are what shape our viewpoints on certain things that our government does, and this is the problem.
Even in the UK, there are people who believe that Fawkes, while he was technically a domestic terrorist, represents an ideal that goes far beyond what he planned to do. The fact that he was passionate enough to even threaten to blow up Parliament, all because he thought that the government that was in power at the time was oppressive or wasn’t fit for the people of Britain. He made a statement, that there would be no peace for a ruling body that thought that they could run over the people without having a little bit of fight coming back at them. Today, Guy Fawkes masks are worn by Anonymous members–and regular people alike–in the spirit of uprising. The general consensus has come back and said that violence might be the answer for these people, which saddens me greatly.
In Ferguson, those who thought that they were on the side of the “good guys” started to become violent toward police and sparked even more protests and tensions rose. Instead of protesting peacefully, they decided to take things up a notch and they caused more trouble than was necessary in the process. Even though their cause might have been the right one, they certainly went about it in the wrong way.
Violence cannot be the answer. The state will use violence and shock and awe to try and discourage anyone from rising up and voicing their opinions at some point, and those who choose the public square over a jail cell will have to make a choice: will they use violent measures to get their point across or not?
If we are to be successful in our endeavors and get accomplished what needs to be accomplished, we must not use violence to convey our personal messages. We need to act in a state of nonviolent protest, focused on the fact that we are people who are displeased with our government rather than how we are going to inflict the next wound. Nonviolence shows that we are willing to be reasonable and to possibly discuss options with those in power on how to resolve the inevitable conflict that we will face peacefully, rather than descending into a never-ending vicious cycle of killing people and pointing fingers trying to place the blame on the other party.