Yesterday I began an article about resistance to authoritarian movements or leaders. The underlying premise of the first part was to set the stage by talking about freedom, truth, critical thinking and the all too often fact that most people do not like facing unpleasant truths. I ended that section with a quote by Hannah Arendt that:
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction ( i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false ( i.e ., the standards of thought) no longer exist.
That thought can be applied to any country where the evil of authoritarian rule threatens. The British military historian and theorist, B.H. Liddell-Hart wrote:
All of us do foolish things, but the wiser realize what they do. The most dangerous error is failure to recognize our own tendency to error. That failure is a common affliction of authority.
Based on the performance of the Trump administration during the transition and over its first two weeks in office one wonders if most of its members have any capacity for reflection or ability to admit when they are wrong. Right now I see little proof that this tendency will change anytime soon. Thus it is imperative that all citizens, including those who serve in the institutions of government be the conscience of the nation. This is the most important part of successfully resisting the implementation of authoritarian government. All too often that does not happen. One can look at the histories of numerous nations where the citizenry, and those who executed the day to day functions of government did not do this, usually with very dire results for their nations.
The reason for most, is usually nothing inherently evil on their part, they simply want to get along without asking too many questions, and turning their eyes from the unpleasantries, and evil. Resistance is dangerous. Liddell-Hart noted:
We learn from history that the critics of authority have always been rebuked in self-righteous tones, if no worse fate has befallen them, yet have repeatedly been justified by history. To be “agin the Government” may be a more philosophic attitude than it appears. For the tendency of all “governments” is to infringe the standards of decency and truth; this is inherent in their nature and hardly avoidable in their practice.
Hence the duty of the good citizen who is free from the responsibility of Government is to be a watchdog upon it, lest Government impair the fundamental objects which it exists to serve. It is a necessary evil, thus requiring constant watchfulness and check.
Authoritarian leaders who are able to gain control of an unquestioning populace and powerful bureaucracy are able to do much damage to liberty. Thus it it important that citizens constantly question it, and when it is failing to abide by the ideals, laws, and norms of the nation, to resist; using lawful means, and maintaining to moral high ground. However, that too is hard to do, many who resist do so in a highly emotional manner which sometimes leads them to tactics that are not helpful, even in the near term.
That being said it is important that resistance be based on telling the truth in spite of opposition, and this means calling out the untruths and outright lies of the authoritarian leader and his sycophants. These are not hard to spot, but too many people are afraid to call a lie a lie. But the lies are the basis for the declarations of faith that authoritarian leaders uses to gain the support of both true believers, as well as the angry and disaffected people who recognize the lie, but due to their cynicism about government and disappointment in the democratic process support the authoritarian leader. The authoritarian leader takes advantage of the primal fears and hatreds of both in order to cement his bond with them which makes resisting more dangerous, because those who do resist are demonized. As Eric Hoffer wrote in his classic The True Believer:
Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. When Hitler was asked whether he thought the Jew must be destroyed, he answered: “No…. We should have then to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.”
Those who resist or those who are different prove to be ideal devils for the authoritarian leader and his followers. Liddell-Hart understood this and noted that those who believe in freedom must resist authoritarian rule because it does not respect the power of thought and the intellect, so I am going to close for today with his words:
It is man’s power of thought which has generated the current of human progress through the ages. Thus the thinking man must be against authoritarianism in any form, because it shows its fear of thoughts which do not suit momentary authority.
Any sincere writer must be against it, because it believes in censorship. Any true historian must be against it, because he can see that it leads to the repetition of old follies, as well as to the deliberate adulteration of history. Anyone who tries to solve problems scientifically must be against it, since it refuses to recognize that criticism is the life blood of science. In sum, any seeker of truth must be against it, because it subordinates truth to state expediency. This spells stagnation.
Those who resist cannot do so simply because they are against the authoritarian leader, but they must stand for something positive and far reaching in order to expand freedom for others. Liddell-Hart wrote:
But “anti-Fascism” or “anti-Communism” is not enough. Nor is even the defence of freedom. What has been gained may not be maintained, against invasion without and erosion within, if we are content to stand still. The peoples who are partially free as a result of what their forebears achieved in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries must continue to spread the gospel of freedom and work for the extension of the conditions, social and economic as well as political, which are essential to make men free.
Have a great day, and enjoy the Super Bowl, and remember God couldn’t care less who wins it; the Deity is a baseball fan.