First, some relevant music to set the appropriate atmosphere:
The lyric, one of ELP’s more apocalyptic ones:
Take a look down at the madman
Theatre kings on silver wings
Fly beyond reason
From the flight of the seagull
Come the spread claws of the eagle
Only fear breaks the silence
As we all kneel pray for guidance
Tread the road cross the abyss
Take a look down at the madness
On the streets of the city
Only spectres still have pity
Patient queues for the gallows
Sing the praises of the hallowed
Our machines feed the furnace
If they take us they will burn us
Will you still know who you are
When you come to who you are
When the flames have their season
Will you hold to your reason
Loaded down with your talents
Can you still keep your balance
Can you live on a knife-edge
Let that sink in for a moment before proceeding.
It might strike you that this is a strange time of year to be discoursing on anarchism, but the mood is upon me, and I’ve resolved to follow where it leads.
It’s worth a moment of your time, and a bit of emphasis:
Go ahead; I fully understand your need for more coffee. I’ll wait here.
In the Foreword to this novel, I wrote:
The States of Earth exist in an anarchic relation to one another. Each has its own regional code of law, which might differ markedly from all the others. Despite several thrusts at the matter over the centuries, there is no “super-State” to enforce a uniform code of law over them all. More, they view one another as competitors in many different areas; their populations and institutions are often in sharp economic competition with one another. Thus, they are often at odds. They resolve important disputes among them through negotiation or warfare.
Yet individuals manage to move among them with a fair degree of facility and (usually) little risk. Cross-border trade is commonplace, in some places torrential. Though wars are frequent, they seldom result in major alterations to the overall political pattern. The uber-anarchy of Terrestrial society exhibits more stability than one would expect from two hundred well armed, quarrelsome States, each of which perpetually schemes at snatching some advantage at another’s expense.
I hold that the “archies-within-anarchy” structure of the world posited above is indisputable. There is no “super-State;” the UN, being unable to impose its will on a dissenting or divergent State, does not qualify. But being a believer in the ancient maxim “As above, so below,” I’m not about to stop there.
Quite by coincidence, on this very date in the Year of Our Lord 2013, I wrote the following:
Whatever our chosen tactics, we must always keep in mind the "so far, so good" nature of all things: the inevitability of failure, change, and subsequent developments. Governments cannot legislate that pattern away. O'Brien's vision of "a boot stamping on a human face -- forever" is as fallacious as the dream of a perfect freedom eternally unchallenged by the envious and the power-mongers who exploit their unholy desires.
The moral should be clear. Regardless of your preferences in countermeasures, whenever you look at any institution the Left has succeeded in perverting, say to yourself:
"And this, too, shall pass away."
Your task is to keep fighting -- and to survive.
I haven’t written many things that I regard as imperative beyond all possibility of refutation, but that’s one of them. Keep moving. Survive. What’s going on around you is relevant to your decisions and actions only as it pertains to what you must do to survive. And as a perfect (and perfectly ironic) capper to the matter, I must add this: Eventually, you’ll fail.
The mature know this. No one lives forever. The final triumph belongs to Time, which I sometimes imagine was God’s device for averting boredom. But just as no one lives forever, no thing lasts forever, no matter how carefully contrived or maintained.
If I may be allowed yet another quotation from myself:
For example, let's imagine that I own a sailboat -- I don't, having no interest in water recreations -- and that I've named it the NEWF, after my late, beloved, exceedingly moist Newfoundland Bruno. The good ship NEWF can be viewed:
- Holistically, as a unitary entity with a clearly designed-in function and an associated identity, or:
- Reductionistically, as an assemblage of anonymous (I hope) wooden, steel, rope, and canvas parts.
When its function as a sailboat is being exercised, its holistic, functional identity is clearly the one of immediate interest. Yet if I were to shipwreck myself upon some lonely island -- perhaps Staten, with its forbidding landfills, or Fire, with its natives'...disturbing fleshly practices -- NEWF's reductionistic characteristics would come to the fore, as I made use of its planks for firewood and its sails for blankets. Many would claim that in that second case, there no longer is a good ship NEWF, merely a pile of useful, unnamed items.
Here's the ultimate poser about identity: Imagine that, in the quite ordinary course of maintenance, I were to remove one of NEWF's deck planks and replace it with another -- but instead of discarding the removed plank, I laid it aside. Imagine further that, over the years, I pulled up and replaced (but did not discard) still more planks, until a decade hence, I had replaced every component built into the original boat with an identical substitute. Would it still be the good ship NEWF?
Because we associate identity with continuity in function, we look at an institution as identical to itself over time despite “detail changes” to such things as personnel, location, particular operations, and other internal aspects. This applies to States quite as well as to any other corporate entity.
As an illustration of that observation, let’s continue one more paragraph into the above-cited screed:
I'll take you a step further: Imagine that I'd saved all the replaced components, and out of sheer philosophical whimsy built a boat from them that was identical to the original. The replaced components, torn one by one from the original structure, have now been reassembled into...the original structure! But...but...the "original" -- the one that now contains no component built into the NEWF at its moment of christening -- is sitting over there, at that dock! Which one is the good ship NEWF?
Dizzy yet? The application to States “should be obvious,” but that’s a phrase two of whose three words I try not to use. Conceive of it this way: At this time, the Obama Administration is, for all practical purposes, the State that governs the U.S. However, as of the coming January 21, that will no longer be the case according to our Constitution. But what if every single component of the federal executive branch as it stands today were to “re-assemble” somewhere after 1/21/2017 and assert that it’s still the government of the United States?
Clearly there are only two possible outcomes to such a development: raucous laughter and civil war. Hope for the former.
A free man is one who acknowledges no temporal master. To the free man, the State, whatever adaptations he must make in light of its impingement on his existence, is merely a sometimes-unavoidable inconvenience. For he is aware that This, too, shall pass away. It might have a successor. That successor might be immediate or long delayed. Its policies might be identical to those before it or wholly different from them. All that truly matters to the free man is the nature and magnitude of the attendant inconvenience.
For these reasons I propose that the question asked by the image above must be answered “Yes, that’s exactly what it is.”
Serve no master but God.
Exhort those around you to do likewise.
And above all else, Keep moving. Survive.