Tuesday, June 20, 2017

“Them”

     [The following brief piece first appeared at the old Palace of Reason on June 7, 2002. It provides a conceptual supplement to yesterday’s ultra-tirade. -- FWP]


     "States, like men, have their growth, their manhood, their decrepitude, and their decay." -- Walter S. Landor.

     Who's responsible for the poor condition of the roads, the axle-breaking potholes, the piles of detritus that offend the eye and nose? Not you nor I, but "them." But getting "them" to deal with any of it is like pulling teeth, whereas none of us have the time or wherewithal; we're all too busy earning enough to pay our taxes. That's just the way things are.

     Who's responsible for that elderly widow down the block, the one who can't really get around any more and should get a visit about three times a day to make sure she's all right? Not you nor I, but "them." And "they" haven't been doing such a good job of it, or she wouldn't have broken both hips in six months' time. But "they" took the job, and it's not ours to question their performance now that we've surrendered it to "them." That's just the way things are.

     Who's responsible for dealing with the gang that claims to "own" this block, that's committed one mugging after another for years but never seems to be taken in hand? Not you nor I, but "them." "They" claim to own all the police powers, though they exercise them quite selectively, and only when it suits their mood. "They" forbade us our own means of defense, too; for us to own and carry guns is far too dangerous to the public peace. What public peace, you say? Well, yes. But we can't seem to get our guns or our authority as citizens back, so we have to hide behind the double-locked doors of our homes and leave the streets to animals that walk upright. That's just the way things are.

     Why is it the way things are? Because at various times and on various grounds, "they" persuaded us to transfer our responsibilities to them. It's not clear why we did it. After all, "they" hadn't been doing that well with the jobs we'd previously assigned "them." But we did it, perhaps out of wishful thinking, perhaps out of laziness. And there seems to have been a ratchet involved, for, much as we'd like to, we can't seem to transfer the responsibilities back into our own hands.

     Can the ratchet be undone? I don't know. I think it would require far too many men willing to court danger and possible death to wrest back the police powers, however unwisely they were delegated. We'll get our guns back only by armed insurrection. As for the sweeping transfer of civil responsibility and public property back into the hands of common citizens, that's almost as unlikely. They require tax revolts and organized resistance to the seizure of property through condemnation, which, though guaranteed successful if enough people participate, are as rare as snowballs in July. The wrath of the State is terrible toward those who deny its power to tax and confiscate, and everyone fears to step forward in defiance only to find himself alone.

     We should have known better. We probably did.

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