Category: Pop-Culture

LukeVrsDarthEmpIf you’re a Star Wars fan from my generation, you’ll immediately recognize this age-old question, “Which movie was better, ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘ or ‘Return of the Jedi‘?”, and have a very strong preference for one or the other. Most people I’ve encountered over the years have fallen on the “Empire” side, and I can see why. It’s fun. It’s full of exciting battles, wild escapes, mind-blowing revelations, lots of humor and a bit of romance.

For me, though, the answer has always been “Jedi”. The reason? That final confrontation between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine. Luke tries not to fight, and chooses not to kill, his father; but instead, reminds him that he was once a Jedi, that he stood for something other than what he had become, and pleads with him to come back. Ultimately, Vader (Anakin Skywalker) chooses his son’s life over that of his Sith master. That, to me, is the defining moment of the whole series: the redemption of Anakin.

Now, what does this have to do with market-anarchism, voluntaryism, the ever growing militarized police-state and all that? For that, we must turn back to Étienne de La Boétie, who asked, “If a tyrant is one man and his subjects are many, why do they consent to their own enslavement?” A tyrant, whether an emperor, president, parliament, etc. is always a small minority. How do they maintain their power when they are so vastly outnumbered? Well first, they dole out favors to a favored political class, who are given money, power and priviledge so long as they tow the Party line. But what of the masses? They are controlled through an army of thuggish enforcers: the police, military, and intelligence services—the stormtroopers of our day. They keep the Hoi polloi in line through fear tactics, constant intimidation, and the use of violence: beatings, kidnappings, rape, murder, etc.

But again, why do these enforcers enforce the ruler’s edicts against their own. Firstly, they are given power and an elevated status in society. This helps distance them from the people they abuse. Secondly, they are imbued with an almost mythical ideology that they are protecting the weak and serving the people, when in fact they are protecting and serving the political class.

It is this ideology that we must attack. Yes, civil-disobedience is important. It challenges the legitimacy of the rulers, makes others aware of the immorality and unjustness of their laws, and strips them of their mystique. However, civil-disobedience tends to have less favorable effects as well. More often than not, it is seen by the police as an attack on the system that they instictually defend. They shut down critical-thinking and become defensive—solidifying their statist ideology and devotion to their masters. Likewise, Dorner-esque violence, while viscerally satisfying, only causes the enforcers to close-ranks and act even more irrationally and violently to maintain the system: as we witnessed when the LAPD went on a terror-spree in their hunt for Dorner.

Thus, we can neither defy nor fight the enforcers without entrenching them even deeper in their faith in the rightness and righteousness of what they are doing. What we can do is confront them, not as enemies, but as family concerned with a wayward relative. We can ask them why they became police officers, or joined the army, or Homeland Security. We can ask them if what they do now is in service to those goals. We can ask them how they feel when they are not. We can awaken them to the fact that they serve as bodyguards to a corporatist elite, not as protectors of their fellow citizens; that they are more like over-seers on a farm of human-cattle, than the heroes they imagine themselves to be. We can ask them what they would change, how things could be different. Here and there, we can add in our own thoughts: about the Non-Aggression Principle; about the inefficiencies, corruption and abuse that naturally arise in a system of monopoly justice; market and community alternatives to the state’s “justice” system, etc. And by so doing, we can gently introduce them to market-anarchy.

Granted, we cannot save them all—perhaps, not even most. Many are hopelessly mired in their lust for power over other men. As Frank Herbert put it, “Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely, absolute power attracts the corruptible.” But I believe that there is humanity in, and hope for, even the worst of us. And while some may easily come to see that their means do not match the ends they sought to effect by becoming enforcers, many will resist the truth tooth-and-nail. Still, even a few victories would weaken the state; and more importantly, destroy the myth of the state-sponsored thug as ‘benevolent protector’.

This is a slow and difficult path; but there is no more satifying victory than to turn your enemy into your ally, or even a friend. We can topple the power of authoritarians by depriving them not only of our obedience, but also of the obedience of their enforcers. And the more enforcers we awaken, the more others will question their service until an avalanche of defectors leaves the rulers weak and ineffective, if not entirely powerless.

“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.”
— Étienne de La Boétie

So next time you see a cop, rather than flipping him off, yelling “ACAB”, or fantasizing about burning his patrol car, stop to ask him what he thinks about his job. It may be the start of a conversation that leads to conversion to market-anarchism, … and redemption.

My wife was recently lamenting the demise of the Spielberg-inspired science fiction show, Terra Nova. While it was a fun little escape, I have to admit that I was always a bit uncomfortable with it—from the under-stated “worker’s-paradise” economy, to the obvious military-junta that ruled over everyone. But what was most disturbing was the lack of moral-clarity. The white-hats (Terra Novans) and black-hats (Sixers) behaved much the same. Each had something they thought worth fighting for and used much the same methods of violence and coercion to attain them.

In one episode, the supreme white-hat, Commander Taylor, tortures a citizen of Terra Nova on the suspicion that he is working with the Sixers, who are trying to take down Terra Nova. In another episode, Taylor violates his own order that no one is to leave the colony boundary. When stopped by a junior officer, he and Jim Shannon, the de-facto Sheriff of T.N., laugh—the rules do not apply to the rule-makers. And in a very revealing episode, Dr. Malcolm Wallace, the chief science officer for the Terra Nova colony, is too busy to do Shannon a favor, testing a blood sample. Shannon responds by smashing Wallace’s lab equipment and experiments one by one until Wallace capitulates.

We watch these shows, our younger siblings and children watch these shows, and then we wonder why people grow up to start fights, start wars, become violent rights-violating cops and soldiers, or police and politicians who believe that “the rules are for everyone else, not me“. They have learned the lessons of the entertainment media—that there is no fundamental behavioral difference between the bad-guys and the good-guys. These are merely labels for two groups which are morally equivalent—that is, both violate the Non-Aggression Principle and the Law of Equal Liberty.

These are just a few examples from one silly little sci-fi show. Now look at the plethora of cop shows and legal dramas on television and you will find even more egregious examples.

Popular culture and entertainment influences our real-life interations. And the actions of everyone from presidents and politicians to local beat-cops and teachers—and our response to their behavior—strongly influences popular culture. If it is wrong for a police officer to get away with a crime he would have apprehended a non-officer for, then we must not glorify such behavior in our fiction. If it is wrong to initiate violence, we must not panegyrize it in our fictional “heroes”. Instead, we must steadfastly declare what makes the good-guys the good-guys.

The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.”
— Murray N. Rothbard, “War, Peace, and the State,” The Myth of National Defense

If we want to change this into a more peaceful and free world to live in, we need to start with our culture. Everything begins with ideas. If we can elevate our ideas, educate people about the NAP and LEL, and get them to live it, then we can transform the world.