Ayn Rand might have said that tyranny arises when philosophy fails, but there is more to it than that. In "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel P. Huntington, 1996, Huntington puts forth the idea that world politics and warfare will be shaped more by cultural similarities and differences than by conflict between nations. While an interesting read, I do not agree with all of Huntington's work, and I think his emphasis on culture while excluding the ideology which underlies it is flawed. Nonetheless, his point about culture as a significant motivator in human conflict is well taken; it is a great pity that the policy makers behind our present adventures in the Middle East have not paid better heed to this concept.
Few people question their culture, fewer still the ideas which underlie that culture, and vanishingly few have ever considered how such cultures are changed, yet it is in those transformations that battles are won in the war of ideas. Culture is dependent upon a number of things, chief among them available technology and philosophy. (Population, language, geography, resources, and genetics also play a role as well as other factors, but those are the two most important for purposes of this discussion.)
For example, the importation of the technology of the Welsh longbow into England made possible the development and application of the philosophy of individual liberty and the Enlightenment. The ability of a working-class man to possess the means and the skill to strike down armored aristocrats while at the same time earning a living was the death knell of feudalism. Until the common man could tell the armored feudal knight "NO!" and make it stick by force of arms, individual liberty had to remain a philosophical abstraction studied by Greek and Latin scholars.
The modern self-loading rifle, the heir to the Welsh longbow, continues to enable individual liberty, which is one reason why those who would rule us try so hard to get rid of it. Here in these united States, the availability of progressive reloading technology is another game-changer as is the widespread availability of highly precise computer driven machine tools, and now 3-d printing. Radio and television, automobiles, birth control, antibiotics, and microelectronics have all engendered tremendous cultural change. But I digress.
If you change a culture by changing any of the key factors which underpin it, you have altered the actions of the people who comprise that culture. (It is just such cultural attacks which have poisoned Western civilization, and empowered tribal savagery. Notions such as political correctness and cultural equivalence have neutered political discourse in these presently united States, and flawed concepts such as 'non-violence' inhibit our ability to physically defend ourselves.) It is also worth noting that the same principles can underpin surprisingly different cultural expressions; remember the influence of technology and other factors, too. Yet the main thing to keep in mind is that very few of those presently in authority consider either the culture or the ideology of those they govern, or those who oppose them.
FreeFor must avoid repeating this error, and must exploit this weakness on the part of the TyrFor. We who seek the Light ought to seek to emulate the results of Iron Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, the architect of the First German Unification, justly famed for his political skill. Quoth he-"Fools may learn from their experience. I prefer to learn from the experiences of others." So how does culture make a difference in the state of our nation today? What cultures exist inside these presently united States?
Before the overt beginnings of the American Revolution, people identified themselves first and foremost as members of a particular colony. One of the transcendent accomplishments of the Founders was to transform colonial thinking into national thinking, to change the thirteen colonies into a single nation, an American nation. Bismarck studied that transformation and created something similar within the dozens of German political divisions, and he did so by tapping into a couple of the key German cultures, just as did the Founders with American culture, especially Tom Paine, Patrick Henry and Jefferson. The Founders mobilized the cultures which supported the ideals of individual liberty and the rights to life, liberty and property; the Tory subculture, initially the majority, largely moved out of America or was subsumed and evolved as the Revolution progressed. Some of them became Federalists.
While specifics vary somewhat, within the American nation since the Revolution there have been, and continue to be, several different key cultures. While books could be, and have been, written on this topic, and I will not be able to do the subject justice, a brief overview is in order. One of these is what is now commonly referred to as the Jacksonian culture, rooted in Scots-Irish traditions and steeped in the principles of British Common Law. This culture provides the majority of American servicemen, and especially the elite fighting forces. Originally composing the bulk of the rural yeomanry, frontiersman, pioneering farmers and small enterprising merchants, Jacksonian culture has today become widely diverse economically and geographically, but remains distinguished by the core values of individual self-reliance, personal and national honor, and a desire to be left alone until disturbed. Historically, it is not until the Jacksonian cultural fragment has been awakened to a danger and convinced that something must be done about that danger that America goes to war. Generally Jacksonian culture values 'common sense' and disdains philosophy, a point to keep in mind moving forward.
Another American subculture might be termed the "Jeffersonian liberal" or classic liberal culture. Liberalism, before the term was corrupted by socialists and communists, regarded the rights of the individual as paramount, and government as subservient to those rights; they were the Intellectual heirs to the Enlightenment. Distinct from the Jacksonians in several regards, liberals historically showed more prevalence in the arts, education, and the press, and thus geographically were more likely to be found where these professions flourished, in and around cities. Commencing with the advent of inexpensive and speedy transportation, and now the Internet, Jeffersonian liberals are found widely distributed economically and geographically; politically they make up the bulk of the libertarian movement in these presently united States, were the main drivers of the Ron Paul Republicans, and provide a number of rank and file Democrats.
There are other freedom loving subcultures in this country, but these two distinct subcultures are two of the major contributors to the freedom movement. Some of the others include what you might call the techno-geek culture, the modern incarnation of the backyard inventor, and some others less appealing. Let's move on for now to the opposition.
Opposed to the underlying ideas of these two cultures are a number of cultures, but one might broadly subsume these under the label of the authoritarian culture. Subsets of this culture are many and include collectivists of all sorts, elitists and Progressives; most of those who run the Democratic Republican party (yes, it is in essence one party, just as it was historically one party) belong to this culture, although their membership is much more broadly comprised. In most ways, authoritarians are the antithesis of both Jacksonian and Jeffersonian traditions although they share, and frequently attempt to elicit and co-opt, the Jacksonian interest in warfare. They are the cultural expression of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, which states- "In any organization, there are two kinds of people. The first sort are people who are dedicated to the stated goals of the organization, and the second are people dedicated to the survival of the organization itself. IN EVERY CASE, the second type will eventually gain control of the organization." Authoritarians seek control, not liberty, and will use every reason that comes to hand to promote it. (From the best intentions, of course; authoritarians *know* what is best for you and are only trying to help you make the right decisions.)
Or so they think. In reality, the attempt by authoritarians to legislate morality, to compel proper behavior in lieu of teaching critical thinking, to force compliance rather than to inculcate values which support self-reliance and self-regulation are counter-productive. Such efforts destroy self-government and make any culture less stable, less productive, and more vulnerable. Arguments that increased regulation is necessary to maintain order miss the point; it is precisely the prior violations of Common Law which have degraded cultural acceptance of basic rules for co-existence that have proven, over more than a thousand years, to work without constant meddling and oversight.
A recent authoritarian ally is the entitlement culture, which saw it's beginnings in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s, and the increase in both government workers, with their salaries and pensions, and government welfare 'clients'. Both of these categories expanded greatly with the advent of Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society, and it's welfare programs, and continue to grow to this day. One of the reasons that government programs, especially entitlement programs, are almost never done away with is the Iron Law. Allow me, please, gentle reader to digress.
The core function of any government agency is the continuation and further empowerment of that agency. That's all. The best biological analogy is cancer. The biological function of a tumor is to grow and expand; the function of a government agency is to also grow, expand, and extract resources from the productive. It does so by means of memes, self-replicating ideas which take root in human minds and reproduce. The aggregation of these ideas is a culture, in this case the entitlement culture, founded on 80 years of the Federal Government teaching people that they are not responsible for their own lives, that their fellow citizens owe them a living, and that the 'government' is obligated to take care of them. The entitlement culture includes not only those who receive 'government' benefits, stolen from the productive, but also those who administer such programs; the government workers are no less parasitic than those they supposedly serve.
They incorrectly believe that their existence constitutes a moral claim on the rest of us. The entitlement culture is profoundly self-destructive; like any other tumor, if not removed they doom the organism they parasitize by their success. In our case, the trick is going to be to be to limit the ability of entitlement culture to spread further, and if possible to cut off their support, both moral and economic. Just as one way to kill a tumor is to isolate it from the body by cauterizing the blood vessels that feed it, so it is that to cure the body politic of the entitlement cancer, those tumorous cells must be isolated and starved. Make no mistake, most of them know instinctively that they are parasites, living off the productive; witness the extreme sensitivity of the entitlement culture to anything that remotely questions their entitlement.
Anyone questioning the basis of the entitlement culture is demonized in the most vicious way possible, for the entitlement class understands that open free inquiry into the reasons and justifications for entitlement legislation is a mortal threat to them. The entitlement culture knows a mortal threat; do you, gentle reader? Why do you accept the cultural tenets of collectivist totalitarianism? Why do you allow moochers to call you racist for suggesting that people are entitled to work for a living, but not entitled to your work for their living? Why do you apologize for being good?
By their sensitivity you may discover their weaknesses, and find leverage to engender cultural change. Similarly, authoritarians, who often wrap themselves in the mantle of patriotism or the rule of law, or who try to wrap you in the fog of fear that emanates from the threat of terrorism can be exposed by some questioning as to what government is supposed to do. Most folks can do this almost without thinking about it; there is a mindset common to the culture of individual liberty, and another common to the culture of collectivism, and most people can sort those two out.
So, we have begun to think about culture, and how it can be leveraged. What is to be done with that? Give that some thought, gentle reader.
To be continued-