The Matrix Can Not Tell You Who You Are
Sometimes a creative work means more to those who enjoy it than those who create it.
If we take a bird's eye view of the planet, besides admiring its beauty we may notice that there are no natural boundaries that prevent the passage of organisms and entities through and around. A mountain restricts travel, but man and bird easily fly over. The island may appear remote, yet there is no island on Earth that hasn't been discovered by some other organism. Nature doesn't prevent passage.
Let's do a brief theoretical experiment. In this scenario I imagine teaching my 12 year old self about the origin of government. I show younger-me a globe without any political markings, just the naked Earth on its tilted access. I ask him to show me the boundaries of Earth. He takes a pencil and carefully draws the northern border that separates the United States and Canada. That's what 12 year old me would do. (I can't say for certain what anyone else would do.)
So the question I have for the Fool community is this: what is the origin of government? The other day, you submitted thoughtful and amusing questions for me. That is my question for you.
In my opinion, government is a form of possession. It is an artificial construct of humans. Humans attempt to create clearly defined, unchanging boundaries from which we can identify who belongs to whom (in which case, I would always prefer to be the whom rather than the who.) Throughout history, man and his possessions (wife, children, property) belonged to the Gods or the Kings. Then came the libertarian-ish revolutions of the 17th-19th centuries. They attempted to turn this relationship on its head. The government became the who and the people were now the whom. The government is our possession. It answers to us. We the People hold these truths to be self evident.
So in the latter relationship, my opinion stays the same. I'd rather be the one possessing than the one possessed. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't anyone? Who among us wishes to be owned by another? Raise your hand so that I may take my cut of your possessions.
See How Far the Rabbit Hole Goes
Let's do another quick thought exercise. You are now an aspiring young servant of the State. Your dream is to make the world less hungry, more equitable, more humane, and more peaceful. Before you enter your service, the government belongs to you. But once you run for election and win, you are now the State. You belong to others. The relationship has shifted and you no longer possess, but are possessed. You must be re-elected. You must raise money, pander, and promise. This is how you are owned. For a few noble people among us, this is of no concern. For the rest of us, this is a big deal. I ask again, who among us wishes to be owned by another? You didn't raise your hand before. Why do you raise it now? What has changed?
Even Ron Paul Does It
What has changed is that you are now, as a State functionary, in a position to turn this relationship of possession right back on its head. Through some creative work of your mind, you can easily flip things so that the people are where they belong: owned by you. You can gerrymander your district, award yourself a lifetime pension, get in bed with lobbyists and special interests that can assure your re-election. With any brains at all, you can absolutely guarantee that you will never again be owned by the people. You will certainly be able to own them!
Even the noble Ron Paul, my greatest influence, refuses to be owned by the people. (My friends are howling at me right now. I love it.) In his decision to return to Congress, he made it clear. He would only continue in politics if he was re-elected with ever increasing vote totals and he could raise money. He wouldn't pander for your vote. He wouldn't put a great deal of effort into re-election campaigns. The people do not own him.
However, the relationship is different in one respect. He chooses not to be owned by the special interests either. It's a rare feat to be sure and the reason I so greatly admire him.
My Memories Aren't My Own. What Does That Mean?
Does the existence of Ron Paul, however rare, prove that government works? Does it prove that a coercive State can exist, an artificial construct of possession, in which public servants can choose to live and govern by their own principles rather than by the whims of others?
Emphatically, no. In fact, the reason Ron Paul governs in the manner he does is because he believes that government isn't necessary (see Rothbard: Power and Market to get a deeper understanding of Ron Paul's market anarchy philosophical foundation.) If enough people ruled their own lives and governed their neighbors in the same way as Ron Paul, he would indeed be right.
In every form every constructed, government is a restriction of the freedom of the who by the whom. The flags, the patriotic songs, the communal brotherhood shared among people who rally around the symbols of the State are all relevant so long as the people owned see no better alternative to their current situation.
Another way to look at this is to try to think about how is it that so many people in history have been enslaved, murdered, or disenfranchised without so much as a wimper by the various governments that have covered our Earth like a cancer since ancient times. Promises. They are always promised great things. It is not through fear that we submit, but through promises of a better life. Fear is a negative thought. It's has finite value. Hope has infinite value. With fear, you reach a threshold where you are no longer afraid. With hope, there is no threshold. Anything is possible, is it not? Promises bring hope.
It is when these promises become so far disconnected with reality that they can no longer be rationalized by even the simplest drone, that the relationship between the owned and the owner falls apart. Then there is violence.
But violence for what purpose? Unfortunately, tragically, sadly, history shows me that every Revolution is merely an effort to flip the relationship of possession on its head, to change the ownership dynamic within which our artificial construct of possession exists.
So the real question is, when are we going to stop attempting to own each other and instead attempt to voluntarily associate and exchange ideas with whomever we want, however we mutually agree? Doesn't this appear to be a better solution than constanlty exchanging one set of owners for another, only to see them reverse the relationship anyway? Is this revolving door of ownership really the secret to human advancement, or was it our ability to work together without attempting to own each other that sparked our greatest achievements. One is barbarism. The other is civilization. Which do you prefer?
David in Qatar