When did being free start being bad?
When did being free start being bad?
From the Declaration of Independence to the Declaration of Dependence, from the Constitution to the Confinement, the recent moves to redefine American society as primarily an institutionalized, rather than self-reliant, nation must be viewed in their proper power context.
Power is a zero-sum game played by some to maximize societal control, by others to minimize governmental and cultural interference. Over the past few years, it has become painfully obvious that the wrong side is winning that battle and creating generations that will soon lose the ability to envision a day without the firm guiding hand of someone — anyone — else controlling their lives and providing for their needs.
The movement that was once criticized for creating a "culture of dependency" has now moved on to the next logical phase: the creation of an institutionalized populace that must operate within the confines of the walls built for the "good" of society.
When government agencies began more directly interfering in society at large, there was a certain rationale behind the idea — not letting the elderly starve to death, for example, is a laudable goal, hence Social Security. Making sure everyone should be able to vote and make the most of his life, no matter his race or creed or what-have-you — very little is more American than that.
But the temptation to go beyond the original intent proved too much for too many, and society started to take the "in" out of independent. This trend was noticed rather early on — see the Moynihan Report — but little in fact was done to catch the snowball at the top of the mountain, as it were, and those who tried were vilified as troglodytic reactionaries.
The intervening decades saw the level of dependency increase, though mostly along more prosaic avenues — financial assistance, new specific regulatory pathways, and the increased bubble-wrapping of society. Some of this was needed, and much, much more was not, but it was a slippery slope that we were told was safe and necessary and "not that big a deal." ("Wearing a mask won't kill you — why the fuss?")
Today, with few legitimate avenues of dependency-creation left available, an even more dangerous movement, one that attempts to control thought itself, is afoot, and the institutionalizing of the nation is apace.
There is a vast difference between being dependent and institutionalized. Dependency is not good, but it still affords a certain amount of self-action and freedom. Institutionalization affords none. Imagine the difference between a "Meals on Wheels" program and a person living in your home, telling you when to go to bed, what to watch on TV, what to think about things, and you can see the issue. In other words, it's the difference between being on probation and being in prison, being a grown-up and a child.
Thought police prowl the internet for error, government programs and controlled cultural movements specifically and intentionally replace the role of parents and families, investment banks put making money for their clients second to achieving nebulous goals that only serve to increase the power of the institutions that do the institutionalizing, health care becomes both transactional and political, the justice system is abused, malleable herds are created by manufacturing panic, hiring decisions are made for reasons that have nothing to do with a person's qualifications and everything to do with how they look and what they think, etc. — all in an effort to create an unavoidable cradle-to-grave system of personal confinement cheered on by the minions of the confiners and eventually by the confined themselves.
This progression has been brilliantly noted and deconstructed by many — from Kotkin to Gurri, in between and back again — but as the means and ends continue to conflate the urgency of the need to confront the problem cannot be overstated.
The ultimate success of this infantilizing institutionalization is incredibly important to those who control — and seek — the levers of power in society. By creating unchangeable pathways from birth, by creating a dread of the uncertain, by ensuring that people know nothing but interactions with pre-determined outcomes, the process of control becomes vastly simpler.
When it becomes second nature to fill out a government form, to consent to dehumanizing treatment at the hands of the authorities, to conform to the mob, to be incapable of envisioning a life "on the outside," then the process will be complete and the situation almost inescapable.
The most secure prison is one the prisoners build for themselves.
Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at email@example.com. You can read more of his work at https://thomas699.substack.com.
Image via Max Pixel.