Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Liberty and Theocracy in Ohio

On Liberty and Theocracy in Ohio

I have recently encountered the most Owellian statement I have ever seen in a document called Uncommon Sense on the web site of Ohio's Secretary of State.

Many things get called Orwellian because they somewhat resemble the doublespeak that Orwell invented in his book 1984. However, this is not like Orwellian doublespeak. This is a pure example of Orwellian doublespeak.

The three primary examples of doublespeak that the state in Orwell's book 1984 employs are "War is peace", "freedom is slavery", and "ignorance is strength". The "Uncommon Sense" page seeks to promote the very idea that freedom is slavery.

The document lists 20 values that are supposed to be a part of good moral character. On this list of values, they mention "Liberty":

Liberty: High-character people preserve their public rights by fulfilling their personal responsibilities. In order to preserve public freedoms, every person must exercise private restraints. Therefore, free people embrace self-control so the need for public controls is minimized. As a result, high-character people communicate and live out character ethics and intentionally exhort others to do likewise as active act of preserving liberty for everyone. (Observable Virtues: temperance, self-control.)

The History of the Fight for Liberty

This definition suggests that I need to reinterpret much of what I thought I had learned about American history.

I did not realize that when the Founding Fathers declared that they were fighting for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that they were protesting King George's unwillingness to provide the American colonists with sufficient opportunity to exercise private restraint.

And, apparently, the soldiers who fought to end slavery in the Civil War were concerned that African Americans were being denied their inalienable right to temperance.

Also, some French apparently thought that this issue was so important that they built for us a large statue, the Statue of Liberty, with a plaque by which she says to the world, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning for self-control."

And that "Pledge of Allegiance" . . . apparently, what we are having these children pledge to each day is "self-control and justice for all."

I never knew that until now.

For some reason, my understanding of history made it far easier to imagine the colonists protesting the constraints King George sought to impose, not pleading for more. I can easily picture in my mind the southern slave owner teaching his slaves the Ohio definition of freedom. However, I do not think that these are the words that slaves would use in demanding their liberty from their owner. The Ohio definition represents something that those huddled masses yearning to breathe free were running from, not what they were running toward.

Liberty Means: "Submit or Suffer the Consequences"

I want to draw your attention to the explicit threat written into this definition of liberty -- the threat that says, "Do what you are told and you will not get hurt." The Ohio definition says that "self-restraint" is necessary to prevent "the need for public control."

These are the words of King George saying that the lack of restraint on the part of the colonists made it necessary for him to send the Red Coats to Boston.

These are the words of the slave owner who says that that the slave's 'uppity' nature made it necessary for him to bring out the whip.

These are the words of tyrants and dictators throughout history who have always defended their authoritarian power by appealing to a need to subdue an unruly people.

These are the words of those who have no use for liberty and no interest in preserving it. These are the words of people who want others to name them soveriegn and blindly obey their commands, and who are tired of silly conventions such as a love of liberty limiting what those in power may command of their subjects.

So, they preach a concept of liberty that says, 'Do as you are told' combined with the threat 'Or else we will make you suffer.' This way, if the subjects become restless and unruly and have to be put down, those with power can comfortably say, "This is your fault. If you had been more cooperative, passive, compliant, and obedient, then we would not have had to do this."

Liberty as Restraint of Government Excesses

There is an element of restraint associated with liberty. However, it is not "private restraint" or "self-control". It is a public restraint -- a restraint on the demands that those with power will make on those who do not share power. It is a command that those with authority, whether they are employers or project managers, or group leaders, or the majority in a democracy, will not abuse that power.

In my blog posting, "All Men Are Created Equal," I gave a 'rule of thumb' that can be used to determine whether those with power are abusing their authority instead of honoring the rights of others. It is a modification of the principle, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It also finds use in Social Contract Theories regarding political legitimacy.

This "rule of thumb" invites people with power to evaluate the rules they adopt according to whether they would agree with those same rules if they found that they were in the weaker position. "Would you comfortably accept others imposing on you that which you impose on them?"

So, if Muslims were in the majority, and Christianity were a minority religion, would the Christians comfortably accept a rule that requires their children to read daily passages from the Koran at school, pray five times eash day while bowing to Mecca, and a pledge of allegiance to "one nation with only one God and Mohammed is its prophet"?

Or, would they accept an atheistic leadership that requires students to read and recite "The Case Against God" and pledge allegiance to "One nation with no God"?

If not, then they should know that it is wrong to impose these types of demands on others. They should be as reluctant to see schools turned into government funded Christian temples as they would be to have those same schools turned into government funded Mosques or Synagogues. Imposing those burdens on others would be to transgress the boundaries of liberty.

This is a test that England would not have passed in 1776. We can trust that if America had been the parent country, and it imposed taxes on England without allowing those living in England to have representation in Congress, that the English would not have accepted this. They should not have expected America to accept it.

It is a test that the slave owner could not have passed. I doubt there would be much luck finding a slave owner who would not protest being taken from his home and hauled to Africa to work without pay in a foreign country, bought and sold, separated from his family, and freely killed when it benefits his masters to do so.

It is a test the tyrant cannot pass, because he would not be content to live in a tyranny in which he was not the one in control.

Ohio's Defender of Liberty as Servitude

It is a test that J. Kenneth Blackwell, the current Ohio Secretary of State and Republican candidate for governor cannot pass, because he is advocating policies  that he would certainly protest if others, were to seek to impose similar policies on him.

Reverend Rod Parsley, mentioned in the article linked to in the preceding paragraph, is explicitly fighting to bring down American democracy, and replace it with a Christian Theocracy. To his congregation, he says that "Americans must be `Christocrats.'"

If Americans must be Christian, this can only be accomplished by revoking the citizenship of anybody who is not Christian. He also has said of this form of government, "...[it] is not democracy, [it] is theocracy. God is in control, and you are not."

These are not the words of somebody who has much use for liberty as it is typically understood. He is clearly somebody who only has use for liberty in terms of "doing what you are told so that you are not suffering the consequences that we will impose upon you otherwise."

Looking through the rest of the values described in "Uncommon Sense", there is a common theme. This is a recipe for how to be a perfect servant to a master in need of servants. In addition to the loss of true liberty, the person of 'high character' is also supposed to shun independence, willingly yield to authority, have no use for privacy, and even seek "the benefits of suffering."

Liberty is, on this definition, nothing other than servitude. It is as if the text were lifted straight out of George Orwell's book.

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