CLIII – The Control Cult

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What
an immense mass of evil must
result
.
. . from allowing men to assume
the right
of anticipating what may happen.

~ Leo Tolstoy

In
the aftermath of the murders
of 32 people at Virginia Tech,
we are witnessing the collective
reaffirmation of the article
of faith uniting all politically-minded
persons: the belief that the
state is capable of identifying
and controlling the factors
that produce undesirable behavior.
Even before the killer was identified,
the chant arose — in unison
— from political chambers, academia,
government offices, and the
media: u201Cthere is something that
those in authority can do to
alleviate such problems.u201D The
mantra often finds expression
— without any break in established
meter — in this form: u201Cwe will
find out what went wrong and
fix it, so that this doesn't
happen again.u201D

This
mindset is so out of touch with
the harsh facts of reality that
The Wall Street Journal carried
a feature article asking: u201CNext
Debate: Should Colleges Ban
Firearms?u201D That firearms had
been banned on the Virginia
Tech campus before these atrocities
took place apparently did not
inform the judgments of this
newspaper's editors. Nor have
I seen evidence of any rethinking
on the part of a Virginia Tech
spokesman who, in 2006, following
the Virginia legislature's enactment
of a ban on guns on state university
campuses, declared: u201CI'm sure
the university community is
appreciative of the General
Assembly's actions because this
will help parents, students,
faculty and visitors feel safe
on our campus.u201D This man might
send such words of comfort to
the families of these 32 victims!

Whatever
explanations or remedies various
u201Cexpertsu201D offer for the problems
that beset mankind, the common
thread connecting them is that
both human and physical nature
are capable of being causally
understood and, therefore, subject
to interventionist correction.
Universities are the temples
of faith in this proposition,
with students enrolling for
their stated purpose of u201Cmaking
the world a better place.u201D It
is not surprising, therefore,
that immediately following these
atrocities, the Virginia Tech
campus became an attractor for
the proponents of this Weltanschauung.
u201CIf the university had intervened
after this man turned in some
disturbed writing to his English
professor;u201D u201Cif we can just
control guns;u201D u201Cif police had
had access to his mental health
records beforehandu201D: these were
the oft-repeated concerns of
those who are convinced that
the world is predictable and,
hence, controllable. In the
latter vein, NBC news anchor,
Brian Williams, reportedly vocalized
the catechism in proposing a
new federal program to monitor
the mental health of all college
students, in order to prevent
occurrences such as this one.

The
true believers of the dogmas
of control have insinuated themselves
into all forms of institutions.
Being ends in themselves, and
with people serving as little
more than resources for organizational
purposes, institutions provide
a fitting environment for such
thinking. Government schools
— unable to grasp the reality
that children are, by nature,
self-directed, spontaneous,
and exploring people eager to
devote their energies to what
interests them — become upset
when their conscripts refuse
to suppress their inquisitiveness.
The children get labeled u201Chyperactiveu201D
or u201Csufferingu201D from u201Cattention
deficit disorderu201D (i.e., do
not adhere to the teacher's
prescribed agenda) and must,
therefore, have their energies
controlled by drugs, counseling,
and other u201Cbehavior modificationu201D
techniques that squeeze the
childhood sense of personally-relevant
curiosity from them.

Children
grow into adulthood, and go
to work for an institutionalized
employer who plays this same
control game at their expense.
The employee finds himself or
herself under the thumb of what
has got to be the most dehumanizing
and vulgar job description anywhere:
a u201Chuman resources manager.u201D
For an individual to be labeled
as nothing more than a u201Cresourceu201D
— what one dictionary defines
as u201Can available meansu201D — is
a glaring admission of the victory
of institutions over the human
spirit!

Members
of the control cult have always
found themselves attracted to
the agency whose raison d'tre
is to subdue all of humanity
to its coercive mechanisms of
control: the state. What problem,
or catastrophe, or even fear
thereof, is not met with the
aforesaid chant of bureaucrats:
u201Cwe will find out what went
wrong and fix it, so it doesn't
happen againu201D? And what members
of the boobeoisie — their
minds thoroughly indoctrinated
in this mindset — do not breathe
a collective sigh of relief
that their managers are on the
job, looking after their well-being?
Cho Seung-Hui bought one of
his guns on Friday the 13th?
Perhaps — with psychics explaining
the causal connection –
gun sales should be banned on
such days! Cho Seung-Hui was
bullied and teased as a child?
Maybe such behavior can be included
under u201Chate crimeu201D laws and
made subject to criminal punishment!

In
the months following 9/11, the
control freaks came forth with
their seemingly endless laundry
list of additional mechanisms
of control with which they promised
to fight the u201Cterroristu201D bogeyman.
More police powers to enter
people's homes — even without
their knowledge; more wiretaps;
more surveillance cameras in
more places; more x-ray cameras;
more background checks; more
systems for probing into the
human mind for motives and dispositions
— an area of research now being
perfected in England. Any objections
offered by the handful of people
who see the dangers inherent
in police-states were casually
dismissed by those who regard
all expressions of individual
liberty as u201Cloopholesu201D to be
closed by additional legislation.

Not
to be left in the exhaust provided
by their u201Cwar on terroru201D brethren,
the u201Cglobal warmingu201D denomination
mounted the pulpit to preach
the sins of human behavior,
and to promise existential salvation
if only they, too, be given
extended control over the human
species. Mindless of the incalculable
complexities at work within
our world — a topic I took up
in my
last article
— there is
an arrogance of omniscience
that unites members of the control
cult. Whatever the field into
which they wish to intrude,
they remain convinced that they
are capable of marshaling sufficient
information that will allow
them to create mechanisms to
prevent harmful acts and to
generate beneficial ones. If,
in religious thinking, God is
regarded as both omniscient
and omnipotent then, in a secular
age, such powers must repose
elsewhere, namely, in the gods
and goddesses of institutional
governance.

But
recent inquiries into the nature
of u201Cchaosu201D and complexity are
revealing the baseless foundations
of this faith in control. Our
world — including each human
being — is simply too complex,
too subject to a myriad of too
many influences over which we
can never have sufficient awareness
to predict outcomes. If physical
and human nature are too complicated
to be predictable, the rationale
for state control is swept away.
To the controllists, the expression
of this fact is a heresy that
must be exorcised from our thinking.

Those
who cling to a faith in their
dying secular deity remain convinced
that all that is needed to make
a complex world more predictable
is more information. This is
the essence of much of the babbling
of tongues disguised as u201Cexpert
analysisu201D in the days following
the killings at Virginia Tech.
What we tend not to understand
is that the more information
we possess about anything, the
more questions and uncertainties
that arise. Albert Einstein
understood this quite well in
saying that u201Cas a circle of
light increases, so does the
circumference of darkness around
it.u201D Bertrand Russell provided
the social meaning to this when
he declared: u201CThe trouble with
the world is that the stupid
are cocksure and the intelligent
are full of doubt.u201D

But
one need not rely on abstract
insights to confirm that a complex
and unpredictable world cannot
be rendered certain by more
information. Over many decades,
the American government has
spent — and continues to spend
— tens of billions of dollars
in so-called u201Cintelligence agencies,u201D
whose functions are to gather
as much information as possible
on the forces at work within
foreign countries — and, disturbingly,
within America itself. Despite
the virtually unrestrained powers
enjoyed by such agencies, and
the resources put at their disposal
to gather information, they
have been able to predict almost
nothing of major significance.
The tearing down of the Berlin
Wall, the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the events of 9/11, all
occurred without any foreknowledge
of such agencies. And what of
the predictions that American
troops would be welcomed by
Iraqis as u201Cliberatorsu201D in a
u201Cslam dunku201D war that would last
only a few weeks? On a more
comic level, even knowing that
January 1, 2000 was an event
certain to happen, the voices
of what became known as u201CY2Ku201D
uncertainty were all over the
lot in trying to predict what
consequences, if any, were likely
to befall our computer-centered
world.

Apostles
of the control cult will focus
their energies on any area of
human activity that provides
them the opportunity to advance
what is central to their lives:
the exercise of coercive power
over other people. Whether any
given issue involves gun ownership;
global warming; discriminatory
behavior; tobacco, drug, and
alcohol usage; eating habits;
educating or raising children;
or any other expressions of
human action that can be exploited
for their purposes, the overall
objective remains fixed. There
is nothing this crowd fears
more than the specter of ordinary
people retaining decision-making
authority over their own lives.

Those
who want control over us have
taught us that they — if given
enough power — can protect us
from the destructive and murderous
rampages of madmen. The Cho
Seung-Huis and the Saddam Husseins
of our troubled world will continue
to be offered up to us as the
destructive, murderous madmen
from whom we need the protection
of state officials. But the
war system ought to be a stark
reminder that it is political
authorities who are the
madmen; who destroy property,
ravage economies, and — in the
20th century alone
— butchered some 200,000,000
people in pursuit of their psychotic
ambitions to control the rest
of humanity.

Most
of your life is — and will continue
to be — spent in peaceful relationships
with others. But there will
be the occasional thug with
whom you may have to contend.
Your ability to defend yourself
will always depend upon the
actions you take, with
the resources you have
available. You are more likely
to prevail if you have disabused
yourself of the notion that
the state — or any other established
system — will be there to prevent
such threats to you. To this
end, if you draw nothing else
from the terrible events of
this past week, let it be the
awareness that there is nothing
that anyone in authority can
do to protect you from the unpredictabilities
and uncertainties of life.

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Chapter
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