Recently by Butler Shaffer: War as a Lifestyle
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
~ Thomas Pynchon
As I watched the TV bobble-heads trying to analyze the outcome of Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, it became evident that those whose job it is to translate the agenda of the establishment to the rest of us could not explain the Ron Paul phenomenon. I doubt that any of these people are so intellectually dense as to miss the significance of what is occurring. I am inclined more to the opinion that the voices of the lockstep-media do understand that Ron Paul's campaign is underlain by a fundamental questioning of the assumptions and policies that have long defined politics. But these same voices understand that they dare not allow such questions to be raised on their watch. For them to do otherwise would be to risk the well-paid jobs they have hawking the corporate-state interests, forcing them into a marketplace that might not provide them equivalent incomes or perks.
For the sake of maintaining the status quo that defines establishment interests, Ron Paul must be marginalized, consigned to playing the role of a charismatic person able — like the Pied-Piper of Hamelin — to persuade young people to follow him. The institutional order can afford to treat Ron as an aging rock star — he and Elvis were born in the same year — but his thinking and his questions must be quarantined. Those over 65 years of age — of whose numbers, CNN tells us, only 11% voted for Ron — can be counted upon to defend the status quo. Far too many of them have lifelong ego identities, as well as Social Security and Medicare expectations, that make them wary of fundamental changes in political thinking. They remember previous elections such as the one in which George Bush I swept past Michael Dukakis on the question of whether Willie Horton should have been allowed a furlough from prison, but proceeded to commit further crimes. Like the high-school elections in which superficial glitz carried the day, the Horton issue placed no burden upon the minds of that year's voters. Neither has the decision as to which of the six anti-Paul sock-puppets to support forced any troublesome analysis by most members of the "greatest generation."
But the under-40 aged kids know better than most of their parents and grandparents. They are aware that the world in which they will spend their adult lives does not work the way it has been advertised. It is not designed to support the self-interested pursuits of which they dream. Indeed, it is structured in such ways as to assure that their lives, property interests, and purposes in the world are narrowly confined to serving the wealth and power ambitions of institutions over which they have absolutely no control or means of dissent.
This younger generation also understands that unconscious, undirected forces are at work transforming the nature of the social systems through which we organize ourselves. The vertically-structured pyramid that is virtually synonymous with the institutional order and its chain-of-command authority, is rapidly being replaced by horizontally-interconnected networks of voluntary cooperation. The arising generation is learning that spontaneous, autonomous self-organization pervades the universe, including human society; that order can only be discovered and never imposed. They are beginning to understand that most important lesson from the study of "chaos" so well-expressed by Terry Pratchett: "Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order because it is better organized."
Modern society is a wicked conspiracy against the young, a truth of which many of its members have become aware. In a world that is becoming increasingly decentralized — posing a major threat to the institutional establishment — coupled with a growing disenchantment with the old order, draconian efforts to reinforce the crumbling foundations of the corporate-state apparatus ought not surprise us. Only the dullest of minds can believe that SWAT teams, militarized police forces, torture, assassinations, endless detentions, hyper-inflationary systems of looting, an insistence on maintaining state secrets while denying individual privacy, wars against the entire world, and other forms of ruthless violence, will be able to restore the pyramidal structures in our world. Members of the institutional order continue to prattle on about "terrorism," but it is they who threaten the rest of us with terror in order to force our compliance with their interests and obedience to their authority. It is the corporate-state establishment that experiences the stark terror associated with the demise of its racket! This is why the "war on terror" will last forever — as George Bush II told us: the vertical power-structure can no longer be sustained, and neither "all the king's horses" nor "all the king's men" can do anything about that fact.
This is the message the established order does not want people to hear, accompanied by the kinds of questions it does not want asked. For just as it is impossible to un-invent nuclear power, it is impossible to un-ask questions. This is what the institutionalists fear about Ron Paul: it is tolerable to suggest that the emperor is naked – that, after all, can be corrected by a subsequent election — but not the empire itself!
There is a peaceful, decentralizing revolution going on not only in America, but in the rest of the world. For lack of a better explanation, I think of the energies driving this as emanating from a life force in nature that resists its own destruction. We have been able to tolerate the kinds of foolishness that arise from the "extraordinary popular delusions and madness of crowds" that often beset us. Life is resilient enough to avoid many of the adverse consequences of fantastic thinking, much as creative businesspeople are able to circumvent even the goofiest of government regulations.
It would totally misconceive the nature of the changes transpiring in our world to try to explain them as something dreamed up by Ron Paul. Ron knows — as do so many others — that the energies boiling beneath the surface of events are being directed by no one. No more than Martin Luther King nor Rosa Parks "caused" the black civil rights movement; nor Cindy Sheehan the anti-Iraq war demonstrations, has Ron been some kind of "instigator" of social change. He has been a very vocal and focused exponent of these transformations, a kind of lightning-rod attracting the pent-up energies of millions of individuals. Whether he wins the Republican nomination or gets elected president is, to my thinking, secondary to the enormity of what he has already accomplished: he has been able to get ordinary men and women to ask the kinds of questions that have not been asked for many decades, and that cannot be un-asked!
The electronic kapos who breathed a collective sigh of relief that Ron Paul didn't "win" in Iowa totally missed the point (as they are well-paid to do). The comments I heard emphasized what they considered the "importance" of a third-place finish that captured "only" 21% of the votes.
I cannot help but think of the successes Ron Paul has thus far achieved without contemplating the impact his efforts might have on the lives of my children and grandchildren. Nor can I resist thinking back to the works of that great anti-statist, Albert Jay Nock, who regarded his efforts as being to help care for those independent and intellectually focused men and women he called "the Remnant." These are the people who, following the collapse of civilization, will be the ones who will "build up a new society" based upon the "august order of nature." In my law school classes, conferences at which I speak, and numerous e-mails I receive, I find so many — particularly among the young — who may become part of this Remnant.
I do not presume to know the thinking of those who cast their votes for Ron in Iowa, but I cannot help wondering about the impact on our world of those who comprised "only 21%" of those voting. As the cable-channel babblers chided Ron for being "impractical" (i.e., his ideas do not serve our corporate-state masters to whom we long ago sold out), I thought about how peaceful our world might have been if Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, and Mao, had faced an intellectually principled and focused group of "only 21%." By contrast, Milton Mayer's post-World War II experiences in Germany — written in his classic They Thought They Were Free — illustrates how deadly can be the pursuit of "practical" ends when devoid of a moral dimension to one's actions. Ron Paul is running for the presidency because of his moral principles. The six sock-puppets are running only to get elected to power.
In a world in which decentralized social systems grounded in individual liberty are confronted by well-funded corporate-state forces bent on preserving their coercive power over others, it is important for those of us who believe in peaceful means to express ourselves in personal ways. Many of Ron Paul's critics truly do not understand that his campaign is being driven from the bottom up. Four years ago, a man who described himself as not being political, undertook to build a "Ron Paul" blimp which was used in various locations around the country. Ron has often been asked, by the professional politicians, "how did you organize all of this?," to which he has honestly replied "I didn't; my supporters did this on their own."
People with a top-down mindset cannot fathom that individuals can organize themselves around a candidate or a cause wholly on their own. In a pyramidal world — such as Plato offered centuries ago — someone has to sit atop the pyramid directing the behavior of others. Who that "someone" is always turns out to be the loudest exponent of pyramidism!
If we, as individuals, are to make the case for the cause of peace and liberty, we need to direct our resources to sustaining those who provide decentralized, non-institutional expression of our values. The kids who traipse around the country to attend Ron Paul events are doing more than chasing after a celebrity. They are the most visible expressions of that most moral of social principles: life belongs to the living, not to the corporate-state!
I used to get e-mails from people who said, in essence, "thank you; I thought I was the only one who thought this way and almost gave up hope." I now get e-mails telling me how encouraging it has been to find out that so many others — as seen on LRC — also think this way. The young people — perhaps Nock's Remnants-in-training — need the encouragement that comes from the decentralized, horizontally-networked society of free and peaceful people. One way to do this is to donate money — or even a blimp, if you have a spare one around — to such sites as LewRockwell.com, Antiwar.com, or the Independent Institute.
I derive no compensation whatever from my efforts on behalf of LRC. I write for the same reason that other people play golf: I just can't do otherwise. But I do know that the institutional order will continue to pump whatever amount of money they deem necessary for the preservation of their corporate-state system. I also know that they fear the life-forces that work beneath the surface of events to return life and human society to the living.
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938 and of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival. His latest book is Boundaries of Order.