Experiments in Moral Sovereignty Notes of an American Exile


During October–November 2006, the writer gave presentations at workshops and seminars across India that had been convened to address the existential crises facing humanity. Sponsors and venues included Prakrit Bharati Academy and Kapil Smarak Samiti, Jaipur; Friends of Gandhi Museum, Pune; Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi; and World Buddhist Cultural Foundation, Varanasi. The following introduction is the first in a short series of condensations.

These presentations across India express three main themes:

  1. A call to people of the world to generate an evolutionary quantum leap into a higher consciousness of nonviolence in order that we may survive as a species. This call is for a revolution from fear to love, from greed to generosity, from cruelty to compassion, from deceit to truth, from dependence to self-reliance, from war to peace, from corporate enslavement to individual liberty.
  2. An appeal to India to help raise humanity to a more sacred destiny – not as a nation state, but as a people – to guide mankind to that spiritual unity which alone can bring peace on earth.
  3. The story of one man's quest for individual moral sovereignty in a world of institutionalized structural violence imposed by the corporate warfare state. This struggle – within himself as well as with powers that be – led him to renunciation of and severance from his native land. He lives in India in self-imposed exile.

As a US citizen, he remains subject to the tyrannical power of the USA Patriot Acts and the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Publication of these seminars places the author at personal risk. He could be put on some government watch list or no-fly list. He could be jailed indefinitely, without charges and without right of habeas corpus. He dares not return to American soil.

I, Jeff Knaebel, undertake this risk as a duty to humanity and the ideals of liberty. Guided by my conscience, I openly declare repudiation of US income tax law. I do not labor for my earnings to be employed to finance bombs which shred the bodies of women and children. My purpose on this earth is not to finance destruction and murder, but to learn the practice of gratitude and reverence for all life.

Deeds are essential. All morally vigorous people express thought as action. The inner work is primary and crucial. One gains strength from introspection.

The background from which these presentations emanate – as well as the motivation for speaking – is a set of simple yet horrifying observations. In all but about twelve of my 67 years, USA has been engaged directly in foreign warfare. Within the past century, nation states have murdered at least 200 million people in wars and internal conflict. The modern corporate warfare state has wrought such vast wanton ecological and cultural destruction as to threaten survival of human species. We live under threat of an insane political theory of nuclear deterrence through mutually assured destruction.

At this moment, an American nuclear armada is standing off the coast of Iran. A nuclear attack seems easily within the realm of possibility. It will precipitate an unimaginable conflagration throughout the Middle East and West Asia, if not the whole world. For six billion human beings to have organized themselves into a structure, such that a handful of powerful men can trigger a final holocaust, is to me insane. Nuclear proliferation is expanding to include new players. The sheer scale of violence emanating from a hierarchy of power relations – fuelled by greed and the drive to dominate – is leading us to destruction.

The Corporate Warfare State is the most abominable failure of humanity in all of history.

My presentation discusses what the State really is and how it actually operates, stripped of propaganda and delusion. It points out the fatal ethical design errors of system. It shows how power structures attract the most corruptible of men: those who will to ruthless murder in order to accomplish their evil ends. At the peak of its growth cycle, the State becomes a gang of criminals ruling by a mix of force, deceit and manufactured consent.

Using Gandhi's demonstration of means is to end as seed is to tree, it is shown how an institution based upon the fundamental moral flaw of a monopoly on violence can never lead to peace. The State is likened to a machine which has run amok – out of control. The relevant operational fact is that State-sponsored endless war is no more than a profiteering racket. War is health of State. War is profit to the big corporate money interests. Loss of life does not report to the corporate balance sheet.

The nature of power relations which create the operating dynamics of the State is examined. I conclude: For power, there is no tomorrow. There are no grandchildren. Even of earth, there is none. There is only power.

The way has been lost. We stand on the brink of a maniacal holocaust. How shall we live?

The relationship of individual to State is examined. How did it come to be? Is it a valid relationship in terms of reason, law, common sense, and conscience? I ask basic questions of the State. Does it murder? Am I financing this murder? Am I therefore responsible? Do I finance murder voluntarily? Am I therefore a slave?

Conclusion is that the constitution is of no authority. There can be no valid binding agreement among men who never met even to discuss a document which itself was drafted by men long since dead. The dead cannot bind the living. Whatever agreements they made, whatever constitutions they made, applied only to them and died with them. Thus the State which rules my life is invalid at inception.

A list of 72 violations of my human rights perpetrated by the United States is presented. It is clear that – measured by the parameters of clinical psychology – the historical "run of the mill" heads of State suffer from paranoid delusions, kleptomania, a pathological tendency to commit murder and acts of extreme violence and cruelty, an obsessive acting out of ruthless domination. Diagnosis: criminally insane.

The reader is asked to question for himself, what three behavioral traits did the following men all exhibit in common: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Mao Zedong, George Bush, Tony Blair? For one clue, is not the lust for power and domination quite clear? How did it manifest? Absent the institutional architecture of an all-powerful State, would it have been possible for them to have wrought so much murder?

The government has perverted justice and public morality into such grotesque forms as to be unrecognizable to a rational man with a conscience. The State is an abomination vile, corrupt, vicious, destructive and murderous. It has become the single greatest threat to human survival.

Perceiving the American state to be a criminal operation of nigh incomprehensible scale – having perpetrated innumerable heinous crimes against humanity – and having executed no contract by which it has any jurisdiction over my life, I declare my right to renounce and depart from it without obligation.

I will present for your consideration my personal Declaration of Severance and Independence from the United States. It says in part: I hold these to be self-evident truths, that all people are endowed at birth with equal, inalienable and independent rights, among which are sole possession of their own life, liberty and the seeking of happiness in their own way. That men may secure these rights by forming such associations as they choose, which must operate by non-coerced full consensus, and from which any member is free to secede.

We make a mistake to plead and litigate with our masters using only the tools they have provided us. We cannot prevail within a frame of the same rules by which we are enslaved. By this pleading, we only feed the monster with our energy and money. We must take back personal responsibility for our independence, and for our survival. One way is to exercise our natural right to ignore the State, to renounce it, and to work at building an independent life, accepting neither the State's "benefits" nor its costs, to the extent we are able to avoid them.

Gandhi's example of Satyagraha (strong adherence to truth) with Ahimsa (non-violence) points the method. We must be the change we wish to see. I submit that a simple first step is to tell the truth in every transaction, to every person, at all times, in every situation. When we begin to call things by their true name – for example, "collateral damage" is murder pure and simple – we will begin to wake up to the reality of the human condition created by The Powers That Be, and to which we have acquiesced for far too long.

I conclude that there is no political institution/ism, no authoritarian person/ist, no economic policy, and no government that can save us from the self-inflicted disaster bearing down upon us. Only the freedom to be in love with life, and to express that love without arbitrary institutional barriers that label us as "the other" – and thus block person-to-person natural expression – can save us. This is a freedom to live in the original unconditioned character – found deep within each of us – of total, sweeping, deep, overflowing, unconditional love of life, of this earth, of its creatures, of ourselves, of each other. To express this love, we must get the State out of our way.

May you live long, live free.

December 21, 2006