Murray Rothbard pointed out in “Anatomy of the State” that worship of one’s ancestors “becomes a none too subtle means of worship of one’s ancient rulers.”
I think this point has been vastly understated since then. This phenomenon represents a large factor explaining why there is such momentum behind state worship in our time. On those occasions when I have been allowed to have in-depth conversations that get to the roots of people’s undying devotion to statism, I often hit a common nerve after most of the logical reasons to oppose statism are admitted to. (Getting to this point is rare by the way since anger, silence, and blank stares are the usual reaction when there is no defense to an indefensible position.)
The struck nerve relates to a deep-seated reverence that many people maintain for their ancestors. People want to think, “My daddy Anatomy of the State Best Price: $2.12 Buy New $61.80 (as of 10:35 EDT - Details) was a good guy.” Their uncles were good guys. Their grandpa was a good guy. They were spiritual. They were honest. They worked hard. They told the truth. They were respectful to others. They would help someone in need. Therefore, certainly, they would not have committed a chunk of their lives to something unjust.
Usually the unchallengeable position revolves around Daddy’s or Grandpa’s participation in WWI or WWII (or Vietnam, Korea, etc). Ron Paul’s opposition to a century of perpetual war is taken as a personal insult directly impugning the family tree of so many people.
However, if those war participants were alive and were given a chance to truthfully explain their options, their dilemma would possibly be clearer. Ten million people were drafted during WWII. Those that were drafted had the biggest chance of going to the most life-threatening duty, specifically the infantry. So, another six million volunteered, avoided the draft, and were thereby allowed to choose their arena of duty. Most of those chose either the Navy or the Army Air Corps where their chances of survival were significantly better. It was either wait for the almost inevitable draft or take preemptive action to get “in” officially, but remain mostly out of the line of fire. My father and father-in-law both took the latter option. People often bestow veteran worship on deceased relatives, even those who expressed dissatisfaction with what they were involved in.
When the decades roll by and state-sponsored textbooks cull out the honest, horrifying, heart-wrenching, family-shredding historical accounts from those periods, descendants that want to honor their ancestors are often satisfied to regurgitate the state-promoted explanation which fosters the conclusion that daddy did the honorable, just, noble, Godly thing. We usually want to speak well of the departed that are close relatives. People pull out daddy’s medals or insignia and speak honorably of him. Daddy and Grandpa are probably not around anymore to set things straight. Or, maybe they wouldn’t set things straight. Maybe they would want to be known as good guys and take the truth and corresponding guilt to their graves while trying to not think about that wretched time in their lives.
This feeling also exists when Daddy or Mama was a cop, a bureaucrat, a public school teacher, a fire fighter, etc. The descendants want to think that their ancestors conducted their affairs honestly without taking anything unjustly from anyone.
There is also a significant religion-for-profit promotion of state-ancestor worship. People look to their ancestors as those who passed them the mantle of religion; the “faith of our fathers.” That heritage was passed down to the descendants from a virtuous ancestor. The tradition of religion becomes all bound up in war and the state because the forefathers may have been almost inextricably linked to the state in their particular era of oppression. The desire to see ancestors as virtuous, even in statism, sometimes also manifests itself in a desire to reunite as a family with missed ancestors in a glorious afterlife as a loving virtuous family. This virtuous family life may not have been a complete reality on earth for that family, but a reverence for the dear departed may block out the possibility that the departed’s renowned visible participation in the evil of statism will ever be something that can be rejected philosophically without a feeling of betrayal for the revered departed.
Hardly any logic can break through the wall of support for statism when these spiritual longings fuel a desire to sanctify evil bloody coercion in order to cleanse the memory of a cherished relative. Daddy’s participation in war becomes much more palatable if daddy was doing the Godly thing. Paid preachers know this and many weave together worship of warfare and overall statism with reverence for the living and departed members of that caste in messages that are designed to assuage any negative feelings in the minds of the listeners. Rather than discussing the wretched events that daddy and his colleagues were forced to participate in, they would rather sanctify ancestors’ actions making them clean as the driven snow. People will pay handsomely for this type of moral whitewashing of their heritage. The family history indicating that the relative participated in statism needs to become part of a religiously-backed complete package of a good man; a good family.
The warmongering preachers who make money violating the teachings of the Prince of Peace, couldn’t make money preaching such a gross distortion if the congregants didn’t want to pay to hear it. In those cases, the church goers themselves advocate a worship of the state and are paying for a philosophy that allows them to feel better about their ancestors and current relatives who are part of the state system. People want to hear that their spiritual forefathers were justified in doing things that the state coerced or lied them into.
Overt worship of the military is usually uttered and promoted by persons who have relatives that are, or were, in the military. Nowadays, the “Support the Troops” sticker on the car ahead of you almost always indicates that a relative of the praiser is, or was, involved in the warfare state. It is largely understood that the praisers, and the ones calling for praise, are the ones who either have a financial stake, want social status emanating from laudatory praise, or want to revere their ancestors who participated in the system.
But I think that most people would rather live in a world where they can speak the truth. Rather than accepting that “lying is a part of growing up” and that at a certain age you join the inner circle of adults that learn that lies and deceit represent the “cold hard reality about how the world really works,” non-sociopathic people feel better being able to speak openly about the moral reality that they clearly perceive in their minds. Breaking out of a lifestyle of deception into one of honest interaction definitely improves one’s outlook. And it is fun to talk openly to people and to not nibble around the edges when describing the 800-pound gorilla in the room. It is enjoyable to have friends that laugh at the state-supporting fallacies in the main stream media. In this day and age, you can actually have contact with those honest people that you didn’t even know existed in the past. Would you rather that your pool of associates shrinks down to a small un-talkative group that only rubber stamps in a short abbreviated fashion the collectivist conclusions of the day; or would you rather joyously discuss a brighter future with those who also excitedly discuss the logic and philosophy behind the world that surrounds us.
I can hardly believe that I have, this week, had interaction with some of the most significant writers, thinkers, and truth tellers of our time. And, I did it for free with just a few clicks on a keyboard. No postage stamp, no long distance bill. I have done the same for free with Skype and with Google Hangouts video chat. It is quite a fantastic feeling. And it is never too late to start a legacy of openness. It is much better than the short stilted conversations that end with awkward defensive silence. Sure, you occasionally get the blank stares. But, ultimately, despite the initial hard stares, a lot of your collectivist acquaintances will see you as a source of truth even if they never click “like” on your weird (read truthful) facebook posts.
Ron Paul’s focus on the Fed as the financial source of many of the state’s evils was an area that was previously understated from the perspective of what was financially pushing the state along. From the “social” side, the worship of ancestors, and consequently the misdeeds of their rulers, has a similar understated importance for its weight in perpetuating the social momentum of statism.