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October 28, 2012

On the coming authoritarian police states - 1


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Introduction

1.  The coming authoritarain police states - 1
PS. My eye problems

Introduction:

Today there is just the first part of a disquisition on the authoritarian police states, in Europe and the US, that I see coming - and that I hope I am mistaken about, as indeed I may be, for all I am doing is extrapolating and guessing, based on my knowledge of history, politics and philosophy.

But I do see quite a large amount of diverse facts that support that expectation, and hardly any that contradict it, such as - say - competent and honest politicians; a population concerned to live in a free society; or an intelligentsia that is deeply concerned about the recent loss of fundamental freedoms like habeas corpus; free written correspondence, unchecked by secret police; or the right not to have to identify oneself to any police officer or bureaucrat, as if these folks must be moral and intellectual supermen compared to oneself.

I see none of that: I see no competent or honest politicians, no intelligentsia, and no population concerned with their freedoms and rights, whereas I do see, and have seen enforced upon me, a loss of fundamental personal freedoms, next to my own effective repositioning as what must be, in actual governmenal practice, the equivalent of a subhuman, namely compared to the supermen I have to identify myself to, because in Holland any Dutch citizen these days is considered to be guilty of being a possible terrrorist by the authorities, unless proof has been given one is not, for otherwise the duty to identify myself with official papers to state servants would not have been imposed, in a truly free society, as it was not between 1950 and 1989, when the threats to Western freedoms by the Soviet empire were far larger than the threats to freedom by "Al Qaeda".

Incidentally, my point is not that I am in favour of terrorism or that I am against an effective police:

My points are, firstly, that the present set-up in the West is similar to that of dictatorial states, where the bureaucrats and police, like the power elite, effectively are like, and behave as if they are, supermen compared to any ordinary citizen - compared to whom, indeed, they have super powers; and secondly, that since states have been by far the most effective organs of terrorism - by which I mean such things as repression, violence, murder, war, torture, incarceration, legalized theft and exploitation, as happened in the states of Stalin, Hitler, or Mao - for which reason state servants, even in a fair and just society, should not be trusted, should not have privileges ordinary citizens lack, and should not be trusted with any more power than they need to do their job, while such powers as they have  should be regulated and subject to control by at least a parliament and the legislature.

In a free society, the human individual, his products, ideas, and freedoms to produce these, within the body of laws that protect all human individuals against exploitation, repression and violence, are what the society is about.

In a free society, the end of the state is to protect human individuals, their rights, and their products. In an unfree society, the end of the state is to protect the state, and a special group of people with economic or social power, such as business owners or leaders of a religion, against the rest of society.


1. The coming authoritarain police states - 1

If you have read my Nederlog regularly - there are some who have - it will come as no surprise that I am very pessimistic about the 21st Century and the West: I think the rational probability - the least implausible expectation, if you will - is that there will arise authoritarian police states in Western Europe and the U.S.

There are quite a few reasons why I think so. The main ones - and there are quite a few more - are these:

(1) Ever since 9/11/2011 the beginnings of authoritarian police states have been created in the US and Europe, with "the war on terror" as "justification":

Concentration camps, torture, forced identity papers, enforced governmental spying on your e-mails and phone-conversations, the breaking down of the Bill of Rights in the US, the death of real habeas corpus, the secret arrests and secret detentions on mere suspicion, rendition of prisoners to have them tortured in airplanes or in foreigh dictatorships ... all of this is as in police states, while

(2) NONE of this was justified by ANY of the alleged dangers of "terrorists", who are at worst a fairly small group of religious fanatics without a state, without a territory, 
without an army, and without major weapons of mass-destruction. (*)

(See my "Over Terrorisme", that I wrote 7 years ago - tomorrow - in Dutch, to see how people have been fooled and lied to by government propaganda, that has been repeated without end, without expressed doubt, and without denial, by most of the media as if the media had become the wiling PR-officers of their governments - which perhaps, notably in Holland, may really be the case, though I do not believe this is, as yet, the case in the US or England. Even so, very few journalists these days are like journalists once were: the independent servants of public interests and truth, since most behave, write and talk as if taking any position on anything other than sport is a major vice, that will not go unpunished.)

(3) The democratic majority that was educated and raised since the 1970ies, that now either already is present in or else is busy entering the middle and higher levels of economic, political, military and legal institutions, got a much worse education than anyone in a comparable function or office in the West had, at least since the 1850ies, whatever their level and kind of education:

In majority, they do not believe in real truth - except where their own interests are involved - nor in independent individual morality, nor in ethical norms that really rise above groupthinking, nor in real science. Instead, their outlook, ideologies, concerns and sense of values mostly derive from what they read, saw and heard most of: Public Relations, advertisements, manipulated, dishonest, and ideologically loaded "daily news", possibly supplemented by some university curriculum that was designed for average intelligent folks without any serious intellectual interest or talents. (**)

(4) On average, modern man has been turned - and let himself be turned, willingly, proudly, contentedly - into A Happy Consumer, a middle of the road conformist and ill educated hedonist or careerist, who is proud of being not an intellectual but a sports fan, and whose main interests in life are to become a socio-economic success, and to show respect for all, and especially for governors and their staff: police, military, government spokesmen, and media pundits. (***)

Everything in the way of independent facts, values or thinking has been declared "relative" - except for "the war on terror", or the urgent need for taking away everyone's individual and constitutional liberties because - it is claimed - "the war on terror" makes this necessary, as is the need of all to conform to and look up to Our Leaders In "The War Against Terror" - leaders, who have now for 11 years been reducing the rule of law, in the name of Western Freedom, and have been limiting and strangling the personal freedoms and rights that were the core values and principles of free societies, and have been effectively furthering the creation of authoritarian police states "in the name of freedom and democracy", allegedly to win "The War On Terror" - that in fact is a piece of propaganda, having almost nothing to do with fact, truth or rational probability. (****)

(5) Because there was and is no objective need for any of the things and the ongoing social and legal processes mentioned in the previous points; because these are palpably authoritarian and state terrorism sanctified by propaganda and manipulation; and because these are part of a tradition that has been in evidence, especially in and around the US Republican Party and its many so-called "Think Tanks", since the 1960ies (see the NB on Brezesinski that I wrote earlier this month) I think it more likely than not that much of what is and has been happening since 9/11/2001 has been engineered and contrived on purpose, and to bring about the creation of authoritarian Western police states.

To reflect a little on the above five points:

I think the first four are beyond reasonable doubt, perhaps apart from the somewhat satirical way in which I formulated them, and are more or less plain facts that both proponents of what is happening ("we need a strong state to protect us against The Dangers of Terrorism") and opponents (like myself, whose father and grandfather ended up in German concentration camps as 'political terorists' because they were part of the anti-nazi resistance in Holland) should acknowledge with little change:

These things are happening and have been happening ever since 9/11/2001, which event indeed formed their main governmental motivation and justification to do these things summed up in my points as well.

Again, one may grant that there is some justification for increasing the powers of the state after 9/11/2001 - the problem is, in my opinion, that state powers have been increased far more than is justified by either the facts or the principles of a free society. And as I argued, the principles of a free society were practised to a much larger extent than at present, from the 1950ies to the late 1980ies, against the far larger dangers of Soviet communism.

The fifth point is more speculative, and I have no proof.

I do have supporting evidence, such as the fact that the curtailment of freedoms of thought, speech, congregation, religion and limiting the freedom from arbitrary arrest have been quite popular in circles inside and around the US Republican Party for 50 or more years; the fact that an authoritarian state with fargoing state powers is much in the interests of the corporate elite and the rich, especially in times of economic crisis (when it may help ro repress revolts and revolutions); and - especially - the fact that the proponents of the effective destruction of the free society, that currently include most of the Democratic Party, seem to have been singing from the same hymn sheets for many years now.

Then again... I am aware that the vast democratic majority in the West - those with IQs between 75 and 125, say; those who cannot spell or reckon without a computer; those who know no history, no science, no philosophy, no mathematics; that is, those who mostly believe the government propaganda and the bullshit that is the dominant fare in the media, and who are also the proud to be respected and respecting average conformist pillars of the society they still believe to be "free" and to exist to defend their rights and interests, a supposed society that they support with their democratic majority votes, even if they themselves have no clear ideas about societies, states, governments, rights and interests, except what they have been manipulated to give credence to - will not believe me, and probably will be angry to be described as I did by the likes of myself.

I'm sorry if I may have sounded what these days tends to be called "elitarian" (if one is no sports' hero), but in fact I have not been saying anything remarkably new or original about ordinary men and women:

I hail from a Protestant country and though I am not a Christian, nor indeed religious believer, at all, I do agree on one fundamental point with both the Christians and the Catholics - which is a point that precisely the modern self-proclaimed Christians and Catholics tend to forget, deny or pooh-pooh:

Man on average is fairly seen and described as wicked, sinful and depraved, or at least as egoistic, conformistic and indifferent to the suffering of others:
"If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, 'to every good work reprobate.' "
- as Hazlitt put it, in full conformity to the Biblical teachings also, that he too, did not literally believe in. (See the Heidelberg Cathechism in case you doubt what I said - and no: This was mostly what Protestants learned and taught till well into the 20th Century, while some still do, especially in the USA.)

In any case, the likes of myself are quite rare, and since I also have no children or grandchildren who run the real risk of ending in a concentration camp or being caught up in coming world wars about water, oil, rare earths, wheat or cultivable land, and also since I am meanwhile too old to be afraid of concentration camps for myself (though it is true my father's father was older than I am now when he was arrested for the Nazis, by Amsterdam police agents and betrayed by Dutchmen) I feel free to write as I do, as indeed I still have the legal right to. (*****)

And I write as I do because I very much fear that what I say will become true, and that the 21st Century will be the most horrible age in human history, precisely because
"History is little else but the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind"
    -- Edward Gibbon
"Presque toute l'Histoire n'est qu'une suite d'horreurs."
    -- Nicolas Chamfort
Indeed, if you are healthy, Dutch, and none too bright or erudite, it is very likely that you will disagree with me - but then the facts of history you were not taught in schools are more horrible and horrifying than you have adequate ideas for, and as I write and as you read, there are about  as many human beings starving as there were human beings around 1800 AD. There is human progress for you!

And apart from man's inhumanity to man, and the enormous problem constituted by 7 billions of human beings packed closely together on an earth that does not feed more than 6 out of 7 tolerably enough not to starve:

The difference between now, in 2012, and then, say in 1785, is mainly that there are far more human beings competing for far scarcer resources, and that the technological means for destruction and repression are far greater than ever, while so far there have not been scientific or technological breakthroughs to cope with the needs for food and energy for 7 billion human beings.

What better means to clean things up for the kinds of elites that are everywhere in power than a few major wars that leaves the members of the elites mostly untouched, but removes 6 out of 7 poor and expendable folks, who have not made it into the governing elites or their staff and propaganda units? What easier way to do this than to start "wars against terrorism", "in the name of freedom", but with an effective enormous death toll?

Consider:
It is estimated that the world population reached one billion for the first time in 1804. It was another 123 years before it reached two billion in 1927, but it took only 33 years to reach three billion in 1960. Thereafter, the global population reached four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987, six billion in 1999 and, according to the United States Census Bureau, seven billion in March 2012.
  -- Human population (Wikipedia)

I admit it is a cynical line of thought, but then it's effectuation would remove a lot of problems, if also at the cost of enormously many human lives. I was born when there were ca. 2.5 bilion people: During my life this got to be 3 times as much - which means 3 times less resources per person.

Furthermore, I do not think I am exaggerating about the sorts of governments and political  leaders in the West and elsewhere:

None of the things that have been a matter of course since 9/11/2001 in Western Europe - forced identity papers, forced governmental spying on one's private communications, existing Western concentration camps (Guantanamo), use of torture, loss of habeas corpus, people being killed by a drone because their neighbour's
neighbour's neighbour happened to be, anonymously, perhaps on A United States'  Presidential Kill List - would have been admissible or socially possible in the far more dangerous 1950ies or 1960ies (except in secret, to be sure), when whole large armies with atom bombs had surrounded much of Europe, while there also were, as now there are not, many adults who recalled the terrors of Nazism.

Something really has gone wrong in major ways, it seems to me - and see points (3) and (4) above - because in the modern "Free West" only a small minority of the politicians, legislature and people (i) have any adequate understanding of what a free society is, and how it is defended, and (ii) are willing to try to defend it:

The great majority looks on gladly and applauds while their personal and human rights are being destroyed, effectively - whether really intended or not - to give their ruling elite absolute power, and to make the majority or their children into forced state servants, much like it was in Stalin's Russia and Mao's China, and no doubt also with nominal regular "democratic elections" for the well-behaved, and correctional "labor camps" for whoever deviates from the prescribed norms of behavior, thought and expression.

Also, I write as I do not because this will make me popular. In fact, I know only of a few who seem to publicly think along similar lines.

Here are most of those few - and note that I probably do not agree with any of them on some fundamental issues, nor they with me in the quite unlikely case that they know of me, as they appear in Wikipedia:
- TYT aka The Young Turks
- Bill Maher
- Jon Stewart
- Glenn Greenwald
These are some of the very few who at least see the sort of dangers that I see, and who write or speak sensibly about them - by which I do not mean that I necessarily agree or approve, but only that they are well-informed and that I tend to agree more than not.

Finally, the interested reader may consult one of Greenwald's latest articles

Obama moves to make the War on Terror permanent

to see part of what I meant in this text.

Finally, I have no solutions, because the only effective solutions - apart from a sudden breakthrough that guarantees costless energy on a very large scale - require a much larger group of people who at least see the dangers and are willing and capable to do something about them.

I grant there is are at least two (somewhat) rational grounds for hope:

Firstly, I may be mistaken, and indeed I hope I am; and secondly, it still is possible that some major scientific breakthough, probably in the field of energy, may dissolve most of the problems that arise from too many people and nations competing for too scarce resources to feed, dress, house and warm most of human beings properly.

---


P.S. My eye problems

I'll leave the the text on my eye problems for the moment as a P.S., to clarify why I use such colors as I do, and why I have, for the time being, mostly stopped editing my site.
Version October 15, 2012: My eye problems are the reason this page has the colors it does have: It is very difficult to look at white and light backgrounds with such eyes as I presently have. See also: Why are the colors as they are?

The diagnosis is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (possibly as a part of Sjoegren's syndrome). It is less than it was, for months, but not as I should like it to be.

The present settings of NOTEBOOK aka NB seem the best compromise between what my eyes can handle, and what most readers like to see.

And they have been changed repeatedly, as have the links below to change the background (but not the color of the text box).

As of October 13, 2012, the standard setting for the text box is white text on a darkslategrey background while the standard background is maroon.

Version October 28, 2012: Black text on #339999.


                  Notes
(*) I have to admit that, while I have not seen any proof, and am not interested in ready any purported proof, since I do not believe it is credible there will be any proof that is credible in the time of my life, the thesis  that 9/11/2001 was in fact contrived by the Bush government or by part of its secret service, is - to some unclear extent - supported by the usage that has been made of it by the Bush government, which suggests that it may have been. Then again, it may not, and instead may have been simply the opportunity wanted anyway for starting a war against Irak and for starting the process of turning the US into a police state, because that is so much more convenient for its ruling elite. (Besides, the computer - as Norbert Wiener foresaw - has by now effectively removed the need for maintaining a population of slaves or workers or farmers: Their work can be done much cheaper by machines, and their social kind and biological needs are a burden on the resources of the planet.)
(**)  How very much worse education has grown can hardly be properly judged by those who received a lousy education, simply because they were born and educated after 1960, but if you can find it - e.g. with antiquarian booksellers - you should consult "The Cult of the Expert", by Brian J. Ford, which was first published in 1982, and has - among other things - the merit of quoting from examinations people had to pass in the  1850ies and 1930ies around 12 years of age.

(***)  Note what the real underlying political, moral and human problem is: Not the natural fact that some are more gifted than others, which is no one's responsibility, since we all get born with our gifts or lacks thereof without having had any say in it, but the fact that a very small group of men that forms the power elite in society justifies its rule by being elected by the majority that is not able to judge them rationally, for lack of knowledge and talents to do so:

Here is Guiccardini, who wrote in the early part of the 16th Century on the idea. I quote from his Storia Italia (History of Italy). The speaker is supposed to have made his point in 1495, and spoke against one who fondly believed that all good things for society and government issue from democracy:

-- q

"Guidantonio Vespucci, a famous lawyer and a man of remarkable intelligence and skill, spoke as follows:

'If, most worthy citizens, a government organized in the manner proposed (..) produced the desired results as easily as they are described, it would certainly be perverse of anyone to wish for any other form of government for our country. It would be a wicked civilian who did not passionately love a form of republic in which the virtues, merits and abilities of men were organized above all else.

But I do not understand how one can hope that a system placed entirely in the hands of the people  can be full of such benefits.

For I know that reason teaches, experience shows and the authority of wise men confirms that in so great a multitude there is not to be found such prudence, such experience and such discipline as to lead us to expect that the wise will be preferred to the ignorant, the good to the bad, and the experienced to those who have never handled any affairs whatever.

For as one cannot hope for sound judgement from an unlearned and unexperienced judge, so from a people full of confusion and ignorance one cannot except - except by chance - a prudent and reasonable election or decision.

Are we to believe that an inexpert, untrained multitude made up of such a variety of minds, conditions and customs, and entirely absorbed in their own personal affairs, can distinguish and understand what in public government wise men, thinking of nothing else, find difficult to understand?

Quite apart from the fact that each person's self-conceit will lead them all to desire honors - and it will not be enough for men to in the popular government to enjoy the honest fruits of liberty - they will all aspire to the highest posts and to take part in the decisions on the most diffciult and important matters.

In us less than in any other city there rules the modesty of giving way to the man who knows best or who has the most merit.

But if we persuade ourselves that we must be by right all equal in all things, the proper positions of virtue and ability will be confused when it rests with the judgments of the multitude.

And this greed spreading to the majority will ensure that the most powerful will be those who know and deserve least; for as they are more numerous, they will have more power in a state organized in such a way that opinions are merely numbered and not weighed.'"

-- /q

Quoted from "Democracy" in my Philosophical Dictionary: As Aristotle already knew, from experience also: A democracy is one of the best ways to hand over power to the worst people - and indeed Hitler was democratically elected.

(****) I quote the beginning from the Wikipedia article Civil liberties:
Civil liberties are civil rights and freedoms that provide an individualslaveryforced labor, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of speech, the right to privacy, the right to due process, the right to a fair trial, the right to own property, the right to defend one's self, the right to bodily integrity, and the right to keep and bear arms. Within the distinctions between civil liberties and other types of liberty, it is important to note the distinctions between positive liberty/positive rights and negative liberty/negative rights specific rights.
(*****) See above note: It is not at all inconceivable that the form authoritarian states in the West may take remain compatible with some freedoms and some rights, such as free expression, especially if  these freedoms and rights will only exercised by a minority, that also is easier to track, trace and control if they do exercise these formal rights.


---

Maarten Maartensz


P.S. My eye problems


                  PS: Any necessary corrections have to be made later.