Unthinkable just a decade ago and for hundreds of years before that, reason, arbitrar of humanities excesses and foibles, is losing its authority. Reason, that indomitable enemy of tyrants and thieves is at odds with the most powerful forces ruling humanity. State and private power and control over citizens is antithetical to sovereignty of reason.
There is a seminal battle underway that runs far deeper than wars between nations, religions, or political ideology. It is the fight is between the forces of domination and control vs. reason. Should reason win, fully human lives where each individual can reach his or her potential will return as a real possibility. Should the paradigm of power and control regain its throne, we are doomed to barbarism.
In the 1700s there was a movement afoot, a movement of courage and intelligence that had usurped the arbitrary power of kings, lords, and clerics. That power was replaced with democracy and rule of law. That movement is known as the enlightenment. Through incremental change, reason replaced fear and violence as governors of nations. In the United States however, this change occurred in one dramatic historical moment; the American Revolution.
The Spirit of the American Constitution
Love it or hate it, it is the United States of America that formally adopted enlightenment principles as its basis of law and governance. It championed freedom and justice over all else. Over the past two centuries the American Constitution has been the example to follow, an example of law and governance with built in protections against abuse and tyranny, a philosophical North Star that we have come to depend upon. Its sense of justice is a semi conscious blanket of collective security for Americans and non Americans alike. The United States had become a symbol of governance by reason; a culture of fair play and justice. America's worst enemies could only begrudgingly admire the rational integrity of this bold new social order and, unconsciously or unwittingly, emulated and assimilated its most noble features as their own.
The progressive force of reason, born of the intellectual movement of the 18th century that had broken through the dark ages had legitimized not only rational standards for law and governance, it validated science and cleared the way for technology and innovation to improve the lives for people of all classes. Traditional beliefs and attitudes suffered under the bright light of evidence based initiatives and ideas.
Long before the American Constitution was penned and long before the enlightenment of the 1700s, reason had shaken the capricious power of kings, the cruelty of military violence and the pleasure of petty and grand tyrants. The Magna Charta, born in England in 1215 was one of the most important historical events in this undertaking. It curtailed the power of monarchs and granted a degree of power to rational based authority. Another dated seminal edict was the Habeas Corpus Act established in English law in 1679. Habeas Corpus legacy protects us from any agent that would imprison us at his pleasure.
The Constitution was written as a defense against the myriad of ways and means nefarious agents may wrestle or connive power from the people. It outlined three separate branches of government aimed at entrenching the spirit of the enlightenment, the spirit of reason, as the governing principles of a brave new world.
In response to British domination of the colonies, colonists revolted and drafted their Declaration of Independence. A new form of government was to be established based on citizens having a right to say how they themselves are governed. In the 1700s those that stood against the British imperial monarch were disciples of great enlightenment thinkers such as Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, and perhaps most importantly at the time, for the United States, Thomas Paine. Enlightenment ideas were an affront to the status quo that ruled nations and its purveyors took great risk espousing their reasonable arguments against monarchs, religion, and traditional structures of all sorts. They were persecuted for their efforts. So too were the courageous colonists that were inspired by Paine's 'Common Sense', rising against established governors, proxies of the British king.
Revolutionaries rose up precisely against imperial power as well as the potential that tyrants would wrestle control at home. This was a cornerstone of the revolution and the rationale for the second and fourth amendments to the Constitution. Today, the citizens of the United States struggle under a rapidly expanding surveillance state that is married to and under the control of private agents, namely large corporations and finance capitalists. It is a state that, like King George's British empire in 1776, aims to own and control not only its own citizens but citizens of all nations.
The spirit of the American Constitution can be summed up in one word and that word is 'reason'. It is the same word that sums up the enlightenment. Further to this and most crucially, the capacity to reason is our natural inheritance as human beings. It is what defines us as a species.
We cannot afford to defer to the reasoning of intellectuals, the media, or economists and politicians. Stakeholders in the game are exactly that and for that reason, they will cultivate private and 'classified' power. Their interests are at odds with ours and we must stop playing their game. Loyalty to individuals, political parties, or ideology is a sell out of our most precious gift and that is our capacity for critical thinking. Critical thinking is synonymous to reason and we, all of us, need to cultivate and appreciate our own free and independent mind.
Nothing illustrates the betrayal of reason more than the current President of the United States, Barack Obama. It is shocking today to see one time (apparent) critical thinkers reduced to simple and vulgar partisan hacks. After all that has happened and continues to happen during Obama's Presidency, they still maintain a belief that the President and the Democratic Party is a viable choice in opposition to a violent state apparatus; a voice for 'change'. They still seem to think that, given enough time, Obama would (eventually) put in place progressive and just laws and practices. Aside from his words there is little or nothing to show that he is substantially different that the most violent and oppressive elements in America. He has taken the torch from his predecessor, George W Bush, and he is running with it. Together, they have moved the United States of America from rational governance to arbitrary and tyrannical power. They have crossed a line and that line separated modern democracies from arbitrary or built-in tyranny.
Bear in mind, Barack Obama is an expert in Constitutional law. The seeds he is carefully planting, from the murder of citizens and non citizens to waging undeclared war and to spying on all of us is not done under a cloak of ignorance. The President is fully lucid. Precedents are being set that entrenches arbitrary power to be used under a cloak of secrecy. He is laying the structures that make a future Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin not only a possibility, but a given.
The past decade has delivered shock after shock to our collective psyche. It started with a bang, with the invasion of Iraq. This illegal act violated the most elemental of international standards. In the process the Bushs and the Blairs bullied others to join them. They blatantly lied to urge the international community to their 'side'. Since that time torture, dungeons, show trials, Presidential hit lists and ongoing bombings (collective punishment aka terrorism) have become increasingly normalized. Media and intellectuals help with the process of normalizing these horrific affronts to reason and rule of law. They argue that these practices have practical value in the face of terrorist threats. In fact, no serious commentator would touch these arguments with a ten foot pole prior to America's own fire in the Reichstag (9-11). It was a given that if we want a free society, we must tolerate allowing the potential murderer down the street to run free until he actually commits the crime. That is the price of a free society and it is that that separated the USA and it's sphere of influence from the Hitler's Nazi Germany, Stalin's USSR, and Saudi Arabia.
The most recent and shocking revelation of Obama's reign is that he has secretly been spying on millions of the citizens of the United States and across the globe. This is the latest scandalous expose of many. Obama's response is being caught is that the spying is legal under the Patriot Act, itself a blatant violation of the Constitution. This is further evidence of the violent and paranoid empire that the United States of America has become.
Barack Obama was supposed to be the man to get the United States and consequently the world back on track. This ex community organizer, this professor of Constitutional law held much promise for many people. It was widely believed that if anyone can take the United States back to the realm of reason and rule of law it is Barack Obama. It would be difficult to find someone more qualified.
In the face of the violence being perpetrated by the Obama Administration the most meaningful battle today is exactly this one; private power vs. reason. We can't have both. We should not expect and we cannot expect those with power to fight on the side of reason any more than we could expect kings of the middle ages to do so. It is simply against their interests. They will pretend as they are so accustomed to doing, they will speak in reasonable terms but it is their actions that betray their real intent.
Time to Stand Up
Long before enlightenment ideas moved us out of the feudal muck of the dark ages, human beings employed reason for survival. Contrary to the Hobbsean idea that humanity is ruled by and needs to be ruled by domination, violence, and fear, it was reason that was our species advantage for millions of years in the jungles and savannas of Africa. While lions and wild dogs had strength and teeth and other animals had speed or flight, we had our brains. A brain with the capacity to discern cause and effect and moreover, the hard wiring to share our own thoughts with other human beings. It was cooperation, language, and work that was and is our advantage. In other words, the 'survival of the fittest' rationale for power and privilege is wrong, it is a lie. It is simplistic justification for state or private violence and it is a message that runs through school texts, literature, and through mass media.
Through the hierarchal structures laid out by monarchs and the Catholic Church, the paradigm of power and control, violence, and the coercive and violent state gained a veneer of legitimacy. Insecure cowards relish it as the natural order. The enlightenment itself and throughout history, many great civilizations and societies have stripped this nefarious veneer and utilized better, rational ways of doing the business of being human. We can look to antiquity as well as our own minds to see that the monarchs and the church were lying.
The point is that the forces that we are up against are fighting against our most fundamental characteristics as human beings. If there is such as thing as a natural order, if there is such a thing as human nature, they are against it. Perhaps most poignantly, they are against freedom – save themselves.
At this point we deal with the festering wound that is masquerading as the war on terror. We must check the excessive power of the United States government as well as its many proxy governments and agents over the globe.
The United States of America and all that is under the influence and control of America as an economic and political empire has betrayed the spirit of reason, the enlightenment, and the Constitution. We are at a period in history where we need to do more than win back democratic control of governance. We, the people, actually need to take power into our own hands. Abuse is abuse, it is rampant, and the situation promises to get much worse than it is today. Obama and the current maestros of the state are setting precedents, the stage, for a frightening new world.
We have a choice. We can stand up now or, we can stand up later.