In ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’, a self-styled guru hijacks the Starship Enterprise and starts brainwashing the crew by ‘taking away their (emotional) pain’. He then approaches Captain Kirk and says, “Captain, let me take away your pain”. “I don’t want you to take away my pain,” Kirk replies, “My pain is part of who I am.”
Those who seek power seduce people with claims they can solve society’s problems and relieve people of responsibility for either their (poor) decisions or the random events and vicissitudes of life. People want to believe them. They want to believe the authoritarians who say – with very appealing rhetoric – that they will ‘take away your pain’ – if you would just give them the power. It’s what was at the heart of three of history’s great revolutions – the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the American War of Independence.
The French and the Russians said the state must override all; the more powerful the state, the more control it has over people, the better things will become – liberté, égalité, fraternité (‘liberty, equality, fraternity’) and the Marxist ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’. What the people disregarded was the inability of human beings to prevent the abuse of power and position once it was attained.
The American founding fathers on the other hand, in establishing their republic acknowledged the inherent malevolence in man and therefore adopted the devolution and separation of powers doctrine – power devolved into hundreds, thousands of checks and balances, the most important of these being family and faith. Keeping a check on human nature through family and faith provided the best environment for freedom.
One of those founding fathers, John Adams, America’s 2nd President said at the time, “Our Constitution is made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to govern any other.”
Australia’s Constitution was similarly based, “ …. humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God ….”. Take away family and faith and the structure collapses. As does freedom.
Proverbs and axioms like ‘Actions speak louder than words’ and ‘I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do’ reinforced the bond between personal and public morality. You simply couldn’t get away with saying one thing and doing another. Sadly, that rule no longer applies.
It was also the case that truth was established through facts, figures, logic and reason. Again, not anymore. It’s now all about the narrative – ‘What is the overall message we want to promote’ is all that is important. And the current narrative is one that is moving away from personal responsibility and personal freedom and towards collective, state-based control. But as the French and Russians found out after their revolutions, the dictators soon take over (Napoleon, Stalin) and instead of taking away the pain, the pain just gets a whole lot worse.