“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” –Frederick Douglass
So you’ve answered Shakespeare’s question: to be or not to be? What’s next? I hate to break it to you; it only gets harder. Now you must answer an even more daunting question: fight for freedom or fight for empire? It’s a theme that has haunted the human condition since time immemorial. Indeed, a most intimidating mytheme that has both undermined and propelled the evolution of our species at different times in the overall human leitmotif.
On the one side is Empire: chock-full of status quo junkies and conditioned masses (brainwashed citizens), sycophantic police and military members who blindly obey a corrupt chain of command (storm troopers), and a power-tripping leadership whose power has become so absolute that it can be nothing short of absolutely corrupt (Emperor Palpatine/Darth Vader). On the other side is Freedom: Free men and women questioning and resisting authority to the nth degree (the rebel alliance/Yoda).
Unfortunately, as it stands in our world, the odds are grotesquely in favor of Empire, and the rebels face a daunting, if not impossible challenge: Free the unfree while somehow remaining free within a militarized police state that upholds an ominous, globalized empire hell-bent on raping and plundering the planet to keep the rich in power and the poor in squalor.
For Neo, in the movie The Matrix, the choice is incredibly clear: Freedom. He would rather the pain that comes from the truth of the Desert of the Real, than the ominous lie that is the Matrix. But the choice is also very clear for Cypher: Empire. As he insouciantly put it, “Why, oh why, didn’t I choose the blue pill?” Cypher gives up, cowardly deciding ignorance is bliss, forfeiting truth. Neo rises up, courageously deciding knowledge is pain, but so rewarding that it’s worth it.
Similarly, in the movie Avatar, the choice is beyond clear to Jake Sully: Freedom. Get busy remaining a crippled victim of an ego-centric, oppressive, over-reaching military or get busy becoming an interdependent hero with eco-centric morals and universal empathy and compassion? But the choice is also very clear for Colonel Miles Quaritch: Empire. He believes so blindly in the military code that his own loyalty and ego-centrism blinds him to the sheer magnitude of his immoral, uncompassionate, mass-destructive, murderous, and ecocidal rampage of a peaceful people and an interdependent cosmos.
Likewise in the movie Divergent, the choice is clear to Tris Prior: Freedom. She perfects a balance with Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), Candor (honesty), Dauntlessness (bravery), and Erudition (intelligence), in order to leverage freedom into an otherwise unfree system of human governance. But the choice is also clear for the ominous Erudite leader Jeanine Mathews: Empire. She is thoroughly convinced that oppressive divisiveness is the only way to maintain order, not realizing that her blind obedience is at the cost of truth itself.
I could go on and on. There are countless examples throughout human history and within human literature showcasing precisely this same reoccurring theme: fight for freedom, or fight for empire? It’s a choice no one else can make for us. Indeed, even giving up our choice to an authority is itself a choice. We alone are responsible for how we answer this most daunting, but most powerful, question. The good thing is, the majority of us understand the now cliché phrase: “with great power comes great responsibility.” The bad thing is, although we understand it, we have been overwhelmingly negligent of it. Let’s break it down as it applies to us, and the state of the world today.
The Fight for Empire (Plutocratic Tyranny)
“No act of rebellion can be effective, much less moral, unless it first takes into account reality, no matter how bleak that reality.” – Chris Hedges
As it stands, we are not free. The reality of our current system of human governance is bleak indeed. Nobody who lives in a society whose citizens are subject to constant surveillance, indefinite detention, systematic debt slavery, whose courts legalize the crimes of the state, and whose prisons profit off the petty crimes of its people, can be described as free. Such a society is nothing less than totalitarian in nature, as corruption and tyrannical hierarchies plague it to no end.
It is a society based upon moneyed-masters and debt-slaves. A culture of greedy, power-hungry, warmongering, exploitative rulers with a bloated and violent military industrial complex backing it up, and an ignorant, traumatized, and immobilized populous with no recourse. The very notion of wealth itself becomes equal parts illusion and yoke for the conditioned masses who, paraphrasing Noam Chomsky, “don’t even know what’s happening, and don’t even know that they don’t know.” The yoke “jerks” the herd of brainwashed conformists this way and that, using divisive bipartisan political propaganda, homogenized by corporations with a stranglehold on power, to keep its sheeple oppressed and bleating for more authority.
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The disaster situation before us is the height of a conquer-control-exploit-destroy-pollute-repeat process that has been plaguing humankind for a millennia. It is the culmination of a systematic erosion and methodical obliteration of our basic human and constitutional rights. Like the good folks at Sustainable Man said, “Every empire that has ever existed can point to over-exploitation of resources as the root cause of their demise. The difference between empires of the past and those of today is that we are now exhausting the entire planet at once. Empires of the past could rise and fall and their impact would be limited to a small geographic region. This is no longer true. Today, we live in an exponential economic growth paradigm which sees no limits.” But limit it we must, lest we perpetuate a fundamentally unhealthy, unsustainable, unequal, and unjust system of plunder.
A clear sign of empire is an ill-informed citizenry that cannot take self-corrective measures because it is denied access to the truth and spoon fed lies by an unchallenged elite. The pathology of the plutocratic corporate elite is unprecedented. It is a rampant illness infecting the core values of the greedy, overreaching powers that be. Power has become corrupt and will surely become absolute if those who fight for freedom don’t have the moral courage to stand up to empire. Like Gandhi said, “Nonviolence does not mean meek submission to the will of the evil-doer. It means the pitting of one’s whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, his spirituality, his soul and lay the foundation for that empire’s fall… or its regeneration.”
The Fight for Freedom (Democratic Anarchy)
“Once I thought that to be human was the highest aim a man could have, but I see now that it was meant to destroy me. Today I am proud to say that I am inhuman, that I belong not to men and governments, that I have nothing to do with creeds and principles. I have nothing to do with the creaking machinery of humanity – I belong to the earth!” –Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
The fight for freedom is a fight for non-violent (but ruthless and robust) anarchy: a healthy eco-centric, egalitarian balance between nature and the human soul. It is a fight to create something new: a peaceful, courage-based, relationship-based lifestyle that has the power to trump the violent, fear-based, ownership-based lifestyle that is currently plaguing the human condition.
When 90% of the casualties of war are unarmed civilians, and a third of them children; Empire’s time has come. Its tyrannical reign must be met with ruthless anarchic civil-disobedience. When corporations in power have the authority to pick and choose where wars will be waged in order to keep the oil flowing and the greenbacks stacked against an oppressed citizenry that has been tricked into believing fractional reserve banking is okay and war is an honorable thing: Empire’s time has come. Its reign must be met with peaceful insurgency and non-violent aggression. War is not honorable. It is first degree cowardice. No amount of physical courage displayed in a warzone can match the moral courage displayed in rebelling against the immorality of war, especially within a violent culture that has been duped into believing that war is honorable and necessary to maintain peace.
War is not peace, no matter how much a corrupt authority preaches it or a sycophantic citizenry reveres it as necessary. Freedom is not slavery, no matter how much illusory debt a kowtowing citizenry, slaving away at thankless jobs, ignorantly attempts to pay back (debt-slavery); not realizing that it is a debt that can never be paid off. Ignorance is not strength, no matter how much political claptrap and divisive propaganda keeps the conditioned and brainwashed masses ill-informed and anti-intellectual.
So we have a critical decision to make. Each one of us. Fight for freedom, or fight for empire. There is no wiggle room here. Red-pill Neo or blue-pill Cypher? Rebellious Han Solo or chain-of-command-following Storm Trooper? Eco-centric Jake Sully or ego-centric Colonel Quaritch. Courageous divergence or cowardice compliance? Compassionate human being or mindless zombie? The choice is yours to make, and yours alone, and nothing short of a healthy and robust progressive human evolution is at stake.
“The rebel, possessed by inner demons and angels, is driven by vision. I do not know if the new revolutionary wave and the rebels produced by it will succeed. But I do know that without these rebels, we are doomed.” –Chris Hedges
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
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