Something about this latest episode of a terrorist state terrorizing its own citizens brings the following passage to mind.
From Candide, by Voltaire:
“In the neighbourhood there lived a very famous Dervish who was esteemed
the best philosopher in all Turkey, and they went to consult him.
Pangloss was the speaker.
“Master,” said he, “we come to beg you to tell why so strange an animal
as man was made.”
“With what meddlest thou?” said the Dervish; “is it thy business?”
“But, reverend father,” said Candide, “there is horrible evil in this
“What signifies it,” said the Dervish, “whether there be evil or good?
When his highness sends a ship to Egypt, does he trouble his head
whether the mice on board are at their ease or not?”
“What, then, must we do?” said Pangloss.
“Hold your tongue,” answered the Dervish.
“I was in hopes,” said Pangloss, “that I should reason with you a little
about causes and effects, about the best of possible worlds, the origin
of evil, the nature of the soul, and the pre-established harmony.”
At these words, the Dervish shut the door in their faces.”
We see in the actions of the Ahmadinejad regime a government behaving like a government. A regime that is both weakened and reactionary will turn most readily to violence for the simple reason that it is aware of its own vulnerability.
Of course the suppression of dissent with lethal force is worthy of the harshest condemnations from America and from all supposed democracies. I don’t think that we actually know exactly what happened in the Iranian election or anything in the way of facts when it comes to the allegations of fraud, but that’s not really the point. The opposition has an inherent right to express its misgivings about the election and its results, without fear of beatings, arrests, and bullets. If the election was not in fact rigged, I personally have little doubt that it would have been if necessary
However, American conservatives are not so quick to condemn repressive regimes that are pro-western and pro-American, and to some extent, our First Amendment rights still exist because those in power realize that we can talk, write, march and wave signs as much as we want to without posing any threat to “business as usual.” In fact, allowing for peaceful protest of a purely political nature strengthens our government’s position. This phenomenon is known as “repressive tolerance.”
Our government and ruling class do not fear our opinions, and really why should they? The same people go on making their contributions to both parties, getting what they pay for from our elected officials year after year. When a significant change in the social order seem imminent, then suddenly there is more repression and less tolerance
There is genuine and disturbing historical tendency to repression of political dissent in America; people and groups who are perceived as threats are dealt with harshly. Some are killed, some are imprisoned, others are simply discredited and ridiculed, “caught with their pants down” or otherwise rendered ineffective.
Do you really think that our government wouldn’t gun us down in the streets if it felt threatened? I’m old enough to remember Kent State, although I was just a kid when it happened. The Iranians point to the massacre in Waco,
The impulse of power for self preservation overrides all other considerations. Power that is not completely unprincipled and ruthless will eventually be displaced by power that is. We are shocked at what happens to people unprotected by the Bill of Rights, yet we allow assaults on the US Constitution to take place with surprisingly little in the way of protest, and people calling themselves “patriots” condemn the ACLU for defending the rights of unpopular groups.
The rights of those whom I despise the most are inseparable from my own rights. The First Amendment does not have an exemption clause for those who would be the first to abolish it. It’s really a great thing, the Bill of Rights, and at least where the rule of law is present, it does afford us a certain degree of protection.
Just do not think for a minute, that a credible threat to the existing hierarchies would not be dealt with here with any degree of force deemed necessary, initiated by the state or its proxies against non-violent civil disobedience. This repression can be seen in any careful examination of US history. The struggles of the Iranian opposition are not as far removed from our own reality as we would like to believe.
The main advantage we have is that business and government simply learned somewhere along the line that psychological warfare; the inducement of information overload, fear, and apathy through the powerful propaganda apparatus available through the media, is more reliable and effective than violence.
In the lap of political luxury, in the comfort of our own home, right or left, we can watch our favorite commentator complain about the government, while we sit home and agree with her or him and go to work the next day as we always do.
Again, from Candide“….I presume in general that they who meddle with the administration of public affairs die sometimes miserably, and that they deserve it; but I never trouble my head about what is transacting at Constantinople;….”
CANDIDE BY VOLTAIRE
INTRODUCTION BY PHILIP LITTELL
BONI AND LIVERIGHT, INC.
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
Copyright, 1918, by
BONI & LIVERIGHT, INC.
Printed in the United States of America
*”Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
This quote is generally attributed to Chairman Mao