Why did we all root for Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion, cheering as one when the Death Star burst into a ball of flame? Why do we unanimously detest Panem’s Capitol, sharing a surge of joy when District 11 erupts after Rue’s senseless murder in The Hunger Games? What accounts for our universal loathing of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Jane Austen’s most refined dictator who, insisting Mr. Darcy marry her insipid daughter, rivals the Emperor and President Snow in her own Georgian way?
Would it really have been so awful had the Empire ruled the Galaxy? Nobody appeared to be starving. It’s true the citizens of Panem were hungry, but at least they were safe from “war, terrible war.” The demise of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s proud and prejudiced love would have cost them their status as the most beloved couple ever to live and breathe papyrus and yet, Darcy and Anne de Bourgh would have been rich — lacking neither the company of polite society nor polished silver.
A deep anguish probably stirred within your heart at these proposals. This malaise would turn to raw anger if we replaced these light-hearted examples of tyranny with darker ones, the true shadows of history whose malice brought real and lasting ruin and misery. Unanimous indignation meets the suggestion that since basic necessities of life were often provided by Stalin, Hitler, or Mao, totalitarianism is a viable living condition. Why?
We instinctively know, as human beings, we need more than food, shelter, and the absence of violence to be happy. This consuming hunger for joy is so important that Aristotle, the Definer himself, designates happiness as the final end for which we are created. To insist people, whether flesh and blood or birthed by quill, content themselves with crusts of bread or caviar instead of true human happiness violates our deepest sense of what it means to be human.
So what necessary ingredient of bliss was missing in the Emperor’s Galaxy, in Hunger Games‘ haunted Panem, and in Austen’s corset string-strangled English countryside? The essential right to self-determination. Nothing is more human than this internal principle of self-direction; the ability to freely select for ourselves from among the near-infinity of goals and the means to attain personally defined success. Without this, we are not human, but animals. This freedom is the condition for our joy and this is why, confronted with all forms of invasive denial of freedom, we rebel.
In Cults: The Mind Enslaved Parts I and II, we considered the normal and cultic human intellectual processes. It seemed that nothing could be worse than surrendering a mind to the shared Gnostic Brain of a cult. Understanding now the primary importance of human freedom for happiness, we consider how cults damage this even more fundamental faculty, the free will.