I’ve been listening to crazy people saying things like “someone isn’t entitled to the presumption of innocence” and an accusation that is not only unproven but unprovable is “corroborated” in growing alarm. What goes through my mind is that this is the way you un-make civilization.
Part of the problem is that our civilization – arguably, at least in terms of keeping the most people alive and in relative comfort – is not normal in the history of the world.
This strange idea that each individual has rights, that the rights are inherent to them, that they deserve to be given due process and not simply destroyed because someone – anyone, or one of their betters – accused them of something is not only bizarre in terms of historical societies. It’s also something that took a long time to work itself through.
And ever since it’s been created there have been attempts to take it back to “normal human society.”
The attempts are usually the result of people who don’t understand the full horror that society used to be. People who think that society without all these “ridiculous” protections for normal individuals will be somehow better. Or people who understand how horrible it will be but think they will emerge on top and be able to make things serve a greater good somehow.
Part of the problem is that those people who are romantic – in the old sense, having little to do with couple dynamics – and read older books tend to read about the deeds of the nobility and therefore think that “noble” means good. Heck, our very language is corrupted that way so that “noble” means not of a certain birth and possessed of power, but full of great ideals. Because for a long time noblemen had power and thought that way, till language served their needs.
But there is a reason that not only in our long history but in the history of other peoples – Chinese, Indian, who never fully conceptualized “individual rights” — there was no society wealthy enough or peaceful enough that the common individual lived as well as the kings of the past.
There is a reason that in Europe, where notions of class of birth remain (even when denied), the comfort of the common man is of so much less importance that their actual lifestyle lags behind that of the U.S. (Don’t argue with me. I’ve experienced both. Sure, if you’re very wealthy in either society your lifestyle will be comparable. But the great unwashed multitudes? Or anyone who has to interact with public spaces? Everything will be less comfortable, and this will be disguised as Americans being “weaker” and “needing” more comfort. It’s not true. It’s rather that the society in Europe never got their head around wooing the common man for his business, and instead approaches it top-down, telling the masses what’s good for them and what they don’t “need.” Our big business is getting that way too, publishing and tech most notably.)
The reason is this:
When only the elite, the elite opinions, and the elite preferences count, those will be the only ones catered to.
When only the elites have rights, the people get trampled. There is no reason to either cater to the little man, who has little money to pay, or to listen to the little man — and his ideas, his thoughts and his innovations. And there is absolutely no reason for the common people to work and build and save when their property could be taken away at any minute.
The so-called bourgeois virtues that built the West are founded on the idea that what’s yours you keep. That if you work and are thrifty and wise you’ll end up better off than your neighbor who drinks away every paycheck.
They are declining in the same measure as the idea that normal human beings, “just folk,” deserve to keep their earnings and enjoy the profits of their wisdom.
And this is the way you unmake the world as we know it.
The leftist utopias of the 20th century had a lot in common with feudalism. Sure, they paid lip service to “power of the people.” But in the end, whoever had clambered to the top of the pile had the right of life and death over people who were all but subjects. And those who clambered to the top of the pile had a disturbing ability to pass it on, too. The dictators for “the good of the people” ended up becoming a dynasty. And they lived far above the people they ruled with an iron hand.
In effect, they had become noblemen, and normal noblemen, to the historical standard.
The mass graves of the twentieth century smelled a lot like the mass graves of dictatorial monarchies of the past. At the whim of the leader, the change in ideology, you’d stop being a loyal subject and become a traitor, with no freedom of conscience. The Catholics/Protestants/Catholics of Tudor England would have understood the mechanics of the Cultural Revolution perfectly well. And the prisoners in the Soviet gulags would completely understand the slaves who built the great wall. As for the prisoners in “mental hospitals” behind the iron curtain? The people stashed away under “letters” from the king or noblemen in the Bastille would understand them completely.
There is a reason most of the sons and daughters of “old families” – in the old Portuguese term fidalgos i.e. filhos de algo, “sons of something” – are all left or extreme-left in Europe. The children of power-hungry noblemen smell power and see that power comes from the left, from the pretense of taking over in the name of the people.
Once you take over, once you deny common people their rights, the product of their efforts, the ability to earn and save for a better future, it doesn’t matter what words you use to justify it.
“In the name of the people” becomes functionally indistinguishable from “by divine right.” It becomes unchecked power. It becomes the ability to rule and do what you think is best, without restraint.
It becomes Auschwitz or Siberia. It becomes mass graves and immiseration. It becomes Venezuela and Zimbabwe, and people eating house pets, and starving children.
The only way to stop these things, crimes as old as time, the result of people being given unlimited power, is to give to the common people — the folks who aren’t born of “something” don’t have the right ideas or the right education or the right pedigree — the same rights as you give “the important people.” Even if you disagree with people’s way of conducting themselves. Even if you think their ideas are zany, you have to give them basic civil liberties: the right to property, the right to life, the right to due judicial process to include the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Because when you take that way, you’re reposing power in the hands of the power hungry, who will devour the world and never be satisfied. That way lies atrocities, mass graves. More importantly, that way lies the loss of “bourgeois virtues” by the common people because what’s the point of working hard, saving, and being wise, if in the end your stuff will just be taken away and given to other people?
We’re already well down the road to that insanity. Things like progressive taxation and confusing victimhood and virtue are already an ethical blot on the face of our society, and rats gnawing at the foundations of what made the West great.
But Chuck Schumer saying that people who disagree with him aren’t entitled to due process?
Does he get up in the morning and see himself looking like Louis XIV in the mirror? (And does he think we should be thanking him, like another man suffering from similar illusions?) If so, he might wish to remember how that regime ended. Sure, it was a hundred years later, but it was still in fire and blood.
It always ends like that. Even if the tumbrils don’t come soon enough to stop at Schumer’s door, the road to them will lead through normal people eating zoo animals and house pets. It will lead to the destruction of the accumulated wealth of centuries and the loss of several generations to grinding, revolting poverty.
Until the principles of rights for common people are found or reinvented again.
All so that people like Schumer can have the power they wish and remake the world in their image.
It’s time to call them what they are. They are the people taking off the panels of civilization and loosening the nuts and bolts. They hate you, they hate me, they hate everyone who is more than a puppet in their hands.
And it’s time to tell them no.
Before the tumbrils come.