One of my favorite quotes as long been "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
Excerpting from Thomas Paine: Personal rights ... are a species of property of the most sacred kind.
And now Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Sam Adams: If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.
Patrick Henry: Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel.
C.S. Lewis:Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.
Plato: This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.
Voltaire: Tyrants have always had some slight shade of virtue. They support the laws before destroying them.
James Madison: If tyranny and opression come to this land, it will be in guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
And now ... where'd this all come from today? Well, yesterday Joe and I watched V for Vendetta (yes, for the first time ... yes, I'm behind the curve here). I was really struck. I mean, really struck by this movie. Although the graphic novels were first published in the 80s, it was easy to move this story into the 21st century.
The idea of a government driving its populace to fear foreign attacks so deeply that that same populace would accept nearly absolute mind-control and tyranny ... doesn't seem nearly as far-fetched as it ought to. And, that same government lying about the posisbility of foreign terrorism, mass destruction in order to maintain its stranglehold on the people? Not so out there.
Here's the text of the main speech. Certainly there are bits that make little sense taken out of context, so I've paraphrased (as indicated by the ellipses and brackets). If you'd rather hear and visualize it in its original form, try YouTube.
Anyway, read and think. The Founding Fathers and others quoted above were worried about overcoming colonialism and tyranny. And yet how easily the same words apply to the situation we currently face, almost 250 years later.
Good evening.... Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke.
But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone’s death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat.
There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.
And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.
How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.
I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the [government]. [It] promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent....
More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me....