VDH UltraWhat Made Us Go Crazy? Part Two:

The Wages of Inert Citizenship

The world outside or before the U.S. was and is not a pretty thing. Even in rare consensual societies, factions and inequality under the law persisted—whether the plebs and populares of early Republican Rome, the greens and blues of Justinian’s Constantinople, or the Guelphs and Ghibellines of thirteenth-century Florence. Belonging to the wrong ethnic group or religion or political clique translated into a diminished political existence—or often far worse. Institutionalized persecution required the use of mass violence, in the way that governments today have systematically oppressed Chinese Uyghurs and Tibetans, Iraqi Kurds, Rwandan Tutsis, or Serbian Bosnians.

Again, not all that much has changed politically for a majority of the world’s non-Western residents. Despite the glitter of globalism, contemporary Chinese are not treated equitably under the law—and are routinely electronically surveilled, monitored, and “graded” with social credits and demerits, by their own government. Hundreds of re-education and forced labor camps seek to transform Muslim Chinese into atheists or agnostics—on the premise that no one in China has inalienable rights of habeas corpus or freedom from unwarranted search, seizure, and arrest.

Currently roughly one-million Chinese Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province have been forcibly interned in re-education camps (“vocational training centers”), where Chinese Muslims are forced to renounce Islam, often required to undergo sterilizations, and to pledge fealty to the Chinese Communist Party. So far global outrage has been muted due to Chinese economic clout and commercial reach, along with Beijing’s brilliantly cynical posturing as a victim of historical Western racism.

Elsewhere, Russians cannot choose their own president. Iranians have no inalienable rights protected by a written constitution. Bolivians cannot say or write what they wish. Those jailed in Mexico discover that their fates do not rest with supposed guarantees of equality under the law. Palestinians do not hold regular free elections. Women in Saudi Arabia could not drive until 2017. Cubans cannot travel where they wish. Pakistanis cannot worship as they please—safely. Elsewhere in much of Africa and often in Latin America, what makes life miserable is not even so much authoritarian government as no government at all. The chaos of contemporary Somalia or Venezuela ensures that basic necessities and security are all but non-existent. Justice there is meted out in the manner of ancient Norse sagas—by individuals and tribes.

In sum, people elsewhere in today’s world, whether under a constitutional government or not, usually cannot speak freely, vote, or use or even own arms. National boundaries, especially in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, often drawn by outsiders, do not reflect a unique society with a distinct geography, language, customs, and traditions. The history of nationhood until the present day has been mostly one of dependent residents whose futures were—and still are—determined by forces and people well beyond their control.

What we see in unfree societies past and present outside the West is mostly a landscape of repression—and, to a lesser degree, for many centuries for some inside the West, especially women and slaves. Yet it has always been an odd but characteristic habit in the West that it damns itself as inferior to other civilizations that are wholly unfree. Apparently, its own notions of citizenship are so exalted, that anything short of perfection is considered not good enough.

Unfortunately, this escalation of self-reflection to self-loathing is often an unfortunate characteristic of post-citizenship. In a cynical sense, one can identify a true democracy by its vibrant self-criticism that in the postmodern age often devolves into a perpetual attack on its own institutions and past. Such are sometimes the wages of Western freedom. They appear often in the current West in the form of warring on the past by statue toppling, name changing, and culture canceling, in a perpetual quest to achieve perceived perfect freedom and equality, and/or more cynically find pathways to power.

Citizenship, of course, was dissipating well before the terrible year of 2020. That diagnosis explains why the tumultuous events that have followed met so little resistance—whether suspensions of the protections of the First Amendment, or local and state decisions not to ensure the safety and security of Americans, or the politically selective enforcement of the law or the laxity in conducting voting. American citizenship is now in the crosshairs of contemporary Western society. Everything currently argues against it. From our popular culture to the political agendas of the elite and influential, nothing seems to stand for citizenship. A glorious history is derided as bunk; a frightening future is awaited as glorious.

American citizenship is deemed inegalitarian and unfair to those without it, both here and abroad. It hinges on the once dynamic, but now shrinking middle class, which to our twenty-first-century tastes has become pedestrian, lacking the romance of the distant poor and the style of the refined elite.

Citizenship once persuaded Americans to surrender their comfortable racial, ethnic, and gender identities to absorb a common and mutually constructed bond. To work, that allegiance to ideas and values had to supersede shared tribal and religious affinities. Americanization was often a tenuous project, given it was contrary to a human nature that is tribal and clannish. It required patience and shared faith that the effort of the melting pot was good enough without having to be perfect.

In an age of massive government subsidies and technological omnipresence, citizenship still assumes Americans must be independent, common-sensical, and informed—and skeptical of ever larger government. They do not inherit their unalienable rights to govern themselves fossilized in amber. Instead they must remain vigilant auditors, aware that across time and space most autocrats, at home and abroad, have sought to destroy citizenship, an idea centuries in the making, but easily ended in a summer. And it is not just men in sunglasses and epaulettes that target citizenship, but legions of well-meaning bureaucrats in coats and ties as well.

America was about the only nation in history that defined fairness as equal opportunity rather than a guaranteed equality of result. That citizens can and must be politically equal, without the government assuming the unchecked power to make them economically the same, remains a radical idea. It is completely foreign to both socialist totalitarianism and even the agendas of most modern liberal democracies.

The current strategic tug-of-war is over the future role of America itself. Is the United States to shed its three-century-old Constitution? Is it to transcend any sense of national identity, common traditions, heritage, and physical space for new agendas as a sort of global caretaker of state-imposed morality? Will we follow the European Union model of increased redistributive taxes, larger and more powerful government, fewer individual rights, an end to secure borders and national identity, and a largely ideologically driven politics that is pledged in theory at least to mandated egalitarianism of result, with the goal of erasing race, class, and gender discrimination by counterintuitively emphasizing them?

Or will the United States remain a free and constitutionally protected republic where all ideas are explored, examined, and sometimes rejected under the aegis of an ancient constitution and a shared ancestral tolerance? Will there still remain free, autonomous, often cranky and outspoken citizens of the middle class, who are neither wards of the state, mere residents, tribes and peasants—or citizens of the world?

Share This

7 thoughts on “<span class="ultra-flag"><i class="fas fa-lock"></i>VDH Ultra</span>What Made Us Go Crazy? Part Two:”

  1. Since the end of World War Two, people calling themselves “conservatives” have actively opposed and sometimes physically fought against citizenship efforts directed to the common good. With plenty of help from folks like Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, DVH, and various others, our citizens have been taught that government is bad, taxation is bad, social welfare is no more than godless communism, and greed is good.

    The world we live in reflects that cynical effort.

    1. kunduz province

      You don’t understand what the common good is. Government is not the common good. Government reform and downsizing today is essential to cure the extreme moral hazard that has patently been bred by the giant self-dealing and utterly ineffectual administrative state, and it is this which is the proverbial can that has been kicked down the road for the last 50 years.

      Blame-mongering by ad hominem demonization is always a sign of this particular form of error. The antinomian fallacy.

  2. Basically it has been the military industrial complex,intelligencia, Mitch,McCarthy Nancy,Schumer and the hidden people attached to them that brought about the backlash to a worse version of Soviet.
    The upper echelons of the right brought this every bit as much>> responsible as the more direct Schumer-Pelosi
    The unmitigated corporatocracy communism is impossible to describe in a comment.
    Trump and more brutally direct than Trump is needed. Totalitarianism without even an illusion of protection for individuals.

  3. No longer do I feel the comfort of life in a democratic Republic, nor experience the confidence of protected individualism under our viable Consitution. All of my hopes and dreams are shattered and thwarted by continuous, almost daily and shocking change, each one more stunningly devolved almost on a daily basis. With no seeming solutions in the offing I can only weep for our present day lives, knowing that probably I won’t physically see transition to a better post-American civilization, as history repeats itself in front of my eyes.
    Hearing your voice in this aticle, Mr. Hanson, gives me the satisfaction of having experienced as a Boomer the existence you succinctly described in your last paragraph, but makes me yield because of the swiftness of change promulgated by the hatred and ideologies causing the discrepancies you’ve listed. Hope springs eternal, and with still sharp vision and steady hands I am ready to resist and fight, if not too late.

  4. imperatorcf@gmail.com

    The dissipation of meaning re; citizenship is at the tipping point.
    Caracalla thought he had good reason to extend the Roman franchise …..taxes etc..
    I think, he thought he had the ‘best’ interest at heart for the empire as a whole, and for its future AS an Empire and that citizenship ( still had) and would have meaning.
    Here and now, this is reversed, the instigators devalue citizenship in all circumstances and wish to homogenize both ( non and citizens) discarding the worth of citizenship.
    The result will probably be the same, along the lines that in 2 short centuries being a Merovingian Frank, meant more than being a Roman….

  5. “Or will the United States remain a free and constitutionally protected republic where all ideas are explored, examined, and sometimes rejected under the aegis of an ancient constitution ”

    NO! We already are a weakened republic where the federal government bullies the states through money grants. The Woke religion prevents honest discussion of ideas. The feds decide what laws to enforce and who should be imprisoned for political activity, which government employees should be charged with crimes despite others are ignored. The Constitutional separation of powers is lost because the legislature has gradually passed its duty to the administrative departments by letting them legislate through “regulations” with the force of law and adjudicated by those making the regulations. We are already a dictatorship in most areas of government that affect day to day life of citizens.

  6. Robert J Stewart

    The debasement and degradation of American life has been a slow but persistent feature of the Democrat-controlled urban ghettos. Thiry years ago, as a prospective juror, I listened to another juror being questioned about her views on drugs. She was a meter maid and one question addressed her experience as a uniformed officer in Seattle with drugs. Remarkably, she testified that the police department directed her not to enforce parking laws within 6 blocks of the known drug houses, the reason being concern for her safety, the outlaws, seeing her uniform might fear a raid and not just a parking ticket. So the tolerance and accommidation of drugs and drug houses was already a fixed feature of Seattle policy. Twenty-five years later, our Governor routinely proclaimed marijuana stores to be essential, while restaurants, and any number of small businesses were nonessential. We have thrown away at least two generations as we have embraced mind-altering drugs. We even dispense a cocaine analog to teenage boys as a means of altering their behavior. Terrible schools and addicted children are the legacy of the “welfare state”.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *