“All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.” Frank Herbert
Most people remember Frank Herbert for his famous book series “Dune”. While his work categorically is science fiction, he was also a student of philosophy, sociology and ecology. Like Robert Heinlein, he was immensely distrustful of government, especially the growth of its powers and emphasis on leadership. Much of what the great science fiction writers did was to use the trends of the present to project what the future could become, and all too often, as was the case with Frank Herbert, they were prescient.
As America grew in global stature in the early 20th Century, the Federal government became more and more the domestic focus as political power became more centralized, and consequently more isolated from the people it was created to serve. Its focus became how to use power for the policies its leaders of the day proposed. Such concentration of power inevitably leads to coercion as after all what use is power if you don’t use it? As Frank Herbert so eloquently observed in the quote above, violence becomes an addiction.
The invasion of the Pelosi home by David DePape, a deranged person by any measure of mental instability, is a sad manifestation of a social disorder similar to the attacks on Supreme Court Justices following the Dobbs decision, partisan extremism with the Summer of 2020 Riots following the George Floyd murder and the Capitol Riots of January 6; these are clear indications that the social fabric of American society is seriously damaged.
The question is how do we heal that damage? Biden’s characterization of the Republican Party as semi-fascist is not the way, especially given his campaign pledge to be the unifier promoting bipartisan cooperation; neither is the manipulation of the illegal immigration crisis by Republican Governors, the wrong answer to the admittedly obvious failure of government policies that created this human tragedy. Unfortunately we are exposed to opportunistic demigods that seek more power by cloaking themselves in partisan propaganda, a game of vote harvesting devoid of any principles forming coherent policies.
There is an existential difference between state and society, but without direction as a society the state is emboldened at the expense of its citizens by their politicians; therefore the solution must come from American citizens, not their politicians. When Americans understand that the only way for politicians to control society is to give them the power to do so, they will cease voting for those politicians. All too often when it comes to leadership Americans are left with the proverbial lesser of two evils; wanting less evil is not the same as doing away with evil any more than having less cancer makes one healthy.
For a society to be healthy, people should not be reliant on the state for their welfare, nor encumbered by the state in pursuit of their interests. They need an environment for spontaneous and organic interaction as they see fit, not subject to what the state will permit. What they need the state and their politicians to do is to keep their oath of office to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”; this oath of office presumes the existence of some evil that promotes violence, and unfortunately such a presumption is well founded, especially among those seeking power.
There are many and diverse reasons for violence but in the context of this post it is the acceptance of coercion to promote political ends that causes societal violence. When the rule of law as a deterrent against violence is compromised by either diminishing protections against compulsion or using it as a means of compulsion, society will experience an increase in violence and a loss in its sense of security. The intrusion of the state into society with laws that provide for preferential benefits causes disequilibrium in that society by sowing resentment among its citizens. As will Rogers famously said during the Great Depression “Everybody nowadays is suggesting ways of getting prosperous on somebody else’s money.”
Political leadership that promotes such policies is inherently toxic to society; by lying and being tone deaf, by being arrogant in the face of its own incompetence, valuing its hierarchy over the welfare of its citizens, discriminating in favor of its voting base, showing self-interest over national interest, we have a leadership that can only thrive in an environment of the violence it has itself created; such is the state of play in American politics for more than a century now.
Thomas Hobbes wrote some three hundred years ago that “The social contract to surrender powers to the state was based on the promise of protection from the violence and intimidation of others.” This is the reason for being for the state. Now the state has become a monopoly of legitimized violence, often by decree as the Constitutional role of Congress regarding war powers has been usurped executively; it’s violence concealed by lies, like making the world safe for democracy, a lie to further maintain and justify violence, both foreign and domestic.
The use of violence is a sign of incompetence, the inability to understand and accept that others have the right to their beliefs as long as they do not confuse compulsion with compassion; should that occur, you have the initiation of violence, an act that is ultimately self-destructive. As another great science fiction writer put it “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Isaac Asimov