The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. This video is based on an piece I wrote on this site back in 2017. It covers my tips and strategies for resisting an authoritarian government. It wasn’t a battle plan for soldiers as much as it was a guide for ordinary people. In a world where authoritarians are always seeking more power, I thought this was a relevant issue to explore. I tried to craft it in a manner that wouldn’t require combat training and could be done by anyone seeking to both resist and survive. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: authoritarian
It has been a strange, scary, and distressing time for the United States of America. Anyone who has been following the news in any capacity these past five years would likely agree. Between the politics, the culture wars, and people whining about female characters in “Star Wars,” it has gotten quite ugly.
I also sincerely regret that I have likely contributed to that ugliness at times. I don’t deny that I have written things on this site that, in hindsight, were probably misguided in terms of both intent and overall point.
However, I won’t go so far as to delete what I’ve written or deny that I ever felt differently than I do now. I just accept that there have been times in my life where I believed, accepted, and propagated things I thought to be right, but eventually realized were wrong.
That’s neither good nor bad.
That’s just life and how your perspective changes with time.
Except now, I’m at an age where it’s a little easier to see the forest from the trees, with respect to current events. Not long ago, I thought I understood the general arc of politics, trends, cultural issues, and what not. I could see the patterns that began with people whining about Marilyn Manson and “South Park” in the 90s and culminated with people whining about diversity in children’s shows and boob armor today.
I now realize I was wrong, yet again.
I didn’t know just how messy, regressive, and irrational these issues could be, even in a first world country like the United States of America.
If I ever gave the impression that I was more informed than most, I apologize. I’m not. I know now that I hadn’t been on this planet long enough to see just how bad things could get or how much large groups of people could collectively deny objective reality.
As a result, the optimism with which I once harbored about the future of America and the human race in general has taken a severe hit. I won’t say it’s utterly dead, but it is on life support at the moment. With each passing day, I see people with objectively un-American ideas about freedom claiming they’re the true patriots. I also see people exercising blatant, unambitious hypocrisy and paying no price and feeling no shame.
Now, in wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and setting abortion rights back 50 years, I’m just about out of hope. It’s not just that I’m strongly against forcing women to have babies they don’t want or using misguided religious zealotry to justify certain laws, policies, or positions. These are all positions that a vast majority of people don’t agree with.
The same goes for organized religion. It has been in steady decline for decades. Young people, especially, are no longer buying into this old dogma. Despite that, the religious right has never been more powerful and it shows no signs of waning. And I’ve been on this planet long enough to understand something disheartening and distressing.
When uptight, repressive people gain power, they seek to use it. And they will use it in ways that are bound to be unpopular, damaging, and destructive. Since my beliefs, politics, and background are not at all in line with these zealots, I will likely feel that impact. I might not feel it as much as others, but I will feel it.
I don’t claim to know the future. I also know that things always change, no matter how hopeful or bleak they seem. However, given the cycles I’ve seen and the trends I’ve seen throughout my adult life, I get the sense the direction of that change is not going in a good direction. Moreover, it’ll never go in the direction it needs to for more people to prosper.
In order to illustrate this sentiment, I want to offer the following scenario that may or may not be a result of ongoing trends.
The year is 20XX.
The White House, both sides of Congress, and the Supreme Court are dominated by conservative Christian republicans. They’ve spent the past two years furthering their agenda, passing wildly unpopular policies that curtail abortion rights, denigrate LGBTQ communities, undermine public education, and embolden politically connected religious organizations.
Now, the mid-terms are coming up and it looks very likely that they’ll lose control of Congress. Several prominent democrats even promise to block any further policies by the religious right. However, rather than accept the loss of power that comes with every election cycle, leaders in the religious right decide to take action.
First, they start passing laws meant to “preserve democracy,” but end up limiting peoples’ ability to vote.
Then, they start promoting stories claiming that the other side is preparing to cheat during the election.
Then, they elevate news stories of questionable credibility that claim operatives within the democratic party have been arrested or charged with potential election crimes.
Then, in the name of preserving democracy, the upcoming election is deferred several months.
Then, protests and outrage break out across many major cities.
Then, the republican president declares a state of emergency, which includes enacting martial law within multiple states, especially those likely to have democratic governors or majorities.
Then, the National Guard and local police are deployed to quell riots and ensure peace.
Then, mass arrests take place. The fact that many of those arrested happen to be democrats or minorities is claimed to be just a coincidence or unrelated.
Then, voting rights for those arrested and charged with crimes are suspended.
Then, “special elections” take place, but under strict rules governed by a republican Congress and many republican dominated state governments.
Then, democratic leaders sue and attempt to block the act, but the conservative Supreme Court rules against them.
Then, the election results are in and, despite vast swaths of the public not being able to or allowed to vote, the conservative Christian republican candidates win and win big.
Then, armed with this new power, they alter more rules regarding elections and legislation in the name of “preserving the peace” or “protecting the public” or “maintaining democracy.”
In the end, the only citizens who are allowed to or are capable of voting are conservative Christian republicans and the only candidates they can vote for just happen to be conservative Christians. As a result, more regressive laws are passed that are not at all popular, let alone constitutional.
But that doesn’t matter at this point. It’s too late. They have the power and they’re never letting it go again.
Now, what I just described is only one possible scenario. I freely admit it’s an extreme scenario, not unlike what played out in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” However, extreme or not, the possibility is there, as are the disturbing trends.
The reversal of Roe vs. Wade and the domination of the Supreme Court by conservative right wing Christian may very well be the first act in a new trend. I’ve seen throughout my adult life how bold and unapologetic these types of shameless bullies can be.
It doesn’t matter if they’re caught lying.
It doesn’t matter if they’re caught in an act of blatant hypocrisy.
It doesn’t even matter if someone finds out they paid their mistress to get an abortion.
They face no consequences and feel no shame. They keep getting away with their deplorable behavior and they have every incentive to seek more power and influence. So long as they get the right people to vote for them, use the flaws of the system to their advantage, and depend on the relative apathy of most citizens, they’ll remain in power and they’ll keep securing more.
That’s always the endgame. It’ll go on as long as there’s are new opportunities and no obstacles, be they laws or people, to get in their way. And at this point, I honestly don’t know if there’s enough obstacles anymore.
Encouraging people to vote doesn’t seem to work anymore because voting has become so diluted in the United States. Unless you live in a swing state, it really doesn’t matter.
Encouraging people to protest doesn’t seem to matter, either. At most, it just inconveniences people who are rich, powerful, and capable of hiring private security. They literally have no incentive to change anything about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.
I wish I knew of a solution or recourse. I really do. Maybe there is and I’m just not smart enough to realize it, let alone articulate it. But at the moment, I’ve never been less hopeful about the future of the United States and the human race in general. I really hope I’m wrong about my current outlook, but I’m not sure what could change these distressing trends.
If we’re at a point where we can’t even agree on objective reality anymore, then what hope do we have of creating a better reality for our future?
We all have that one book that has a lasting impact on us. Sometimes, we seek it out. Sometimes, it comes to us unexpectedly. Even if you’re not a voracious reader, it still affects you in a profound way. Whether it’s the story, the characters, or the underlying message, it resonates with you and you still feel it years later.
That’s how I feel about Gorge Orwell’s famous novel, 1984. To date, it’s one of my favorite novels and that’s counting all the comic books I’ve read. It’s considered a modern classic and for good reason. This book, its author, and its message came along at a dangerous time for civilization. While times have changed and 1984 has passed us by on the calendar, the message of this book is still as important as ever.
To celebrate that message, I made a video about it on my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. If you need a book to add to your summer reading list, I hope this video convinces you to put 1984 at the top. It had a profound effect on me. It changed the way I thought about politics, authority, and freedom. I hope it can do the same for others.
Whenever a tyrannical power gains influence, it’s only a matter of time before it attempts to control sex and subvert love. Whether it’s a theocracy like “The Handmaid’s Tale” or a communist dictatorship like North Korea, those in power will eventually get to it. It’s just a matter of how repressive they dare to be.
When it comes to the extremes of authoritarianism, those envisioned by George Orwell are the standards by which all are measured. Whether they’re fictional tyrannies like those in “Star Wars” or real-life autocracies like Nazi Germany, the extent of their repression is best measured by contrasting it with the one Orwell crafted in “1984.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve cited that book or Orwell’s writing, but I do so for a reason and it’s not just because it’s one of my favorite novels. The narrative Orwell envisioned took our understanding of repression and pushed it to its greatest extremes. On every level, the world of “1984” is a worst-case-scenario for anyone who values freedom.
Under the ruling party, Ingsoc, every aspect of human life is controlled, managed, or outright subverted. That includes sex, but it’s certainly not limited to it. Through institutions like the ironically-named Ministry of Love and the Junior Anti-Sex League, people aren’t just shamed or bullied into certain sexual practices. They’re tortured, brainwashed, and forced into it.
It’s a level of control that the Catholic Church, the religious right, and even conservative Muslims would find excessive. It’s also an important part of the story because so much of the events surrounding “1984” emerge from Winston’s relationship with Julia. In fact, the love they share is framed one of the biggest threats to the party.
That, in and of itself, is extremely telling of the power of sex and the love that emerges from it. Even in a world in which the repression is so complete that the party can convince people that two plus two equals five, it still has a problem dealing with sex. If Big Brother can’t manage it, then what hope does the Vatican have?
I ask that question within the context of “1984” because I’m seeing more and more issues inevitably link back to sexuality. It’s not just from religious institutions, though. They’ve made their eagerness to shape sexuality to serve their interests known for centuries. They aren’t always overt about it, but it’s not too hard to understand why they want their adherents having sex only for procreation.
For them, linking sex to making babies means all those sexual thoughts people have will result in more adherents. More adherents means more money. More money means more power and influence. It’s often cloaked in sin and morality, but this is the ultimate byproduct of their sexual morals.
However, it’s at the other end of the spectrum where a different, but powerful kind of sexual subversion is at work. The link isn’t quite as obvious as those espoused by religious institutions, but it is there in that the byproduct is the same and the underlying themes are richly reflected in “1984.”
On that end of the spectrum are those who identify as secular, but still hold extreme ideologies. This includes extreme brands of feminism, social justice ideology, and even old school communism. These are people who don’t just want to reform the current system through political and social discourse. They seek to overthrow the system and replace it with their own Utopian ideal.
Like the religious zealots they often clash with, they see the current order as oppressive. Whether it’s a religious sect facing persecution or the historical oppression against anyone who isn’t part of a historic majority, these individuals see revolution as the only way to right these wrongs. Part of that revolution involves destroying sex, albeit indirectly.
Whereas religious zealots rely on outright censorship, those on the opposite end employ a more subtle approach. They denigrate and bemoan sexual imagery, be it in video game characters or a shirt somebody happens to be wearing. They obsess over inequities and victimization, singling out egregious crimes while ignoring others that don’t fit the narrative.
Some will go so far as to claim sex as inherently oppressive. A few radical feminists have gone so far as to say that the fundamentals of sex can only ever be oppressive. In the same way some religious preachers will shame someone for looking at anyone with lust, this ideology identifies anyone who has or pursues sex as an oppressor.
That might have been absurd several decades ago, but in the current state of outrage culture where the dress Jennifer Lawrence wears to a movie premier becomes a controversy, it’s steadily creeping into the discourse. Concepts like beauty are now oppressive to those not born with beautiful bodies. Anything that may titillate or excite is seen as dangerous or damaging to the oppressed.
It’s at a point where the idea of people seeking any kind of release outside the narrative espoused by extremists is pathologized. For religious zealots, it’s sinful. For the non-religious extremists, it’s oppressive. Both see it as something that needs to be reformed or envisioned.
Chances are these individuals don’t see themselves as the authoritarians depicted in “1984.” They still see themselves as the underdogs in a “Rocky” movie, fighting to win an epic battle against an oppressive bully. Beyond being an absurd conflation of what they’re fighting for, this very approach is envisioned by Orwell and is key to empowering Ingsoc.
In the world of “1984,” the Ministry of Truth builds a similar narrative for the masses. They’re told that prior to Ingsoc taking power, the world was a terrible, oppressive place. It was only by rallying around the party and Big Brother that they were able to triumph. Moreover, it’s through the wisdom and guidance of the party that they escape this oppression.
Part of that process involves reshaping/subverting sex. In “1984,” the party isn’t just looking to control it. They seek to destroy it. The Junior Anti-Sex League even says it outright at one point.
“The sex inherent aptitude will be eradicated. Reproduction will be a one-year formality like the reclamation of a ration card. We shall get rid of the orgasm.”
Even by extreme repression standards, this seems extreme. It might even seem like something that would give zealots of all types pause. However, Orwell’s way of justifying such extremes reveal more than just a twisted ideology. He ends up exposing why sex is such a huge concern for any extreme ideology.
“When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother?”
Read over that quote again, but replace Big Brother with the name of any religious sect or political ideology. It has the same meaning and the same implications. In order for both the zealots and the radicals to achieve their goal, they have to destroy sex. It’s the only way they can achieve their Utopian ideal.
Religious zealots can’t shame or guilt people entirely out of wanting to enjoy sex for non-procreative purposes. They can certainly make it difficult and painful for many, even to the point of serious abuse, but it never works in the long run. The drive to just want to hump for fun is too strong.
Certain brands of radical feminism have a similar issue. They can’t stop straight men from enjoying the sight of a beautiful woman. They can’t stop anyone from wanting to enjoy something different in their sex lives that they don’t like. No matter how much they’re triggered, it doesn’t turn off that powerful, instinctual drive.
In “1984,” the party actively works towards destroying that drive through technology. This is a lot scarier now because that kind of technology is already in the works. In theory, an extremely repressive religious zealot or a very regressive feminist could turn the implants in development at Neuralink into something that removes all pleasure from sex.
From there, they could redirect that energy into serving their ideology/religion. The procreative function could still be utilized, but only to the extent that it’s necessary. That may not be the ultimate goal. It’s not even the ultimate goal of Ingsoc. It’s just necessary in the grand scheme of pursuing and securing power.
As it stands, those in the religious right and other extremist circles aren’t remotely close to gaining the influence and control exercised by Big Brother in “1984.” Logistically speaking, it’s impossible for them because subverting human nature requires an understanding of it and the scientific process for achieving that understanding rarely adheres to ideology.
It still says something about their goals when the only way to achieve them in the long run requires that they destroy sex. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Orwell built a major part of “1984” around two characters falling in love and experiencing the joys of the sex act. That proved to be one of most powerful ways for them to oppose the party.
To that extent, Orwell’s understanding of sexuality is nothing short of prophetic in terms of how revolutionaries on both ends of the political spectrum view it. In an Orwellian world, sex and love aren’t just a hindrance to a revolution. They’re an outright threat.
The fact that it took repression on the level of Big Brother to confront that threat is a testament to the power of sex and love. If Big Brother couldn’t contain it, then what hope does any religion or ideology have?
When it comes to ensuring the happiness, advancement, and general prosperity of humanity, it’s not unreasonable to say that basic human rights are a core ingredient. Most know the basics of these rights as life, liberty, and property. Some even throw in the pursuit of happiness, which denotes all kinds of freedom, including the sexy kinds.
Beyond just sounding great on paper, human rights are a major guiding force. History has shown, time and again, that societies that value these rights tend to prosper more that only exist to glorify a despot. The contrast between the two Koreas is proof enough of that.
However, the preservation and promotion of basic human rights is no easy task. The world is full of corrupt, cruel, and power-hungry people who would scoff at the very concept the same way they would anyone who claims trees have souls. The fact that some of them manage to get elected in countries with democratic institutions says a lot about just how hard it can be to protect human rights.
It’s that vulnerability in one the most cherished modern institutions, which some claim took a major hit in 2016, that leads me to ask a question that I’m sure is going to draw me some level of ire. However, in wake of recent news and a particular Hollywood movie that indirectly touches on this concept, I think it’s worth asking.
Is democracy the best way of preserving basic human rights in a society?
I ask that question as someone who loves and celebrates the freedoms that being an American has given me. I feel lucky and honored to live in a country where I get to participate in the democratic process. I make it a point to vote in every election, be it mid-term or a presidential election.
That said, I’m not among those hyper-patriot, Ron Swanson wannabes who willfully ignores the flaws of the democratic systems around me. Between the limited choices offered by a two-party system, the non-democratic nature of the electoral college, and misguided ballot initiatives, I see these flaws as much as anyone else with an internet connection.
To some extent, I recognize that not all of these flaws are fixable within a democracy. The essence of democracy is people electing their government. Unfortunately, people aren’t always rational and anyone who has read headlines from Florida knows that. People can also be whipped up into a hateful, mob-like frenzy. It’s one of the side-effects of being such a social species. We’ll often go with the crowd before we go with reason.
In a perfect democracy, every voter would be completely independent, completely informed, and only vote to elect the person they believe will best preserve basic human rights. Since there’s no such thing as a perfect democracy any more than there’s such a thing as a perfect autocracy, there are bound to be flaws in the system.
Some of those flaws can be mitigated with things like voter education. Others involve mixing democratic systems with that of a republic. That’s primarily what the founding fathers attempted to establish with the United States, a republic being the fixed body of laws to preserve our rights and using democratic systems to protect those rights.
Other western democracies utilize various methods to address these issues, but so long as people are involved, there will be human flaws in any system. The key is making sure that those flaws don’t end up undermining human rights. The results haven’t been perfect. Ask any number of minority communities for proof of that.
With these flaws in mind, I believe it’s worth thinking beyond democracy to imagine other ways of preserving and promoting human rights. Some of those concepts manifest in movies, comics, and TV shows. The “Black Panther” movie presented an enticing, albeit fanciful, idea of an all-around good king who believes in basic human rights and does what he can to promote it, at least for his own people.
I’ve also cited Dr. Doom in a previous article who, despite being the ultimate villain in the Marvel universe, is pretty much the perfect ruler for any system of government. Sure, people in his government fear his wrath, but that’s the only thing they fear. You could argue that such fear is inconsistent with basic human rights, but in terms of actually securing people, property, and what not, Doom has no equals.
Outside the world of superheroes, though, there are also instances where a great leader who deeply values human rights gets thrust into power. That’s the entire premise of “Designated Survivor,” a show where Kiefer Sutherland does more than just shoot and torture terrorists. The best possible leader for a government isn’t elected. They essentially find themselves in that position.
In a sense, that embodies the disconnect between the fictional world and the real world. The idea that a king with ultimate power in a secretive country or some low-level government appointee would turn out to be a perfect president assumes a lot of things that don’t play out in the real world. It essentially vindicates what Winston Churchill once said about democracy.
“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Those bolded parts are my doing because those are the parts that most people recall. Considering the context in which Churchill said those words, having just fought a massive war against two leaders who had been democratically elected, it’s hard to blame him.
Even today, extremists who do not hold certain human rights in high regard do get elected to positions of power. It’s not a matter of people just throwing the concept away. People are still very tribal, last I checked. They’re going to vote or protest in accord with their own interests, even if it means undermining the interests of others.
That situation leaves basic human rights vulnerable. There are, as I write this, people living in functioning democracies whose basic rights are being undermined. While we have made a great deal of progress over the past century as democracies have spread, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
Going back to the original question I asked about democracy’s ability to preserve human rights, I don’t think there’s an easy answer. For now, I’m inclined to side with the wisdom of Winston Churchill. Democracy has it’s flaws, but it’s the best we’ve got thus far. We can definitely stand to do better and should work towards doing so.
Some of that may involve getting money out of politics to mitigate corruption. Some involve doing the opposite of what China just did and setting term limits for politicians. Some are taking an even more radical approach by integrating emerging technology into the democratic process.
These are all bold ideas, which are certainly worth pursuing in the future. Until we have a real life T’Challa to be king or a super-intelligent AI capable of running a government with perfect efficiency, democracy is our best bet for preserving human rights. We shouldn’t stop trying to improve, but we should still celebrate it’s merit.