On Freedom

Pictured: Soviet army insignia with the black and gold victory ribbon, celebrating the Red Army victory against fascism.

I often get described as an authoritarian because I hold fond views of Josef Stalin, and the Soviet Union, and Marxism and what have you, and it doesn’t really bother me too much because it’s just the vocabulary of murderers. People say authoritarian when they want to invade a country and bomb it and kill people who fall under this label. They used to say savages, they used to say barbarians, they used to say pirates, they used to say usurpers, heretics, republicans, rebels, you name it, it’s the flavour of the week vocabulary of murderers.

And to a historian, actions generally speak louder than words. Seems like authoritarians are very interesting characters. They find themselves on the business end of sanctions, poverty, air strikes, drone bombings, death squads, torture and all manner of nasty things. It seems like their nations are frequently ruined, annexed, invaded, plundered, colonised and massacred by the agents of liberty and democracy. It’s interesting how that works.

But I think the problem is that some people get a little bit mixed up. They think Rambo and Red Dawn were documentaries. They forget about how the real history was a little bit contrarian to this.

Just ask any wise Indian, ask them about Tecumseh or Geronimo or Crazy Horse, and what really happened. Ask them about who exactly was the savage. Ask them about what the US cavalry did to their children, what the prospectors and the land speculators did to their refugees. Then you’ll get a clearer picture.

Even in modern day, you can find many Indians in Cuba, indigenous people we know as Hispanics sometimes, ask them about authoritarianism. Ask them about how the campesinos lived under Batista. About the torture, the child prostitution rings, the mafia in Havana, the crooked police chiefs. The criminal charges and the mountains of evidence that was presented during the trials of La Cabaña.

Contrary to the crocodile tears of Gusanos in Florida, La Cabaña was very much the Nuremburg of Cuban history.

Supposedly it was the peasants, the poor, the dispossessed, the plantation slaves, the Afro-Cubans, supposedly these people, when they took up arms against fascism and colonialism, supposedly they were authoritarians. These brutes and strongmen, who left a wake of schools, elections, hospitals, children’s rights and land reforms.

When the Viceroys enslave and murder their way through two centuries of history, putting the Indian under the lash of bondage, slavery, displacement, rape and genocide, we call this enlightenment, we call this liberty, but god forbid they defend themselves. That is when the savage and the authoritarian becomes archetypes of history.

As such, when people call me authoritarian, I am pleased to be in the company of my peers. I am pleased to be honoured to partake in such a dignified and great tradition. To do my small part for what is freedom.

Not liberty. I never cared much for liberty. Liberty in history seems to be built on the permissiveness of tyranny. A liberty is when a government promises not to drag you in front of a firing squad. It is a sad and pathetic view of self-defeating liberals. “Oh thank you for this liberty, thank you for letting me speak without getting roughed up by the goon squads, oh thank you great government for this wonderful privilege!”

Liberty is when you have the right to petition and speak to the parliament, and the parliament then has the liberty to completely ignore you. Liberty means that mandates are but false promises, and that people are but commodities in elections. That voting is a currency of exchange, which loses its value the moment it is secured by the hands of these great keepers of liberty. It is a token economy which makes gullible people feel heard and valued, even though they are habitually ignored and maligned.

Freedom is something else. It is the stuff of proper law. Law that puts the government into the crosshairs. It does not produce rights for the people, but rather obligations for the state. It permits a more value-positive return on all those taxes in the coffers. It permits for a more two sided notion of justice. During the great depression, there were two countries who were dedicated to large and sweeping police action, who would kick down doors, round people off, and send them into penal labour.

Those two nations was the United States of America, and the United Soviet Socialist Republics. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.

But what is interesting is who these people were. In the US, the mass incarceration into chain gangs was carried out in the name of prohibition. It targeted immigrants, poor people, the homeless, the unemployed and numerous ethnic minorities. Who put them into chain gangs to produce things for the rich and for the military.

In the USSR, it was the great purge, which targeted politicians, military officers, state bureaucrats and legal functionaries. Who put them into gulags which built schools, hospitals and infrastructure for the people.

That to me is what freedom looks like, it is when the punishment does indeed fit the crime. When every government employee, from the highest ranks of the executive branch, to the lowest pencil pusher, regards their authority as a burden. When they feel the rifle poking at their necks as they enact the law.

I do not want government employees who feel safe and reassured, who feel motivated by the whims of their fleeting sympathy for the masses, I have no such optimism for governing forces. I want a government employee who understands that the law is the great equaliser, that their life is just as much contingent upon the welfare of society, as mandated by the people, as that of even the lowest pauper.

I want every policeman to feel as though his colleagues are not to be trusted. That there is no blue wall of silence, no inner collusion between uniformed criminals. That any one of them can expect a loud knock on the door in the middle of the night if they take bribes, or shake people down. I want the badge to feel like a target rather than a shield. And I want anyone who lacks the composure of honour which is needed to cope with such a tension to resign as quickly as possible.

And to me, this is the fundamental realism of freedom. This is why people are labelled as authoritarians. It is not when they seek to consolidate power, but rather when they seek to antagonise it. When they wake the bloodthirsty attentions of those who are antagonised. I stand with the savages and the barbarians of the world, with the people who opposed Monroe, Batista and Caligula. For this is dignified company to keep.

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