RANGER AGAINST WAR: Tree of Liberty <

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Tree of Liberty

Since when do we have to back our president, or should we,
when the President is proposing an unconstitutional act?
--Wayne Morris (D-OR) 

But hear, O ye swains, 'tis a tale most profane,
How all the tyrannical powers,
Kings, Commons and Lords, are uniting amain,
To cut down this guardian of ours;
From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms,
Through the land let the sound of it flee,
Let the far and the near, all unite with a cheer,
In defence of our Liberty Tree 
--Liberty Tree, Thomas Paine 

"Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is!
And now expecting them to understand Othello
My good boy!"
--Brave New World, Aldous Huxley 

It is difficult to describe the concept of "liberty", but the United States began with the symbol of a strong tree to denote the concept: Firmly rooted, needing water and nourishment in order to grow and withstand the winds of time.  A tree, nonetheless, which may sway and not be uprooted.

This got us thinking: What liberties do we actually possess?  Are liberty and freedom the same thing?

Do we possess liberty and freedom as a result of democracy, or are they by-products of capitalism?  Are they pre-requisites of capitalism, or is it a reciprocity?  Or are systems like "democracy" and "capitalism" limiting factors on our intrinsic liberty and freedom?

Can liberty and freedom be "rights of man" alone, or need they be enforced by government or religious fiat?  Rousseau may have imagined a romantic "natural man" who answers to and for himself, but is that possible or even desirable within a society?

Are democracy and capitalism synonymous? Does democracy stymy capitalism or enhance it, and to what degree, either?

But back to the tree.  It is common to see a strong old tree wrapped in parasitic vines, some of which strangle the tree outright, some which harbor pests ultimately deadly to the tree.  These vines must be dug out from the roots, and the vines chain sawed from around the tree if it is to live.

It may be idealistic to maintain a non-judgmental, all-inclusive state ethos, but for the sake of maintaining a heritable civilization, that idealism may not be possible.


Blogger FDChief said...

Let me complicate your metaphor even further.

Let us change the image from a tree to a bush; hardy little thing, but with all sorts of branches and suckers all over the place.

Is the idea to grow a single, tall plant? Then you gotta go in and cut back all those little runners to force the thing to grow one trunk.

But your nasty little useless sucker may be my treehouse...

Or is the idea to grow a dense thicket of interlocking branches?

And will those branches even intergrow? Or will they just devolve into a messy tangle that chokes itself and gets shaded out by the taller trees?

To speak plainly, I think the entire history of the U.S. is the story of the tension between liberty and authority, of freedom and power. The story of U.S. politics is the expansion of the franchise, first to propertyless white males, then to black males (sorta...), then to women...

Each one of these has involved changes in the way we look at "liberty" and "authority".

We've gone through similar changes in how we divide up the economic spoils.

We've chosen to make our polity such that the way we do this is through a democratic process; we vote to decide, at least in theory, who gets what and how.

But there's no 1-1 correspondence. Democracy is a process, it's just the mechanism. It can be used to deprive others, or ourselves, of liberties both political and economic. Sometimes, for example, economic "freedom" means no more than the freedom to starve.

I would observe that we are well into a period of political flux. For about forty years - from around 1930 to around 1970 - we had a political and social condition that placed an emphasis on spreading the political and economic gains across a fairly broad swath of the American public.

This was the culmination of the effects of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the labor movement, and the utter craphanded ethos of the Gilded Age's ruling class as exposed in 1929 and before.

We're reentering a period that emphasizes "liberty" - in the sense of individual gains - over "security" in the sense of social unity.

As one who came of age before this began I can see immense downsides to this shift, but, then, I forget who said something about how Switzerland has enjoyed centuries of peace and produced nothing more worthwhile than the cuckoo clock. We may, in fact, be headed into an exceptionally productive time. But from where I sit, the chances are greater that we will find ourselves with neither liberty nor security, those of us not in a position to live on mommy's trust fund...

Monday, October 8, 2012 at 2:21:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous jim hruska said...

Switzerland also produced the Rolex and some damn fine rifles and pistols.
I see the basic divide in the US experience to be that of Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian philosophies vying for hegemony.
The right loves to quote Jeff. and to give out right wing awards that they call jefferson awards while at the same time advocating Hamiltonian principles.
Strange brew.
Thanks for writing, but mostly thanks for being a long term friend.I thought of you at the Airborne reunion this last weekend.We had a widow from Portland who flew east just for the reunion.
Again-thanks for being a friend.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 6:19:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Brooklyn Red Leg said...


its mostly because the "right" is infested with those who are anything BUT Jeffersonian's. Mostly I think its because they think they can fool the sheeple, since I doubt very seriously that, say, Mitt Romney gives a rat's arse about anything but his own aggrandizement and power. The US political system is such a nightmare that has been reduced to Red Team/Blue Team insanity (or Coke vs. Pepsi) that its no wonder there is a growing class of people who are simply fed up with being screwed by the government.

Sadly, history shows us what happens when a decaying state becomes more authoritarian. I hate to say this, but with what will likely happen in the next few years vis-a-vis the US Dollar (nigh dead as it is, what with the Petro-Yuan), our government's growing paranoia (DHS buying more hollow-point ammo than the US military has expended in combat in the last 11 years) will probably go full bore into "lock down". It won't matter which of the two clowns running for POTUS now get in as its basically full steam ahead.

The truly awful thing is that all the kids born just before or after 9/11 have NEVER lived in a world without the all-encompassing Security-State that the US has descended into.

"What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, polkers, or whatever else was at hand?" - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 5:01:00 AM GMT-5  
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Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 4:04:00 PM GMT-5  

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