Read this op-ed in RealClearPolitics by Frank Miele: “Live Free or Die: Why Medical Autonomy Matters.” Share it. It’s fantastic. A taste: “George Orwell might just as well have never written Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Greatest Generation might as well have never defeated the Nazis. Ronald Reagan may as well have never defeated the Evil Empire of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. What’s the point if I have to surrender my dignity and willpower to the bureaucrats and technocrats and let them stick a needle in my arm to mark me just as a rancher would brand his cattle: owned.”
Readers of Freedom and Reason will hear my thoughts echoing throughout Miele’s op-ed. I have been blogging essays with similar content this since March 2020, albeit not written in quite this way. Content-wise, much of this essay reads as if it came from my blog, but the style is that of an accomplished newspaper editor. I am not making an accusation. I’m not the only person in this world who can see things for what they are and the slippery slope we are on. (Some would wish me to more humbly write that I am not the only person who sees things the way I do, but that is for other people to say about me.) So Miele’s essay comes as comfort. It’s why I ask you to share it (share this essay, as well). It will come as comfort to others, as well. We are not alone!
Without a course correction, we will soon live in a country we will no longer recognize—and that goes for a lot of the people around us. The capacity of the mind to convince itself that the undesirable is not a nascent actuality, to deny and accommodate changed circumstance, is a powerful force in human personality. Indeed, watching minds reshape to fit actions once understood as authoritarian is one of the scariest aspects of this moment we are in. If it were not for others who also see through the web of deceit, life for me would increasingly resemble the vibe of Roman Polanski’s horror film Rosemary’s Baby.
Have you ever heard of Stockholm syndrome? Some say there’s no such thing, but that must be a rationalization, as we can easily see the syndrome at work throughout time and place. We see it big time today. The condition sometimes appears as equanimity, but when not strategically deceitful, equanimity is a sad attempt to dress inaction in virtue. What am I talking about? A mental illness wherein the hostage comes to identify with her captor.
Stockholm syndrome involves the same cognitive and emotional strategy victims pursue when confronted by rising tyranny in a formerly free and democratic society. Changing one’s cognitive and emotional standpoint is one way to deal with the unbearable stress of tyranny’s presence. The strategy is especially likely to occur when the victim feels that resistance to tyranny is not an option due to a belief that either those around her stand with tyrants or believe they cannot successfully do so. The circumstances function like gaslighting; organized circumstances cause her to doubt her ability to grasp the truth of reality and the soundness of principle. It’s a manifestation of auto-gaslighting.
Underpinning Stockholm syndrome is what psychologist Leon Festinger identifies as cognitive dissonance. Festinger observes that human beings naturally seek consistency between attitude and belief, on the one hand, and behavior and actions, on the other. If people believe they cannot act in a manner that aligns with their beliefs, many will change their attitudes to fit their behavior. The simple way to say this is that slogan all of us have heard before. You know the one: “If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.” In this way, by identifying with the external threat, the victim can manage the stress situation and threat provokes. It’s a defense mechanism.
For those who find it impossible to adopt such a strategy, or who have found themselves of late determined to no longer acquiesce to tyranny, the burden of the stress is amplified by those who have acquiesced, especially those who have come to identify with the captor or tyrant and work to advance his agenda. Brainwashers discovered no more powerful moment in the transformation of a person’s consciousness than when the target discovers that his comrades identify with their common oppressor and find him odd for not doing likewise.
Frank Miele is an experienced editorial writer and I envy this style of writing. I am not saying he is a great writer. But when I read this style I realize how impoverished academic training leaves those in my profession. Different skill set. Miele clearly conveys his point. I write like a nineteenth century German moral philosopher. Since academic spaces have become unbearably woke (and super-exploitative) and I no longer write for them, I am going to keep working at it.
Stay strong. Tyranny is on the rise everywhere. You are not imagining it. What was unthinkable a year ago is now happening. Much of it is already firmly in place. It will take forceful action to dislodge it. But first we have to stop the progression. Resist this. Resist it while you can.
I leave you with the prophetic scene from the 1981 movie My Dinner with Andre: