The Archaic Greeks believed that only the best men can handle liberty. That’s why only free men of property could serve in the phalanx, or crew a fighting trireme. Only such a man had the iron self-control a hoplite needs. Freedom without discipline backed by centuries of tradition is what barbarians have (“barbarian” means simply “not Greek”) — that’s not liberty, it’s license.
That’s why the citizens of Athens put Socrates to death, and why Nietzsche said they were right to do it. Socrates’s command to “know thyself” leads not to freedom, as he claimed, but to license. To keep his freedom — to literally keep the barbarians from the gates — a free man must be bold, even ruthless, in defense of his values. Socrates’s injunction calls those very values into question. What if our “values” are really just social conventions? How can I — who know myself so thoroughly — continue strutting around as if I weren’t always in danger of succumbing to lust, laziness, gluttony, cowardice? It’s no good to say “because it’s socially useful for you to act this way,” because if it’s just an act, then what’s the point of those “values” in the first place? Do the Spartans seem happy to you? The barbarians sure do….
Well into modern times, the contrast between civilization and barbarism was right there. Europe was in danger of being overrun well into the 17th century; the Barbary slave trade went on into the 19th. Europeans weren’t the unquestioned top dogs on their own continent until the Industrial Revolution. Only fanatic commitment to our values kept the barbarians away, but they were always there, just over the horizon… is it a coincidence, do you think, that the Enlightenment only really got rolling after the Battle of Vienna?
Flash forward into the 20th century. Nobody’s village is going to get burned by marauding Mongols; no cruise ship passengers in the Mediterranean are going to end up in an Ottoman hareem. The ages-old answer to the question “What is freedom for?” doesn’t make sense anymore. Hell, the very question itself doesn’t. I defy anyone, anywhere, in the modern world to find a commonly accepted definition of “freedom” that doesn’t boil down to “do your own thing, man” — in other words, what the Greeks would call license.
Do you have one?
Folks in Our Thing rail against the SJW police state, but I ask you to seriously consider: What, exactly, is wrong with a police state? That it takes away our freedom? See above. We’ve so thoroughly conflated freedom with license that most college kids I know — and I have met thousands — don’t even know what the word “license” means, outside of a laminated card that lets you buy beer. Our kinder, gentler police state is just lousy with license, and most people will go along with that, because they like it — and because they think they ARE free. Start handing out a government ration of porn, fentanyl, Big Macs, and free wifi, and I promise you not one “American” in 10,000 will care that freedom of thought, of conscience, are gone… whatever the fuck that means. All I know, dude, is that I can pierce anything, watch anything, stick anything up any orifice, and get retweeted and upvoted for it. So what if you can’t read some dead white guy any more? The new season of Stranger Things is out!
Freedom — ordered liberty; the ability to choose not what one wants, but what one must — is a meaningless concept in a postindustrial society. Our fraternal socialist comrades in the USSR didn’t rebel because they wanted freedom; they rebelled because the kommissars promised them more stuff, and didn’t deliver. We will be perfectly free, fellow citizens, in the SJW’s New World Order, under any definition of “freedom” that still makes sense in a world where the “poor” die of heart disease and diabetes.
Unless you can tell me exactly why anyone should start shooting at the black helicopters, Our Thing is just a few dudes grumbling on the Internet. I’m sure we’ll have some high old times together in the reeducation camp, but all this? It’s for nothing.Loading Likes...