Do you want to know why I seem so afraid?

Richard Fernandez, writing about George Orwell[*1] :

The most frightening thing about Orwell’s life is that it took a man as inquiring and perceptive as he was so long to understand his world. It took years for him to grasp that power was only interested in itself. He had reached the middle of his life before understanding that outwardly commonplace things like the Party were devoted only to their own ends. Once he recognized this he spent the rest of his life warning of the great danger which was upon us. Yet the miracle was that he understood it at all. The “obvious” idea that freedom is a meme that must daily struggle for its existence was not so evident after all. Some — the countless numbers who went to their deaths still praising Stalin or thinking that the “Revolution had been betrayed” — never realized the truth at all. They never realized that they were experiencing the Revolution: the revolution in which Power ruled forever. But to understand that concept would have been to know too much. Only O’Brien and finally Winston Smith understood the truth. For the rest, there is Victory Gin. Hitler once remarked that the bulk of humanity is easily mislead and any leader worthy of the name would take advantage of the fact.

The ability to recognize the face of tyranny is a fragile skill which cannot really be passed on, except as a critical attitude. As the twentieth century recedes into the past, a kind of antiquity has descended over the prophets of the past, who speak to us now only through old, cloth-covered books from second-hand bookshops or lying in corners at garage sales or lending libraries. Even 1984 is set in a time so long ago that it can only be portrayed in film as steampunk. We can no longer imagine “a boot in a human face forever” in a world where the Croc sandal may be the preferred footwear of militants. ‘A Croc sandal stamping on a human face forever?’ Who could credit such a tyranny, even if it were true? But the face of evil ever renews itself. When Moses returned from Mount Sinai he discovered that it had taken a new shape.

I’m surrounded by people, and by an entire culture, who not only think “it can’t happen here” but are actively engaged in the soft and gentle (and sometimes not so soft or gentle), mocking, condescending suppression anyone who thinks “you know, human nature hasn’t fundamentally changed in the past 100 years, let alone the past 10,000.”

So, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that Jefferson was right when he said that liberty was a tree that required the watering of the blood of tyrants and patriots. I don’t want to live through a civil war. I don’t want to live through Kristallnacht, either, but I have the feeling that that’s what is quietly happening, while everybody distractedly obsesses about everything else, from Michael Jackson to global warming. I’m not afraid for myself, but for everybody else who have no clue what’s coming. And I think it is coming.

The looters are in power, and they’re doing what comes naturally to human beings who have power without check or responsibility. They loot.