Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Friday, 2017.12.15
Kinkler's First Law: Responsibility always exceeds authority. Kinkler's Second Law: All the easy problems have been solved.

2004.08.31

Canary’s in the coal mine (in the land of democracy)

[Note: Much of this article was written in the months following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, September 11, 2001.]

One of the “superpower” traits of America’s government is it’s sheer size as well as the colossal power of it’s potential military punch. However, it does not possess any “superpower” qualities we like to ascribe to comic book super heroes. Rather our government is a collection of garden variety human beings, bundles of emotions teaming with conflicting desires and tangled by primal drives. Hardly the substrate for collective superpower capabilities.

The thing about bringing groups of people together, you only get superior capabilities in rare circumstances. In the case of large groups, like governmental bureaucracies, what typically results is something that functions closer to it’s least common denominator. Expecting such an organization to protect us from other smaller groups of humans with malicious goals is a bit like expecting peace of mind when enrolling your children in a daycare run by unfit parents.

Democratic governments are designed to respond to the desires of their citizens. The citizens tell the government what they want by voting for laws and representatives that have their (the citizens) best interests in mind. If it were the other way around, that would be a dictatorship. So, our government can respond quickly and efficiently after a natural disaster because it’s citizens have experienced a number of them and have directed the government to prepare for such occurrences.

Our government can only protect us from threats in the catalog – real or imagined. If it’s not in the book, it has every potential to slip by. Having not experienced an event such as occurred on September 11, 2001, the citizens of America had not instructed the government to prepare for and prevent such an event.

Events, such as terrorists attacks, have the added dimension of unpredictability. We can see hurricanes on the horizon and so mobilize relief efforts before the first drop of rain. Evacuations can be initiated and property secured. Not so with harmful events initiated by humans. They are unpredictable and therefore the effects are much more difficult to mitigating let alone prevent.

Sadly, our government thinks it is up to the task. Tragically, a large percentage of the population believes the governmental talking heads. Freedom, liberty and democracy – these are all social beliefs that arise from the collective will of the individual citizens. If a government is left to develop “the best government” in the absence of real input from it’s citizens, it will develop a dictatorship. Against this danger, we must protect ourselves.

Naturally, the common people don’t want war … but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.
Hermann Goering

I would add to this quote that this is possible at any time as well.

Government can only react to dangers. Many people had to die in New York, Washington DC and PA before the government seemed to be able to know something was wrong. People had to be come ill with anthrax and die before government was able to know something was wrong. The government response is one of reaction, not one of prevention. To the government, we are canaries in their coal mine. Oblivious to the noxious dangers that result from their incessant digging and gouging, when the lethal effects manifest, it is the death of beauty and innocence that lets the trolls know there is a problem.