The biggest threat to humanity is not law breakers but law followers.
U.S.S.R 1917-1987 62 million
Germany 1933-1945 21 million
Cambodia 1975-1979 2 million
Yugoslavia 1944-1987 1 million
The above figures document just some of the democide, or murder by government*, that occurred in the last century. While it’s easy dismiss these incidents as tragic anomalies of the past orchestrated by a monster, even a cursory glance informs us that conditions today are not too dissimilar.
For the thing, the variable that enabled these crimes — the willingness to obey orders — exists today. In the genocides and wars it was not one man or woman alone who took the lives of millions, it was the thousands or millions who obeyed.
A thought-provoking two-minute video that speaks to the impact of obedience is The Chain of Obedience by StormCloudsGathering. It also includes an interesting thought experiment about Napoleon in Times Square.
In the video it was communicated that “Obedience is the real foundation of misplaced power.” I certainly agree about the harm that can stem when actions are done unthinkingly — simply because another person decreed their own preference. However, I believe that a person can arrive at this conclusion from another avenue than the “self-evident morality” cited. We each have unique experiences and thoughts.
This is why tyrants of all sizes dress up their coercion-laden statements as “the law.” And, in the “pursuit of justice,” reserve for themselves or their crew the sole ability to interpret “the law.” Yet what is the law?
This could of course, segues into a conversation about about right and wrong, or the nature of consciousness, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. No matter our paths, most of us have concluded that it’s wrong to initiate coercion. We don’t abstain from assaulting a passerby due to its disallowance by a stranger on paper, we abstain from assaulting that passerby as that aligns with our conscience (unless one is a sociopath).
The thing is, any entity or oligarchy or association of people that claims, and is given, “law” making powers will seek to grow in size and scope. That’s the incentive built-in. To quiet questions and quell opposition. As things are structured in this system, police employees (and military personnel and contractors) tend to be the teeth of that regime. The enforcers.
This video Born Free from M.I.A. shows how arbitrariness and violence can compound and unfold when popular worldviews label some folks as outcasts or undesirables and use “the law” to address it.
The video portrayal of non-violent folks being rounded up and hunted simply because they had red hair may seem far-fetched. But things are relative. Is it right to kidnap and cage any person for engaging in any non-violent action? Or to demand money from them, backed by the threat of coercion?
This post seeks to broach a conversation with current police employees. While this issue of democide may not seem especially pressing today, it is important to be mentally prepared for if and when you are told to obey legalese that conflicts with what you feel to be consistent with your own conscience. Think on it. The onus to live up to your own standards is all on you.
*to frame democide as “murder by government” is overly-simplistic. “Government” is an not amorphous, unaccountable, faceless entity. It is only the individual who can act.