“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”—C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (1971)
We entertain all sorts of illusions about ourselves when we’re watching a movie like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 2 (2015): that’s part of the fun. Among other things, we tell ourselves that we’d be brave and courageous in similar circumstances, that we’d be the Teflon Hero with a heart of gold who manages, against all odds, to stay human through it all.
But anyone with any knowledge of military history, or some first-hand experience with war, laughs at these presumptions. Because they know that it’s very hard not become a demon when you live in Hell, just as it’s very hard to resist the urge to dehumanize those who systematically dehumanize you. And this is precisely why Gayle Hawthorne’s character is so disturbing. He’s what I have often feared I would become in such a situation. He’s probably what you’d become too.
But President Alma Coin is, for me, even more disturbing. Because if Gayle represents a likely psychological future, Coin represents a likely political future. She’s a depressingly familiar character in the story of our species: namely, the freedom fighter of today who becomes the tyrant of tomorrow.
Look at those in Social Media Land who most loudly proclaim the Gospel of Liberation, and look carefully, friends, for tomorrow’s tyrants will be chosen from among their ranks. There are wolves hiding in that flock, and we need to identify them, so we can see to it that they’re never given any kind of serious power. But how? How do we spot them? Well, as Gayle Hawthorne’s story arc makes clear, it’s not always easy, because brutalized sheep can, at times, become wolves. What’s more, there are now, as there have always been, wolves in sheep’s clothing.
But my guess is that the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is actually quite rare. Most wolves are, if you know what to look for, rather easy to spot. It’s kind of funny, truth be told, because they think they’ve got everyone fooled, and yet it’s amazing how many people seem to know what they secretly desire. Be that as it may, if you want to know who’s going to be a tyrant in power, pay attention to who walks and talks like a tyrant out of power. If you want to know how a freedom fighter’s going to rule tomorrow, pay attention to how they deal with people who disagree with them today.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)