Today’s Freedom Fighter, Tomorrow’s Tyrant?

“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)

President-coin-capitol-004We 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)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

4 thoughts on “Today’s Freedom Fighter, Tomorrow’s Tyrant?

  1. This post reminds me of Simone Weil.

    For Example: “Today we thirst for and are nauseated by totalitarianism, and nearly everyone loves one totalitarianism and hates another…. The constant illusion of Revolution consists in believing that the victims of force, being innocent of the outrages that are committed, will use force justly if it is put into their hands. But except for souls which are fairly near to saintliness, the victims are defiled by force, just as their tormentors are. The evil which is in the handle of the sword is transmitted to its point. So the victims thus put in power and intoxicated by the change, do as much harm or more, and soon sink back again to where they were before.”

    Reading Weil I get the sense that we need to get we need to get over our desire to change the position of the variables in the equation. If something is worth changing it should be the equation itself. And that probably means being a lot less concerned about how much of a difference *I* can make.


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