Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016 Crisis Part 3: We Might Be Tyrants

I think it is time we took a long, hard look at ourselves. We tend to believe that the only force that can have tyrannical control over us is a dictatorial government. But in reality, the mobilizing force of the majority no longer needs a government sanction to wield its power. Webster's simple definition of tyranny is "cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others". A representative government, in essence, is nothing more than an institution that carries out the will of the majority in a society for the purpose of improving or protecting that society.

In a pure democracy -- without any control measures -- the will of the majority can be absolute and oppressive. Our founders wisely recognized that individual liberties and rights needed to be protected from the potential tyranny of the majority. We often look at how the three branches of government work as checks and balances on each other but fail to recognize that the Bill of Rights itself is the ultimate check and balance to the will of the majority.

The First Amendment is a preservation of your right to politically speak, assemble and associate with whomever you wish, and freely express and practice your religion however you choose without fear of retribution or punishment from your government. And, since we assume the government is comprised of representatives of the majority, this prohibits the many from applying a tyrannical force on the few, or the one. Remember, their are no rights enumerates to any group, or not even a minority, just individuals. And, our legal system has logically applied a singular check and balance to these rights with the realization that your rights do not supersede another person's individual's rights.

At the time our founders composed and ratified the Constitution, they probably couldn't have envisioned a time when almost each and every citizen had the power to mobilize large segments of the populace and exercise force without the mechanisms of government.

In the 219 years since the ratifying of the Constitution we have pretty much abiding by it in principal and expanded upon the sentiments. This hands off approach to speech and assembly has enabled major positive movements of social justice to gain a voice and manifest in necessary societal change. And, we have put limits even on how individuals can exercise punishment in relation to those individual rights. For examples, employers cannot discriminate when hiring based on someone's political affiliation or religion because that would be exacting a punishment against someone based on a choice that they had made, when they had the right to make that choice without fear of punishment.

But something has changed in our public discourse, and it is palpable. Yes, you have a right to feel anyway you want to feel about someone based on how they exercise their right. That is your right as an individual. But before you go to your Facebook page or twitter feed and start encouraging others to take actions based on how you feel I would appreciate you take a moment and reconsider the merits of such action. Each situation may be different. All boycotts or movements are unique based on the actions that are inciting the punishment or retribution. I want to confine this discussion only to matters where we are talking about those rights we thought were sacrosanct enough to be enumerated.

For example, let's look at two scenarios and compare. In 1933 Germany a Christian paints a Star of David on the wall of a business alerting other Christians not to shop there. In 2016 America you post on your Facebook page that you shouldn't shop at a store because the owner is Jewish. Is there a difference? And again, you might think to yourself that you would never do such a thing. So, let's go one step further and expand to actions that might be compatible with someone who is Jewish. Let's say you post something like "I just heard to the guy who owns that shop is a zionist and supports Israel. I'm never going to shop there again!"

Now, the government can't take any action to damage his business or harm him, which means you can't do it by electing enough people who think like you do, but you think it is okay to do it if you just convince enough people to do it. Aren't you a tyrant?

I have heard all the arguments against this. There are the screams that "I have the right to spend my money as I see fit!" Yes, you do. But my question is a different one: "should you?" If last week you shopped there, liked the service, liked the value of what you received in return for the price, should you spend your money elsewhere just because the shipowner's political viewpoints do not align with your own?

In our society's attempt to be more tolerant of others we have reached a point where acceptance and agreement is required by some, and if you fail to provide that, they feel it is okay to exact punishment. Let's be clear, denying someone an earning is about as severe a punishment as you can think of. In our new hyper-political social media world it seems that we are more and more becoming aligned into a certain community, and advocating punishment toward others. Whether it is a CEO of a tech company who doesn't believe in gay marriage or just someone who might put a Hillary "Stronger Together" sticker on their car. Who are we to try to take away his/her job because they think differently than we do.

I am about as outspoken a person as you will ever find. I have no problem discussing disagreements with people and trying to convince them to see the light. But I can honestly say that at no time felt the desire to ever punish someone for thinking different when it comes to religion or politics. Heck, I happen to think the whole Wiccan thing is a bit silly (spare your comments, please). But I would never not buy a candle in their shop because I knew the owner was Wiccan. I wouldn't buy one just because they were, but I don't think it is a factor in the consideration.

The goal of some appears to be that they will only spend their money on businesses that think the way they do. Which begs the question as to why. What is the end result. They can say it isn't about control or punishment. But even when they fully expand on the activity it eventually gets to that they want to see those who think like them be successful. And the converse of that is that their competition is less successful and maybe goes out of business. Is that not punishment and control. It may be one you can sleep with at night, but what makes it different than the government looking just a little longer at certain forms from Tea Party groups than they do at forms from Acorn. Your knee jerk response is because that is the government. But WE are the government. If it is wrong for me to do it through the ballot box isn't just as wrong to do it through Facebook?

We are our won worst enemies when it comes to this new open, communicative society we have built. We buy more on brand than we do value (which IS a part of brand). As we approach two coffee shops on the corner, do we really need to know which charities they each support before making a decision where to buy our latte and croissant? The world was much simpler when that choice used to be made on which croissant you thought actually tasted better or was cheaper.

And no matter how removed or safe you are today, just wait. Eventually someone is going to catch you disagreeing on something they think it is important. And perhaps your twenty years of blood, sweat and tears to build that business are no longer as important as compliance. What will you do? Will you conform for your own personal survival or cling to your ideals or beliefs?

Its funny. No one likes a bully but we seem to get new one's every day. And if we accept the behavior of tyrants in our every day life how long will it be before we accept it in our government? Or more importantly, is our new social media world actually more powerful and tyrannical than our governments ever could be?

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