Innocent Men, Open Prison
Author: Robert Prasker
Article Published: 2009/01/05
Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged"
Prevention is the holy grail of progressivism.
Progressives tend not to speak very much about a notion that is superior to prevention: improvement. When they do speak of improvement, they are usually using is at as a synonym for prevention. Specifically, improvement isn't always a path to prevention, but prevention is always a path to improvement.
Government is the instrument for the collective interests of progressivism because government can create laws for the purpose of prevention. Government can't do very much though to make improvements. Once improvement is torn away from being defined according to prevention, government is nearly powerless to make any kind of improvement. A government mandate requiring you to have an airbag or seatbelt in your car can only be viewed as an improvement as it is defined by prevention. Having a really good stereo in your car won't prevent anything. It's improvement as a matter of personal enhancement. Progressives prefer prevention because that is where their power lies, via the means of government.
The enforcement of laws by police officers can only go so far toward achieving the progressive goals of prevention. Even the widespread use of CCTV surveillance in The United Kingdom has proven to be insufficient for meeting the utopian goals of the state. In facing the failures of democratic governance to circumvent individual preferences, a new instrument must be born to make the individual conform to collective, progressive goals. This instrument must transcend those who are resistant to social engineering by creating an active role for the "informed" citizenry. The new paradigm of collective social responsibility demands that citizens not only report crimes when they see them occur, but that citizens take an active role in law enforcement themselves.
When smoking bans began to be imposed upon private property owners, opponents objected that such laws would force ordinary citizens to adopt the role of law enforcement officials. For instance, even if a bar owner had no objection to a patron smoking in his or her bar, he or she would be forced to confront such a patron; not of the bar owner's own interest, but of forcible obligation to conform with laws that made the bar owner the criminal for not taking an active role in enforcement.
Progressives scoffed at such concerns. Such non-conformance could easily be accommodated by creating toll-free telephone "snitch-lines" reminiscent of the measures applied to sniff out dissidents in The Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. Progressive ideals make no room for dissidence and non-conformity. Progressives disparage such behavior, propagandizing that citizens must break free of the bonds of their conscience, to discover the joy of hopping on a bandwagon. One doesn't gain him or herself with progressivism; one loses him or herself to the goals of a mass mind and the social comforts of a mass movement. "Want to be free?" progressivism asks. Then it answers; "Join the crowd!"
These inherent problems of citizen enforcement were epitomized in a recent incident in Britain. In conforming to the expectations of progressive idealism, a woman verbally confronted two young men smoking on a train platform in open violation of the anti-smoking law. The woman then found herself in the unfortunate position of being shoved onto the tracks.
The myopic media then painted the incident as a problem caused by the prevalence of smoking, and non-compliance with the law. The message was clear: "Those damn smokers did it."
Meanwhile, those who decry smoking bans have pointed out all along that such problems were going to occur. The obvious problem, in its essentials, has nothing to do with smoking. The problem is turning citizens against one another for the sake of progressive ideals.
We find ourselves today living in an open prison that one cannot escape. The obese can become slim, the smoking can quit, and the indulgent can in general refrain from indulging. Progressivism feeds off of its own power; complying with the will of the progressive beast shall only give it greater strength to ask for more.
Progressivism dresses itself up as an effort to obtain noble goals like "equality" and "social justice." By design, attainment of such aspirations is impossible, by nature of their subjectivity. "Better" is the progressive goal, and because one can always do "better," one will never be doing enough. In the name of arbitrary "betterment," the aspirations of progressivism will promote prevention until we are living in the cold for our guilt over warmth, and living in the dark for the sake of being politically correct regarding the light.
The ultimate goal of progressivism isn't to advance humanity, but to exploit the existential complexities of being human into the nihilistic perception that humanity itself is a worthless and greedy cancer of nature. Free individuals who are allowed to make choices are troublesome to the fabricated sorrows of collective progressivism. If you are free, you are guilty. You are a criminal. Because you have to be.
This notion, of course, wholly ignores the fact that social paradigms of individual freedom have created the greatest advancement for society, while progressivism has an ugly history of eugenics and Social Darwinism. Today's progressives think that they "can do it better." They are impervious to the revelation that their historical predecessors possessed the same intellectual window-dressing and academic credentials. What is being used today was used yesterday. It is only going to guide humanity into the same past horrors, in willful defiance of history's lessons.
The open prison we find ourselves in today has a precursor in fostering an environment of discipline and punishment. Our socially engineered prison is called a panopticon: "A new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind", as it was called by its creator, the eighteenth century philosopher Jeremy Bentham (who is no stranger to many progressives.)
A panopticon is a type of prison, and its design is common to many penitentiaries throughout the world. At the center of the panopticon is a guard tower with a viewing platform encased in mirrored glass on all sides. This allows the guards to look out and see everything surrounding them, but the prisoners are unable to look in to see if they are being watched. This creates the overall effect of prisoners presuming that they are always being watched.
Our world has become a panopticon and criminality has become synonymous with attempts at a free existence. Our turning against each other "for our own good" has been so incremental and insidious that we've been deluded into believing that Orwell's nightmares are "on their way" when, in reality, they've already arrived.
When draconian measures become law in the name of progressive ideals, government force, social engineering, and propaganda compel ordinary citizens to act as law enforcement officials. Divisive measures that pit person against person create a social panopticon where free individuals are not ruled by the dictates of their conscience, but by the utopian ideals of progressivism as dictated by the deadly force of the state. In the UK, Ayn Rand's warning about a world where it becomes "impossible for men to live without breaking laws" has become prophetic. Such measures epitomize all that is to be decried about totalitarianism. A populace monitored by the state, by definition, is not free. Remaining perceptions of individual freedom are mere illusions created by living in the panopticon.
Progress should be defined according to the natural order of individuals climbing the ladder of their ideas and creating improvements. Society easily adopts such improvements, by the free and organic ability of individuals collectively to acknowledge their merit, without any need for government meddling. Defining progress in terms of government-forced prevention is an invitation for total enslavement.
Institutionalized, collective, government dictates on on how much you weigh, how much you smoke, what you eat, and your so-called "carbon footprint" are not measures to help you. They are measures that debase the individual for the sake of nebulous notions of what is best for society-at-large. Such measures only serve the interest of those who would hungrily devour the power born of our insecurities.
Innocent men are, in fact, innocent. Engineering a society to make criminals of the innocent for the sake of desperate idealism is more than just a crime; it is a crime against humanity. It is evil.