The lures of money, sex, or fame certainly yank a lot of us out of bed in the morning, and these go far to explain why high finance, health clubs, and Hollywood continue continue to thrive. Unsurprisingly, these are all associated with a keen self-interest and self-love that is baked into our species. We obviously enjoy engaging in activities that we perceive will benefit us, and the small streak of psychopathy that exists in most of us is happy to do a little lying, cheating, and stealing in order to have our nerve endings satisfied—and woe to anyone who tries to stop us.
Therefore, knowing human nature as I do, I must admit I was stunned that so many Americans tolerated the utter insanity of the Covid-19 lockdowns and shutdowns that put our country on house arrest for close to two years and crushed the emotional, psychological, and financial health of the vast majority of Americans and their children.
This unprecedented abrogation of our most basic rights was, of course, cleverly marketed using the classic “foot in the door” sales technique by presenting the initial demand as “two weeks to bend the curve” so that Americans were unaware of the trauma about to be inflicted upon them. After we were tricked into isolating ourselves, it was much easier for our government to extend their power and prerogatives beyond what we could have possibly imagined in a campaign of state-sponsored terror that made our formerly free nation into a Stasi-style police state run by snitches, scolds, and serial liars.
How did this happen?
Fear is an unbelievably powerful motivator, and totalitarians have known this for many, many centuries. Whether it is fear of invasion, fear of want, fear of change, fear of social rejection, fear of internal subversion, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, or—as is now being subtly deployed—fear of an attack by space aliens, terrifying your people is a sure path to power.
However, playing on our fear of death (particularly one that is both arbitrary and unexpected) is by far the best tool available for teaching your citizens to cower and comply. Whether we are talking about the panics induced over Covid-19, climate change, or the bigotries apparently floating like a miasma in our very air, Americans have over the past several decades been convinced to accept and internalize governmentally-sanctioned limitations, regulations, and censorship that is entirely at odds with American norms and values. This wide-ranging power grab has also led to a degree of self-monitoring, self-censorship, and self-abasement that seems more medieval than modern.
The daily shunning and shaming of non-believers by the social and corporate media conglomerates who are cheered onward by our elected and unelected elites is nothing other than a high-tech version of locking heretics into sturdy pillories in the town square so that they can be pelted with rotten fruit as atonement for their sins. The rage of the mob is even easier to whip up when they are convinced that someone’s lack of faith will bring death and disease to the village, and our human tendency to move all too quickly from fear to anger has not changed significantly since our ancestors first climbed down from trees and experimented with walking upright.
This is not over. Not by a long shot.
There will be another virus or bacterium that puts our health at risk, there will be a drought or a flood somewhere upon the earth, and there will be some member of our species who will lash out at another member of our species in an angry and insulting way. Any of these events will surely sound the clarion call for another expensive, intrusive, and unwarranted diminution of our rights, freedoms, and choices because, if we do not, the demons will descend and we will all die. Our new priesthood of tenured radicals, grant-addled experts, and civil service scolds will assure us that we must tithe more of our taxes to protect ourselves from the amorphous—and explicitly unprovable—evils that will lead our certain demise if we fail to abase ourselves before their Woke wisdom. The forces of darkness are, after all, everywhere around us, so we must be ever vigilant.
And always afraid.
Throughout human history fear has often been monetized and manipulated by those seeking money and power, so we should perhaps not be surprised by the incredible and inexplicable state of fear that we find ourselves in today.
However, history also teaches us that the peasants always wise up to the devious machinations of their putative masters, and the citizens who have been duped will eventually send their leaders scampering for safety and asylum. Whether we dispose of our current leadership through the ballot box or rougher means will soon be apparent, but when our fears, as is always the case with our species, turn into a terrible anger, it could get very, very ugly—very, very fast.
How much longer we will continue to be beguiled is anyone’s guess, but one would have to reasonably guess that it will not—and cannot—be much longer before our many frustrations with the shysters and charlatans now in charge goes from a simmer to a boil.