OPINION — The masses were in motion this last weekend, showcasing the latest manifestation of groupthink in action. And while our attention was focused on well-intentioned but poorly informed folks begging for more government control of their lives, something far more disquieting was taking place.
Once again, our Congress passed—and the president signed—an omnibus spending bill that none of them had actually read. Senator Rand Paul was the only exception, although he had precious little time to attempt to read the bill before voting.
It’s bad enough that Congress passed a 2000-plus page piece of legislation without thoroughly understanding and vetting what is within.
What’s worse is the fact that leaders from both parties remain committed to an orgy of uncontrolled spending and most Americans seem willing to go along with it. This lack of awareness, more than anything, seems to indicate that a majority of citizens are okay with giving our elected leaders free rein to do as they wish.
Historically, that has proven to be a very bad idea.
We tend to forget that other great civilizations have risen and fallen over time, generally by making the same types of mistakes. These blunders include widespread apathy and an unwillingness to understand and live up to the truths that had made them great.
Scottish historian Alexander Tytler is credited with a couple of observations that seem well-suited to our time.
Tytler described how many of the ancient citizens of Athens transitioned from authentic liberty to enslavement:
They were perpetually divided into factions, which servilely ranked themselves under the banners of the contending demagogues; and these maintained their influence over their partisans by the most shameful corruption and bribery, of which the means were supplied alone by the plunder of the public money.
It’s not hard to see how such a description could easily be describing our own politicians.
Another observation that is often attributed to Tytler but also to Henning W. Prentiss Jr., is what’s referred to as “The Tytler Cycle.”
This cycle describes how a nation’s people tend to follow a predictable pattern that moves from great spiritual faith to courage. This, in turn leads to freedom, which leads to abundance. From abundance they move towards selfishness, then to complacency and apathy. After apathy comes dependence and, finally, captivity.
Regardless of who first noted this national life cycle, the pattern appears to be valid and can be seen clearly in our time.
The founding of this nation was driven by a dynamic of great spiritual faith which provided the necessary courage to claim and fight for our independence. A marvelous book on the faith of the founders is “Christianity and the Constitution” by John Eidsmoe.
In the subsequent generations following the founding, abundance has been a hallmark of American life. Unfortunately, we are not immune to the same aspects of human nature that lead civilizations into decline.
The vices of selfishness, complacency and apathy have all been politicized and used to create short-sighted constituencies who demand government control over others as a way to avoid personal responsibility. Dependency upon government subsidies and favors has created what we refer to as “entitlements”—a perfect representation of the childish mindset taking hold today.
Our captivity may not be absolute, at this point, but the tools are in place for turnkey tyranny when the wrong person assumes power. Freedom has been in eclipse for many generations now and even those who sense that something is wrong are prone to denial.
The antidote that will place us back on the positive side of this cycle starts with awareness.
This means being willing to individually learn and apply the principles and practices of liberty instead of chanting in unison with the masses.
Decades of compulsory indoctrination have, at last, produced a generation that actively agitates for its own subjugation. Orwell’s “two minutes hate” from his novel “1984” has nothing on the chanting idolatry of state force taking hold in our day.
During times of great spiritual faith, courage and authentic freedom, people tend to focus on principles rather than issues. Issues, like fads, tend to come and go but principles are those bedrock truths that provide a solid foundation beneath our feet.
This is one of the key differences between the masses, who seek instant short term gratification—at any cost, and the more principled approach of the statesman who carefully weighs both the seen and unseen consequences.
The founders of this nation weren’t part of a mass movement. They were a principled minority that was keenly aware of moral truth and who chose to apply it, even when it was costly to do so. Knowing what they stood for allowed them to defend reason against irrationality, liberty against authority and individuality against tribal collectivism.
Their willingness to break with the apathy of the masses was the catalyst that set the wheels in motion. The sooner we make this connection, the sooner we’ll discover the necessary spiritual strength and courage to leave our own captivity.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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