Freedom No: Totalitarianism yes

The axiom of all political and societal studies is  the embedded belief that all human beings desire freedom, including the postulant that many are prepared to die to obtain it for their fellow humans. As I was brought up to believe freedom and liberty is a God-given natural right, not a whim of those who govern. The first amendment to the American constitution prohibits the government promoting specific  religious beliefs, prohibiting or abridging  free speech, or the Press, and curtailing the right of the people to assemble and address grievances.The Declaration of Independence declared that all men are created equal, the they are endowed by their  Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….”

But as we see today, the ideology of individual rights and freedom enshrined in the political structure of democracy is either  waning …as in the West… or never seeing the light of day in much of the East. The Middle East, according to the latest Freedom House Report, ( see once again has the unenviable status of one of the most egregiously  captive regions of the world and getting worse.

After he came to power Khomeini announced ”from now on all men and women will be free unless they want to do something against the country’s interests.” Of course since he believed he was God’s shadow on earth he solely determined the interests of Iran, including the deaths of thousands of people.

The gist of the above  article is that, not surprisingly, the Middle East North Africa ( MENA) has declined according to the data that defines a free society. Only one country, Iraq, has moved upward on the scale– and only by two points. All the other countries have declined from the rankings of 10 years ago. Turkey, Egypt, and Libya had the greatest declines while countries like Iran and Syria are already at rock bottom and have no further way to drop further. Tunisia  was once defined as “free,” the only nation in MENA besides Israel, to get that ranking, but recent events under their wannabe dictator Kais Saied- currently their president – has ripped the veneer of democracy off Tunisia, prohibiting any unfavorable mention of himself and instituting various other draconian measures. Once one of the very few places in the MENA tolerant of Jewish inhabitants– who have lived in Tunisia for centuries– Saied has tried to catch up to his fellow dictators in the MENA in Jew Baiting. It fits in well with his radical Islamist views. It was once believed that he, being professor of some note, that his intellectual persona would maintain  a relatively liberal society, but the history of the Middle Eastern society indicates that is a dangerous myth…just as intellectualism in the West is often the enemy of freedom. Read Paul Johnson…Intellectuals  .As he wrote, “intellectuals have the arrogance to believe that that they can use their brains to tell humanity how to conduct its affairs.In so doing they turn their backs natural law, inherited wisdom and the religious background that have traditionally defined the aims of society.”

what do we make of this? First of all as I wrote in the opening, the decline of Freedom  as a natural right to be desired is not a purely MENA trend. It has severely affected the Western nations as well, but is a slightly more deceptive manner. In the West one factor in the decline of freedom is the ubiquitous  “WOKE”  movement… an inchoate societal fashion of a  younger generation, having never experienced hunger, or the prospect of living under a bridge, or fighting in  defense of freedom, or living under a rapacious  tyrant who would incarcerate or kill them. They  confuse freedom with license,   and riot in expression of a rather futile attempt to give some meaning to an otherwise dreary existence.  Their nihilistic destruction reminds me of the upper class revolutionaries of the Russian Czarist era.  Secondly the United States and the  Western Europeans are continually drifting toward  a managerial state as defined by James Burnham in his book The Managerial Revolution written in 1941. We are to a large extent, and an expanding one, being ruled by unelected bureaucrats, and Mega corporate CEO’s  who owe allegiance to no one. Burnham defined them as”production managers, operating executives, superintendents, administrative engineers, supervisory technicians, and of course governmental bureaucrats.

Etienne de la Boetie wrote his classic the Politics of Obedience when he was about twenty. His question….. Why do people willingly submit to tyranny?

The nightmare Burnham foresaw in 1941 has come  to pass with a vengeance  during recent years, with Social media,  radio/television, newsprint  oligarchs, supra corporate octopuses  all working in tandem  conditioning us to be mere cogs in a vast machine. Now we have governmental “Czars” who condition us to accept incremental edicts on climate, energy, medicine, and every aspect of our lives. To whom are they responsible? The cogs we are becoming were wonderfully well- depicted by Yevgeny Zamyatin in his little book We, written in the 1920’s, in which individuals are  called “ciphers” with a number. And the word “I” is forbidden as is all individuality. Children belong to the state, sex is controlled by the state, intermittent partners allowed by state approved selection… the ultimate result of the demise of freedom.  The State says “each cipher has the right to any other citizen.” But the people cheer in unison as  the regulated state Hymns are sung in perfect harmony as evidenced that happiness prevails.

(Yevgeniy Zamyatin, Russian writer, portrait c1935  His book We was thew forerunner of many dystopian writings including Orwell’s Animal Farm and Ayn Rand’s Anthem

So why are these tyrannical regimes in the East and the managerial Juggernauts in the West maintaining or gaining power? The uneasy answer is that the universal desire for freedom is ….alas …. not universal or widespread. Nor is this reticence toward exercising  freedom  located in one  society or region. How can one explain the German society of the thirties, one of the most highly educated societies in the world, eagerly accepting Fascism, or Russia the home of some of the most brilliant writers and philosophers becoming the home base of Marxism and its later manifestation, Stalinism? As Eric From, Escape From Freedom, wrote “modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds or lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man, but an automaton.”

There are two basic reasons  for the slide toward or retention of tyranny throughout the world.  First is the temptation to surrender ones freedom for physical well being…the warm and fuzzy feeling of a “nanny state” such as that seen in Western Europe. Surrender your self, including your soul, to the state and you will be taken care of…such is the siren call of the administrative ( managerial) state.  The second reason is detailed in the works by Etienne de La Boetic, The Politics of Obedience.  La Boetic surfaces a number of reasons for man to surrender his birthright for convenience but one in particular which applies primarily to the MENA region, as an example to Iraq.  As he writes “it Is true that men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to.” Think  about the Republic of Fear by Kenan Makiya writing about Iraq under Saddam and those who succumbed to fear. But after them came many thousands who happily did Saddam’s bidding. Why?

La Boetic explains it this way, How is it that one man despotically rules over millions of resentful people? “ It does not seem credible on first thought but it is nevertheless true that there are only  five  minions who maintain the dictator, who keep the country in bondage to him. …….these five  manage their chief so successfully that he comes to be accountable to not only for his own misdeeds but even for theirs.The five have five hundred who profit under them and the five hundred maintain under them five thousand, whom they promote in rank, upon whom they confer honors  and money. The consequence of all this is fatal. And whoever unwinds the skein will observe that not the six thousand but a hundred  thousand , even millions cling to the tyrant by this cord by which they are attached.” When the tyrant pulls the cord millions obey.  So it has been with so many tyrants, Assad, Saddam,  Khomeini , etc.  From the Iraqi war we were looking for the 52 close confidants of Saddam, but  how many thousands were attached to those 52? Under them were  tribal chiefs appointed by Saddam, minor clogs in the wheel of servitude, and of course the strong bonds of the Ba’ath party through favors, wasta and the sharing of guilt. Becoming complicit in the crimes of the tyrant binds one to him…a tactic Saddam applied very cunningly.Example; Having  his p

It is difficult be too concerned about the lamentable state of democracy in the MENA when I see freedom being steadily eroded in my own country. Of course in the MENA, individual  missteps can land one in jail or even  facing execution while, here in the West, punishment is more benign,  less physical, more attuned to breaking the spirit and moral bearing of  the man, through “legal” procedures, fear of financial and repetitional ruin   instilled by  enforcing selected “laws,” and an array of  policies and directives. Very often being out of sync with  fashionable trends promoted  by the ruling  elites, for example in sexuality, the value of life, climate etc.,  lead to public humiliation, penury and disgrace. Few are willing to stand against that. The sad reality seems to be  as Jean Francois Revel  wrote, ( The Totalitarian Temptation) “…the new World revolution ( democracy) will probably fail….because the world steadily rejects democracy.”








About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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