The Circle of Strife

By Edgar J. Steele

 It's the Circle of Life and it moves us all
Through despair and hope through faith and love
Till we find our place on the path unwinding
In the Circle, the Circle of Life.

     -- "The Circle of Life," lyrics by Tim Rice, © Walt Disney Co., 1994

 March 11, 2002

          Does it matter what form government takes?  There is endless debate today, as there has been down through the ages, as to what constitutes the "perfect" form of government. 

            Western nations unanimously tout democracy as the answer, though America's forefathers specifically eschewed democracy in favor of a constitutional republic.  That was then, however - this is now. 

            The interesting question now concerns what form of democracy America has assumed, with "by public opinion poll" the leading contender in many circles.

            Historically, theocracies were the order of the day in most countries, a form of  occasionally benevolent dictatorship.  Theocracies have ranged from that uneasy alliance between church and state evidenced in European empires of a few hundred years ago to the Islamic fundamentalism at work in Iran and many other Muslim nations today. 

            Dictators  typically  have been  in charge all through history, however, regardless of the ostensible form that any government has taken.  Dictators have ranged from ruthless individuals (Idi Amin being a prime example) to committees of the elite, such as those found in most communist countries, and sometimes-benevolent institutions (church-states, for example).  Dictators have ruled over mobs (Attila), fascism (Hitler), communism (Stalin), theocracies (pick your Pope or Ayatollah) and democracies (Zimbabwe's Mugabe comes to mind). 

            In essence a dictator says, "You do what I say.  I couldn't care less what you think."  That is, to dictate, pure and simple.  To some, it might seem that much of what is going on in America today resembles a dictatorship, given this definition.  But ours is still a democracy, nonetheless.  After all, the people got to choose their dictator.

            Everything else, aside from pure anarchy (every person for him or her self), involves some sort of participation by the people governed (democracies and republics being the leading examples, with parliamentary governments designed to be a variation on the republic theme).

            And, no, it is not contradictory to see participatory governments as being dictatorial - how else could Hitler, Mugabe and countless others have ascended to power in the first place?  Say what you will, it seems that most people quite simply want to be told what to do at every turn, with their real choicemaking reserved for the more personal things in life - mate, car, pizza, beer, etc. 

            The illusion of choice, as between Republican and Democrat candidates in America today, seems to satisfy the electorate, just so long as there are 47 brands of beer in the supermarket aisles.  After all, most Americans don't even bother to vote any more (perhaps in recognition of the lack of choice).

            So, there are democracies that act like dictatorships and dictatorships that can produce greater personal freedom than any democracy around.  Does it really matter what form government takes?  Perhaps not.

            The Circle of Strife.  There is a pattern which repeats itself all through the fabric of society, down through history.  Call it the "Circle of Strife."  And it happens everywhere, it seems, regardless of the form of government.  Simply put, the Circle of Strife says:  freedom fosters tyranny and tyranny breeds freedom. 

            Any country’s citizenry experiences absolute tyranny or near-absolute freedom, or something in between.  And there is a cycling between the two extremes, seemingly independent of the form of government extant at any given time.

            The Circle of Strife holds that only in a free country, as America once was, can tyranny find the space in which to gain a foothold and grow.  Grow until, like the noxious weed that it emulates, every bit of freedom is crowded out of existence. 

            However, then the seeds of freedom left behind (memories, perhaps, be they actual or hardwired via some sort of DNA encoding) begin to sprout.  And grow.  And flourish.  And, in a rush, vanquish the tyranny that went before.  Until freedom reigns supreme all over again, creating space for tyranny once more to gain a foothold.  And so it goes.

            We create our own opposition, in other words. 

            And revolution does not necessarily mark a shifting of the pendulum back along the course just traced.  The Russian revolution last century was merely a stopover from the relative freedom under Russia's monarchy to the nightmare tyranny of the communists that very nearly destroyed that nation. Trading the devil you know for the one you don't is not always a good idea. 

            Men want to be led, for they always choose leaders, even though that choice sometimes simply is to allow someone else to assume control.  Men want to be led benignly, in their best interests.  That can happen irrespective of the form a government might take.

            In fact, an argument can be made that democracy is one of the worst forms of government, since it always results in a form of mob rule.  Two wolves and a lamb voting about what's for dinner, as they say. 

            Always, there will be a sizable minority in a democracy tyrannized by the majority, an everpresent fear of America's founding fathers, which is why they established a constitutional republic.  They knew about mob psychology.  A large group of people will shed its morality and mindlessly follow primal desires, with a lynch mob being the classic example.  Bottomless welfare rolls and predatory taxation are the result of mob rule, an inevitable result when the majority of a group finds it can peacefully take the minority's wealth merely by voting it to themselves.

            America has become a democracy.  The American republic’s safeguards have been abandoned through time, casualties of Supreme Court lawmaking, congressional sellout and Executive Order. 

            Today, you vote for whichever dictator you want, then his government leads by following the polls, the results of which are preordained by the media in the first place.  A form of democracy.  A guided democracy.  A dictatorship, if you will.

            Make no mistake about the existence of  an American dictatorship, with the reins of power held by those who stand in the shadows, orchestrating the mob electorate to flow in predetermined paths. 

            And ever-increasing tyranny, as evidenced by the machinations of the Department of Homeland Defense, Ashcroft’s calls for mindless unanimity, the Patriot Act and the administration’s neverending war against the denial of the West its oil. 

            And the fact that America has a higher percentage of its population behind bars than any other country in the world. 

            And the formation of a federal police force via the commandeering of each state's National Guard, together with the arming of virtually every federal employee with a uniform.  And the ongoing disarming and regimentation of private citizens. 

            And the implementation of thought crimes.   And...and...and.....

            How long before the pendulum reaches its maximum travel toward tyranny in America and begins to retrace its steps?  Must all true freedom be snuffed from existence, leaving only its seeds to germinate in the dark?  Must it be that, like William Wallace, we demand "Freedom" with our final breath?

            Eventually, true freedom will return to America - or whatever it becomes following the upcoming unpleasantries.  What form the government then takes probably doesn't particularly matter, but a constitutional republic did work once.  It's just a matter of time.  It's all a part of the Circle of Strife.

-ed

"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002

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