21st-Century American Dissident

21st-Century American Dissident. By Brent Hamacheck.

Recently a couple of stories have surfaced that most people are not associating with one another. In Russia, opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned to Moscow after having spent several months in Germany recovering from an attempt on his life by means of the old Soviet method of poisoning. In what was almost certainly at the direction of Vladimir Putin, Navalny was arrested as he stepped off the plane.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, Russia’s opponent during the Cold War, the City of Philadelphia took the gun away from 51-year-old Police Detective Jennifer Gugger. Her “crime”? She attended the rally in Washington on January 6th. There was no indication that she was inside the Capitol, simply at the rally. She had some strong posts on social media, especially about Vice President Mike Pence, but not anything that would constitute a direct threat.

What do these two seemingly quite different people have in common? They are both dissidents. They both acted as though they had the right to say and do what they said and did. They were both mistaken. In Russia, given its history of totalitarianism, Navalny likely knew what he was getting himself into. In our country, however, where totalitarianism is in its infant stages, it is quite likely that Gugger was caught unawares.

This is going to be commonplace for many of us over the next several years as we are forced to come to grips with the fact that this is no longer the “home of the free and the land of the brave.” We can stomp our feet and deny it, we can try to act as though we don’t accept it, but it is not going to change the reality that the great American experiment that was launched just over 230 years ago is finally producing empirical results. The conclusion: People are capable of sustaining individual liberty only for as long as they can be constrained by a system of law that suppresses and contains their true nature. …

Wake up!

For those of us who still believe in and embrace the ideas of our founding, for those who believe that the individual and their liberty are of paramount importance and prime value, for those of us who believe that free market capitalism is the most moral and just system for organizing economic activity, we need to have an epiphany. We need to awaken to the reality that we are not a majority. We are not a vocal minority with the same rights as the majority. We are now dissidents. We do not have the same voice as our ever-strengthening oppressors, and we do not have the same rights that they enjoy.

For those who might argue that there more of us, or at least as many of us, who believe in individual liberty and free market capitalism than there are opponents to same, I would suggest that you should not confuse a simple head count with total political atomic mass. The positions within society that our opponents hold and the institutions and machinery they control gives them leverage beyond simple membership numbers.

As to our being cast in the role of dissidents, we have no choice. How we conduct ourselves in that role will be the difference between having a chance over the long term to ultimately prevail or having to spend a century or more under the totalitarian’s thumb. We need to understand the role we are in, the most effective course of action we can take, and above all, we must understand and accept our limitations. A failure to understand and accept the latter will only deepen and prolong our subjugation. …

Like Rome before it, the USA is succumbing to the demographic rise of the socialists and those who prefer welfare to freedom. Success attracts parasites.

The hostility to these twin towers of American exceptionalism was present and steadily increasing over the course of several generations. All the events of the past year did was to hasten their receding into the shadows and being replaced by groups of people wanting to make collective decisions for all, and with a group of citizens receptive to having them make those decisions.

That leaves those of us who still believe in both the ideas of individual liberty that are codified in our Constitution and in the virtue of free market capitalism as threats to the new order that has been forming.

That makes us dissidents.

For anyone who holds to the notion that if only Donald Trump had won the election, none of this would be happening, check your premises. Look what has happened in this country over the past four years while Donald Trump was president! This is much bigger than one man or any one party. This is historical in nature and involves over 200 years of continuous cause and effect. …

Traditional Americans are now on the outer:

This is the new social stratification in America, and the dissident lies at the outermost ring, removed almost completely from the center of power. It is critical for the dissident to understand their position vis-à-vis others in order to understand how to penetrate and dismantle their opposition. Failure to do so will lead to self-destructive behavior. Mistakes will be made in assuming they have more power than is actually possessed.

One of the biggest mistakes that is going to be made by dissident Americans relates to their assumption about “rights.” …

It is black-letter clear that each and every American ought to have the same rights as every other American. Unfortunately, that is not the case. When those in control of government decide that they will not apply the laws in the same manner to all people, then some people effectively no longer have the same rights. They may retain them theoretically, but functionally those rights are gone. …

Rights are only as real as the power structure that enforces them recognizing their existence.

The new American dissident needs to understand that they will also be denied access to them, as well. Failure to acknowledge this reality will cause them to be needlessly struck down, either literally or figuratively, and removed from the dissident movement. We will have martyrs, but we do not need an assembly-line-style production of them. We need to learn to say, “I used to have the same rights as you,” not “I have the same rights as you.” …

We have people who are losing their jobs, effectively facing discriminatory practices in the workplace, for their political views. We have students losing scholarships. This list is long and it is growing. For anyone to deny the reality is to place themselves, and those around them, at risk.

We are dissidents now:

This is not a call to pacifism. On the contrary. It is a call to reality. …

One of the key things to keep in mind is that those who occupy the circle just underneath ours, the people who are supportive of the oppression, will have more rights than we have, but only so long as they remain supportive. They are only a single statement, action, or “post” away from joining us in the outer circle. Some are aware of this so they will be hesitant to express their support. Some are not aware and will be shocked and frightened when their rights are suddenly curtailed, causing them to want to move back to their prior circle. …

We cannot reach “government” and we cannot reach “Facebook,” but we can reach the humans who are in control of the machinery.

The role of a dissident is not to convert those who are already on their side. The role of a dissident is to convert those who are opposed but who eventually come to realize and accept the teachings of the dissident. …

It is likely that you have friends who use their social media or who engage in coffee shop conversations …, who talk about people who believe in the individual liberty and free market capitalism as the proverbial “they”, “them”, and “those” people. Those same friends might look at you and say that, of course, they do not mean you personally. They reassure you that you are not like “those” other people whom they insult.

One of the main objectives of being a successful dissident is to make the impersonal generic condemnation of others into a personal condemnation of you. Those who support the suppression of individual liberty and free market capitalism must understand that they are not allowed to criticize everything you believe in, and those who believe in it along with you, without simultaneously criticizing you. The supporters of suppression need to know that “others” and “you” are indivisible. This is a critical element of success. …

Ask questions of those who are closest to you—don’t argue with them! When you are with friends, family, classmates, coworkers, parish members, anyone who you find is in favor of suppression, ask them questions. Ask what they support, ask why they support it, ask them if they have considered X, Y, or Z. Force them to choose words to defend their beliefs. Don’t try to force words upon them. …

Do not expect instant gratification—steel yourselves for a long process. We got here over a century of decline. We will not reverse this in a couple of years. Pace yourself. Find ways to enjoy this gift that is life while still acting in your role as dissident. It does no good to abandon the joy of life while trying to improve life.

This has all happened before:

We are not in uncharted territory. People have had their freedom taken and have been persecuted before. We are not used to seeing it happen in 4K resolution and in real-time using street-scene videos, but the general mechanics are all the same.

One thing that is quite different is that this totalitarian takeover is seemingly being led not by those in government, but by those in private industry, especially the media and big tech. …

Our role models need to be people like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, and Andrei Sakharov. These were courageous men, true dissidents, who stood up to totalitarianism during the period of Soviet domination. Their unyielding yet steady courage and resolve helped to make the world understand what true oppression felt like. People forget that in the early days of Soviet Russia, the country was considered to be a utopian model for many in the West. The efforts of dissidents like these taught the world a different story. More importantly, over time it taught their countrymen.

We have an advantage over those in the past in counteracting this because we have more tools available to us in the early stages to start the dissident process. The bad news is that the oppressors also have more tools at their disposal. The conclusion is that the process will be long and trying.

Said in terms for fellow Game of Thrones followers: Winter is coming. Don a warm jacket, pick up a megaphone or a keyboard, start thinking up questions, and be prepared for a good deal of darkness to precede the light.

Perhaps it is not too late to assert our rights and be a majority, but I fear we may have reached this stage. The worm has turned.