9/8/16

"... a cessation of thinking ..."

The majority’s moral power makes individuals internally ashamed to contradict it, which in effect silences them, and this silencing culminates in a cessation of thinking.

                                                           - Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America"

"Democracy in America" is one of the four great documents that every American should study, as a minimum, in order to grasp what we as a nation and a people are all about.

There is the Constitution, of course, which includes that afterthought, the Bill of Rights, and the rest of the amendments.

There is the Declaration of Independence.

There is The Federalist Papers (all in one tome, now, so we can use the singular).

And there is Democracy in America.

There are many others, of course, that help educate us as to who and why we are, but I believe these are the four essentials.

Tocqueville had great hopes for America. We can see that in his writing. But several things concerned him deeply; among the most significant of these was what we call 'the tyranny of the majority' or 'the tyranny of the masses.'

Here is an excellent essay examining de Tocqueville's views on this:

Alexis de Tocqueville Predicted the Tyranny of the Majority in Our Modern World

Here is an excerpt:

Despite his hopes for America, Tocqueville thought grave obstacles would diminish our freedom—though he didn’t think them insurmountable.

Most alarming to him was the power of the majority, which he thought would distort every sphere of human life.

Despots of the past tyrannized through blood and iron. But the new breed of democratic despotism “does not proceed in this way; it leaves the body and goes straight for the soul.”

That is, the majority reaches into citizens’ minds and hearts. It breaks citizens’ will to resist, to question its authority, and to think for themselves. The majority’s moral power makes individuals internally ashamed to contradict it, which in effect silences them, and this silencing culminates in a cessation of thinking. We see this happen almost daily: to stand against the majority is to ruin yourself.

The mindlessness of the mob becomes that which drives our society.

Our most recent example is the Kaepernick Kaper. The man simply exercised one of our most basic, God-given rights - the right of free expression, the right to protest, the right to stand (or sit, or kneel) and say, "This isn't right!"

And the mob entered upon a feeding frenzy. All those flag-waving, super-patriot, TrueAmericans™ went completely nuts. By God, they were going to teach him all about what America really is if they had to beat him senseless, burn all his jerseys, and ... what? Drag him through the streets and hang him from a bridge?

You think that's overstated? Take another look at the rhetoric.

There is no thinking there; there is no 'Americanism'; there is no understanding, not one whit, of Constitutional values; there is nothing but the mindless mob.

We see that when adherents to a particular religious belief - the JW's, for example - refuse to recite that mindless bit of doggerel, that pointless loyalty oath, the Pledge of Allegiance.

When have Americans been required to recite a loyalty oath? Not even Joe McCarthy managed that one, though he certainly tried, with his vicious witch hunts during the Red Scare days.

Yet flag-waving, super-patriot, TrueAmericans™ went around beating up JW's.

The majority is not always right. We have seen that time and time again.

And even if they are right, the minority has that God-given right to protest, that God-given right to free expression, that God-given right to dissent, even in ways that do not meet the approval of the majority.

What's the point of free speech if you must have the approval of the majority before you can speak?

Do you really think our national cemeteries are filled with people who died so that the mob could rule? So that Americans could be gagged by the majority? So that self-appointed flag-waving, super-patriot, TrueAmericans™ could decide who had the right to speak, and in what manner?

Do you really?

If you do, then you are a perfect example of that 'cessation of thinking' de Tocqueville describes.