All despotisms – or almost all despotisms – believe that it is for the good of the people that they are being deprived of their freedom of action.
We find ourselves in an emergency situation. The world is tottering between two visions of human life. One centers on freedom and all its creativity, including cities, arts, friendships, technology, and great lives. The other centers on despotism and the relentless drive back to a state of nature: foraging for food, living in rural settings, stuck in one place, and dying young.
To today’s Americans, appearances are everything — we are afraid to be different, lest it make our friends uncomfortable (maybe we will lose one, whatever will we do?!) We have ceased caring about truth and authenticity entirely. We have tacitly agreed as a society that true things should be hidden whenever they conflict with what is “popular”; with what everyone “smart” and “cool” is doing. Anyone acting outside of these boundaries — the “eccentrics” of centuries past, considered by Mill to be geniuses — are today’s untouchables.
At a time of crisis, such as during a pandemic, is exactly when such institutions are even more needed than ever, and when faced with uncertainty, many seek the comfort and support of religious institutions.Yet during the pandemic and the lockdowns, religious institutions were only too willing to shut themselves down, close their doors, and therefore abandon those that depended on them.
Their singular obsession, emotional intensity, and size lead to crowds sometimes attaining great power and dictating directions that can change the course of history for a whole country, or even for the world. The inherent danger is that their obsession blinds them to everything else that matters in normal times.
In a 6-3 decision, the highest court has called out the out-of-control agency that has been imposing itself on all aspects of American life for this past year. The majority opinion makes for fascinating reading, if only because the author or authors (the opinion is unsigned) expresses genuine alarm at the same reality that has wrecked the lives of billions of people all over the world. Our basic rights and liberties have been trampled on by states presuming no limits on their powers, and there has heretofore been very little in the way of judicial resistance.