Editorial: The Sheeple Have Spoken
"So there you have it. A 'revolution,' if that's what it was, stalled again. And is there a public clamour for it to be revitalised? Here is the current political position:
"* The born-again left-wing Labour Party is hugely outpolling the National Party & is poised to regain power - possibly in its own right, even under MMP, so great is its support right now. If it does have to go into coalition, it'll be with the even more left-wing Alliance.
"* Polls show 72% of respondents are opposed to the idea of any further privatisation, specifically of electricity and the Post Office.
"* Smaller but still significant majorities remain opposed to the privatisation that has already occurred, notwithstanding the extraordinary benefits that have flowed therefrom. 59%, according to a poll conducted by our leading business weekly, the National Business Review, still oppose the privatisation of Telecom, seven years after the event. Telecom, where in the bad old days customers used to have to wait up to six weeks to have a phone installed or a fault repaired. Now it happens more or less immediately. We have the least regulated & most sophisticated telecommunications industry in the world, with every gizmo & gadget imaginable available at affordable rates - yet 59% still oppose the privatisation of Telecom! Another poll hot off the press as I left for this conference showed 60% opposed to any private involvement in roading. (That doesn't mean 40% supported it - 12% didn't know, leaving a mere 28% in support.)
"Clearly, if there has been a revolution, it hasn't been inside people's heads."
I spoke those words in July, 1997, as part of a lecture I delivered at that year's Institute for Objectivist Studies Summer Seminar. The two main points of my address were that our much-vaunted free market revolution was really nothing of the sort, & that such genuine economic change as there had been was unaccompanied by any significant attitudinal change. People still expected the government to change their nappies, dress them, spoon-feed them, comb their hair & tuck them into bed at night. The Labour/Alliance election victory last November 27 makes it tragically clear how right I was.
As US libertarian Richard Boddie likes to observe, however, people are deceived en masse but enlightened one at a time. Yes, hundreds of thousands of sheeple flocked to vote for more collectivism. But there's at least one who might have but didn't. It's the woman who e-mailed me on October 29 as follows:
"Recently my dear brother emigrated to the United States, leaving me, amongst other things, a pile of Free Radical magazines. I began to idly flick through the pages, and was surprised to discover a wealth of intelligent and informed debate punctuated by humour. I spent that weekend reading and laughing, and undergoing a massive ideological shift. A terrifying realisation hit me: I was wrong, so dreadfully wrong. My socialism was revealed for what it was, fascist control, and that the quest for freedom was the only viable option. I have since quit the Labourious/Hard Labour Party, and sent off a membership fee to the Libertarianz. My pride is restored. Thank you for offering a glimmer of hope through both your wonderful, wonderful publication, and the PI Show."
It is such rare but real exceptions as these who constitute "one at a time" enlightenment. Over time, enough exceptions like this can wreak revolution. And that time may arrive sooner than we hope. Already, five and a half thousand people have stated categorically, by voting Libertarianz, that they don't want Nanny State combing their hair. Tens of thousands have stated it less than categorically by voting ACT. So there are some heads inside which a revolution has occurred!
But we must never forget that "inside heads" is where the real battleground is. Behind the decades of collectivism in New Zealand are centuries of collectivist philosophies out of Europe & America. They differ in details but their effect is the same ... to turn people into sheeple, docile, obedient, unthinking, dependent; one neck, to use Ayn Rand's metaphor, ready for one noose. Here's something else from my e-mail box:
"I am looking to you for an Objectivist argument for the existence of a reality external to myself. I have been studying philosophy at University and, though I sometimes suspect I am going mad, this question of whether there is anything out there has come to be important to me. [I find] that the more I read of Kant, for example, the more enervated I became: in all spheres of my life I now find myself paralysed by indecision, and I have indulged a growing sense of uncertainty to the point where I have become a rotten student.
"The position I find myself in is of course due in the main to personal failings, but it has been exacerbated by my reading of philosophy. For though my eyes have been opened to the absolute necessity of having a coherent system of thought upon which to base my actions ... they have also been opened to an empty universe. A gaping void within which I can discern no course of rational action - for how can one act rationally, except in relation to some 'thing', some true and constant reality?"
Ladies & gentlemen, you don't need to be an Aristotle to work out how susceptible someone in this frame of mind is to following orders. Modern philosophy has done its work. This young mind, afraid of asserting even its own existence with certainty, is an eloquent manifestation of it. >From the ivory towers it trickles down into our everyday lives. It makes sheeple of people who've never heard of it. It gives demagogues the mandate to deceive, the rhetoric with which to do it & a pliable mass audience to whom to do it. It is why we get the sorts of governments we do.
This new government will assuredly assail our liberties with even greater vigour than its predecessor (to whom good riddance). When we get round to reclaiming them, we must also, so as to be secure in their possession, "fix Reason firmly upon her seat," as Thomas Jefferson would have it, & repudiate the anti-reason philosophies that set us up for demagogues & dictators in the first place.
Reason, of course, is an individual faculty. Each of us must activate it for ourselves, by choice. That is why "enlightenment" is a "one at a time" thing! One cannot do it for all, but all can do it for themselves. And when enough do, why then we will have ourselves a real revolution!
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