The Cultural Shift: You Against Your Neighbor
There are those who have a vested interest in your isolation.
In a healthy society, people feel most united with their family members, then with members of their community, and to the least degree, to the larger body of the nation’s peoples. The government represents a necessary evil that is much divorced from their intimate lives. As societies descend into totalitarian regimes, this dynamic shifts.
The authoritarian government, like an abusive spouse, seeks methods of isolating its victims from others, sows distrust in friendships, and then presents itself as the only one to be trusted and relied upon. A broken society is missing the communal bonds that individuals could use to defend themselves from tyrannical or even simply over-zealous bureaucrats.
For Valentine’s Day 2022, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms appalled Twitter users with an announcement about how jilted lovers could vindictively turn-in their former partners for illegal gun purchases.
The tasteless post about using the government as an agent of your spite is just the latest in a string of requests by agencies throughout the last few years, designed to turn neighbor against neighbor.
Oregon governor Kate Brown told those celebrating Thanksgiving in her state to call the police and report their neighbors if more than 6 people had dared to gather in a household. Several Canadian provinces had similar edicts around Christmas. In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan told people to turn in anyone holding parties on their private property. Shawn Myers was sentenced to a year in prison after his neighbors reported him for a party of consenting adults, exercising their right to peaceably assemble in his backyard. In April of 2020, LA Mayor Garcetti even promised monetary compensation for those willing to report businesses that had stayed open during a wave of stay-at-home orders, or as he put it, “snitches get rewards”.
China, probably the most authoritarian-yet-still-functional society in the world, similarly offers cash rewards for those who turn in their neighbors for “illegal religious activities”. Those include such “crimes” as teaching the Bible to a child or holding a worship service that the government hasn’t pre-approved. We’re not as dissimilar as we oft proclaim. The Chinese model too encompasses an array of fear messages and alienation from one’s compatriots.
The government effort to incite people to make calls for minor legal infractions would not be possible in a close-knit society. The would-be informant would know his neighbor and care for that family far more than he cared about the government’s sense of control. This loyalty and familiarity of shared humanity has been replaced by a fear of those who surround us, and a fostered sense of security in the State. Throughout the years of the COVID saga, governments throughout the Western World terrorized their populace with bleak messages as to the coming Black Death and demanded extreme compliance in pointless ritualism. While telling people of this impending calamity, they dehumanized anyone who questioned, complained, or defied one evolving edict after another. The unvaccinated were tarnished with the rotating label of selfish, anti-vaxxers, non-citizens, and murderers. People were encouraged to distrust those in their neighborhood and their communities in lieu of trusting the pundit that was allowed on the TV, and the propagandistic messages from the government.
A teenager who secretly recorded his father in the aftermath of January 6th, later to testify against him at trial, was lauded by Chris Cuomo on network television for his bravery, and given airtime in a manner clearly meant to inspire other defiant teenagers to turn against the families that had raised and loved them.
The small businesses that once provided places of communal gathering were forcibly closed first. The toll that those lockdowns took remains unquantified. Britain’s oldest pub closed permanently after 1,229 years in operation, surviving during the actual Black Death but unable to endure in an era of what can only be described as persecution against the lower and middle classes. It was the compliant, mega-corporations that survived when the small businesses were shuttered. When Walmart in Quebec was asked by government to ban the unvaccinated from browsing their stores without a vaccinated handler, signifying their second-class status, Walmart enforced the egregious order. The smaller businesses that would have served as competition, and which still had enough touch with the communities that they served to see their patrons as people with inherent dignity, had long been regulated into oblivion.
In an age when it’s so easy to see the lust in the eyes of tyrants here in the West, not long removed in the Middle East or the far-reaches of Africa, we might be mindful of what it means to have and to cherish a community. We might wish to look at those bonds that tyrants so wish to destroy, and seek to strengthen them, while we still can. We ought re-examine the bonds of family and community, which are being eroded by those who need an isolated, dependent citizenry. There are people who now feel closest to their government, as the aforementioned cases demonstrate. Any familiarity with the history of authoritarian regimes provides a staunch admonition against this direction.