A terrible thing to see

posted by Jonathan Logan on 2011.03.06, under Blog, Random Findings

Today I stumbled over a sad and confusing report by 60 Minutes concerning people calling themselves “Sovereign Citizens“.

Rather then contributing to the outrage over these people, the making-fun of them, or taking the side of the majority I am more interested in the underlying problem.

Clearly there are people that do not want to belong to current society, do not want to be part of what they perceive as the state, and are not shackled enough to keep quiet. Sadly, some of them turn to violence. Maybe even organized violence. People get killed. And that is never something minute or even funny.

Human life is something I see as fundamentally sacred, and there are few things I perceive as more horrific than killing people. I hate it.

But it is often not enough to simply call these people evil and join the choirs of mass opinion and mass media. Because there is something more fundamentally wrong going on here.

Whenever we see terrorists, or violent anti-state activists, we stop saying “this is evil”. But instead of stopping we should start asking for the ‘why’. Why do people organize to kill others, why do they feel forced to do it even when they know that they wont get away with it. What is it that gives people so much rage, anger, lust for revenge? What makes them go postal?

One might answer that they are plain stupid, misguided. But most stupid and misguided people still have a problem to kill others – as war veterans are happy to tell.

My personal answer to those questions is a little bit more cautious.

I see quite a few people that, for whatever reason, refuse to take part in a system of affairs that they abhor. Not so much because these people start out to be evil bastards, but because they often find their sense of justice violated. Many terrorists fight because they think that Israel or the USA are oppressing their people, sovereign citizens fight because they feel threatened by the state encroaching into their lives. Instead of dismissing these feelings and motivesĀ  as irrelevant, one has to take them serious. Because one should always take one’s time to listen to someone willing to die for his beliefs. Since most people don’t.

Something is so important to them, that they personally disregard their own lives and the lives of others. That they are willing to throw both away. You must have some real bad brain-damage – or real strong convictions – to make such a decision. And that alone should give us rest and not just gloss over these events and people. If it were really only brain damage, many of those that fought for or against something we today appreciate would have been pathological cases. Things like democracy. Things like racial equality. Things like the end of slavery. Or things like the freedom from oppressive governments – like the French and Italian Resistance, or the War of Independence in the USA.

So instead of just hospitalizing – or killing – these violent people, it should profit us well to look at the causes for the pains and despair that contribute to their acts.

This however might lead to inconvenient realizations. We might find out that these people resist a kind of societal organization that we cannot independently justify. We might prefer it, or like it, but claiming it to be the normative standard for everyone is a big of a stretch.

There were people unsatisfied with their governments and neighbors in the centuries before us. Many of them fought, but even more escaped. They pushed at the frontier and escaped into an open space that held hope for many of them. Hope for better lives, hope for different governments, hope for more liberty. They went to America. America was the relief valve of Europe.

Today, there is no relief valve. There is no place where the misfits, visionaries and experimenters can go. The Systems of the World find them everywhere, and dare not to leave them alone.

So the pressure builds.

What would we loose if we tolerate new borders, fundamentally different territories, places that are run far different from what we have. What would it harm us to build in some new relief valves – letting people escape at their own risk.

I think the worst result of this would be a few killers to be gone, and a few hurt people not triggered into violence.

I might even join them, wont be boring where they go. Since there are so many productive and innovative people that will join their exodus.

Hmm. Maybe it is that what we fear.