Preface: One can read half way through this 35 minute essay before one realizes the author is a Canadian and writing about Canada’s leftist government. Today I would say Canada is leading in the race by two lengths, in a race Americans should not be running. Events in his column are often linked to parallel happenings in the US to better make his point, in bringing to light a solution to our hemispher’s leftward drift. I only wish his solution was written about in conservative American media. Maybe it will be soon. - W.W.
The Emperor Has No Clothes: Finding the Courage to Break the Spell
by Julius Reuchel
To all the silent good people watching our society tear itself in two, this essay is for you.
Those in charge have long since signaled that they have no intention of returning to a liberal democracy founded on the recognition of inalienable individual rights and freedoms. If data were the ingredient required to confront them, they would have folded long ago. They are impervious to data. This isn't about a virus. This is a psychological game and it's all about power and control.
In this Brave New World, the regime will grant temporary conditional privileges tied to virus seasonality, good behavior, or whatever other conditions they choose to set to achieve the social engineering agenda of the day. Once they opened Pandora's Box to a society based on conditional rights, there is no limit to where their imaginations will take them.
How do we stop this neo-feudal re-imagining of society? How do we play chicken with a regime that appears to hold all the cards? At this point it is clear that regaining our freedom depends entirely on the government losing the support of the crowd. To use the words of Hans Christian Andersen's timeless folktale from 1837, we need to shake our frightened fellow citizens out of their stupor by getting them to see that "the emperor has no clothes" but, more importantly, we need everyone who sees it to be willing to say it out loud.
So, in this essay, I am going to dissect the psychology of dissent.
Winning Hearts and Minds - How to Open the Mind to Doubts
Data plays an important role in changing hearts and minds, but only as a secondary ingredient. We are fighting a psychological battle, not an intellectual one.
Data will help those who start to ask questions, but first they need to ask their first question. First there needs to be a seed of doubt. Data will not plant that seed of doubt. Data does not have the power to break the spell.
A frightened mind seeks certainty because certainty feels safe, which is why a frightened mind rejects anything that undermines the feeling of certainty. Uncertainty is scary. This desire for certainty makes people savagely hostile to conflicting data and capable of entertaining the wildest of logical fallacies. The facts simply do not matter to their feelings. People only begin to seek out data after the spell begins to break. Something else must first plant that initial seed of doubt.
Uncertainty is uncomfortable so if it cannot be pushed aside, then and only then will the mind enlist rational thought processes to work through the dilemma in order to regain a sense of certainty. That is the psychological game we need to play. We need to create the sense of uncertainty that forces our frightened peers to enlist their rational minds. Once doubt sets in, the data will take them the rest of the way.
Thus, the willingness to look at data is merely the second step along each individual person's journey to recognizing that the emperor has no clothes. Much of our effort in this battle for our freedom has been focused on that second step. More data. But the first step along that path requires planting the initial seed of doubt. How do you seed doubt without data?
The simple reality is that this first step is fought with symbolism, with herd psychology, and with the courage to bear the cost of speaking out when others will not. Navigating this first step is the focus of this essay because that is where we are falling short.
To plant a seed of doubt, to help people take that first step, it is not what you say that matters so much as being seen to say it, out loud, in public, in a way that allows you to be identified and counted, and being willing to face the music when the world can see what you really think. And saying it over and over again, relentlessly, until enough voices join in, until the counter chorus can no longer be dismissed as fringe. Doubt is created by breaking the illusion of consensus.
This first seed of doubt happens on a deeply subconscious emotional level. There are three different ways that it can happen:
Many only start to ask questions after getting their first COVID vaccination. As they begin to feel safe, they regain their ability to think, which gives rise to questions and doubts. It is why the regime is creating a hyperventilating drumbeat about "variants" and stoking hysteria about the unvaccinated. The regime is trying to keep the vaccinated in fear in order to prevent them from regaining their ability to see clearly and think independently.
Doubt can also be created when someone's personal experience doesn't match the propaganda that they've been fed. The regime is fighting that part of the battle for us. When someone is injured by a vaccine, sees a loved one trapped in isolation in a nursing home, or is at risk of losing their business to lockdowns, doubt in the narrative begins to creep in. There is only so much pain that anyone can bear before their certainty in the regime begins to waiver.
And doubt can be created simply by depriving someone of the illusion of consensus. Remember Hans Christian Andersen's folk tale. It was a child that broke the illusion because it was unafraid to say out loud that the emperor's fine gown didn't exist, that he was wearing nothing at all. Data didn't break the illusion. All it took was a pointed finger, a well-timed laugh, and the courage to speak out.
Doubt creates conflicting emotions that can only be resolved by enlisting the rational mind. Doubt leads the mind to seek out data, not the other way around. The regime is doing everything it can to prevent the fearful from thinking. This is a psychological war.
A Glimpse of Two Futures
The outcome of this psychological war will determine the world that you, your children, and your grandchildren will live in. So, before I dig deeper into the psychology of how to win this war, it is worth reminding ourselves of what is at stake because it is easy to lose sight of the big picture when we are so focused on debunking government lies and fighting vaccine passports, masks, and social distancing restrictions. The courage to make a difference in this psychological war comes from understanding the long game that is being played.
This is a war about the role of government. It is about your freedom to think, to speak, and to ask questions, and about whether your individual autonomy is downgraded to a conditional privilege or whether it remains a right. It is a war about whether you are to remain a citizen or become a subject. It is about who owns you, you or the state.
The question at the forefront of this psychological battle, accelerated by the lens of COVID, is about whether we will remain a society based on legal equality and inalienable rights or whether, in the name of safety, equity, and political correctness, we will allow ourselves to be reduced to a society of masters and servants, as was the norm throughout much of human history, with the masters granting or withdrawing conditional privileges to pursue whatever they perceive as the greater good.
Herdsmen and their cattle. Shepherds and their flock. Those who wear the imperial mantle of responsibility for the wellbeing of the herd versus those with the obligation to endure, muzzled and under a yoke, for the "greater good".
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” ~ Thomas Jefferson - The Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia)
Citizens have a voice in the rules they live by and a responsibility to take care of themselves. Cattle get fed, sheltered, herded, vaccinated, prodded onto cattle trucks, milked, and harvested. For some, freedom from responsibility has a certain appeal, but it is anything but liberty. Real freedom is not a license to do what you want to others or to take what you need from others. Real freedom is a restraint that prevents others from doing things to you and prevents others from taking what they need from you. And vice versa. Freedom draws a line between people that no-one has a right to cross. That is the freedom that is being lost.
In a free and open society, freedom is the greater good. So, in a sense, what is playing out on a grand scale is a global referendum on freedom. The consequences of this referendum will be with us long after the virus fades away. In this referendum, you don't get to cast your vote at the polls. Your choice to speak out or stay silent in the face of the naked emperor is your vote. Both options come with terrible risks: the consequences of being bulldozed by the regime if you speak out versus the servile future that is waiting for you if you don't.
There is no option to simply sit on the sidelines of this referendum. Silence is a choice. Those who choose silence are, in effect, signalling that their freedom is worth less to them than the discomfort of speaking out and facing the consequences. They are, in effect, legitimizing the regime's use of intimidation by showing that it works. Yet many will nonetheless opt for the perceived safety of the sidelines out of fear of repercussions. That fear is justified and understandable. The penalties are very real in this game. But you are either swept along by the stampede or you dig your heels in. Those are your two choices. Freedom on one side. Servitude on the other.
Your disapproval about all that is going on around you is irrelevant unless you say it out loud and take a stand. Visibility. Saying it on social media from behind an anonymous avatar achieves nothing. Letters, petitions, and press releases made by associations do not speak to the subconscious minds of our frightened peers. They will not look at them. These avenues are all in the same realm as the data. They will be dismissed until after the spell begins to break.
To have a psychological impact, you have to voice your dissent in person, out there in the real world where the risk of repercussions is real. Where you can make eye contact while you are doing it. At work, at home, at school, at church, at the gym, at the mall, and out on the street. You have to say it where those who disagree with you can see you saying it. You have to be the little boy who stood in front of the crowd and pointed at the emperor's lack of clothes. That is how democracy works in its rawest form when the institutions of liberal democracy cease to function.
Words are not violence. Words are 100% peaceful, no matter how much you disagree with them or how much you are offended by them. But censorship in any form is a form of implied violence because, without your voice, you are held hostage by your censor and have no peaceful means of self-defence.
A liberal democracy cannot function in an atmosphere of censorship. Brute force begins with censorship. Allowing yourself or others to be silenced ushers in a world where the only means of self defense is through brute force. That is what is currently being normalized under the guise of saving the world from COVID.
When speech is silenced, whether through cancel culture mobbing, Big Tech censorship, or outright legal attacks like those currently being attempted by the Canadian government (i.e. bill C-10 and bill C-36), this raises the cost of self-defence beyond a threshold that most people are willing or even capable of bearing.
History shows that once the norms of a liberal democracy give way to brute force politics, even if the regime does change hands, those that emerge on top are themselves rarely champions of freedom and tolerance. The only way to prevent brute force politics from becoming normalized is if the good people refuse to shut up. So, this is not just a war against bad people with bad ideas, it is equally a war to defend the only system ever invented that gives citizens autonomy over their own bodies, minds, and voices, along with the mechanism to defend that autonomy through peaceful means.
That is why the Founding Fathers made freedom of speech the very first right when they drafted the US Bill of Rights. Peaceful resolution of conflict in a civil society depends on everyone having absolute freedom of speech. In a civil society, all other rights flow from this right. Without freedom of speech, all that remains as a tool to defend yourself is brute force. Our voices are our last defense as the institutions of liberal democracy fall away. Use your voices while you still can because, if freedom of speech is lost, we will be ushering in a world governed by brute force and the tyranny will be real no matter which side gains control over the levers of power.
A right comes with the responsibility to defend that right when your right or anyone else's rights are under attack. Rights derive their legitimacy only through the willingness of citizens to defend them, for themselves and for each other. If the willingness to speak your mind in public is missing, you have no rights.
Breaking the Illusion: The Ash Conformity Experiments
The Ash Conformity Experiments of the 1950s showed how powerful peer pressure is. No one wants to stand up against the herd. Standing alone is psychologically painful. That is why, in Hans Christian Andersen's folktale, it was the innocent voice of a little boy and not the self-conscious adult townsfolk who broke the spell about the emperor's new clothes.
Many people will overrule their own judgement and bite their tongue to avoid the discomfort of standing out from the herd. The effect is so powerful that it can even induce entirely false memories, which people genuinely believe, just to avoid the discomfort of holding beliefs that are out of lockstep with the herd's publicly expressed opinion. The mind is a malleable thing that will even deceive itself in order to shield itself from the discomfort of holding opinions that are out of sync with the crowd. Never underestimate the power of the herd mindset. No-one is entirely immune.
If you have never seen the videos of the Ash Conformity Experiments, take the time to watch this brief clip before reading further. It is one of the keys to fighting the psychological battle to regain our freedoms.
Our opponents are well aware of the power of conformity and are using it to their advantage. Do not mistake their feigned ignorance about basic medical facts as stupidity. Do not mistake the media's blockade of dissenting views as ignorance. They all know the game they are playing. Why do you think they are so careful to avoid any debate about the data?
The desire for conformity is one of the most powerful emotions in the human species. It is our natural herd instinct - our hive mind - asserting itself. We are a social creature. Safety lies in numbers. Our herd instinct is so strong that when the dominoes line up just right, it can lead us into blind groupthink, cults, and mass hysterias in defiance of all rational logic. The rational mind is a thin crust perched precariously on a much larger, highly emotional, subconscious neurological tool kit. Conformity is the subconscious search for safety. We are wired to seek safety at the center of the herd even when that conformity is leading us straight over a cliff.
The blindness of groupthink is only broken when enough voices stand up to challenge the illusion of conformity. Visible dissent deprives the herd of the comfort and security it seeks in consensus. When dissent becomes loud enough and refuses to be swatted aside, the politically correct narrative loses its monopoly, which forces herd members to stop in their tracks and weigh which way to turn to find the center of the herd. No-one can run in two directions at once. Resolving that dilemma is what forces the brain to start to think.
Currently the regime is manufacturing an illusion of consensus to use herd instinct as a means of control. But the moment we deprive the herd of the comfort of consensus, we will be in the driver's seat. Breaking the illusion of consensus is what will give us the power to force the herd to think for itself. That is why it is so important that the silent good people speak out.
We don't need to agree with one another to challenge the regime. We don't need to speak with one voice. To break the illusion, we simply need enough people to speak out in disagreement of the "consensus".
The Ash Conformity Experiments taught us that even a single person standing up in a room will give others with doubts the courage to speak out. Breaking the illusion begins with a single voice. But for a phenomenon as global as the current mass hysteria, it will take more than a few voices to create a loud enough counter-chorus to break the spell.
The Counter-Chorus - The 10% Rule
The center of the herd is wishy washy; their survival strategy is to orient towards the consensus. The majority instinctively uses volume to gauge consensus opinion. They orient towards the noisiest part of the room and ape what they hear. They aren't committed to their beliefs; they merely amplify whatever they hear and believe what they amplify. That is why change always starts from the fringes; change begins with a committed minority that refuses to be cowed.
Once an idea is adopted by 10% of the population, research shows that this is the psychological tipping point when ideas, opinions, or beliefs will be rapidly adopted by the rest of the population. A noisy 10% is all it takes. Our freedom is not as far out of reach as you may think.
By my guestimate, we have long since crossed that 10% threshold in public opinion. We are just waiting for all those who share that opinion to come out of the shadows and start making noise, outside of the anonymity of social media, so that their frightened peers can see them. We have the necessary 10%, we just need that 10% make themselves visible in order to turn the rest of the crowd.
Recognizing that the emperor has no clothes is not enough. People also have to be willing to say it out loud. That second point is currently our weakest link in this psychological war.
Tick Tock - Show Yourselves While There Is Still Time
When an authoritarian regime seeks to consolidate its power, there is a point of no return when no amount of dissent can stand up to the entrenched might of the Colossus. The price to play this game of chicken with the government goes up by the day. There is a kind of race going on between the regime's ability to consolidate its power and those on our side to build up the courage to publicly express dissent. Visibility. That is our weapon in this psychological war. But it has a best-before date if the silent good people wait too long before speaking out.
“If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.” ~ Winston S. Churchill
No individual voice can break the regime's illusion of consensus. Waiting for others with a higher pain tolerance to do the heavy lifting is a guaranteed path to failure. The illusion of consensus can only be broken by the sum of millions of brave citizens finding the courage to raise their voices to say what they think, one by one, all around the world, despite the risk of repercussions. The real heroes in this battle are the millions of citizens who come out from behind a veil of anonymity, at home, at work, with friends, with family and neighbors to add their voices to the counter chorus. Their words are not important. A joke, a meme, or the courage to whisper "bullshit" is all that it takes. Saying it publicly is all that matters.
There is no knight in shining armor that can ride to our rescue. We have to do this ourselves. Together. The magic ingredient in this war is the courage to allow yourself to be counted among the counter chorus. It really is that simple.
How to Tame a Wild Horse
The more of us that stand up, the greater the threat we represent to the regime's control and the more authoritarian the regime's repercussions will become. It will get uglier before it gets better. Finding the courage to speak out is a process of steeling yourself against the regime's efforts to chase you back into the shadows. But there is an interesting phenomenon that happens as the regime reaches to greater extremes to try to silence us.
Remember what I said earlier, doubt is also seeded among those whose reality no longer matches the regime's rose-tinted propaganda. The uglier it gets, the more painful the weight of the Colossus becomes even for those who are still held captive by its spell. Ramping up authoritarianism too quickly risks pushing people to their "This is bullshit" limit. That is NOT what the regime wants.
As the counter-chorus becomes more visible, the regime has no choice but to ramp up or lose the illusion of consensus it has manufactured. This traps the regime in a catch-22 in which doing nothing allows the counter-chorus to reach that 10% tipping point but doing something increases the pain so quickly that it erodes its support base. Visibility puts us in the driver's seat because it traps the regime in that untenable catch-22.
A slow consolidation of power allows the regime to strip our freedoms slowly enough that the crowd becomes accustomed to its own subjugation. That is why they keep letting off a little pressure after a period of control. They are teaching us to accept the bridle of our serfdom.
“The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.” ― Pat Miller, Willfully Ignorant
Theirs is a piecemeal strategy to get us to keep giving up more of our freedoms. Remember the long game China played in Hong Kong and how the trap finally snapped shut while everyone was distracted by COVID. Remember that it took from 1945 until 1961 before East Germans found themselves trapped behind an impenetrable iron curtain.
Tyrants know how to tame wild horses. They know speed is not their friend. Slow and steady allows the wild horse to grow accustomed to its bridle. Fast and furious turns into a cruel rodeo.
You can break a wild horse's will by strapping on a set of spurs, cinching on a saddle, slapping its face with a sack, and lashing its withers to a bloody froth with a horsewhip until it gives up the fight. But even if you win this battle of wills and don't break your neck falling out of the saddle in the process, a broken horse will still kick you in the head or bite off your face the moment you let down your guard. It remembers. It will hate you. You can break a wild horse in a hurry, but you cannot tame it in a hurry. Taming a wild horse requires finesse, a light touch, and time.
The trick is to force the regime to rush the process by reaching for a saddle even before the bridle has been accepted. All hell breaks lose if the saddle is cinched on too early. Rushing the process of introducing tyranny leads to a bucking match that the regime cannot win.
We are no longer a tiny minority. We have a mass of silent good people on our side. (The term comes directly from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's civil rights battle, which I have written more about here). The silent good people are getting fed up and increasingly willing to speak out. The more noise we make with friends, neighbors, and workmates, the more WE control the pace of the regime's growing authoritarianism. We need to push the regime to move further and faster as it feels its hold over the crowd begin to slip. We need to goad it into reaching for the saddle and horsewhip. We need to goad it into overplaying its hand.
By simply saying what we believe and by refusing to shut up, we force the regime to become openly tyrannical against free speech. Their only option becomes to tighten their grip, to escalate, to increase their hysterical propaganda, to ramp up illogical repercussions, and to squeeze us into compliance. Those repercussions become increasingly hard to justify because silencing you requires taking away everyone's right to speak. Speech is 100% legal. Suppressing it requires our health officials, institutions, and politicians to act increasingly like the Cuban, Chinese, or Venezuelan regimes.
The regime can only push people into a corner for so long. It can only cry "variant" for so long before the effect wears out. We are neither a tame nor a broken people, yet. A regime that seeks to control both body, voice, and mind is its own worst enemy. All we need to do is refuse to shut up (which breaks no laws) in order to force the regime into taking self-defeating measures. Its grip is slipping, and the crowd's patience is wearing thin.
The darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn. Embrace the darkness and make it your friend in the quest to win hearts and minds. Speak louder. Make the regime reach for the saddle. Don't give it time to accustom our silent peers to the bridle. Refuse to shut up.
When the mood of the crowd turns, it will be sudden. We can win this game, easily, but only if the silent good people already on our side step out of the shadows to join our counter-chorus. Once the crowd is ours, the rest will happen all on its own. Remember the peaceful color revolutions that brought down post-Soviet regimes in Eastern Europe. Remember that fateful moment in 1989 when Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu was heckled by the crowd and the look on his face when they refused to stop. (Link to YouTube video - the moment begins at the 2:30 mark in the video)
From the height of Ceaușescu's power to the crowd showing it had lost its fear took three minutes. In three fateful minutes the entire regime collapsed. He regained control of the crowd at the end of the heckling and managed to finish his speech, but the spell was broken. The bridle had been spat out. The regime's institutions scrambled to abandon him out of fear of siding against a crowd that had lost its fear. Four days later Ceaușescu's own military court-martialled and executed him by firing squad.
The crowd's role was 100% peaceful. Not one citizen ever had to raise a hand against their government. They simply needed to reject the bridle. His violent end was delivered by his own institutions scrambling to undo 24 years of oppression to avoid themselves falling afoul of the fearless crowd.
Principles: Paying Freedom Forward and Why Some Wild Horses Can Never Be Tamed
The past 16 months have shown that neither police nor politicians nor courts will come to your rescue as the regime oversteps its limits. The only thing restraining the hand of this illiberal regime is its fear of sparking the outrage of the crowd.
So far there are no political prisoners rotting in jails and no squads rounding up those guilty of wrongthink. This isn't Cuba. Yet. But the brakes of our liberal democracy are gone. There is no telling how far this will go if it is not stopped soon. What happens next largely depends on how many have the courage to speak out against this slide into tyranny. The longer you wait, the riskier it becomes.
The problem is, from the perspective of a simple risk reward calculation, the odds are never in favor of speaking out. But our wild horses from the previous segment have one more lesson to teach us to help us overcome that problem. It is a lesson about principles.
Five hundred years ago, the Spanish released horses onto the North American continent that survive to this day in wild herds in places like Nevada and southern Alberta. Throughout the history of the Wild West, and even extending into modern times, wild horse hunters would earn a living by rounding up these wild horses. The younger and therefore more moldable horses would be broken and sold for a working life under the bridle. They are tameable. But the older horses traditionally were either left alone or ended up as horsemeat or glue.
No amount of sugar cubes, bucking sessions, or cruel horsewhipping could get these older horses to either accept the bridle or break them into submission. The loss of freedom was simply unacceptable to them, at any cost. They would never stop trying to throw their rider even if they bucked themselves to death through exhaustion in the process. Their master would never be safe from their hooves. These horses would sooner throw themselves over a cliff with their rider onboard than live as a domestic beast of burden. Live free or die.
Their untamable nature is not driven by a suicidal instinct. Suicide is the mark of a broken beast that surrenders its will to live. This is quite the opposite. This is the unbreakable will to live in freedom and to never stop fighting for that freedom even if that fight costs it its life. At first glance, this may seem to be taking freedom to an irrational extreme. Isn't it better to live under a bridle than to end up in a glue factory? But once we take a closer look, that instinct looks anything but irrational.
The simple reality is that, had the older horses been tamable, the wild horse herds would have long since disappeared to meet the insatiable appetite for working horses during the pre-combustion-engine era of American history. Consider that New York City alone had a population of over 100,000 horses in 1900. From working as ranch horses to pulling carriages and stagecoaches to serving as everyday transportation, there was a near infinite demand for four-legged labour in early American history. If the old wild horses had been tamable, there would be no wild horse herds to photograph on the plains today. Freedom is earned by those who are willing to pay the price.
That untamable instinct is an important evolutionary survival lesson. By refusing to submit, by fighting the bridle at any cost, on principle, it raises the cost for any tyrant who preys on the freedoms of others.
From the tyrant's perspective, imposing tyranny is a basic risk-reward calculation; take what your victim will bear, but never push so hard that the victim lashes out. Most victims will not put up much of a fight because the loss of each individual slice of freedom never exceeds the massive potential risk of defending such a tiny slice. Fighting back never makes sense from the perspective of a simple risk-reward calculation.
But what about those who don't care about this risk-reward calculation? What about those who refuse to be tamed, at any cost, on principle? A victim that will not bear even the slightest infringement upon his freedom is not worth preying upon. This "live free or die" attitude changes the tyrant's own risk-reward calculus because there is no reward to be obtained from a horse that will never take a bridle, no matter the cost, and if the tyrant's predatory behavior runs an intolerably high risk of being repaid with a hoof smashing through the front of their skull.
That is the advantage of responding to something on principle. Principles are a philosophical safety mechanism that protects society by raising the price for tyrants who would otherwise steal our freedoms through a thousand tiny slices.
The fact that our freedoms are currently under attack is an indication that the tyrants believe there are not enough principled men and women left who are willing to push back, on principle. So far, they are right. It's time to prove them wrong and raise the price of their tyranny. It's time for the silent good people to break their silence, at any cost, on principle.
Britain lost its grip over America in 1776 because men and women of principle stood up despite the terrible risk to themselves. They made the cost of maintaining tyranny so unbearable that Britain was forced to retreat. Principles bought America its freedom from its distant imperial masters. They paid dearly for it, in blood, in America's deadliest war in history, based on the percentage of the population that gave its life for that freedom. Freedom is not granted. It is taken by those willing to bear the cost of defending it.
The sentiment of this principled stand is captured in the historical flag of the American Revolution, known as the Gadsden flag. It also survives today in New Hampshire's state motto, "Live Free or Die", a memento of the attitude that bought Americans their freedom. And it endures in the pop culture slogan, "it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees."
Notice the symbolism on the Gadsden flag. It is not an offensive stance. It is a defensive stance. A principled stance: the rattle warning tyrants not to step too close, the coiled position of a body digging its heels in (if a snake had heels) to defend its patch of green territory, and the poisonous bite ready to be delivered to anyone that tries to encroach on its space.
Principles have endured across the span of history, despite failing to meet a basic individual risk-reward calculation, because communities that are willing to defend the rights of all their citizens, on principle, even when it is hard to do so, are communities that are not easily preyed upon. "Don't tread on me" along with the willingness to do something about it are the sentiments that safeguard a society from being suffocated by tyrants.
When we speak of owing a vast debt of gratitude to the selfless sacrifices made by our ancestors, this is what it means. They acted on principle when the logical thing to do would have been to take the bridle and accept the saddle. And now it is our turn. Standing up on principle is the way that we pay that freedom forward. Acting on principle is how we protect ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren from becoming masked and muzzled beasts of burden, serving as playthings for predatory tyrants. It is time to speak out, on principle.
As the regime begins to close in around us, it becomes possible to get a tiny glimpse of the terrifying price that our ancestors were willing to pay to stand up on principle for the freedoms we have enjoyed up until 16 months ago. From our current perspective, it becomes possible to appreciate how much easier it would have been for previous generations to duck their heads and submit. It is our turn to be tested.
Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it. ― John Adams to Abigail Adams 1777
With the First Link, the Chain is Forged.
"With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably... The first time any man's freedom is trodden upon, we are all damaged." ~ Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek the Next Generation, The Drumhead.
The Drumhead was a rare departure from Hollywood's usual storytelling tradition. It told a lesson that few works of fiction are able to tell well. Most Hollywood productions portray the loss of freedom as swords flashing in the sunlight, blood flowing in the gutters, and jackboots marching in the streets. It is a fairy-tale. That is how countries are invaded by other countries, but that is rarely how freedom is lost when a government turns against its own people.
Freedom is lost in tiny battles that send out almost imperceptibly small ripples, which rob everyone of a tiny slice of their liberties. It is the absence of noise, not the clash of swords, that marks the sound of liberty slipping away.
All governments rule through the consent of the crowd, including tyrannies. Every step a regime takes is taken with a fearful eye to gauge the reaction of the crowd. You don't have to like what they do. You just have to comply. Saying nothing legitimizes each baby step towards full blown tyranny. Each baby step sets off a ripple that impacts everyone, even if most people don't notice it at first.
Silence is our nod of consent for a future of voluntary servitude. Each boot on someone else's face is, by consequence, a boot on your own, even if it takes you a while to feel it.
The Long Shadow of the Barbeque Rebellion
Last November Adam Skelly stood up for liberty with his Barbecue Rebellion in a lonely act of defiance against the public health mandates that divided society into essential and non-essential castes. His small-business peers cheered him on but left him standing alone. He is now bearing the full cost of his choice all on his own. Had his peers joined him in defending his constitutional rights, they could have overwhelmed the government's ability to enforce these arbitrary and unconstitutional public health mandates. It would have decisively demonstrated that the government's actions did not have universal community support. It would have broken the illusion of consensus.
By failing to join him in his act of civil disobedience, his small business peers normalized that the right to earn a living has been replaced by a privilege to earn a living, a privilege that can be withdrawn at the regime's discretion, at a moment's notice, whenever it suits the regime's agenda. Will you ever dare take out another loan, sign another business lease, or take out another mortgage if you don't know when the next time will be when that privilege will be withdrawn? The boot on Adam's face was a boot on your own.
Everyone lost a little bit of their freedom that day because, by staying silent, the right to try to earn a living became conditional. The silent good people taught each other that day that they will not have each other's backs, on principle, and that speaking out will leave you standing alone. That's why there hasn't been another Barbecue Rebellion.
And the silent good people also taught the regime that day that it can put its boot anywhere else it wants with minimal resistance or outcry as long as the regime generously showers the crowd with large volumes of inflation-inducing printed money. The wild pig that prefers the farmer's corn to the freedom of the forest soon finds itself behind a locked gate.
The Price of Leaving Churches Undefended
Over the past months we have also seen Pastor Coates, Pastor Hildebrandt, Pastor Stephens, and Pastor Pawlowski all stand up in defense of their constitutional rights. Other churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues failed to open their doors in solidarity. So, the regime put its boots down. Arresting a thousand pastors would have broken the regime's capacity for enforcement. Arresting four did not. They got taken out, one by one, serving as examples to help the regime intimidate others into compliance.
When communities failed to rally around these brave pastors, the silent good people showed that their religious peers would be left undefended. The emboldened regime learned that lesson well. And so did the arsonists who saw that neither communities nor law enforcement pose a threat to those who launch attacks against Christian groups. Now churches are burning all over Canada, the target of yet another lawless hysteria, pawns in a different but related political game. Our Prime Minister even described these arson attacks on churches as understandable.
The price of silence is terrifying because of the unforeseen forces that it unleashes. A weakness, once exposed, will be preyed upon by anyone and everyone with a crooked agenda. A right that is left undefended by the broader citizenry brings out the hyenas. A community that does not rally together, on principle, becomes arrow fodder in someone else's war.
Who Will Stand Up for Dr. Francis Christian and for Academic Independence?
A similar battle is now brewing in academia and in the medical profession. And this one does not demand civil disobedience, only free speech, although the repercussions are starting to look remarkably similar. Dr. Francis Christian, a Clinical Professor of General Surgery at the University of Saskatchewan and practicing surgeon in Saskatoon, was recently fired by the College of Medicine after voicing his concerns about how our public health officials are managing the pandemic (his focus was on the safety of the COVID vaccines and his concerns about informed consent).
Dr. Christian is not the first medical professional to be sanctioned for "wrongthink" during this pandemic, but the aggressive way in which the government stepped in to punish him marks a tipping point. Take a moment to listen to this full audio recording of Dr. Christian being informed of the sanctions against him by the College of Medicine. They even accused him of having lost his grip on reality. In this Twitter thread I previously exposed the dirty trick the College of Medicine used to insinuate that he had lost his mind. This is not how science works. These are the behaviors of a medieval Inquisition or a Soviet-style political machine that places political outcomes ahead of evidence-based debate.
The medical and academic communities have a choice to make. Speaking out exposes them to the risk of similar sanctions. Speaking out may put their funding or even their careers on the line. The outrage of the small number of doctors who are not hidden behind a veil of anonymity is not enough to impose a cost on the regime's credibility.
But if doctors and academics do not speak out in large numbers, their failure to confront this violation of Dr. Christian's rights will normalize that any medical or academic professional in Canada can be fired or censored if they say something or publish something that runs counter to political will. The ripples of Dr. Christian's firing extend into the furthest corners of our medical and academic institutions. From here on in, if you say something that doesn't get much attention, you're probably safe. But if you say something that ruffles feathers and gets widespread attention, you're probably not safe. The death of science lies in mediocrity. The power to reverse this rests in the hands of the silent good people.
The actions taken by our government made it clear, "if you want to practice medicine or pursue an academic career in Canada, toe the line by self-censoring or we will destroy your reputation and come after your career." If this is allowed to go unchallenged, it will mark the end of academic freedom and professional discretion in Canada. The regime is watching, waiting to gauge the response.
Publishing more data won't fix this. The regime doesn't care about data. And frightened members of the crowd will never look at it. In this game, more data is the equivalent of silence. More data is the nod of consent.
The only way to confront this is for the silent good doctors, medical professionals, and academic professionals to publicly stand up and speak out, on principle, to break the illusion of consensus that has been cultivated by our public health authorities and media. The silent good doctors must speak out to signal that the censorship of Dr. Christian was wrong, that they will not be cowed by the regime's treatment of Dr. Christian, that scientific questions should be settled through debate and not through sanctions, and that they have lost faith in our public health authority's ability to function as an evidence-based policymaking institution.
Visibility. A public challenge to the government's credibility. Simply by stepping out from behind the veil of anonymity.
I hear rumors that up to 50% of medical professionals are not okay with the public health response. I also hear rumors that outspoken doctors who faced a deluge of ridicule and chastisement from peers in the early days of the pandemic are now rapidly seeing that criticism fade away. I have no way of gauging if those rumors are correct, but it suggests that the tide is turning in the medical community and that the numbers have long since crossed the 10% threshold needed to break the illusion. If only they were all willing to step out from behind a veil of anonymity and say it out loud.
The Soft Underbelly of the Regime Is Exposed
In Quebec, the healthcare system is already on the brink of collapse (see my Twitter thread) because of a mass exodus of staff quitting the system during COVID. Some hospitals have already lost over 50% of their staff.
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Julius Ruechel spent three years converting his family's beef cattle ranch in British Columbia into a certified organic farm with grass-fed cattle and organic field crops. Biblio