Life With Father: The New Paternalism
By Lo Fi Nikita
The outlines of the average American’s relationship with the current regime, at least in theory, are clear. The government is entitled to know everything about you, and you are entitled to know nothing about it. The government has an absolute right to know what phone numbers you dial, what websites you visit, where you shop, what you buy, whom you email, what you watch, and so much more, including your genetic identity. They have to know everything so they can thwart dangers to national security.
You can’t know anything about the government, because government in the new age of global terror has to keep its operations secret from security leaks. The leaks of photographs of prisoner abuse, the domestic spying program, doubts about the validity of grounds for invading Iraq, all these leaks show how important secrecy is. The entire domestic spying program itself, which is vital to national security, is now in danger due to these leaks. The ACLU and Electronic Freedom Foundation lawsuits against the government for unlawfully gathering data on Americans also endanger national security.
You also don’t need to know anything about the companies you pay your monthly phone and Internet bills to, the ones that help the government to spy on you, like Verizon, AT&T, and all the other private defendants in the lawsuits. To protect national security, the Department of Justice just filed a secret brief on behalf of AT&T, saying the case has to be dismissed, because the plaintiffs can never win, because the government will not give up the evidence the plaintiffs would need to win against AT&T, because that would compromise national security.
You can’t know what the evidence is against people who are charged with terrorism offenses, because to reveal that evidence would compromise the ever-ongoing investigation of the international terror web, and endanger national security. So when they take away your neighbor in a van, the Homeland Security people might have to tell you they can’t answer questions about why they took him away. They’ll be more concerned with your security. Were you friends with your neighbor?
There is only one relationship that mirrors this one, and that is the relationship we have with our parents. Parents are free to search through their kids’ possessions at any time, but children are forbidden to dig through parents’ private things. Parents tell their children who to play with, what to watch, listen to and read. Under the law, parents are effectively all-powerful with respect to their children. Many parents wield their absolute power well, and many not so well, but all children are conditioned to obedience.
The current regime spends lavishly to solve problems of its own choosing – sealing our borders, keeping tabs on domestic communications, pursuing military power plays in the middle east, managing a juggernaut of spiraling debt, granting billions to churches to provide social services, and making the marriage altar safe for heterosexual couples. Great generals, powerful bankers, brilliant lawyers, and rich lobbyists, we have seen, can manage our world, so long as they are given an infinity of tax revenue to pay for it.
Children have no control over their parents’ finances, but then they don’t pay the bills either. Taxpayers, however, do pay the high cost of intrusive and abusive edicts that subordinate individual and social good to a great, grey abstraction – national security – that was equally worshipped by Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Fujimori, Pinochet, all the great ones. All tyrants love to make the nation secure, and to pauperize the nation doing it.
But our ancestors realized that we do pay the bills, and therefore a popular rallying cry of the American Revolution was “No taxation without representation.” Today’s average taxpayer would have no idea what “representation” in such a context would mean. Wal-Mart and Halliburton would not be similarly tongue-tied. Their tax lobbyists write legislation, and the President signs it. That’s called representation. I’d like some o’ that, Daddy.