Your Brains On a Platter

Your Brains On a Platter

In the old days, kings would demand their enemies' heads on a platter. The Bible tells the story of Beheading of St. John the Baptist; Herod, ruler of Galilee, succumbs to the wife of his brother, Herodias and her daughter who ask for, and get, the head of John the Baptist on a platter. The historian Flavius Josephus has the story slightly differently: "lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John's] power and inclination to raise a rebellion ... [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death".

These days we consider ourselves way more civilized. Our rulers today no longer ask for heads on a platter; When they can't marginalize and bankrupt their enemies, bombs and drones to kill them and to torture them is so much more "fun".

In a 1914 debate, John Basil Barnhill claimed: "Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty". That is not exactly true. Fear, or the lack thereof, is not a very good measure of liberty. When we voluntarily serve our own brains on a platter to our "dear leaders" and conform to their authority, we may have nothing to fear, but is that liberty? No one understood the Stockholm syndrome in 1914.

It is said that "a well-informed citizenry is essential for liberty". But, Thomas Jefferson was a little more nuanced: "Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights". That leaves the door open to not trust the people with their own government. Or possibly, to ensure that they stay in a state of perpetual ignorance. Remember, John the Baptist was a threat because he informed the people.
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