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A Small Evil

A Small Evil

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Published by Ian MacLeod
Where should an avowed "free people" draw the line in accepting restrictions on "rights"?
Where should an avowed "free people" draw the line in accepting restrictions on "rights"?

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Published by: Ian MacLeod on Sep 12, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A Small Evil
It is a very difficult thing to stop an insider takeover of a government. It is evenharder, however, to UNDO an insider takeover – or any other kind – once it isaccomplished. In both instances, the conspirators have control of the machineryof government, and there are always those unquestioning ‘patriots’ who believethe lies, the propaganda, and will inform the authorities of any who question. Inboth cases, the one who calls for ‘alarums and excursions’ is labeled the traitor,and ends up having to fight the innocent ‘patriots’ who think they’re defendingtheir country. The trick of such a takeover is to convince as many groups aspossible into believing that their interests and those of the usurpers are thesame; the truth is seldom seen until too late, when the followers suddenly findthat they themselves are lumped in with all the others. By then, they wear thesame chains as all the others.Someone
gets hurt, and not just the “bad guys”; usually it’s everyone,though the weak, the old, the very young, the poor and disabled may beespecially vulnerable. This is the price of not thinking, not observing, notknowing and not insisting on ALL of one’s own rights and those of other peoplewith the same fervor, the same vehemence. A democracy begins with knowingthat “I” have rights and what they are, and continues with knowing that in order toprotect ‘my’ rights, it is indispensable for me to protect the rights of 
,and to
on that knowledge
even in the case of the smallest attempted infraction
. Wise conspirators take small steps over much time, making thechanges hard to see. This is why, however boring, eternal vigilance really IS theprice of Freedom: What we are told is a
evil, just temporary, “just for theduration of the Emergency,” is “necessary in order to protect our Freedoms,”adds up over time to many, and soon a
many ‘small evils’, and grows to avery
Evil – the loss of 
liberties. The ‘duration’ turns out to last longer and longer, until nobody asks anymore because they’ve gotten used to it, and‘temporary’ becomes
There is no such thing as a ‘small Evil’;
there is no such thing 
A thing isEvil or it is not, and we cannot build a Good, we cannot build anything lasting, if it’s built upon Evil of any degree. This is why I say that
there is no such thing asa “small evil” 
: each one is part and parcel of all the rest, and even that separationis an illusion. Let one in the door, so to speak, and you open that door to all of it.It’s like the camel’s nose in the Arab proverb: “If you let the camel’s nose in thetent, it is soon followed by the rest of the camel.” Just because you can’t see thewhole thing all at once, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, that it doesn’t exist, or that you won’t find it taking over everything. It’s there, it’s real, and if you allowthe smallest increment “out of necessity” to pass without comment, you quicklyreach a point where control has passed from your hands. Closing your eyesdoes not make it go away, and trusting the words of a liar or a fool doesn’t protect
you, because there is no one to complain to who can fix it once that point isreached: you allowed it, and it falls to you to fix it, or no one will.One way to tell Evil from Good is to put yourself in the place of the victim,because the victim of Evil
sees it as a ‘small Evil’; it’s just plain Evil. Liketorture, for instance.Imagine yourself snatched off the street by your own government, (or more likelyby you-know-not-whom), taken you know not where, and tortured. You areaccused of something you KNOW you had nothing to do with, but some small-souled, angry, power-hungry individual somewhere sees a threat in you. You arebeaten until you’re barely conscious and bleeding, you are forced to stand nakedand filthy in front of strangers of both sexes and your anus is invaded withsomething that hurts and also makes you bleed; pictures are taken. You losecontrol of bladder and bowels while tied to a chair in a light that never goes out,in sound that hurts, and the people around you laugh. You are strapped to aboard, your sight taken, and made to feel as though you are drowning.
, youremember stories of people who
this way, and you wonder if you will be oneof them. When all they ask is for you to sign a confession you realize that
they don’t care whether you’re guilty or not! 
they care about is getting aconfession, and maybe the names of other people they can snatch up andtorture. You realize that torture gains no real information – it is just a way of controlling people with terror, nothing less.You have been allowed to contact no one. Your job is gone, and maybe your home; your family only knows you are gone, and perhaps they have to gothrough any savings you had just to survive. You don’t know; you are toldnothing. The government denies any responsibility for or knowledge of you.Your representative, if you have been allowed one, really represents your torturers. You remember the discussions with politicians arguing whether waterboarding was torture or not. Now you know that waterboarding is tortureand nothing else: you
It is no simulation of 
. Every time, over andover, you really, truly
, and they take you
right to the edge of death! 
As thebeatings, the humiliations, the electrical shocks, the ‘stress positions’ (God, whata mealy-mouthed phrase! It’s induced
for no reason and nothing less,nothing else), as it all continues without let, because solitary confinement in aplace where rest cannot be had, where the ‘food and water’ make you ill, whereno one speaks to you except in anger, to demand information you do not have, itcomes to you that
The other citizens out there in The World don’t know this, though. They think it’sa ‘small Evil’, necessary in order to protect them, to protect the country, and themedia never allows them to hear of 
it. Still, people being people, some smallbits of information do get out, maybe not about you specifically, but about what’shappening. You remember hearing about it yourself, always labeled ‘tinfoil hat-wearing, liberal conspiracy theories’ as such information is called, and almost no
one believes it aside from the crazies. Besides, they think (and you
whatthey think, because you were one of them, once) that a ‘small evil’ in the name of defending all they hold dear is tolerable. It doesn’t seem so small from theviewpoint of a waterboard, though. It sounded so harmless, there at home on thecomputer – obviously written by crazies; people only
they’re drowning.Maybe then you remember that the Nuremberg trials called it torture. Andincidentally, the victims of waterboarding
drowning.Words that minimalize are used, and people just don’t think about it. They’remuch too busy with other ‘small evils’, trying to keep their families fed, their children educated, a roof over their heads. As the saying goes, a hungry man isno philosopher, and much of the country is country for something: food, jobsecurity, housing – something. It’s just too distracting to think of someone theydon’t even know being abused someplace where he or she can’t be seen. Theymay wonder why times are so hard, why husband and wife must work full time,their benefits in danger, maybe even the jobs in danger, and then they have tolisten to the leaders say what a great economy it is and how well it’s doing. Mostthink they just happen to have jobs in areas where there’s a problem, but theleaders say the rest of the country is doing well. It’s just their bad luck, theythink. They have no time for conspiracy theories. If they just change jobs –thought they’re very hard to find right now – if they just do something different,maybe win the lottery, maybe just get lucky some other way, then they might getto be one of those who have total security because they have the resources thatwould take care of a hundred, of 
tens of 
thousands of families
, all for themselvesand their loved ones. They never consider that such people are taking up suchresources
those hundreds or thousands of families are
of them.After all, this is America, where we’re all Free, and we all have a chance tobecome rich, pampered, with all the world open to us – or at least well off. Thosesavages (that’s what our leaders say they are, sometimes in so many words,sometimes not) who are selfishly keeping the oil and other things we need fromus are to blame. They are terrorists worshipping a strange God whose priests(they even have a strange word for that – it sounds like baby talk, this word‘imam’) tell them to come here and kill; they are to blame. If we just work hardenough, trust our leaders and be patient, it will all come together. They’ll takecare of us. Stolen elections? Not here, not in
country. That kind of thingonly happens in Third World countries, as does torture. If some of the innocentsavages die, well, as our leaders say, it’s unavoidable ‘collateral damage’; it can’tbe helped. We have to defend ourselves first, don’t we? And if a few mistakesare made and innocents suffer, that’s only human;
only human.Our leaders say, too, that we have to silence traitors who protest, who put thegovernment down, who spread these vicious lies about what’s happening – it allonly hurts our cause. It hurts our image in the world, reduces our credibility.Freedom of Speech
include that. People like that deserve whatever theyget. We have to support our leadership, even when they make mistakes.

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