We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

That’s the counterintuitive thing about totalitarian systems. They herd people into Borg-like collectives, yet every individual is savagely atomized.

I never felt so alone in my life.

- Michael Totten writes about the “total surveillance police state” that is Cuba.

It isn’t “counter-intuitive” to me, and probably not to Totten either, but I guess it still is to many. I worked out long ago that totally nationalising society totally destroys society, and that the greatest freedom of a free society is the freedom to choose what company you keep, both when you work and in your time off working.

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Regional

    The best freedom is telling some one who pisses you off is to get fucked.

  • Sam Duncan

    Beat me to it, Regional. Exactly what I was thinking.

    Communities can’t be created by diktat. And, by restricting freedom, socialist states actively prohibit the creation of real ones. This is no surprise: genuine, spontaneously emerging, communities would constitute a threat to their artificial, planned, ones.

  • CaptDMO

    But…but…people living in fear of “stepping out of line”, or even saying the “wrong” thing, is the utopia of “appointed” lifestyle contenders.

    Or something

  • Rob

    Every leftist journalist who preens and thinks he is courageous because he attacks the Catholic Church or some other easy target, read this article and be ashamed.

  • Russ in TX

    Read it earlier this morning and had to admit to being unimpressed. He was visiting a known totalitarian police state. What was he expecting? Had he never actually read Milovan Djilas, or anybody who discussed what living in these states was like from the inside?

  • I’ve spent a lot of time in Cuba, and am no supporter of the regime there; members of my family have suffered at the hands of the current regime; their parents and grandparents have suffered at the hands of the previous one. But this piece doesn’t fit with my experience; yes there’s surveillance, and the neighbourhood CDRs, copied from Nazi Germany and communist Russia are pretty odious. But the surveillance doesn’t destroy community or family; I’ve never seen it constrain family communication, except that one minds what one says in front of those few relatives that are fully paid up members of the party, just like one might not mention Catholics in front of Uncle George over here.
    Britain and the US are implementing the technology to spy on everything their citizens do – and I find that far more frightening than the bumbling efforts of the Cuban government.
    The Cuban regime is vile and destroys lives, but Michael J. Totten needs to spend a lot more time there if he wants to find out what it’s really like.

  • Mr Ed

    Apart from one silly paragraph

    Fidel Castro and Che Guevara overthrew the squalid and bloody dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 with support from a broad swath of Cuban society. I would have supported the revolution, as well, if I were living there at the time because here’s the thing: it wasn’t communist. Castro described himself as a freedom fighter and promised political liberalism.

    A very interesting and useful reminder of what happens when collectivists are unrestrained.

  • Paul Marks

    It was seen under the various French Revolutionary regimes.

    All the factions were followers of Rousseau – who taught that the collective was freedom (for example private employment was slavery, but collectivism was working for yourself because you were part of the collective……).

    “Liberty” (in this weird sense) “Equality” (before the collective) and “Fraternity” – everyone feeling as brothers (and sisters) in one big happy family.

    But there was no real “fraternity” – there was terror, each person an “atomised” individual without any real civil society institutions (and terrified of informers).

  • RogerC

    @ Russ in TX

    Had he never actually read Milovan Djilas, or anybody who discussed what living in these states was like from the inside?

    I think that’s the value of this piece. I remember when I was a kid, there was a general perception that life in Communist countries was pretty grim. The left tried to put out interference, but the signal seemed to be there in the culture nonetheless. At least, that’s my perception.

    Then, apparently, we won. The Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed and I now work with a generation of adults in their 20′s who don’t remember what the cold war was like, who the enemy was or what we were fighting to preserve.

    I think we need a fresh crop of articles like this one, to remind the younger generation of the effects of unchecked power and the lies revolutionaries will tell. Articles about what things were like before they were born can too easily be dismissed as “just history”. I’ve actually heard the old “but that couldn’t happen here” line trotted out, in all seriousness, in discussions about such places. Telling them what it’s like right now, in a holiday destination many of them will have at least considered going to, might have greater impact.

    Sure, it’s old hat, but that’s the trouble. The hat is old.

  • “Are you planning to visit any schools or medical facilities?” he said.

    “I hope I don’t have to visit a medical facility,” I said to lighten the mood.

    He smiled and laughed. “Yes. Let’s hope not.”

  • Paul Marks

    Roger C. – as you may know about half young Americans have a positive impression of the word “socialism” (and why not – after all what they are taught in school and university is socialism, there had to come a time when “the mask comes off”). And a socialist got 73% of the vote in New York City in November.

    Already in New York City small business people pay (if one adds up their various city, State and Federal taxes) more than half their money to the various layers of government. Yet the situation is described as “hyper capitalism” or “ultra capitalism”.

    It is the same here in Britain – I noted that (for example) in a BBC series on the Cold War the present crises was presented as the result of “unlimited capitalism”.

    Government spending at about half of total GDP, and the rest of the economy (ESPECIALLY financial services) dominated by thousands of pages of government regulations.

    Yet all problems are caused by “unlimited capitalism”, “hyper capitalism”, “ultra capitalism”.

    “But Paul – if people could see the alternative they would know…..”

    Know what?

    People in Chile can see the insanity that statism brings – they need only look at Argentina (or Bolivia or ….) yet they are about to vote for same thing to hit Chile.

    Humans are beings – agents, we are capable of thought (of deciding what we do – doing otherwise).

    However, our agency is NOT God-like – sadly it is easy (all too easy) to subvert it.

    Humans are often easy to condition – to “brainwash”.

    Otherwise the left would not be so obsessed with controlling education and the media.

    For example, Alisa gives a link to Mr Moore’s propaganda film “Sicko” (where he glorifies the Cuban “health service” and so on).

    This film was given a glowing review on the Fox News website.

    Oh yes – even going to work for FNC is acceptable (if you are working for “the cause”). And, besides, Fox recruits from the same universities that everyone else does.

    Get rid of a couple of people at the top (Roger A. and a few others) and FNC would turn into a clone of NBC news.

  • RogerC

    @Paul Marks

    What you describe, people being able to find examples of the bad results of too much government but voting for it anyway, is surely the result of the left’s Long March Through The Institutions. It has given us people who can see the evidence, but find that it clashes with every idea about the state that they have been taught to hold, from childhood. People don’t like having their worldview shaken, so they will tend to ignore the reality and vote according to their beliefs, because it’s more comfortable that way. It avoids dissonance, as my cognitive psychology tutor would have said.

    If we’re to undo that damage we need to march back, and it has to start somewhere. Will it take time? Sure. Probably more time than either you or I have left to us. But every time someone reads an article like this, there’s a chance that it’ll shift their beliefs just a little bit closer to reality.

    In my early teens I read a lot of Heinlein and though that libertarianism was a great idea, but I was quickly browbeaten out of it by older, “wiser” heads who convinced me that it was all foolishness. I went through my social democrat phase, which lasted two and a half decades. I really did think that government was here to help and without it I’d be at the mercy of rapacious corporate types who would screw me until my pips squeaked. I firmly believed that government was the only way to guarantee any sort of rights for the common person. I thought that gun control, while a bit of a downer from a fun and games point of view, really did lower the crime rate and keep us all safe.

    Then, quite recently, I slowly started to come out of it, with the help of websites like this one and youtube videos by people like John Stossel. I was discussing sci-fi one day and found myself wondering about the attitude shift from the stuff I read in my youth to the what’s been written more recently. I idly googled “libertarianism” or some such and that was it – I found out that I was not alone.

    It took a couple of years of reading, viewing and googling, but gradually my views shifted on all sorts of topics. It didn’t happen all at once. But it felt great!

    My point is, without articles like Michael Totten’s and sites like this one, there’s literally no chance of changing the cultural assumptions. It’s going to be gradual, and frustrating, and many people will ignore it, but it’s the only chance we have. It worked for the left, even if it did take them a century to do it. I do not believe that a sudden collapse will break the power of the state, quite the contrary. The only option is to fix the damage gradually, one mind at a time.

  • Paul Marks

    Roger C – yes Gramsci and co.

    And before the Marxists – the Fabians.

    And before them – the admirers of Prussia (Frederick the Great and so on).

    The institutions (including the schools and universities) have never exactly been friendly to liberty.

    Do not feel badly about being fitting in,

    Those who do not “internalise” the dominant assumptions of their time tend to do badly in life (as they feel they are surrounded by aliens and can not relate to the people around them) – I know of what I speak.

    It is a rather odd mind that comes the conclusion that the most basic assumptions of the surrounding world are wrong – not that people are not acting as they should given the assumptions (that is a quite common conclusion), but that the assumptions (the principles) are themselves wrong.

    I would like to think that people will react to the coming double bankruptcy (the fiscal bankruptcy of the Welfare States, and the monetary bankruptcy of the financial systems) by holding statism to be discredited.

    But it is possible that a lot of people will react the other way – hold that “the rich”, “the corporations” “hyper” or “ultra” “capitalism” is to blame for everything.

    That is the point of the war-of-ideas.

    Somehow an alternative account of the causes of events (the truth) must to be gotten to people.

    Some will have totally closed minds – but for some the walls of conditioning may prove to be paper thin. IF they are given information and argument.

    Against a backdrop of collapse.

  • Regional

    I’ve just started reading about the Ancient Regime and all this shit has happened before i.e. Ingenuity followed by Statism and then collapse, it’s cycle. Britain was using steam engines before Waterloo and Europe was using slave labor i.e. children as young as five in factories yet held slavery in America which produced cotton which they processed in their mills in abhorrence.

  • Paul Marks

    Regional – the last time Britain had a real collapse was either the collapse of the Roman Empire or the Viking Age (although, for the north of England, the Norman conquest reduced most places to “waste” as well).

    The 18th and 19th centuries certainly did not see any collapse on this island – although there were repeated famines on the other island (Ireland).

    As for the Industrial Revolution (and the Agricultural Revolution that came before it). Child Labour is ancient – it goes back as long as there have been humans. Britain in the industrial revolution was the first country in the history of the world to QUESTION it (ironically that is why people associate the Industrial Revolution with child labour – because for the first time in human history people started to oppose it).

    The south of Ireland dodged both the Industrial Revolution and the Agricultural Revolution that came before it – they carried on with an economy based upon peasant plots.

    It did not turn out so well for them in the 1700s or the 1800s.

    Although the modern myth (spread by the universities and so on) is this because “the government did not help – being in the grip of the selfish doctrine of the free market”) actually the “roads to nowhere” (and all the rest of it) were tried in Ireland (and in the Highlands of Scotland – lots of “infrastructure” projects up there to) and a Poor Law was tried, and “National Schools” and a Royal Irish police to collect taxes to pay for it all.

    “Ah but the taxes were on the peasants” – no actually they were on the landlords (the “evil” Anglo Irish Protestants – famous for their “pride and their poverty” – apart for a handful of landlords who actually did try and bring the agricultural revolution to Ireland – County Wicklow stands out).

    It was all a failure – so blame it on the “Laissez Faire”. One might as well pretend that the Penal Laws of the 1700s (that undermined private property rights for the majority of the population) were “Laissez Faire”.

    Even though this legend is about as true as the “aid from the Turks and the Persians” – did not happen (it is a myth).

    And the “five Pound Queen”.

    Actually Queen Victoria gave five thousand Pounds.

    And if anyone thinks that is not much money – compare it to the income of the Crown in the 1840s.

    By the way – Ireland is cattle country, arable farming always tended to collapse there.

    For the opposite reason that it used to collapse in parts of the United States.

    In America government pushed small arable “homesteads” – and the sun turned them to dust (because the land was more suited to large cattle ranches).

    In Ireland it was not the sun – it was the rain.

    “But how can rain be a problem”.

    It depends how much you have – and Ireland has lots and lots (and the crop blights it encourages).

  • Paul Marks

    “But what about NOW”.

    Well I think we are in real trouble.

    About as much as the Romano British were at the end of the Roman Empire.

    That does not mean we will fall – under better leadership the towns of southern Britain did not have to burn. But better leadership does not appear to be in sight.

    In the United States as recently as the 1930s the farmers of Alabama gave food to the academics – in return for lessons in the classics.

    Even if the farmers of Alabama still have an interest in Ancient Greek and Latin (doubtful in most cases) I doubt that many academics know enough now to be worth feeding.

    Being taught watered down Marxism is not worth feeding the academics.

    “I a very sorry Professor – but this Frankfurt School stuff really is not worth a loaf of bread”.

    Perhaps the academics will try and grab the land – in the name of “Social Justice”.

    Well – either the academics will lose (get shot) or they will win.

    But if they win they will find that farming is not easy (and neither is making things in factories) – so the academics and government officials (and media types) will still die.

    They will starve.

    As will their “mighty legions” of “urban oppressed” (i.e. the welfare class from Atlanta Georgia and so on – being taught to seek revenge for the slavery that ended in 1865 – or, in the case of the Hispanics in much of the United States, revenge for the “unjust” wars of 1848 and 1836)

    If they lose – they are dead.

    And if they win – they are also dead (for they will starve).

    It might be better if they choose life – choose peace, not war.

    But I am being utopian on that – after all since the 1960s they have been taught that they have a “right” to stuff from other people (without any limits).

    The tradition of Booker T. Washington and Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams (and all the Hispanic free market people as well – oh YES there have been Hispanic free market thinkers, many of them) is mocked in almost school and university in the Western World (and even mocked in many churches – as well as by the media and Hollywood).

    “Social Justice” is what is taught – the belief that everyone has “Positive Rights” to X Y Z to be enforced by violence.

    That will not end well.

  • marvo

    Reading Totten’s article, I was struck almost immediately by his naiveity. It is a socialist regime and was closely connected with Russian and european socialist dictatorships. Have all the terrible things they did and that are still being done been eradicated from the consciousness of the english speaking world? I would say that journalists should be more aware, but my experience is that few of them are students of history and even fewer interested in the misdeeds of socialism. These were places where you could go to prison for listening to the radio.

    @Shotover I also felt that he misjudged the situation within families, in Eastern Europe you were generally safe with family. It may have been that he himself was suspected. Entrapment using foreigners was not uheard of (I don’t know if it is done in Cuba).

    @RogerC you may be right, is there a niche for ‘gateway’ soft libertarian articles to lead people to ideas which are not statist and left of centre as much of the uk media seem to be. I would not consider myself to be hardcore libertarian, but even the idea that state control or intervention might not be the best policy for everything is seen as radical by a lot of people I know.
    It is not just twenty year olds who are oblivious of totalitarian socialism: two sets of friends independently came back from travelling with stories of the horrors in Cambodia they had been told about, they are late thirties, early forties. Neither remembered any of it from the news when they were young. Nor were they aware or really interested in current political freedom or lack of it, there or in other places they visited.

  • Regional

    Paul Marks,
    So many aspects to be considered.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    RogerC, why not send them to North Korea? Chinese people apparently go there to see what life in Maoist China used to be like!