People are willing to rationalize any aggression, any harm, any injustice visited on a fellow human being. All in the name of society.
This sad realization hit me with an inescapable ferocity today when I read of France’s first gay wedding. Not that it took place. Not that it took so long. Not even that so many people objected morally to their union. No, the tragic part was that hundreds of police officers were mobilized in order to ensure the safety of the event, for fear that people whose lives had absolutely not been affected by these two would seek to do them harm.
All in the name of society.
What our neighbor does, so long as it doesn’t affect us directly, is none of our concern. At some level, nearly all humans alive recognize and agree with this basic point. But then something magic happens. Enough individuals congregate in a specific place, and they cease to be individuals. They become part of the environment. They become society. Now, a resident of a neighborhood, of a province, of a country, becomes territorial, and in doing so claims at least partial ownership of the environment. Of the society of said land, which is composed of other residents. Of people. In this way, trying to control society is essentially the same thing as slavery.
Now that I’ve made that point I feel I should back up and clarify. Seeking to influence society isn’t the same thing as slavery. In fact, I would encourage any moral person to attempt to influence society for the betterment of all. Influence, notice. Not control. When we talk about society we’re talking about hundreds, thousands, millions of individuals, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to convince them to voluntarily alter their behavior for their, or even our, benefit. Seeking to control them, however, is what’s sinister. Using force to make decisions for other people is a direct denial of their rights as individuals. If they lose their rights as individuals, and must live their lives according to the will of someone else, they have become, essentially, slaves.
It’s dangerous to give anyone the right to control society by force. Even something seemingly innocuous such as establishing the official language of a country, regulating intoxicating substances, or defining marriage crosses a deadly line. By establishing that the needs of the many outweigh the rights of the few, we establish that the rights of individuals are subject to the needs of the collective. We are all individuals. We all lose our rights. We all become slaves. Not to one another, mind you. To whoever can successfully define what a society needs. Upon securing control over the definition of what society needs, that person or group has successfully enslaved the people.
All in the name of society.
Photo credit: Cornell University