Comfortable Tyranny

“What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ Far better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 

—Exodus 14:11-12

All forms of slavery are dehumanizing, but not all forms of slavery are involuntary. The Israelites lost their identity as a free nation under the oppression of the Egyptians. Once honored guests in Egypt, they became slaves to a distrustful ruling class. Yet they complained and hesitated every step of the way on their journey to freedom in the Promised Land. Too many of them preferred the comfort of knowing what slavery was like under the ruling class and lacked the courage to face the uncertainty that following Moses and living in freedom would bring.

Human nature being what it is, the Israelites under Moses were subject to the same tendency to cowardice, comfort, and servitude Americans today and all human beings are subject to when they cannot summon the nerve to defend their freedom. They also had the same capability for courage, freedom, and virtue. We are still capable of it today. 

But do we remember?

How We Got Here

The pandemic of the past 21 months has made evident a divide in American society that likely has been dormant for a long time. On the one hand are those who, to varying degrees, are willing to question the official narrative put forth by government and media elites, violate woke taboos, and live with the consequences. On the other is a large segment of American society that actually believes in, or at least significantly conforms to, the official narrative and the latest dictates and contradictions of the ruling class. 

COVID made clear this desire for conformity when our public health overlords continued to make contradictory demands and claims, which were immediately followed by those who buy the narrative. Too many people unthinkingly fell in line when told to follow and believe these absurd contradictions: “don’t wear masks!,” “wear a mask!,” “wear two masks!,”  “masks aren’t required for the vaccinated!,” “masks are required regardless of vaccination!,” “vaccines are dangerous!” “vaccines are safe and effective (and you’ll lose your job if you don’t get it).” Now they’re telling us to get their boosters because their vaccines weren’t effective enough.

Every time they did this, people had a chance to recognize the farce and choose not to conform. Some did. After the “15 days to slow the spread” was up, people started to catch on. A few more did after the mask mandates began, still more when the “surge” and second wave of lockdowns happened. But each time, the number of people escaping the cycle was smaller. Escaping the cycle took courage—and humility—because they had to admit that they’d been duped.

For the others, each time they chose conformity they made it harder to break out at the next opportunity. Each successive decision weakened their will and, therefore, their ability to choose differently. Moreover, they further clouded their minds. Many of us can think of previously ideologically similar friends who are now almost unrecognizable as a result of their submission to the regime.

Every exercise in self-contradiction conditions people for subjugation. Compelling a willing populace to hold beliefs as true today that were false yesterday detaches people’s minds further and further from logic and reality and places them at the feet of their rulers. The more willing people are to give up their own minds for the sake of whatever today’s narrative may be, the better their rulers can mold them for whatever future designs they may have. The ease with which people continue to give in may be a harbinger of things to come. Future leaders with worse intentions than those in power now can take note and succeed in even more nefarious aims.

The principle of our ruling class is power: power over everyone, for whatever reason (or no reason), whenever they please. But what do their subjects believe in? Why do so many of our nation’s once free and independent-minded people simply bow down to this authority and willingly do its bidding?

Is there any point at which these millions of people will realize their rulers are just making it up as they go? Maybe some do realize. Maybe they just don’t care.

Culture of Comfort, Culture of Cowardice

They don’t care because the truth is not their priority. The summum bonum of our emasculated society is comfort—this is why people are deathly afraid of illness, why “stay safe” is our new national motto, why everyone is so conflict-averse, why nobody wants to question the official narrative in public or in private conversation.

Most people don’t admit outright that their priority is comfort. Instead, they redefine goodness to mean comfort. This redefinition of the good convinces them that conformity with what the culture wants of you (i.e., being “nice”) is actually compassionate, when in reality it is only self-serving. It convinces them that putting self-care over self-sacrifice is good, when it is only obscene narcissism. 

This doesn’t only apply to the Left. Generally, leftists who agree with the regime’s agenda are loud; many conservatives who don’t agree hold their silence. But they hold to the same principle: do what’s comfortable for you. The culture encourages loud support for leftist views and silence about conservative ideals. Conservatives can only claim to be a “silent majority”: we may only be a majority in our unspoken beliefs. In practice, too many of us are indistinguishable from the rest of the subjects.

Comfort is the enemy of truth. It means prioritizing yourself over goodness. It means the elevation of the subjective over the objective. This is what makes comfort the perfect gift to our ruling class. If the only thing to which one tethers himself intellectually is himself, then his mind and will are at the mercy of whatever force is most powerful. The subject is the ultimate coward, because no matter what the ruling class says or does, its subject will never choose a hill of resistance to die on, because nothing is worth dying for. Nothing can be more important to this subject than the subject himself. 

Only with courage can one escape from this mindset. Only a courageous society can be a good society. It was no mistake Aristotle placed the virtue of courage first in his Nicomachean Ethics. Courage is the prerequisite to all virtue. Without it, you do not possess the strength to achieve any other virtue. Without courage you won’t convince anyone else to be good.

Our Godly Authorities

Unwavering support for the regime and its narrative fulfills another sort of comfort as well. Having rejected the divine, the subjects need something to fill their godless void. With no belief in a transcendent natural law, people follow worldly authorities as if they were following the dictates of their own conscience. Feeling the need for ultimate authority, and having decided to look nowhere but earthward, people fulfill that need in earthly powers and governments.

This earthly power provides its subjects a religion of comfort. First, it ensures that comfort is everyone’s goal. Success is measured by GDP, unemployment, access to the internet, diversity, popularity, and other measurements of worldly comfort. Of course, these things are not wrong per se, but none of them measure the state of the souls of the citizens. By focusing the narrative on these measurements of success, the regime is able to ignore the deplorable moral and spiritual state of so many people.

After ensuring that society revolves around comfort, the regime takes away the subjects’ means of comfort, blaming it on outside forces or on the subjects themselves (e.g., lockdowns). In return for conformity, it promises redemption, which is nothing more than returning to the comfort one had before, at the price of some liberty or genuine good that people were able to pursue previously. But nobody can truly hope to ever be saved, because one lives in fear and trembling that his salvation will be taken from him. Death is the final damnation for the religion of comfort. This is why every death must be a tragedy for those who follow this religion. In order to divert the subject’s attention away from this inevitable conclusion, the regime treats all death as preventable.  

No End To It

For a while, in response to continued reports of government abuses, many of us optimistically proclaimed, “the American people won’t stand for this!” But those who still believed in distinctive American principles—liberty, natural rights and law, government by consent, and personal responsibility—were outnumbered and overmatched by those who had abandoned those beliefs to serve the regime. In many regions of the country, there simply weren’t enough Americans left who were willing to defend our nation’s core principles.

The result was that a majority of people, themselves willing slaves, forced the rest unwillingly into bondage. The government and elites don’t have to do much at this point. Now the people enforce the elites’ will upon themselves.

Those who choose to serve the regime cannot be forced to be free. They must be led to freedom, unwilling and hesitant as they are. This is not a battle that can be won merely on intellectual grounds. The American people must also learn to have the will—the courage—to convert our ideals into practice. 

This is not a war that can be won only on a large scale, either. Your greatest tweets and funniest memes may serve as a good encouragement for our side, and they may get lots of views and comments, but it’s not going to be the best way to convert others. Regardless, we are quickly getting to a point where your presence on social media will only be allowed if it serves the interests of the regime. We need a better alternative.

That alternative has always existed. Your example to those surrounding you in real life is invaluable. Just like fear, courage can be contagious. Your support of like-minded friends and friendship with those who believe differently can have a much greater effect.

You will not be able to change everyone, but at least you can change yourself. Strengthen your virtue of self-government and be ready to exercise it in the face of a regime that seeks to destroy it.

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About Blaise Ebiner

Blaise Ebiner is an undergraduate student studying political science and humanities at Azusa Pacific University.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images