This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Where freedom goes to die

Freedom is a catchphrase for Americans. We are the freest nation in the world, etc. The truth of this claim depends a lot on what criteria you use as the measure of freedom. If you mean simply the ability to cast a vote, then I suppose we are free. If you take just about any other standard besides that one, then it becomes a questionable premise.

For example, what about economic freedom? Everyone must take into account his material situation, everyone must work, but the relative freedom of a people, not to mention quality of life in general, can be measured by the degree to which they are (or are not) slaves to economic concerns. We assume that we have it so good, but that is mostly out of historical ignorance. A peasant of the Middle Ages could provision his family for the year with only 150 days labor? Did you know that, thanks to the liturgical calendar and a healthy social life, a peasant in medieval England had four months off every year? Travelers in Spain from the same time period put that figure at five months. In France laborers were guaranteed fifty-two Sundays, ninety rest days, and thirty-eight holidays.

Did you know you pay a larger proportion in taxes than this peasant paid to his lord? And I’m not talking “these darn liberal tax rates.” I’m talking Reagan levels here. You paid more to Reagan than the poor pitiful peasant that you are so much better off than paid in dues.

Oh, and another thing. When those guys you voted for get into some conflict over who-knows-what in who-knows-where, and it is decided that, in order to ‘make the world safe for democracy,’ some people in some other country need to get shot (that is to say, ‘liberated’), guess who has to drop everything and go shoot them? You do.

That is yet another form of servitude that the peasant we are discussing would never stand for, but which you accept as your noble duty. Conscription, or “the draft,” would have gotten kings killed. That’s why pre-modern armies were small, and campaigns short-lived. If the king had personal ambitions that required violence, and he wanted to bring in the peasantry, he paid for it out of his pocket. Guess who pays for the ambitions of America’s leaders? You do.

The whole concept of conscription is a modern thing. It is a kind of servitude that only modern men have somehow been convinced to accept without a fight.

What makes it worse is that here again you’ll hear something about “freedom isn’t free,” or about “what this country was founded on.” But you know better than that by now.

To refer again to Thomas Jefferson:

In this country [conscription] ever was the most unpopular and impracticable thing that could be attempted. Our people, even under the monarchical government, had learnt to consider it as the last of all oppressions.

And during the War of 1812, Daniel Webster had said:

Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or the wickedness of Government may engage it?

The new power of conscription led almost immediately to the rise of “standing armies,” which, like conscription itself, we take for granted. And yet the standing army was considered by them to be a social evil. Montesquieu, who observed the transition with horror, wrote of it as a sickness:

A new disease has broken out in Europe: it has infected our rulers and caused them to maintain armies which are out of all proportion. It has its recurrences and soon becomes contagious; inevitably, because as soon as one State increases the number of its troops, as they are called, the others at once increase theirs, so that the general ruin is all that comes out of it. Every monarch keeps permanently on foot armies which are as large as would be needed if his people were in imminent danger of extermination; and this struggle of all against all is called peace.

And Thomas Jefferson seems to have agreed with his assessment:

There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation and which place them so totally at the mercy of their governors that those governors, whether legislative or executive, should be restrained from keeping such instruments on foot but in well-defined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army.

Over and above all of these remarks about the conditions of our supposed freedom, there is still the mental aspect of the problem. There is an old saying: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” The implication is that it is our knowledge of the truth that sets us free, with also carries the contrary implication that ignorance that enslaves us.

If this is correct, then it follows that a person must “know the truth” before they can exercise freedom authentically. If a person makes a choice without knowledge of the truth, perhaps out of habit or social pressure to “exercise your freedom,” then he is not exercising anything but his own ignorance. He is not free—he is a slave of his own ignorant choices.

Even if he knows what he wants, deep down, it does not follow that he will know how to vote in a way that realizes that desire. An ignorant vote may undermine his desires, and quite often this is precisely what happens.

Therefore, if someone accuses you of “not exercising your freedom,” you can simply respond that voting, for you, is a sacrifice of your freedom, and so you refuse to do it. You can also point out to this person that if voting really were an exercise of freedom, then isn’t it a bit of a contradiction that it requires so many enforcers going around pressuring people to do it? You almost get the impression that voting is compulsory, at least culturally, but “compulsory freedom” is an oxymoron.

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