There’s a quote attributed to Martin Luther King that President Obama liked to use a lot – “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. It’s an inspiring saying
It’s also a platitude with no historical basis.
Kevin Williamson paraphrased it and made it much more accurate: “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward tyranny and oppression”.
I like to think about that on July 4; of all the people who have ever lived in human societies in the past 20,000 years, the vast majority, before and after July 4 1776 lived under one form of strongman, chieftain, divine-right monarch or capo or another (at least, those who weren’t living in hunter-gatherer tribes – who lived a life that was “nasty, brutish and short” under the even more merciless tyranny of nature).
The idea that humans could live under anything *other* than those circumstances had scarcely occurred before the Declaration of Independence; the idea that human rights were something one was born with, rather than endowed by a benevolent monarch, was vastly more revolutionary and threatening to the status quo than the beat-up little army that faced off against the British was.
And it still is. Most of Europe’s “democracies” *still* believe that rights are granted by the community, not one’s creator. Which means that when (not if) a government goes off the rails, those rights follow suit.
Today we – those of us who are paying attention – celebrate an idea that most Americans can’t possibly comprehend: the very fact that a free society (albeit one overrun with an authoritarian bureaucracy and an arrogant, entitled political class) exists at all, even in deeply imperfect (aka “human”) form, defies not only history, but human nature itself. In the history of humanity, it’s as rare as a blue tulip.
What Nietzsche called the “Will to Power” – the ascendance of those with the desire to be in control not only of themselves but those around them – has driven most of human history. The fact that our society has managed to tame that impulse – or at least channel into a form that doesn’t end with endless wars, beheadings, forced famines and reprisals, is nothing short of miraculous…
…and about as fragile as that blue tulip, if we’re not careful.
Which is why we need to demand more of our media (who’ve become largely impotent, cowardly tools of the establishment in recent years), and government (whose bureaucracy more and more serves its own future), and most of all ourselves; to not let Facebook shut us up, not let the modern day brownshirts disarm us, not let bureaucrats with the Will to Power sap our right to privacy, to demand that people who want to come to America actually believe in what America *means*, not just what it gives.
The moral arc of history is not your friend. The job of bending it back never ends.