Citizenship 101

It’s easy to become distracted or confused by the seeming variety of forces arrayed against liberty, opportunity, and justice: Corporate thieving, dynastic wealth accumulation, fanatic religion, empire, corruption, short-sightedness, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, etc. etc. But the problem is not as complicated as it appears, because the solution to all of the above is the same.

First, despite the various self-important titles and meaningless distinctions that oppressors heap on themselves to pretend they’re something other than predators and parasites, there are really only five categories that matter:

1. The Fascist

Romanticizes violence. Emphasizes purity of race and culture. Articulates trivial or arbitrary distinctions among people as absolute reflections of their character. Obsessed with symbols, but capable of mobilizing practical minds toward destructive ends through passion and mythology. Debases all morality into a zero-sum struggle of will and power. More interested in destroying what frustrates, complicates, or discredits its vision than in building new things. The pathological case of the aesthetic mind.

2. The Emperor

Military dictator. Considers unquestioned order, discipline, obedience to authority, and personal loyalty the paramount virtues. Meritocratic to the extent that others serve him, but views every other human pursuit but those concerned with power to be weak or irrelevant. Some overlap with Fascism, but not particularly concerned with race, culture, or purity except of the values identified. Acquiring new territory, new captive populations, and eradicating rebellion are its primary concerns. Can feed temporary social dynamics, but usually just impoverishes people to feed his wars and makes them wish for more stable governance.

3. The King

Arrogant inheritor of wealth and power he played no role in creating, but is convinced his possession of it proves him worthier than other people. Born on a mountaintop and thus convinced he is miles tall. Ultimate expression of conservatism – one born with everything and wishing to keep it that way regardless of the cost to justice, country, and world. Considers his own unearned privileges to be rights, and the rights of others to be gifts he graciously permits them to have. Usually incompetent, but may be surrounded by opportunistic ministers who are capable of great evil to maintain their position – evil the monarch unfailingly supports in service to his ego and prerogatives. May be amenable to the Fascist if the monarchial order is respected, and may accept subservience to the Emperor if the alternative is to be dethroned. Distant descendent of dynastic founders who were themselves other, more active forms of tyrant.

4. The Priest

Practitioner of mysticism, obfuscation, and messianic passion whose every wish and opinion has the unquestionable imprimatur of God. Appeals to the ancient superstitions and legal minutiae of societies that have been dead for centuries or millennia to justify barbaric acts of cruelty, oppression, murder, and wanton destruction. Purveyor of thought-terminating cliches and paranoid fairytale fantasies when he cannot silence questions with the sword.

Identifies morality with unconsciousness, and conscious, deliberative thought and moral decision-making with blasphemy. Atavistic. Ignorant or supportive of ignorance. A liar without shame. A hypocrite without remorse. Usually a coward who relies on more visceral men to carry out his crimes, and a bully who finds infinite pleasure in domination of the weak-minded. Even when the claim is not made explicitly, all such people ultimately have only one core belief – “I am God.” Tends to support the privileges of Kings, endorse the “purifying” murders of Fascists, and place the seal of divine will on the conquests of Emperors – at least those who subscribe to the faith and thus mutually support the conceits of the Priest. Applies equally well to some atheistic ideologies like Marxism or Maoism, though they appear to have been a historical aberration.

5. The Gangster

Opportunistic predator/parasite. No overriding ideological or aesthetic agenda. Selfish degenerate. Sociopath. Nihilistic. Willing to make others pay any price for their own personal material gain. Incapable of positive creation. Lazy in constructive work, but eager in finding ways to screw over other people. Applies to racketeers, ordinary criminals, and corporatists equally well. Can and usually does corrupt anything. Finances Fascists, Emperors, and Priests when convenient; ignores and undermines them when not; corrupts and occasionally violently overthrows democracy in order to capitalize on the chaos. An animal in human form. Imposes illegal and unproductive hidden taxes on economies and rules over communities without authority or consent of the governed. Indistinguishable from feudalists and barbarian raiders. Distant descendents of the most successful Gangsters may be Kings.

And there’s only one type of person who can defeat these tyrants and their dynamic, interlocking machinations: The Citizen:

They who see the highest nobility in mutually productive cooperation, individual liberty, universal opportunity, and equality. Who begin to solve the problems of their nations by refusing to be part of those problems. Who make common cause not only with their neighbors, not only with people who look and act like them, not only with their countrymen, but with all humanity. They who go to war only because war is forced on them by a truly implacable enemy, not to steal the wealth or subjugate the peoples of other nations, impose their ideologies on others, or because murder and mayhem inflicted on a distant people are more politically convenient than addressing much harder issues. They with a healthy skepticism of government leavened by a just contempt for those who seek to weaken it simply to increase their own private, lawless tyranny over others. They who do not fear cooperation as a threat to an individuality that could not exist without the protections of civil society.

The Citizen is the bulwark against all forms of tyranny, and all the social, economic, and political diseases upon which tyrannies depend to be born and rule. A Citizen faced with racial bigotry doesn’t run to the reactionary embrace of identity politics to protect themselves with prejudice in the other direction – they reach out, and deny the very legitimacy of those who promote the racist paradigm. A Citizen subjected to poverty does not look for scapegoats among those even more beaten down, or prey on their neighbors to temporarily escape a situation they’ve only made worse – they make common cause, hold each other up, and from the strength of their solidarity demand political change from a position of plain moral authority.

Citizens are never the majority of a people, anywhere, ever. But they don’t have to be. They are not required to be the Atlas of deluded Randian ideology. All that is needed of them is that their actions reflect their innate understanding of what is right, and the humble courage to boldly confront situations where that is not entirely clear. Honesty, courage, and the ability to put one’s self in another’s shoes – nothing else is necessary. Sketch out the broadest qualities of a decent, productive person and then design your actions accordingly, and voila – you are a pillar of civilization. It’s not always easy to be a Citizen rather than allow yourself to be subsumed in the mob or your own base instincts, but it’s a lot easier once you make a habit of it.

Once that’s the case, you’ll be continually amazed at how easily those who aren’t as well-practiced in citizenship are deceived into obedience, apathy, and irrelevance by the cheap trickery of those who would control them. It may horrify you, it may temporarily demoralize you to realize how vulnerable society is, but the fact that you are there, thinking clearly, and showing others the way is ultimately a victory regardless of how many around you are cowed into submission, confused into incoherence, or pacified with trivia. It was never any different, at any time in history: Begin with telling the truth to yourself, and you will have a fulcrum to move the world.

Editor's note: This story originally published at Images: All the image come from  infringer1's flickr photostream (no real name provided) and used under creative commons license.


"Republicans would rather live in shit than be seen working a shovel."
Troubadour is a regular diarist at and his reposts here are allowed under their sharing policy.