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12/12/2005 Archived Entry: "How a resistance movement grows"

HOW A RESISTANCE MOVEMENT GROWS. I was thinking about yesterday's blog entry -- about the latest "advance" in the federal government's desire to control who is -- and isn't -- allowed to work in the United States.

It occurred to me that this has implications far, far, far beyond any that small-minded men like James Sensenbrenner can imagine.

These police-state power grabs are always sold on the basis of "getting" some unpopular segment of the population -- immigrants in this case, terrorists in others; the villains change from time to time.

But the Senselessbrenners of the world also know that they're also going to drag in a few free-market workers and tax resisters with their SSN sweeps. That's just a bonus.

But for every little Ghost they scoop into jail or force back into the system, they create hundreds -- hundreds! -- of new enemies.

Think about the progression.

Little, patriotic, completely non-political Joe Blow applies for a job and -- due solely to a glitch in the Social Security database -- he can't get work to support his family. Can't get welfare or unemployment, either, since all are tied to that non-scanning SSN.

At first he says, "Well, gosh, I support this SSN-checking system because I understand that it's for [cry of eagles] Homeland Security. Or it's to keep those [unstated: dirty, stupid, criminal] illegal immigrants out. So I guess I can put up with a little inconvenience."

Some people will even still think like that after the "little inconvenience" has stretched out for months of bureaucratic hell. Or after it happens with two or three or four job applications. But not many will be so blindly accepting. And ultimately, these glitches are going to victimize millions of people.

The next level of ... well, you can't quite call it resistance, yet; but agitation ... has two parts.

"I wholeheartedly support SSN checking, but they need to reform the system!"


"This SSN-checking system is horrible! Outrageous! Unjust! I demand Redress of Grievances! I demand that the system be repealed!!!! But ... oh, those tax resisters in prison? Those religious nuts who don't have SSNs ... those people in jail for smoking marijuana or refusing to cooperate with warrantless searches? Well, they all just brought their troubles on themselves. And they deserve what they get. Anyhow, they're not suffering anywhere NEAR as much as I am. And I think the government should fight harder in the War on __. But I'm SUFFERING and the entire world must come to a halt to fight MY cause."

(Sorry; I hear from way too many of the latter sorts already.)

Those two categories of objector are easy to placate with entirely cosmetic laws that don't address the real problem, but that sound great to those who don't think about consequences.

The next level of resistance -- and this level will be heavily populated, yet almost invisible, since these are the true Ghosts -- will be those with somewhat shaky SSNs (maybe it's no more than a name change they haven't registered with the SSA; or they've been using their brother's SSN because they long ago lost their own) who already have regular jobs but fear that the inevitable SSN check, two or three years in the future, will expose them. Or it consists of relatives and friends of those who've been denied jobs because their SS cards didn't scan.

Members of this level might come from many places. But they all have one thing in common. Suddenly they're realizing the picture is much bigger than they knew. Suddenly they notice how many of the very most basic aspects of life the government is trying to track and control. Government isn't screwing with the luxuries of life; it's not attacking our TV sets or our "right" to enjoy team sports. No, it's attacking our right to earn a living in the free market, travel, perform financial transactions, go to a doctor, buy or sell a home -- in short, our right to live.

Government is attacking the very basic functions of an individual life, and as things get worse, millions of people will gradually understand this. They'll be outraged. They'll be aware. But they won't know what to do.

Then a few bold, yet still isolated, agitators arise -- the Dudley Hiibel's, Deborah Davises, and John Gilmores of this future battle. Many of us will regard them as heroes, though the mainstream still won't be aware of -- or care about them. Others will regard them as nuts. Or as well-intentioned people, but people who "really ought to cooperate with police instead of making such scenes." They'll lose their court cases. But not their supporters or their determination.

And more people will get caught in bureaucratic snafus, unable to get a job for a week ... or a month ... or a year. But now they'll know they're not alone.

Meanwhile, back in that Putridity on the Potomac ... Increasingly, politicians at high levels will realize that job-denials are a powerful tool to punish dissenters and dissidents. Ooooh, personal enemies, too. What fun! And suddenly, more and more highly visible, controversial people will find themselves among the "non-scannables." That left-wing actress will have a little embarrassment when she shows up on the set of her next film and her SSN is reported as fraudulent. That right-wing professor will get fired on the excuse that his number doesn't scan. That anti-war leader won't get hired to give lectures. That candidate from the other party will have some explaining to do to voters about why his SSN makes him look like an "illegal immigrant."

And meanwhile, the rage will boil.

Reform candidates will sweep into office on a wave of grand promises. But either they'll be ineffective against the intrenched bureaucracies and enforcement agencies or, within a month, they'll commence voting for everything they claimed to oppose. They'll assure their constitutents that really, really truly they still support putting limits on government but, "You just don't understand how things are done in Washington."

Soon, a substantial majority (and not just today's substantial minority) will realize that elections have become nothing but a cruel joke.

Then -- related or unrelated -- the economy, or some part of it, will go straight into ... Dick Cheney's lower intestine.

And then the outrage will be palpable. And it will have no "safe" outlet. And senators and representatives will be squirrelling away cash offshore and planning to run for the border as they make soothing, "Nice doggie" noises toward the populace.

Then leaders will arise -- and go where the masses are already leading them. They'll stand in front of the crowd. And they'll be our spokespersons and our heroes. Or they'll stay behind the scenes, plotting the downfall of the current regime and its foul works.

No, not just the downfall of the foolish SSN checking system, any more. The anger and awareness has gone beyone that. While a majority of the population still thinks with its gonads or its stomach or anything but its brain, even those folks are discontent. They know something's wrong, and they'll drift whichever way the political currents take them. The next level of the populace is informed and angry. And the levels on up are informed, angry, and ready to catch opportunities as the system falls.

And the system will fall. Or at least will come out the other side of this catastrophe in some different form than at present. I have no idea whether a national resistance movement will be non-violent or whether the people will impose what Walter Williams eloquently called "Romanian term limits" on the police-statists.

It might take several rises and falls of resistance leaders, several ebbs and floods in the degree of public anger and boldness. But over time, one stream of anger will join with another ... and another ... and another ... and another. And even if government manages to divert one flow at one spot, a wall of citizen rage crashes down on them from another. Even if the government manages to suppress one group of activists or leaders, sending the movement scurrying into quiescense, the current rises again.

And eventually, the people who build the control systems fall. Some of them very, very hard.


Alas, I don't necessarily think that'll be an improvement. I expect we have about a 49 percent chance of following a person who's an effective resistance leader but ineffectual in the aftermath and a 49 percent chance of latching on to a military-type hero who'd be strong and just as bad a beast as the ones we deposed. (Of course, his imposition of martial law would be strictly "temporary," for the duration of the emergency.)

I give us a 1 percent chance of coming out on the other side of a successful resistance with our freedom in shiningly good shape.

But ... I give the Sensenbrenners, Feinsteins, Schumers, and Bushes of the world far less chance of coming out of it with their careers and their futures secure. We may do nothing more than throw out one set of bums and throw in a different set of bums. But we will have destroyed those who so blandly, in the name of "freedom," and with our own blind or downright craven cooperation, sought to rule us.

Posted by Claire @ 08:14 AM CST

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