A herd of timid and industrious animals


Nearly two centuries ago, French historian and political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville described a potential future state that is a strikingly accurate description of our current era:

I would like to imagine with what new traits despotism could be produced in the world. I see an innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, who turn about without repose in order to procure for themselves petty and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. …

Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood; it loves the fact that the citizens enjoy themselves provided that they dream solely of their own enjoyment. It works willingly for their happiness, but it wishes to be the only agent and the sole arbiter of that happiness. It provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in the principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their testaments, divides their inheritances. Can it not relieve them entirely of the trouble of thinking and of the effort associated with living?

In this fashion, every day, it renders the employment of free will less useful and more rare; it confines the action of the will within a smaller space, and bit by bit it steals from each citizen the use of that which is his own. Equality has prepared men for all of these things: it has disposed them to put up with them and often even to regard them as a benefit.

After having taken each individual in this fashion by turns into its powerful hands, and after having kneaded him in accord with its desires, the sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations – complicated, minute, and uniform – through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way past the crowd and emerge into the light of day. It does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own; it does not destroy; it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way, it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally it reduces each nation to nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Latter-day Saints will recognize that theme of subtle softening and bending:

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well – and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none – and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. (2 Ne. 28:21-22)

The danger here, with these quotes, is that they could lead to a hypersensitive “everything the government does is evil and they’re out to get me” mentality. That’s not the intent, nor is it true.

The point is: Allowing local, state and federal governments to slowly but surely “do more” for us (to us?) while regulating and obfuscating us into submission is a sure way to sap the human soul. That is the danger.

Deliberate or not, the constant meddling can drive society, eventually, into apathetic despair.

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  • Shumaces

    Wow!  That is what I was trying to tell someone on the phone the other day, when I was asked about a potential political leader.  I would rather he fight for my freedom than fight for my safety or security.  The guy on the phone did not understand that. 

    You said it exactly.  We are seriously being led to “safety” and dependency and we aren’t even putting up a fight.  At least not a very hard fight.  And while we fight against some obvious freedoms being taken, like freedom of speech or to bear arms, we are more than willing to give up our freedom in other areas in order to Make people be safe. 

    Interestingly enough Latter-Day Saints will agree with a law being unconstitutional until the Seat Belt law is mentioned.  At that point, they are willing to let the law dictate their behavior in the name of safety.  I always find this fascinating, as it might be a good idea and a choice we should make.  But it still should be a free choice and not a mandate by law.

    We can no longer determine for our selves what is safe and what is not.  We must do as we are told by the law.  And we comply willingly, because we believe they are right and we are more safe by having the law.  So we willing give up our freedom to the law which is supposed to keep us safe.  Rather than keep our freedom and choose for ourselves what is right and wrong on this issue or other issues.

    Freedom vs safety.  I vote for Freedom.  And I hope others do as well or we truly will be led into submission of our every thought and deed.

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