Memorial Day is a remembrance, not merely to those who have fought and died for America, but of individuals; our people, considered one at a time. It is not Cemetery Day, or World War II day. These honored dead fell one at a time to preserve America’s character and its freedoms. Parades yes, and cookouts; but honor to each of ours who fought, whether they died on the field or much later in old age.
The bedrock of America is that it is only a gathering of its individuals, its citizens one by one. To be American is to realize that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
As societies and governments settle in over the centuries, their founding beliefs are lost in the fog of impracticality. Leaders admire what is practical beyond what is theoretical. Handling citizens as units, as objects, is far more easy than handling them as the brittle and free minded individuals whom they are.
Many leaders of authoritarian and free countries come to believe the grim and ghastly thoughts offered by a character in Koestler’s Darkness at Noon:
“There are only two conceptions of human ethics and they are at opposite poles.
One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units.
The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb. The first conception could be called anti-vivisection morality, the second, vivisection morality.
Whoever is burdened with power and responsibility finds out on the first occasion that he has to choose; and he is fatally driven to the second alternative.”
There is much ado about China. In a worthwhile piece posted today in the Guardian entitled “China is taking digital control of its people to chilling lengths,” John Naughton warns:
“If the future is digital, therefore, a significant minority of China’s 1.4 billion citizens are already there. More significantly, the country’s technocratic rulers have sussed that digital technology is not just good for making economic transactions frictionless, but also for implementing sophisticated systems of social control.
In particular, they are adapting the ubiquitous “reputation rating” system by which online platforms try to get feedback on vendor and customer reliability. The government is beginning to roll out its social credit system, which is designed to “raise the awareness of integrity and the level of trustworthiness in Chinese society”. It will focus on four aspects of behaviour: “honesty in government affairs”, “commercial integrity”, “societal integrity” and “judicial credibility”.”
Examples are given:
Why not use the technology to assess how “good” a citizen one is? Everyone starts off with a baseline allowance of, say, 100 points. You can earn bonus points by doing “good deeds” such as separating and recycling rubbish. On the other hand, behaving in what is regarded (by the state) as antisocial behaviour can lose you points. Examples of deductible behaviour can apparently include: not showing up at a restaurant without cancelling your booking, cheating in online games, leaving false product reviews and even jaywalking. And if your social credit score is too low, you find yourself barred from taking flights or travelling on certain trains.”
Please help me understand the difference between the People’s Republic of China controlling their population units, and United Health controlling its provider units, as recently discussed?
I find that the Chinese method of citizen control is more kind and respectful of individuals than our provider “Premium” ratings on UHS’s website. They are both intellectual vivisection, true. But the Chinese version seems more fatherly and less steeped in contempt than UHS’s secret system.
China disguises its manipulation; UHS does not. But they both follow from the tradition that “…the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb.”
When we remember our honored dead on Memorial Day, we should consider, as Lincoln said, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
It is not merely an individual choice, but a duty.