The Death of Freedom

Not good. Not good at all.

Kasparov and his allies mustered, by their own reckoning, about 2,000 people — far fewer than the 30,000 people who patronize the McDonald’s restaurant at Pushkin Square on an average day.

But some protesters said they were not discouraged by the small turnout or intimidated by the overwhelming force marshaled to block the rally.

Andrei Illarionov, a former Putin economic adviser who has become a Kremlin critic, pointed out that in 1968 only six people appeared in Red Square to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

One thing Kasparov has been saying is that Putin only cares about the money he is making. I don’t know if Kasparov would go as far as blaming the Russian people, then, for the mess that is Russia.

My suspicion is that what really kills freedom is majoritarian tyranny. A tyrant can divide and conquer through the use of fear. But he must rely on a few people to help him out in doing this, and the few are always subordinate to the many.

The many are so powerful that the climate of opinion can be a formidable obstacle merely through their passivity. I think we have to say that the passivity of a people in the face of tyranny constitutes complicity in the injustices perpetuated.

Now one question could be whether the pack of lies being sold to the people constitutes a defense of their character. Given that quite a few of us spend a lot of time searching for the truth at great expense to ourselves, I don’t know that this defense holds up. Then again, one could say that people who have pride in their country and don’t want to be impertinent should be free not to ask serious questions, and should not be accountable for the thought not even occurring to them.

Thing is, though, people can know when they’re being lied to on this big a scale. The news has to lie about the significance of the protest by mentioning it, it can’t just ignore what happened entirely :

TV newscasts on Saturday reported the protests, but gave as much or more time to a pro-Kremlin youth rally held near Moscow State University.

The question ultimately is whether the Russian people want justice for all or want to live in fear. It looks like Communism gave them the mores for the latter. I’m sure many could make points about the US in comparison as an argument – “your executive is weaker than ours” (true, but for all the wrong reasons), “your protests are not grounded in fact and not dispatched as quickly” (true, notice how very popular websites feed off of conspiracy theory), “you identify an enemy in Islamic terror and then back down, unlike us in Chechnya” (not an argument I care for, given that we want Iraq to be a stable, independent country free to practice Islam, not just a puppet of ours), etc.

We won the Cold War, and forgot to teach the most essential lesson regarding democracy, the one in our Pledge of Allegiance, for Christ’s sake – the one about “liberty and justice for all.” Until that lesson is learned, there will be a few very brave people getting beaten for a country that might never care.

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