Submission to the state is a time-honoured tradition, a concept supported by governing bodies since time immemorial.
In days of yore, men submitted to whichever member of the tribe was the mightiest in battle. By doing so, they stood a better chance of succeeding in battle, thereby diminishing the likelihood of their own death or enslavement.
Later on, as tribes became more tied to the land and communities sprang up, the idea of a strong leader still made sense. Not only might he do the best job of leading the protection of the town or village, he might also travel outside the community to attack other communities, bringing back spoils for all to benefit from. (Not too civilised, maybe, but still, the reasoning behind submission to the leader made sense.)
Later, settlements grew larger and, increasingly, many villages and towns would find themselves joined together collectively, under a national banner, with a single army to protect them. And, again, the leader would most likely be a fierce and formidable warrior. But a significant change was taking place. Whilst the warrior leader was away (sometimes for years), invading other communities, it was necessary to have leadership at home – administrative leadership. Predictably, this leadership also sought the loyalty and submission of the people.
There was a new wrinkle at this juncture as the administrative leadership did not have to prove itself repeatedly in battle to gain submission. It was expected merely due to the fact that the leaders held power over the people.
The expectation of loyalty and submission to a government simply because it is the government is an unnatural and invalid one.
Today, most leaders are primarily political rather than military, and even those who wear a military uniform almost never take part in actual battle, let alone lead the charge. For this reason, the original reason for loyalty and submissionshould be outmoded.
Why, then, does it persist? Well, in fact, it generally persists as long as there is prosperity and a people are prepared to tolerate dominance. However, should prosperity diminish dramatically, obeisance tends to diminish accordingly. At some point, the leaders conclude that they may be losing the submission of the people and need to reinforce it. This is done by one of two methods and, on occasion, both at the same time.
The first is force. An increased police state can create a greater assurance of submission through fear of those in uniform.
The second is inspiration. A condition of warfare often succeeds as a method of inspiring people to give up some of their rights and fall in behind a leader. Although, in the modern world, we never see a national leader actually suiting up for battle, the mere fact that he’s in charge of the fight from a safe distance often works to inspire people to be more submissive to an administrative government.
Following the English Revolution of 1688, we Britons found that our political leaders made the decision for us as to what our relationship should be to our new leaders at the time. They declared to the new joint monarchs, William and Mary, “We do most humbly and faithfully submit ourselves, our heirs and posterities, forever.”
Quite a mouthful. It certainly left no doubt as to the intent of Parliament – that the people of England were never again to question their rulers and, further, that regardless of any possible changes in policies, laws, and edicts by future kings, the people swore submission … permanently.
This did not sit well with all Englishmen – not surprisingly since they hadn’t been asked whether they wished to make such a declaration of submission. In 1774, an Englishman named Thomas Paine (on the advice of his American friend Benjamin Franklin) immigrated to the Pennsylvania colony and began writing pamphlets that dealt directly with the concept of “unquestioned loyalty and submission”, a concept with which he heartedly disagreed. Perhaps he stated it best in his book, The Rights of Man, first published in 1791:
“Submission is wholly a vassalage term, repugnant to the dignity of freedom.”
Mister Paine’s pamphleteering in the late eighteenth century did not actually create the consciousness that brought on the American Revolution, but his phrasings did provide focus for the colonists in stating their grievances against King and Parliament.
Although Mister Paine’s pamphlets served as guidebooks to liberty and his input contributed to the framing of the US Constitution, he’s not remembered today as one of the seven founders of the United States. But one of those who isrecognised today as a founder, Thomas Jefferson, took a very similar view to that of Thomas Paine:
“When the Government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”
Both men believed that it was (and is) essential to assure that any government be reminded continually that it exists to represent the people who pay for its existence. They each echoed a view taken 2,100 years earlier by Aristotle, who commented,
“[G]overnment should govern for the good of the people, not for the good of those in power.”
Although these words were not quoted in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, Aristotle’s principles were well-known to all of the Founding Fathers and were frequently the basis of clauses written in each of the US’s founding documents.
Another quote from Jefferson suggests that it’s entirely predictable that any government is likely to continually work toward increasing its own power over a people. That being the case, from time to time, any government needs to be slapped down and reminded that its task is to serve the people, not to subjugate them:
“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government.”
Here’s a final thought to consider:
The concept of government is that the people grant to a small group of individuals the ability to establish and maintain controls over them. The inherent flaw in such a concept is that any government will invariably and continually expand upon its controls, resulting in the ever-diminishing freedom of those who granted them the power.
In reviewing all of the above, it should be clear that it’s the nature of all governments to seek to increase their power over those that they are sworn to represent. It should also be understood that they will not give up this power willingly. At some point, they become successful enough in establishing submission that the populace must either toss out the people in the government, toss out the governmental system, or take exit from the system. The last of these may be chosen in order to more peacefully regain liberty.
Each of these possible choices requires dramatic change, although the last of these entails less upheaval or danger to the individual.
The alternative to making such a choice, and the one that the great majority of people in any culture, in any era, choose, is to humbly accept submission.