OPINION – The boy’s mother was at her wit’s end. Glancing around the crowded restaurant she spied a highway patrolman walking past and motioned him over.
As he approached the table, the mother said to the boy, “Jimmy, you better eat all of your peas, if you want to grow up big and strong like the policeman.”
The trooper smiled down at the wide-eyed youngster, drew himself up to his full height and said, “Jimmy, I’m six foot four and two hundred forty pounds. I hate peas and I’ve never eaten a single one in my entire life.”
The inner tyrant exists in all of us. It’s the self important little dictator that justifies our desire to impose our will on others by any means necessary.
It’s simple to spot this quality in others. Seeing it in oneself is another matter entirely.
One of the biggest indicators that our marching orders are coming from the inner tyrant is when self-righteousness replaces empathy for others. Concepts like the Golden Rule and “live and let live” are discarded. When the only thing that truly matters is getting our way, it’s easy to treat others like objects instead of individuals who matter as much as we do.
As blogger Eric Peters often points out, the inner tyrant is “possessed of superior knowledge in all things. He knows it. His irrationality is his most formidable weapon – because it end-runs reason, logic, principle – and thereby, morality based on natural law. He will force you to do it.”
When something offends us, do we, like Jimmy’s mother, reach for someone in authority to force a solution in our favor? Do we use the law as an excuse to punish others simply because we can?
Writer Karen De Coster tells of an incident in which, traveling alone, she momentarily stepped away from one of her bags at the airport. Though her bag was just a few steps away, a woman approached her and told her that security was looking for her for leaving her bag unattended. As De Coster made her way to the gate to board her flight this woman relentlessly pursued her, determined to alert security.
The airport busybody was energized by the prospect of ruining De Coster’s day for the imagined breach of a bureaucratic rule. Rather than seeking to free us from inane rules or laws, our inner tyrant prefers to force others to obey.
But this is not surprising. It has been understood for generations.
In 1925 H.L. Mencken wrote: “One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually their aim is to penalize heretical opinions. At least 95 Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty.”
Our inner tyrant is not only drunk on an inflated sense of importance but also loves a good contact high from the state’s authority.
The state provides the mechanism of force for those with the irresistible desire to control others. This is why our inner tyrant thrills to hear words like “we” and “the public” or “the common good.” These words represent an appeal to force by which individuals are brought to heel.
Again Eric Peters summarizes the sad truth, “Because there is nothing in this life more indecent than the urge to dominate and control other people. It is the primal sin, if you like, from which all others follow. Every theft, every assault, every murder – including mass murder – derives from the urge to control.”
So how do we topple the inner tyrant?
It begins with the understanding that freedom is an indivisible commodity. If we wish to freely make our own choices and pursue our own happiness, we must allow others to do so as well. This includes those who make peaceful choices with which we disagree.
We may seek to persuade them to different choices, or we may simply choose to avoid them altogether. But, in the absence of a victim, force should never be an option—whether it be our own or borrowed from the state.
Our inner tyrant deserves no more than a speedy trial, conviction, and permanent banishment.
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