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Nation, Culture,
and Religion

Pillars of Tyranny

By Punkerslut

By Punkerslut
Image: By Punkerslut,
using graphics by DBGthekafu
Released Under the GNU General Public License

Start Date: November 27, 2009
Finish Date: November 27, 2009

"Patriotism, as a feeling of exclusive love for one's own people, and as a doctrine of tile virtue of sacrificing one's tranquillity, one's property, and ever, one's life, in defence of one's own people from slaughter and outrage by their enemies, was the highest idea of the period when each nation considered it feasible and just, for its own advantage, to subject to slaughter and outrage the people of other nations."
          --Leo Tolstoy, 1900
          "Patriotism and Government," Part 3

     People refer to their nation, culture, and religion as a type of identity. When they hear that one nation has triumphed over another in war, or that their culture has surpassed another, they feel that their side has beaten the other side. They feel that their nation or religion has reached some epic, glorious position, that it is superior and dominant. All tyranny requires the great masses of people to be enthusiastic about some ideal, and about one dictator's ability to bring it about. Except for Nation, Culture, and Religion, there is very little that a tyranny can base itself upon.

     The Nation, Culture, and Religion are all attempts to appeal to your identity -- to making you feel like you're part of the society that makes up your environment. It typically happens that nation, culture, and religion are homogeneous ideas. Christian churches do not teach Buddhist or Islamic ideas, just as Taoist temples do not teach Hindu ideas. Those who claim to be patriotic and nationalistic always promote their country against other countries -- they wave their own flag, but burn the flags of other nations. And, finally, it is this way with culture, too. Culture, which constitutes language and work and history, are all things you must understand in order to live. The easiest one to understand is the one you are raised with.

     The ideas of Nation, Culture, and Religion, then, ask you to look at the people immediately around you, and to have a shared identity with them. This type of unity is likewise exploited by some local lord, considering themselves a priest of god, a scholar of culture, or a statesman of the nation. These are just different phrases for the same type of exploiter and slaver. Once an association has been established among a common people, all other ideas are made enemies. Our god allows no other gods, our nation values no other leadership, and our culture is as real as the food that we eat.

     The religion asks you to make allies out of those who believe like you -- and then to be constantly suspicious and hateful of the rest of the globe. The nation asks you to make armies with those immediately around you -- and then declares war on a neighboring country. The culture asks you to value all of the old popular ideas of your peoples' past -- and then to curse all other ideas as heresy. Nation, Culture, and Religion bring some people together, united in their fervor of a common ideal. But it pits them against the entire world.

"History is thought of largely in nationalist terms, and such things as the Inquisition, the tortures of the Star Chamber, the exploits of the English buccaneers (Sir Francis Drake, for instance, who was given to sinking Spanish prisoners alive), the Reign of Terror, the heroes of the Mutiny blowing hundreds of Indians from the guns, or Cromwell's soldiers slashing Irishwomen's faces with razors, become morally neutral or even meritorious when it is felt that they were done in the 'right' cause."
          --George Orwell, 1945
          "Notes on Nationalism"

     Think about those who support the ideal of a country. They ask that you make friends of those who treat your nation as an identity, and to make enemies of those who do not. But it is your governor that drafts you, organizes you into armies and navies, and sends you to die in wars of conquest. It is your parliament or king that violently oppresses your freedom of speech and your right to organize -- that make promises of liberty and withdraws them once it is convenient.

     You are asked to treat these murderers as your friends. And who is the enemy in the opinion of the state? It is the peoples of other nations. But when you pick up their history books, you find unbelievable similarities. They are people, who are coerced and drawn into this sentiment of nationalism, and then it leads them to conquest. They make war against other nations, at a great cost of suffering and misery to the common masses -- but to the extreme wealth and power of the few who call themselves guardians of the ideal of the nation, whether they are politicians or generals.

     The people who suffer, like you, who take orders and obey, who give in because they have no choice -- "these are your enemies!" nationalism tells you. The aches and pains they have from burdensome taxes, the fear and terror they have of a violent police force, and the weariness of their government's overextension into every part of social life. These are all the same, and when it comes to our own personal happiness and suffering, nobody can understand or sympathize as much as others who are in our same position -- all across the globe.

     The people who cause your suffering, the government leaders and media outlets, ask you to make them your friends. To listen to them, to add to their campaign donations, to follow and obey. Those who understand and could know you, who share similar lives like you, are treated as a foe, and those who want to mislead you and exploit you, are treated as a friend. Nationalism divides people -- it makes them into isolated, subjugated groups, easily controlled and dominated by a few powerful in each nation.

Spanish Civil War Poster, Edited by Punkerslut
Image: Spanish Civil War Poster,
Edited by Punkerslut

"We are told in another text that the Devil goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He will have extremely bad taste, however, if he eats up the lean and bony working-classes, while so many fit bishops and stout archdeacons remain unconsumed."
          --Charles Bradlaugh, ~1870's
          "A Few Words About The Devil"

     Culture fundamentally proceeds along the exact same guidelines. It asks you to look to those around you and to make them allies, while vilifying those of other nations. Culture, generally imbued as a tradition, will ask for maintaining the old relationships as a form of strength and unity. It will ask that the few own the majority of land and property, that a minority of geniuses administer and manage an empire of millions. Culture asks that there are always subservient and master, always subject and ruler, always worker and Capitalist.

     Your boss has the same language as you, you were born in the same geographic region, you were brought up with the same customs and values -- your boss is you! This is what culture will try to teach you. Because of these few similarities, you're supposed to forget that most of your labors go to support their idle lifestyle. While you toil for six, eight, or ten hours a day just to live in poor and degraded conditions, they enjoy the highest delights of human society without adding a thing at all. In fact, they take away significantly, by curtailing industry, producing artificial famines, and spreading disease where there is a profit in selling the cure.

     This individual, who rules you for most of the day, who takes most of your energy, who saps at your will, who degrades and dominates you -- your boss is your friend! Exploited and oppressed just like you, the workers of other nations are your enemies! This is the message and the ideal of traditional, Imperialist cultures, whether they are found in Japan or Italy, Russia or North Africa. Even in continents that are praised for their civilized, native cultures, one can find native, Imperialist empires, such as in Mexico or Peru.

     The relationship of property owner and dependent laborer is an ancient tradition. It asks you to make friends of those who cause your suffering -- of those who spread want, and make beggars and thieves. Those who underproduce bread, so that there is greater crime and weaker wages. "Make those your allies, brothers, and sisters!" your culture will tell you.

     And who is the enemy? It is the workers of other nations, who have different languages, different customs, different diets, and different habits. Those who are subjugated, with a boss and a supervisor, just like you. Those who occupy the same position in the order of distribution of wealth -- we make everything, but we receive only part of our labors. Those who can sympathize with you, and those who could be your greatest allies if you organized cooperatively, they are the enemy! Culture teaches you to admit and accept this type of economic domination.

"If you reason instead of repeating what is taught you; if you analyze the law and strip off those cloudy fictions with which it has been draped in order to conceal its real origin, which is the right of the stronger, and its substance, which has ever been the consecration of all the tyrannies handed down to mankind through its long and bloody history; when you have comprehended this, your contempt for the law will be profound indeed. You will understand that to remain the servant of the written law is to place yourself every day in opposition to the law of conscience, and to make a bargain on the wrong side; and, since this struggle cannot go on forever, you will either silence your conscience and become a scoundrel, or you will break with tradition, and you will work with us for the utter destruction of all this injustice, economic, social and political.

"But then you will be a Socialist, you will be a Revolutionist."
          --Peter Kropotkin, 1880
          "An Appeal to the Young," first published in La Revolte

     Finally, religion acts similarly to nation and culture. Your bishop, your priest, your cardinal -- they are your friend. Your rabbi, priestess, imam, spiritualist, temple leader, or master, they are here to serve you and to help you achieve your self-interest. You ought to treat them like a type of family. Religion gives you an identity focused on admiring the masters of your religious organization. It supports the creation of a very few who have an isolated, control over the majority of the people, or the essential foundation of tyranny.

     Your priest will lead you into wars, and will ask you to accept your position in society. They'll promise you the future of a heaven with pure ecstasy for eternity, if you just deal with the subjugation of your one life on earth. All of these pillars of tyranny, the nation, the culture, and the religion, approach you with words about what is good for you. Religion's promise of heaven is the bait it uses to lead its followers, just as the nation promises the security and glory of the people, and just as the culture promises opportunity and prosperity.

     "Submit your liberty to us, and we shall help you in a way that no other can help you..." That is the premise of these authoritarian, social institutions, whether they are founded in universities, newspapers, congresses, public schools, or monarchies. And once liberty has been taken, it is a rather difficult thing to take back. One can easily put chains on themselves, but it takes the training of an escape artist to take them off. For the Social Revolution, that training is in the buildup of autonomous, revolutionary organizations.

     Religion, in misleading and blinding you, asks you to make it your friend; and in turn, to make the people of all other religions your enemies. Those of foreign lands, who are often targeted by culture for exploitation, by nation for oppression, are enemies -- because they believe differently about what no person knows for certain. They are in the same position as you; they cherish their families and love whatever freedoms they're allowed. They're taught to hate other religions, like yours, just as you are taught to hate theirs. Religion, like culture and nation, is a great divisor of humanity.

     The economic tyranny is based on ownership of property, as the political tyranny is based on ownership of people, and the religious tyranny ownership of souls. By giving people an identity associated with those who oppress them, they give in to their subjugation. And when they try to revolt, try to organize society into a cooperative organization, they are always met with those who have an allegiance -- to god, tradition, and country. The greatest threat to freedom is not the dictator, but people that believe their slavery is the only freedom that can exist.

World War Poster, Edited by Punkerslut
Image: World War Poster, Edited by Punkerslut

"However, the clamor for an increased army and navy is not due to any foreign danger. It is owing to the dread of the growing discontent of the masses and of the international spirit among the workers. It is to meet the internal enemy that the Powers of various countries are preparing themselves; an enemy, who, once awakened to consciousness, will prove more dangerous than any foreign invader."
          --Emma Goldman, 1911
          "Patriotism, A Menace to Liberty"


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