WikiLeaks: Conformists vs. Individualists - the Divides Among The American Citizenry

08 December 2010

By Jacob G. Hornberger

The WikiLeaks controversy is exposing one of the great divides among the American citizenry: the good, little citizen who has a reverential deference for government power and the independent, critical thinker who isn't scared to expose and oppose government wrongdoing.

Those in the reverential, deferential category are shocked and outraged over WikiLeaks disclosure of U.S. government secrets to the American people and to the people of the world. They want the U.S. government to criminally prosecute the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, for treason, even if he is an Australian citizen. Others want him assassinated. No doubt there are some who would be willing to settle for a lifetime prison term without trial at Gitmo.

Where do these people acquire this reverential and deferential attitude toward the federal government?

The primary source is the state schooling system. The reason that the state in every country demands control over the education of a nation's children is precisely to inculcate this sense of reverence and deference for the government. The idea is that if the state has power over a child for six or seven hours every day, 5 days a week, for 12 years, the state will have ample opportunity to mold and shape the child's mind into one of conformity, obedience, respect for state authority, and unconditional trust in official pronouncements of the state.

As Sheldon Richman explained back in an op-ed entitled "Horrors! Maybe the Schools Are Working Just Fine,"

The modern public school curriculum comes right out of the Prussian system. Gatto says the American educationists imported three major ideas from Prussia. The first was that the purpose of state schooling was not intellectual training but the conditioning of children "to obedience, subordination and collective life." Second, whole ideas were broken into fragmented "subjects," and school days were divided into fixed periods "so that self-motivation to learn would be muted by ceaseless interruptions." Third, the state was posited as the true parent of the children.

Pointing to the importance of state schooling in Germany, Hitler told Germans who were resisting his regime that they were irrelevant given that the state had control over their children's education. Hitler knew that after several years, the adults would be gone and the nation would be left with good, little citizens who deferred to the authority of the state and supported National Socialism.

Even in Nazi Germany, however, where the state carefully molded the mindsets of German children in public schools, there were young people who were able to break free of the indoctrination and the mind-molding. A good example was the students in the White Rose organization, such as Hans and Sophie Scholl, about whom I wrote an article many years ago entitled "The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent."

If you haven't seen the movie "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" I highly recommend it. It is great! A fascinating part of the movie is when the chief judge of Hitler's People's Court, a court created by Hitler to try terrorists, dissidents, traitors, and government critics berated the Scholl siblings. When you see the movie, watch for the similarities between the pro-state mindset of Judge Freisler and that of the statists who are today berating Assange for his lack of respect for government authority.

Of course, here in the United States, there are people who somehow have broken free of the conformist mindset that the state desires in all its citizens. Most of them are libertarians but there are also a few liberals, such as Glenn Greenwald.

There are also young people within the state schooling system who resist the regimentation, the conformity, the group-think, and the reverence for the state that is inculcated within the students. Needless to say, those are the students who are diagnosed as psychologically handicapped and put on such drugs as Ritalin or Adderall, with the intent of softening their minds so that the state can overcome their resistance and make them part of the group.

It is the independent, critical thinkers, not the "My government, my god" crowd that historically has propelled mankind forward, especially in terms of liberty and mental and psychological development. Consider, for example, Henry David Thoreau, one of the greatest individualists of all time, who continues to inspire people of all ages today. Of course, if he were living today, the conformist crowd would undoubtedly be castigating and berating him, just like they're doing to Assange.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.



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