The Organizational Nexus
PROBABLY THE GREATEST piece of foolishness current in America, after the notion that all the country’s citizens are inherently “equal,” is the belief that they are collectively capable of governing themselves wisely.
Wisdom and will are individual, not collective attributes, yet so steeped have we all become in democratic mythology that we personify the crowd, imagining that it possesses both. We seem to believe, along with the late Chairman Mao, that the ultimate repository of civic virtue is “the masses.”
The populist daydream, indulged in by rightists and leftists alike, is of a long-suffering, commonsensical American citizenry which, if left alone by the gangsters in Washington, could manage to keep the country’s wheels turning, maintain the common defense, and restore domestic tranquility, all through a sort of popular consensus.
The daydreamers of the right see the current enthusiasm for tax-reduction referendums as a manifestation of the people’s ability to spontaneously correct the excesses of government, just as those of the left saw a similar manifestation in Richard Nixon’s plunge from favor and consequent resignation after the Watergate revelations. The people, they think, will tolerate only so much foolishness or wickedness on the part of their leaders before rising up in their righteous wrath and homespun wisdom and setting things right again.
I recently read the unpublished manuscript of a piece of revolutionary fiction written by an aide to a conservative legislator. The story described a spontaneous uprising by America’s citizens’-band radio users. One morning the citizens just decided they’d had enough. Using small arms, their automobiles and trucks, and their CB radios, they took the country away from the politicians and the minority pressure groups.
No organization, no leaders, just a revolution. Once started, it just grew; as the word spread over the CB airwaves, more and more citizens joined in. The Jews were hunted down and dispatched by vigilante groups, while the Blacks, seeing the handwriting on the wall, quickly shed their uppityness and shuffled out of harm’s way.
A pleasant enough daydream, to be sure, and typical of those dreamed up by other right wingers. Three essential elements of all such daydreams are: 1) no fundamental changes are wrought, except settling the hash of the bad guys, because right wingers don’t really want any other fundamental changes; 2) the citizens who settle the bad guys’ hash do it spontaneously and anonymously, because that way no one has to stick his neck out; 3) there is a revolutionary consensus among at least a majority of the citizenry, so that the revolutionaries can maintain their good-guy, will-of-the-people self-image…
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