Monday, April 25, 2011

Are YOU an Authoritarian?

I had an interesting/disturbing conversation with some family members yesterday. It was about the upcoming Canadian election. We got into the topic of Stephen Harper's undemocratic proroguings of Parliament. It wandered a bit, then ended when I, in a shocked voice, asked them, "Do you... want a government that just shoots people?" They must have looked at each other and silently decided that the conversation was over. They changed the subject.

This conversation put into focus for me that Harper is not acting alone in his undemocratic actions. He has the support of people in our country who no longer believe in our constitutional, parliamentary monarchy and would prefer a powerful government with an unaccountable dictator who "gets things done". These folks are what are called authoritarians. Are YOU an authoritarian?

Answer these questions and your score will reveal how authoritarian you are.

1. Do you believe that politicians are all yappy crooks and we should get rid of them?
(a) No.
(b) Yes.
(c) No, only that one politician I like is honest. We should get rid of the others.

2. Do you believe that national leaders should hide information from their citizens?
(a) No.
(b) Only in the interests of National Security.
(c) Yes, if the information contradicts my views.

3. What is a terrorist?
(a) "Terrorist" is only a label. One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.
(b) A terrorist is somebody who uses fear, economic disruption and war to achieve political ends.
(c) A terrorist is somebody who opposes my government.

4. Should terrorists be tortured?
(a) No.
(b) Only in the most dire emergencies and lives can be saved.
(c) Yes, please. Can I help?

5. Criminals. We hate 'em, right? Should they vote?
(a) Yes.
(b) Not while they're in prison.
(c) No. They've forfeited their rights as citizens. Let's force 'em to make combat helmets!

6. What's the best way to keep the crime rate low?
(a) Ensure healthy communities through a strong economy and/or social programs.
(b) Hire more police.
(c) Hire more police, make it easier for them to arrest and convict people, oh and let's make some more laws for people to break.

7. Panhandlers are always asking for money and making you feel bad and, besides, all they do is spend their money on booze. How do we get rid of them?
(a) My annoyance with panhandlers is caused by my own feelings of fear, guilt and inadequacy. Deal with those emotions and panhandlers won't be so trying.
(b) Form public awareness groups to ask people not to give to panhandlers.
(c) Arrest them for loitering. Can't beg for money in the drunk tank, can you, stinky?

8. Our soldiers occasionally commit atrocities. Should we prosecute them?
(a) Yes, in the public court system.
(b) The military courts can handle that stuff on their own. They're not biased at all.
(c) Plunder and rape are historical rights of soldiers. If we want to keep morale high, we sometimes have to look the other way. So no.

9. Media information can be contradictory. What's the best way to make sure you know all the facts?
(a) Listen to and watch all media available to hear all opinions.
(b) I have a news source that is fair and balanced. I only need to pay attention to that one: the other media lie all the time.
(c) Why listen to the media when I can listen to the President/Prime Minister/Il Duce/Der Fuhrer talk?

10. Some criminals just have to be killed for the good of society.
(a) No.
(b) Only after a trial by proper authorities.
(c) Just criminals?

11. Artists, musicians, actors, playwrights, filmmakers and writers should receive funding and tax credits for:
(a) Skillfully produced and engaging art.
(b) Art that does not contradict public policy. Pornography and treason must not be funded by taxpayer money.
(c) Artists ought to do what the government asks them to do if they want funding.

12. Oh oh. It's that pesky asshole, Pastor Fred Phelps and he's not just picketing gay funerals anymore. Oh my God. Is he seriously picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and screaming at the bereaved that their loved one is burning in hell? What's to be done?
(a) If you need to do something, make some noisy public display that drowns out Fred Phelps and shows support for the families.
(b) Fred Phelps ought to be arrested for disturbing the peace.
(c) This way, Fred. Step into the car. Just move that spade out of the way. You'll need it later. So... pray much?

13. A bunch of eggheads at the university are saying that the government shouldn't be holding those protesters without charge. What's the best course of action?
(a) Join the protests.
(b) Stay home. There must be a good reason why the government is doing that. It'll sort itself out.
(c) There's nothing worse than intellectuals trying to tell us what's what. Let's go yell at them for being so mouthy!

14. Gun violence is out of control. The innocent are dying in the crossfire. What's to be done?
(a) Nothing. It's sad, but sometimes innocent people must die upon the altar of freedom. Besides, prohibition pumps money and power into the hands of smugglers, black marketeers and gangs.
(b) Guns must be controlled and licensed. If you want to own a gun, you have to take a safety course. Concealable weapons need more control than long guns. RPGs, flamethrowers and artillery are completely prohibited.
(c) No citizen should be able to own a gun. It's for their own good.

15. Some weirdo scientist is telling you to turn a knob that will electrocute somebody. He's yelling at you to do it. You:
(a) Walk out of the experiment.
(b) Protest, weep and cry but turn the knob anyway.
(c) There must be a good reason for this. He's a scientist, after all. Bzzzt!

You did it! Add your score thusly: For every answer of (b), give yourself one point. For every answer of (c), give yourself two points. Compare to the list below.
(0): I don't believe you got a score this low. Go back and do it again.
(1 to 10): You believe in personal freedom. You see a logical need for order in society but worry about too much government control. You are most likely either a student, a hippie, a libertarian or an educator.
(11 to 20): You have strong authoritarian tendencies. Your belief in democracy is shakey. Cameras and cops make you breathe easy. You would rather be safe than free. You are most likely a person living in a gated community or parent concerned about some kind of moral panic.
(21 to 29): You are an authoritarian. You don't really believe that democracy works and you would feel better if somebody would just "take care of things". You yearn for a powerful leader to tell you to do things and what to believe. You are most likely a strict soldier, survivalist, angry cop, religious housewife, somebody who lives on a compound for some reason, or a brooding revolutionary hunched alone in your basement in front of your computer monitor, writing insane blog posts and waiting for the day you seize power.
(30): Henry VIII, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin.... *sob*... Why did the Lord take them from us so young?

Enough with the semi-joking already. Liberté, égalité, fraternité: remember that? It's not just French bullshit. It's the essential ingredients to a democracy or republic: liberty, equality and brotherhood. Liberty is the important one here. Large numbers of nosy police and soldiers cramp liberty's style. You cannot have freedom and have armed men imposing strict laws at the same time.

Everybody, look deep inside, especially if you vote Conservative or Republican. Are you really a democrat? Do you believe in your republic/parliament? I'm asking you because I fear for your mental health. A sick society is a society that is dishonest with itself. If you can admit to yourself that you don't believe in democracy and you are an authoritarian, you will be happier. Every time you invoke democracy in the name of hurting, jailing and killing people you don't like, it sounds a little more hollow and we all know it.

So go ahead and admit it. You'll feel powerful and maybe afterwards we can have an honest talk about all y'all going off and forming a little dictatorship in Arkansas with Sarah Palin as your despot.