When most people think of destructive government wars, images of drone strike wreckage and murdered civilians come to mind.
But while organized, physical violence is a repulsive form of oppression, the state employs a variety of tactics to wage war on its own citizens. They are more subtle than batons and guns but far more effective than violence alone. They seek to conquer not bodies, but minds.
1) Over-Medication and the Drug War – Whether out of rabid greed or calculated malice, the federal government continually approves corporate medications that cloud free thought. Painkillers and anti-depressants leave users zombie-like, causing further depression and often, addiction. Children are routinely over-diagnosed and medicated and are often forced to take anti-psychotics that they testify makes them groggy. Pesticides and chemicals like aspartame also inhibit brain function. The problem of “legal” brain cell killers is compounded by the fundamental philosophy of the Drug War. Aside from the police state the program has fostered, it makes the bold claim that non-violent individuals are not free to choose what they put in their bodies. When the government exercises violence to regulate these choices, it asserts power over not just the body, but the free will and minds of its citizens.
2) The War on Children’s Minds – In addition to over-medicating children, the education system forces a strict regimen intended to foster obedience at the expense of consciousness. Students around the country have been disciplined for everything from wearing yoga pants to sharing food with hungry friends. The reasoning behind it is not to help others, but to instill the power of authority (always in the name of morality and safety). Other violations students are routinely punished for? Using the restroom without permission. Refusing to pledge allegiance to an inanimate object. Sitting outside of an assigned seat. Daring to upset school police officers, whose presence in public schools has exploded and led to multiple instances of violence. This furthers a mentality of conformity and compliance that intersects with the inherently uniform nature of lesson plans and standardized testing.
3) The Rise of Islamophobia – Without public support for war, the meddling hands of government are tied. One of the ways to placate opposition to military intervention, however, is to dehumanize those the government will inevitably kill. Doing that requires collectivization, which the United States government has successfully promoted. Thanks to constant fear-mongering by politicians and the media, massive portions of Americans are terrified of and hateful toward Muslims. In Texas earlier this year, protesters aggressively surrounded a peaceful gathering of Muslim-Americans who tried to share intentions of peace and solidarity with other citizens. Americans walked out of American Sniper (a film undoubtedly guided by the Pentagon) calling for the murder of all Muslims. The dehumanization of an entire demographic of people is a terrifying tool used by the elites to manipulate public opinion (it was used by the United States government against Germans and the Japanese, and of course, by other states craving war).
4) The Radicalization of Peace and Protest – The government has made a habit of designating otherwise peaceful actions as terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security has taken a particularly active role in this process. DHS gave money to the NYPD with the intention of policing protests with machine guns (the plan failed) and implementing “counter-terrorism” policies. DHS has helped militarize the police forces that surround peaceful demonstrations around the country. Missoula, Montana police, who wanted to tear down a commune of hippies who call for peace and love, asked the DHS for funds. They were deemed “extremists.” “Anti-government extremists” have also been labeled a terrorist threat, demonstrating that anyone who offers opposition to state policy is “dangerous.” Even a boy who brought a Lord of the Rings ring to school and acted out a scene from the film was reprimanded for terrorist tendencies. When innocent and often admirable actions and views are considered a threat to the state, it is clear that that state is out to suppress dissent and independent thought.
5) Universal Surveillance – The government has long been eager to capitalize on technology to garner control. Take the FBI’s powerful new facial recognition system or the DEA’s nifty tools that spy on drivers in their cars. The president recently issued an executive order to continue government spying. A recent Pew study found that over ⅓ of Americans have taken steps to shield themselves from spying. Many Americans are using social media less often and avoiding using certain words and forms of communication. 57% polled said it is unacceptable for the government to monitor Americans’ data. The study has been criticized, but regardless, denotes a disturbing climate for privacy (the criticism suggests people are even more disturbed by the spying programs than reported). The government’s overzealous, watchful eye has created an environment where people are not free to be themselves or freely engage in their interests.
Though these methods of oppression seem less threatening than typical government violence, taken together they paint a disturbing portrait of disappearing freedoms. When minds are clouded with drugs, authority, hate and fear, a dangerous vacuum of government control and manipulation forms, it allows the government to wield physical violence with much more ease and apathy. It is imperative that those who are aware of these tactics remain observant, fearless, and free to draw attention to them.
As Albert Camus said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”