The local gym I use, Anytime Fitness, has an angry sign on an art tripod as we enter –
ALL MEMBERS MUST WEAR MASK COVERING FACE AND NOSE AT ALL TIMES. JEFFCO COUNTY HEALTH HAS THREATENED TO SHUT US DOWN! ANY MEMBER NOT COMPLYING WILL BE SUSPENDED FOR A PERIOD OF TWO WEEKS.”
The level of compliance is as it was before, about 50/50. For myself, since I was indeed suspended for one week, I opted for a fake mask, one with slits cut that allow me to breath. No one notices, and if they do, the mask says on it in large letters SHEEP, which acts as a distraction. Put off by that word, they do not notice the opening.
Masks, while not exactly “pointless,” as we know, are a form of ritual humiliation. They have nothing to do with health, and since we cannot spread a virus that does not even exist, are high comedy. But people comply. Étienne de La Boétie, writing in the 16th century, made an observation then that …
The fundamental political question is why do people obey a government. The answer is that they tend to enslave themselves, to let themselves be governed by tyrants. Freedom from servitude comes not from violent action, but from the refusal to serve. Tyrants fall when the people withdraw their support.
Liberty is the natural condition of the people. Servitude, however, is fostered when people are raised in subjection. People are trained to adore rulers. All freedom is forgotten by many but there are always some who will never submit.
If things are to change, one must realize the extent to which the foundation of tyranny lies in the vast networks of corrupted people with an interest in maintaining tyranny.
Things have not changed. I remember in college a brief conversation I had with a history professor, one I am not particularly proud of, but which reflected my attitude then. It was about Negro slaves in the American South, and my question to him was “Why did they not revolt?” The prof didn’t roll his eyes, but did look up and to the left and made a face, which indicated that there was some weakness in the black races that prevented them from rising up.
Now I realize that the slave system was so effective that none of us could have risen against it. Any individual slave that resisted or rebelled was made an example of, violence the norm. Escapees were hunted down like dogs, even in the North. Families were torn apart, and reading and writing were forbidden. If by chance one did learn such skills, it needed be kept private. Meetings of any kind would certainly draw suspicion. Not only that, but I imagine, since we have them in all races, there were SNITCHES.
The Jefferson County Health Department does not have the capacity to enforce its regulations on distancing and masks. That department is only a few people, maybe fifty (?), whereas Jefferson County has almost 600,000 people and thousands of businesses. But Dave, the man who manages the Anytime Fitness facility (he is not the owner), is genuinely intimidated. Why?
SNITCHES. People from the gym, scared and angry (and once upon a time, hall monitors in school), call the health department and complain. Otherwise that little outpost in the tiny town of Conifer would not be threatened.
So there it is … we are not enslaving ourselves, but we are being enslaved by the lowest form of human … SNITCHES. I do not think the word existed in La Boétie’s time, but surely there is an elegant French phrase that captures their foul and unsavory behaviors. If you know it, please share.