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Stockholm and the Kidnapped Citizenry


Individual men and women don’t need enemies. Many want a challenge with an opponent, someone with whom to compete cooperatively, but not an enemy. Governments, however, do need enemies to get their citizenry to submit to coercion.

Some of us accept that as almost axiomatic, a self-evident fact that’s so blatant we can’t understand why the rest of society doesn’t recognize the obvious. So the question arises: Why are people so willing to put on blinders and wear a yoke?

In her August 29 Washington Times commentary regarding the Transportation Security Administration 10 years after 9/11, Gail A. Jaquish made several interesting references.

One was to F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. Summarizing one of Hayek’s points, Jaquish wrote, “Once a population internalizes that authorities have the power to coerce, few will experience actual coercion because passive submission avoids it. Excessive government control ultimately leads to a psychological change in the people of a nation.”

That sounds much like the change that takes place in persons who exhibit what’s called the Stockholm syndrome. The simplest definition of this syndrome is that it’s a “paradoxical psychological phenomenon” in which hostages begin to identify with and even defend and work for their captors.

Its name comes from behavior exhibited by four employees of a bank in Stockholm, Sweden, who were held captive for six days in 1973. The victims began to so identify with their captors that they saw them as protectors. They became so attached that they actually defended those who held them hostage.

Patty Hearst exhibited similar behavior in 1974. After being kidnapped by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army she helped the SLA rob a bank.

Psychologists say the syndrome explains certain cult membership allegiances, why women remain in abusive relationships, and a host of other coercive and intimidating situations. There is no reason not to think it happens on a national scale. Indeed, the model fits almost too well.

While we are not forced to stay in a given country (relationship), emigrating (leaving) is the exception rather than the rule. Most people are psychologically “stuck” with the government (abusive spouse) in charge. The government defines what the people (abused spouse) can and can’t do in the same manner as captors decide what their victims may do. The government has the guns and it will put people in jail if they disobey.

Then throw in the enemy, be it a bad economy, an enemy attack, immigrants, blacks, Jews, Muslims, Tea Partiers, communists, or anyone or anything that can be used to provoke fear and an artificially manufactured need for security. Government might also declare a voice of reason to be an enemy should that voice speak out against a given government policy. Too many people will identify with the government and give up any and all liberty in order to feel safe and secure, as did the bank employees in Stockholm.

Give in to having naked photos taken or acquiesce to a total stranger copping a cheap feel just so you can board an airplane. Let government-approved political parties decide whom you may vote for in a not-as-free-as-you-think election. Yield to the ruler who tells you what you may or may not ingest while he steals half of your paycheck, makes foreign enemies in your name, and sends your children off to war for the sake of oil or some other political interest.

Jaquish made another reference in her column, one that’s better known to the general public than Hayek. Invoking the world of Star Trek she spoke of the Borg, a hive-minded collective that assimilates both the people and technology of other species. The Borg catch phrase is, “Resistance is futile.”

But resist we must.

Jaquish wrote, “Today, we gradually surrender our freedoms to an insatiable federal government that feeds on our hard-earned dollars to accumulate more power to control our lives while eroding our liberties. If we silently acquiesce to expanding federal government power that diminishes our rights as set forth in the U.S. Constitution, we are complicit in creating a society as oppressive as the one from which our forefathers chose to separate.”

While the Constitution does not give us our rights, her point on surrendering to a continuously expanding government and being complicit in creating an oppressive society is well-taken.

The Borg gain strength by stealing the people, technology, and wealth of other races. Government is Borg-like in that it gains strength by stealing the wealth and liberty of its people, who are more than willing to be assimilated — surrendering their individualism and their rights — under the pretext of protection, all the while pretending they’re free.

The American reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001, will go down in history — along with similar reactions to the sinking of the Lusitania, the stock-market crash of 1929, Pearl Harbor, and the Kennedy assassination — as another instance of the Stockholm syndrome on a grand, national scale.

The good news is that fewer people today are willing to give up their liberties for the sake of safety than there were soon after 9/11. According to a recent USA Today story, 47 percent of people surveyed in 2002 were willing to make the tradeoff. Today, that number is down to 25 percent. That’s still 25 percent too many, but such is human nature.

It’s up to the rest of us to bring about the necessary changes that will put an end to the dissolution of liberty. Resistance is not futile.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.