Even supporters of a style of government that is highly proactive in terms of interventions into the daily lives of individuals are able to admit that there is no such thing as a perfect government, just as there is no such thing as a perfect human being. The traditional argument for big government (whether from the left or right) is that by allowing the state to become more encompassing in terms of how it regulates and controls daily life, it will have a positive effect on society whilst its inevitable flaws will be largely benign and easy to correct over time. The brutal treatment of Julian Assange now stands as a real life example which largely discredits the theory that benign big government is possible in the western world.
One of the main problems inherent in big government in a specifically western context is that because of the individualistic nature of western cultures, a government that necessarily forces the increased collectivisation of society will automatically display a tendency to express a default position of hostility against common people. In many Asian cultures where collective virtues are an indelible part of historic civilisations, creating modern governance based on a more socially encompassing big government does not automatically trigger unconscious feelings of an adversarial or hostile relationship between people and government.
In this sense, one must rhetorically segregate discussions of big and small government by culture rather than attempt to discuss such concepts though the prism of universalism. Within this context, arguments over whether big government in the west can be benign have inexorably been changed since yesterday’s barbaric arrest of Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
In many ways, Julian Assange represents the quintessential set of virtues and fatalistic characteristics of the classic Faustian westerner. Assange’s desire to expose the truth at all costs is itself emblematic of a psychological state that strives for becoming rather than being. It is a mindset that requires revelation in order to feel validation, something conspicuously absent from most non-western cultures that view life either anecdotally or conceptually, but not in terms of a linear birth to death trajectory. Because Assange used these quintessentially western characteristics for good rather than evil, one can stand Assange up before his judges and say “ecce homo” – behold the man.
This phrase was most infamously uttered by Pontius Pilate before the crucifixion of Christ. Even at that stage, Pilate’s audience sought to witness the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth whilst preferring the powers that be to offer clemency to Barabbas, a common criminal of the lowest order.
Today, one is witnessing the real time passion of Julian Assange, a man who represents benign individualism against the forces of a hostile bloated regime. Like Christ whose moral philosophy was condemned by a legalistic society, Assange is today condemned for much the same reason. Those who reject Assange’s morality whilst embracing legal technicalities totally antithetical to the human condition, find themselves in a similar self-congratulatory position today as those arguing for Christ’s crucifixion were in ancient times.
But what of those who are neither Assange’s antagonists nor his supporters? What do those at the back of the theatre watching this passion play think? Of course there is no unilateral answer but there are general sentiments which are clearly emerging.
Those who in the 20th century accepted a larger role for government in people’s lives under the guise that big government would be a benign force, are now left with no choice but to question how a supposedly benign force has committed a supreme act of wickedness by effectively condemning to all too innocent and all too human Julian Assange to a brutal death sentence. It necessarily follows that one must eventually reach an answer to this substantial question.
For many, the answer will be that of libertarianism – something which explicitly implies a rejection of big government. Whilst libertarian has its shortcomings, its shortcomings are notably a result of what is not done rather than what is done. As such, there is an ontological neutrality in libertarianism’s shortcomings while there are clear material benefits associated with its virtues. In a libertarian society, it would be neither for benign nor wicked government forces to deliver a final judgement against Julian Assange. Instead, all individuals would be able to determine whether his revelations were beneficial or detrimental, but no one’s opinion would result in the infringement of Julian Assange’s personal freedom nor his civic freedoms.
Because of this, in a libertarian society, both those promoting Wikileaks and those promoting literature against Wikileaks could do so without the fear of extreme consequences befalling them or their associates. The unrelenting brutality that big government has exerted against Assange has been enough to convince many who once believed that big government would use its power for benign purposes at least 51% of the time, to now realise that big government in pursuit of vice and wickedness has become the default position in the 21st century western world.
Today’s west is a place in which even apolitical individualism has been transformed by the corporate-political oligarchy into a collective monolith. The things that were once supremely individual traits have now become collectivised into the sectarian phenomenon known as identity politics. In many ways, this represents the ultimate decline of western societies that are embracing that with which they are least equipped to handle – the fusing of the personal with the social and the political.
In an era when even western style individualism is now collectivised by those obsessed with power, the last uncompromising individual is the one who challenges the power structure itself. That man is Julian Assange and in this sense it is highly significant that such a person should receive a disproportionate amount of abuse at the hands of a system that has become a cancer on society.
By rejecting the system (aka big government) and embracing libertarian, perhaps the west can be saved from itself. It turns out that unlike in Asian societies, western culture is incapable of balancing collectivism and harmony among individuals. The passion of Assange is s testament to this reality. As such, a new default position is required. This new and benign default position for society must be one in which central power is reduced in favour of individuals who over time must reacquaint themselves with the live and let live mentality that Assange attempted to teach a wayward ex-civilisation.