Social Justice or Freedom of Expression?
In a truly free society, a person is able to disagree with popular opinion without the threat of government intervention, or legal consequence!
In Nazi Germany during World War Two, there was a man named August Landmesser. He was not a general of an army, he was not a politician, or a journalist, yet he is an iconic figure of resistance to the Nazi regime!
His story is one of love and family that quickly turned to sadness at the hands of the laws enacted by the Nazi government. Laws that forced people to live in a way sanctioned by the government, laws that ended up having his wife killed at the so-called Bernburg Euthanasia Centre along with 14,000 others; their only crime was being the wrong ethnicity, being born on the wrong side of oppressive laws.
August was punished for loving a Jewish woman, for “dishonoring the race”, and, in the end, for standing against tyrannical laws he suffered incredible personal loss. His story is one of the breaking apart of his family, the removal of his children by the state, the killing of his wife by his (and her) own government, his own imprisonment and eventually his death as a draftee in a penal infantry unit in the concluding days of the war.
Who was August Landmesser? He was the lone man refusing to do the “Sieg Heil” salute at the launching of the Horst Wessel in Nazi Germany, 1936, see in the picture above.
This man suffered at the hands of authoritarian ideologues, due to their corrupt laws. He stood against the groupthink of his day, against what everyone else seemed to agree or sympathize with. He had the courage to back up his belief, and, in doing so, was not a silent accomplice of the genocide that would occur. I don’t know how I can say it more directly other than to say: just because an idea is popular, just because the masses go along with it, does not mean that it is right or true especially when said idea is authoritarian in nature and will strip certain people of their rights.
We have all heard of Adolf Hitler; in fact, we’ve heard of many of the important figures of the World War Two era; men like Churchill, Montgomery, and Eisenhower. Have you ever heard of August Landmesser? He is a hero in his own right, and an example of standing for one’s values, standing for what is right, even if the whole world is against you.
Today, we have groups reaching for similar powers that the Nazi Party enjoyed. The power to enforce one’s particular ideology on the mainstream of society. Starting with the creation victimized groups, and then using those groups and identity politics in general as reason to remove the rights of everyday citizens and force an ideology of obedience and subservience to government. In Nazi Germany, it was the Germans who were “victims” of the evil Jews, according to the Nazi regime, it was the Jews and immigrants who were the cause of all the problems in what would otherwise be the perfect Aryan Utopia! The targeted people may have changed, but for a student of history, the tactics are glaringly obvious.
I am not advocating against the rights of certain minority groups here; everyone (regardless of their identity group) deserves the same human rights and protections. What I am advocating against is the use of one’s “identity” or “victim status” to propel one’s self into a position of power by forcing, by threat of violence, monetary penalty or imprisonment, what one feels as his or her rights on others. In other words, forcing you to accept my views and use the language that I have crafted for you to use when addressing me, and if you refuse, citing your right to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, I will bring the full force of the law to bear on you and you will face serious consequences. One of the core concepts of libertarian thought and philosophy is that everyone should have the right to live his or her life however they may choose, as long as that freedom does not limit or impose on the freedom of another. When you start to impose on others, by force of law which is by nature force of violence, that is where you cross the line from fighting for your rights and freedom into the realm of authoritarianism and tyranny.
John Locke wrote in his Second Treatise of Government that:
A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.
This is the ideal, and if we look honestly at our own desires it is something that almost all of us would agree to. The belief that no one should be forcibly prevented in acting in any way he or she chooses, as long as those actions are not invasive of the free acts of others.
I’ll end here with a quote from the famous Writer and Historian and Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
Human rights’ are a fine thing, but how can we make ourselves sure that our rights do not expand at the expense of the rights of others. A society with unlimited rights is incapable of standing to adversity. If we do not wish to be ruled by a coercive authority, then each of us must rein himself in…A stable society is achieved not by balancing opposing forces but by conscious self-limitation: by the principle that we are always duty-bound to defer to the sense of moral justice.
(Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Rebuilding Russia: Reflections and Tentative Proposals)