"We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."
The Anatomy of Tyranny
How to recognise tyranny and what we can do about it
In the past, a lawful ruler or government has been one that rules either by succession or by election. A tyrannical government, on the other hand, particularly in the case of a dictator, will generally have come to power using some form of violence to overthrow a previous and legitimate rule. However, a government may also become tyrannical, even after being lawfully installed, because on coming to power it governs contrary to the law and the equity to which it obliged itself at its inauguration. A tyrannical government will oppress by lying, by deliberate dishonesty and outright fraud, often involving corrupt officers of state. It will manufacture false reports of conspiracies and threats against itself and the people as a pretext for its actions in wars and the coercion of its citizens. It will misuse the military, the police and others, to achieve its goals. Corruption to these politicians is a way of life that provides them with the best line of defence. Their end in view is the touchstone of their morality and ethics. Everything is allowed that serves them. Corrupt politicians have around them corrupt officials and administrators of the state, whom the government believes will act in their interest and they rely on them for advice, but in reality these officials have an agenda of their own that is not necessarily the same as that of government. State officials are kept in place with high salaries and endless perks designed to keep them on board and kept quiet.
Tyrannical governments are easily recognised by their fruits. They despise the people over whom they rule, but at the same time they fear them. A tyrannical government hates, suspects, and fears wise, honest and selfless men, whistleblowers and the like, who threaten to expose its malign purposes. They hate transparency as it allows light to be shone into the dark corners of their nefarious activities. They suppress public debate, assemblies and demonstrations, prohibiting them when and wherever they possibly can, even to the extent of using excessive violence and brute force to quash opponents. Rotten governments nourish and feed factions and dissensions among the people to use them to their own advantage; divide and rule. They will ruin one community by assisting another so that all can be the more easily overcome. One religious community will be preferred against another to bring all down at the end. The carcass of a dead enemy smells sweet.
A tyrannical government builds citadels against its own subjects. It disarms them and makes self-defence impossible at the same time making no certain promises of any security in return, be it from criminals, terrorists, or foreign powers. An unarmed, dependent and helpless populace is essential, for once the charade is uncovered, the mask torn off, once the disguise seen for what it really is, the people may surely rise up and tear down them all? There is widespread surveillance, spying on the many to secure the privileges of the few. The tyrant State fund to spies and calumniating informers liberally. Dispersed throughout the cities and provinces of the land these treacherous mobsters bring together data on everyone into one place using every means at their disposal. The strength of the tyrannical government depends on recruiting those to assist them who are fit only for pillaging and spoiling everyone else. They will strip the nation of its wealth and of its ability to survive. Public money exists to further the ends of the ruling tyrants in government, but also hiding in banks and corporations.
Fear is the greatest tyranniser of tyrants themselves, making a prize of their soul, triumphing in their affliction. Tyrannical governments draw around themselves a protective wall to keep the masses at bay. Despite this, the tyrannical ruler can find no escape from his own doubts, his own misgivings, jealousies, perceived threats and a unshakeable mistrust of others that at times verges on paranoia. These things have plagued the world's most notorious dictators and are their constant companion, bringing perpetual unease also to lesser men.
Tyrannical politicians and rulers will leave no stone unturned in attempts to fleece citizens of their substance and expropriate much of that which their labour has brought them and turn it to their own benefit, through taxes, debt or the threat of confiscation. The rich are the benefactors of all men of power. The tyrant-politician would build a nation perpetually in the hands of rentiers and debt collectors, never able to escape, never able to complain about their lot, never able fully to pay their way. Having continual difficulty in earning a living his people will have little leisure, little hope of regaining their liberty, little hope of shedding dependency of one form or another. Rarely able to make meaningful decisions of their own, they must submit to the one wielding the whip hand. Those who strut most, boasting of their liberties, are also those who are most unaware of the heavy chains about their feet.
These crooks, for that is what they are, are happy to see the minds of the masses numbed, their powers blunted by a never-ending consumption of senseless entertainments and pastimes. Or else, they make survival so difficult that making ends meet consumes every moment. They fill the heads of the gullible with empty promises and propaganda parading as knowledge and education. Schools are debauched and, if they are anything, they are little more than brainwashing machines designed to create a future generation in its own image.
A corrupt an oppressive State extorts unjustly what it can from all it can. Gives only aid where it can buy influence and favours. The tyrannical ruler takes what he can from all, in order pay for his own superfluities, line his own pockets, indulge favoured projects and riotous expenses. It is an empire built on the ruins of the public good. It draws blood from the veins of citizens’ means and feeds it to government leeches upon which to gorge themselves. The tyrannical government is lifted to the level of a religion before which all must bow the knee, but it is an artificial, counterfeit, apostate religion and devotion. Its countenance is composed to show appropriate piety in order to terrify the people and deter them from conspiratorial actions. No, it is the golden-headed statue of Babylon with a head of gold and feet of clay, precarious in its stance and ready to fall at a blow.
Tyranny feigns to be affected greatly by the public good. Not for the love of the people, but for fear of loss of office and power, and perhaps even for fears for its own safety. Outwardly the tyrannical State will appear to be what a good ruler should be, covering vices with a blanket of virtue. Yet, no matter how great the effort, the reality shows through in the end. The sly old fox can always be recognised by his mangy tail. In truth, pretending to be paragons of virtue, these governments degrade morality and virtue, turning the country into a cesspit of vile indulgence. What they condemn in others they indulge in themselves and hide with whitewash, denials and cover-ups. They encourage and legalise every possible form of debauchery, calling every bad thing good and every good thing bad.
As a general rule individual persons ought not rise up against tyrannical governments, because they are not established by individuals, but by the whole body of the people. Where there is no contract, where tyrants have imposed themselves, then of course it is permitted for anyone to depose them. How long then shall then the innocent endure the unseemly sight of blood on the hands of guilty men? When governments persist in violent solutions, they identify themselves with tyranny and whatever the law or lawful authority permits against a tyrant must be invoked. A tyrannical government subverts the state, pillages the people, lays stratagems to entrap the lives of citizens and scoffs at the sacred obligations of an oath. If thieves and murderers commit crimes they are declared infamous outlaws and they justly suffer punishment. Can we find any less an end for infamous tyrants?
Historically, in a professedly Christian commonwealth, such as that in England under Cromwell or the early days of New England, the whole people as a body were always greater than the government and are the only prime and supreme governors and ministers of the country. It follows also today that tyrants in government must be liable to punishment. Those who oppose and even take up arms against an evil and tyrannical government, and do so legally, cannot be branded as having committed a notorious crime. But by their action, they must no longer be regarded as private individuals or even as citizens, but as the representative body of the people and of sovereignty itself which demands of its ministers an account of their administration.
The people are obliged to the rulers under a condition, but also the rulers to people unconditionally, pure and simple.
If the rulers fail the people, the people become exempt from obedience to the government and the contract between them is void, the right of obligation has no longer any force. People who publically renounce the unjust dominion of a tyrannical government or seek to disband and expel them by force are not guilty of any crime. It is permitted for officers of the realm to suppress tyrants, not just lawfully but they are under a duty.
The government of the day holds first place in the administration of the state, and its officers the second. The officers of state are also guilty if they connive in government misdeeds, because all discharge their duties under a solemn oath.
Governments are established by the people, but the whole body of the people and officers of state who represent the whole body of the people are their superiors. Covenants, or contracts pass between the people and their government. The people conditionally obey faithfully as long as government rules justly. In serving the commonwealth, all serve him whilst he governs according to the law. Officers of the kingdom are protectors of the covenants. The violations of conditions expose tyranny.
D. William Norris
"Despotism appears to me particularly to be dreaded in democratic ages. I think that I would have loved liberty at all times, but in the present age I am ready to worship it."
Alexis de Tocqueville