People versus the State–what then must we do–what then can we?
Louis Quatorze said, L’etat, c’est moi, when asked his opinion about the Political State; the state, it is I, he said. Today, the modern state has no such illusions of absolute singularity, at least not since Mao or Stalin, maybe Pinochet or Pol Pot. That the state could live in one man in Louis’s time is only inconceivable to the grossly historically ignorant, except today, that includes college graduates, who are as tempocentric as any of their contemporaries infected by a pop-culture tapeworm. These facts not exactly aside; today, the credo of state is L’etat c’est l’etat, en-soi, pour-soi. In itself, for itself. Nothing more; no one else.
We are a long, long way from Louis Quatorze and his absolutist monarchy, or so we assume; but our State is no less absolute for the absence of king. Energy does not die, we know from physics. It merely changes form, and the State form that had developed in Louis’s sei-cento has gone from absolutist monarchy to an impersonal, mechanized, computerized oligarchy of bureaus, the latter no less absolute over the lives they manage rather than rule. Power is energy; authority is another kind; influence yet another form. There is always an aesthetics for each of them, an appropriate and suitable form to match, and that’s true even if the aesthetics are governed by the grotesque.
Whatever is best in me as a human being is countermanded by the force and power of the State, represented by any of its agents in authority. Everything that is best by my being individually human is disinvested by the State’s efforts to serve the public and only the public, never the people, distinct from the former in how they exist in relationship to the state. Jefferson said we the people, not we the public. I have before and will again make note of how in Roman Political Science, Publius and Populus were not synonyms.
The State is a non-human entity, many like myself consider it to be inhuman. It has always remained the mortal enemy of everything good in the individual human soul. The state is an institution that bears its weight of force, the power of its immense density, onto people and only people. All density has the power to displace in proportionate measure. The only people the state has a vested interest in are people transformed into a public, whereby they cease to be the people they were, and each becomes a mass man, a mass woman, one of the great over-arching public that will always attempt to displace the person within, the success of which is usually in direct proportion to the degree of resignation on the part of the individual.
However, the State barely trusts its servants in the guise of the Public, that en-masse that serves. It never trusts anyone apart from and not a part of it, this greater impersonal en-masse, at least in numbers, the people. I had a friend who tried to draw corporeal analogies for the State, and thus organic relationships for the Public. As a result, in the Body of the State, the Public had the same function that the bowels do in the human body; we are the intestines of the State when we are the Public, you could say. Waste passes through us.
Whatever the people understand to be best about their humanity the State remains cynical in face of, or only referential to in slogans or platitudes. Intelligence in platitudes alone remain for the State; listen to most people speak about government, listen to your average American, whether he’s Democrat or Republican, whether he considers himself liberal or conservative . . . and in America, I have nothing but the greatest contempt for the later, pity for the former.
The State, ce n’est pas nous, ce ne’est pas moi, jamais. Mais moi, je suis plus gros que l’etat, not because I am a king, the King, but because I am a man, a person as we mean person as one of the people, populus, again, who are never publius, unless transformed by the state into its servants. Yes, I am bigger than the state, as you are larger than it, must always remain larger than it. I am we the people, as you are we the people, and in this enlightened position on democracy, each of us is we the people, and only when this sense of ourselves as demos prevails will freedom actually ring as well as reign.
The People are always other, rarely ever another. They are potential enemies of the State, always. The President of the United States does take an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic: the People are domestic, better domesticated as the public in the mind of any agent of the state, but when not transformed into the Public, the People will always remain suspect.