I loved Peter O’Toole.
One of my favorite movies, though I don’t really reference it enough, is My Favorite Year. Peter O’Toole played a famous Errol Flynn type movie character who is forced to do a live TV performance and is absolutely terrified of the prospect. I also like the The Year of Living Dangerously, but that was about Sukarno, Indonesia and starred Mel Gibson before he became, well… Mel Gibson, and it has really nothing to do with Peter O’Toole.
One of Peter O’Toole’s last movies was The Last Emperor, and there is nothing even remotely funny about that one. The Last Emperor is centered around the fall of the Chinese Emperor after Mao Tse Tung decided to turn mainland China into a prison camp. One of the most striking parts of the movie is about, well… a prison camp. The now deposed Emperor of China is put into a “re-education” camp for reasons that could only be described as punitive. One of the more dehumanizing scenes involves his camp “educator” admonishing the Emperor to urinate into the side of the toilet at night so as to avoid the sound of his urine hitting the water. Other prisoners, he is told, are complaining about the loud noise disrupting their sleep.
This is the dehumanizing power of political prisons. They are not relegated to China, to be sure. The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn was the definitive exposé of man’s inhumanity to man when the “man” finds himself even tangentially in opposition to the State.
The State hates competition, and it is also profoundly insecure. The idea that someone outside the State has contrarian thoughts, or worse, “superior” thoughts, represents an existential threat and must be stamped out at all cost. Hence the need for re-educaton camps.
Not all re-education needs to be in-residence programs. Sometimes just a little seminar is more than adequate to remind the barbarians who is in charge, and that their betters know more than they do. Anyone who has ever undertaken mandatory HR-sponsored training is well aware of this.
We see these things and we recoil in horror, at least we should. The idea that Mandarines in the high tower have keys to secret knowledge that drive our society has been something we have consistently rejected. Our country’s animating document, the Declaration of Independence, is fundamentally rooted in a belief system that the individual is the center of power, and that individuals are uniquely suited to arrange their lives in a manner best suited for themselves. The purpose of government is not to create a utopian society; the purpose of government is to protect individual liberty. Collectivism is, by definition, an affront to that philosophical belief system.
The idea of re-education, a forced feeding of political indoctrination, presupposes a number of things. First and foremost, it stands for the proposition that the government knows better than you. You might be “saved”, but only by going through a state-sponsored course where you will be shown the error of your ways.
Many are aghast when they see the portrayal of the camps in China, or the former Soviet Union, and then breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t have the same thing here.
But we do.
It is disgusting, demoralizing, and just as inhumane. It also tears at the fabric of what empowered our experiment in popular government, and taken to its logical conclusion, leads to totalitarianism.
Awhile back we had a client who was arrested for being in possession of a firearm without having a CCW.
In the past (prior to NYSRPA v Bruen), we would make a motion for diversion and the client would go through either a firearms law class or a gun safety class, and then the case would be dismissed. In a post-Bruen environment, some defense counsel with similar cases have filed a motion for a demur claiming that the pre-Bruen requirements for getting a CCW were unconstitutional (therefore illegal on the part of the State) and someone cannot be compelled to engage in illegal conduct to exercise a fundamental right. Many courts have agreed and granted the demur.
But not all.
In our case we tried, and the judge would have none of it. She would not even allow us to ask for the court to take judicial notice that other judges have agreed with our position. So we asked for diversion, and she granted that… but with a caveat:
Yes, the client could take a gun safety class, but it needed to be the Johns Hopkins No-Touch Gun Safety Class.
I had never heard of such a thing, so we did a little research.
Johns Hopkins does, in fact, have a program, a class if you will, for gun “education”. It is an instructional indoctrination event. The lucky recipient of this storied academic institution’s services will learn all of the negatives of gun ownership and use. More importantly, they will be encouraged to support specific political leaders who have pledged to remove guns from our society, the Constitution be damned.
This is the functional equivalent of a Soviet apparatchik demanding a wayward proletariat submit to the State’s collective wisdom and alter their own views. It is not enough that their actions are controlled, their thoughts must be modified too.
The fact that a judge, someone who has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, who has at least a modicum of philosophical education, would even suggest this re-education program is not only troubling, it is devastating.
I have said many times before the only thing that allows for a society to function is a judiciary that can be trusted. That trust is rapidly dissipating.