“In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, Make us your slaves, but feed us.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor
In Dostoyevsky’s work, The Brothers Karamov, Ivan recites a poem in which Jesus returns to Earth and encounters a Spanish inquisitor. The inquisitor rejects the wisdom of God’s decision to grant freedom to humanity through Jesus Christ. He points out that people cannot handle freedoms, and will instead choose base comforts, even at their own peril. In other words, “make us your slaves, but feed us.”
I often think about this quote. I believe the premise to be incorrect, but only on the notion that people will sacrifice freedoms for food. In America, we sacrifice freedoms for far less.
Recently, I began to remove the word “feed,” and insert the word, “tweet.” In this sense, the quote becomes far more applicable to today’s American culture. There are 70,000,000 active twitter users in the US, and over 200,000,000 Facebook users. Americans are addicted to social media. It has become so ingrained in our daily lives that we see entire news stories based on what the President of the United States is tweeting about.¹ˊ² (Yes, I know that is the fault of the President himself as much as it is the media.)
Herein lies a massive problem. Social media has morphed from a way of sharing information with friends, family, and community to an integral part of the serious business of running a sovereign nation. Every politician has a social media account. This holds true for every federal government department at the top, down to every local school board at the bottom. Campaigns spend considerable money on social media presence, and it has become virtually impossible for politicians to get exposure apart from social media in some form or another.
Let me clarify something here- This fact has its benefits. Everyday Americans are able to reach out and communicate with leaders in a way that was previously impossible. For the most part, social media is free to the user, meaning that information is readily accessible. Users are also able to share ideas and have debates with one another. Websites like Twitchy utilize this ease of information to bring news and interesting content to a vast array of readers, who, in years past, would not have had access to it.
There are pitfalls however. Those same Americans sharing and debating, in many cases equate social media dialogue with actual political involvement. Citizens spend hours on end bickering over polarizing topics, attempting to find just the right zinger to shut a “troll” up! They also insulate themselves with friends and accounts who share the same political ideologies, further fueling the vitriol when another opinion presents itself.
We’ve all been there, myself included.
But what does it matter? Are hearts and minds changed this way? Are we making waves in Washington when we argue with an anonymous person who’s picture looks like an Easter egg?
The answer is undoubtedly, no. We’re simply buying into the lie that this activity is in some way activism, and what we’re left with is a populace that is satisfied with its only means of influence being a vote and a tweet.
If this sounds fine to you, that’s ok. Slap a political sticker onto that profile picture and cut loose! Maybe your snarky comment will be the one that finally changes the mind of that senator or representative.
For the rest of America, it is high time those hours spent on social media start being put to better use. Here’s how:
- Unplug. It may be hard, but consider giving social media a break for a few hours a day.
- Read something. I would suggest starting with the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers. These are the bedrock documents of our nation.
- When news stories are encountered, research them. Check original sources. Read transcripts. Take the time to find truth, and be open to facts that challenge your world view.
- Join an organization that represents the political change desired. I would suggest joining us here at The Federalist Coalition, a society built by, and specifically dedicated to every day Americans seeking to reintroduce our country and our government to the principles of Federalism.
- Give of your talents and of your profits. The founders were willing to die for liberty and the opportunity for self-governance. Real change requires sacrifice. This means writing, going to political rallies or meetings, contacting representatives, and dare I say it, possibly running for office. It also means giving money to support worthwhile causes. I noted before that one of the benefits of social media is that it is free, but the reality is, if every day Americans want to see Washington untangle itself, then every day Americans are going to have to finance the effort.
It is not too late to draw America back from the brink, but if it is to happen, citizens are going to have to do the heavy lifting. Let’s put the smartphone down, and get to work.
1. Twitter MAU in the United States 2017 | Statistic.
2. Number of U.S. Facebook users by age 2017 | Statistic.