Tyranny and fanaticism do not equate with authority, but with attitude - an attitude of selfishness. Tyranny is selfishness in the world of material things. Fanaticism is selfishness in the world of ideas and beliefs. Fanaticism is the sort of selfishness which says, “My beliefs are right. If you do not agree with me, you are wrong.”
Ignorance allows both fanaticism and tyranny to flourish - for only knowledge can form the basis of freedom. And ignorance is the primary weapon of the tyrant and the fanatic. When people are uneducated to facts, to history, to economics and science - the tyrant and the fanatic find opportunity to rise to power.
Today, our political order faces new threats. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience - but that requires thoughtful reflection and cannot be captured in a media soundbite nor a 140-character tweet.
History shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary "good" people can find themselves standing over death pits with weapons in their hands - all in the name of God. It would serve us all well to understand why and not repeat the sins of the past.
To truly be champions of the freedom of people - to honor life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - we must be concerned with every miscarriage of justice, every unreasonable limitation of liberty, every inequality, every arbitrary act of court or state house or capital.
And our special concern has to be with those who do not have access to the courts, nor the ear of those in power, nor wealth, nor influence with city hall. Their very powerlessness creates a binding obligation on each of us to promote human equity and impartiality.
Yes, it would be far easier, and far more comfortable, to just chill out. Most people do. But our duty is to bring light to darkness. To educate. To engage. If we fail to protect in individual civil liberties and freedoms of others - our own freedom will be at risk.
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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