The words in the title are attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Whether or not they came from him first is immaterial. The truth in the words are the concern here. The meaning of the word ‘eternal’ means ‘lasting forever,’ and ‘vigilant’ means to ‘always be on careful watch for danger.’
The danger to Liberty has always been, and always will be, power.
Both Liberty and power pertain to relations between individual human beings. Liberty means non-aggression and voluntary interaction between individuals. Power means non-voluntary interactions, force, coercion and violence.
So every individual must forever keep a watchful eye on power in order to enjoy their natural Liberty.
To use a simple analogy:
All gardeners must keep a watchful eye on their gardens for weeds. If their guard is let down, the garden will be attacked by the weeds.
So must all individuals keep a watchful eye on power. If their guard is let down, power will attack their Liberty.
All gardens will be attacked.
All Liberty will be attacked.
There are always individuals in every society who succumb to what St. Augustine called libido dominandi, which means the ‘lust to dominate’ other human beings. This error is the most destructive error that humans can make in their lives. For once embraced, it is insatiable, unquenchable, and never-ending.
It is rightfully considered a crime when individuals use aggressive force against others. Violence and fraud are rightfully prosecuted and punished.
But major problems arise when individuals enter a group of people called government and make it legal to use aggressive force against others.
Once this legalization is permitted, an immediate magnet is created. Those who have a lust to dominate others pour into government like moths to a flame. They now have an opportunity to legally do what is rightfully illegal for the rest of society.
But since government positions are limited, and so many with a lust to rule want to fill those positions, they will do the most vicious things imaginable in order to “win.” That’s why there are no morals, rules, or ethics for those who want it most.
Since grabbing the reins of power requires absolute ruthlessness, it gives a preview to the population as to what is in store for them. For the power that will be directed, will ultimately be directed straight at them.
For those who finally grab the power, it’s time to live out their very unfortunate dream; unfortunate for themselves, for they are destroying their own individual humanity, and unfortunate for the rest of humanity that they set out to dominate.
The tactics of power are always the same. They never change.
All increases of power occur in steps, and not all at once. People do not give up their Liberty all at once, and those in power understand that they must cope with this fact.
When power is increased, it’s always done in a state of fear. Fear disarms the population. When people are confident and unshakable, they will not give up their Liberty. Those in power understand this as well, and over the thousands of years have mastered the process of generating and propagating fear.
Lies and truth are interchangeable for those in power. They both carry equal weight. Whichever gets the job done. In normal life, truth is good and lies are bad. Not so for power.
Once disarmed by fear and in a panic, a door is opened wide for the power grab. It has to be grabbed very quickly. There’s only a small window of opportunity to capitalize on.
Government bills that are thousands of pages long, and prepared well before the crisis, are voted through without being read or debated. Anyone who questions what is going on is shouted down as unpatriotic or actually supportive of the crisis.
As the power is grabbed, the population is gently caressed, and told that it is ‘temporary,’ and an ’emergency measure’ only. But there is nothing more permanent in government than a temporary measure.
The panic always subsides, but the power remains.
After the panic subsides, the population is given time to acclimate to the new constraints and dictates. It becomes normal.
New generations are born and they believe that ‘this is how it is and always has been.’ The previous Liberty that was enjoyed by prior generations don’t even cross their minds. It’s as if they never existed.
Step by step…this process repeats.
But it is not everlasting. It always ends, and ends badly for everyone.
All power exhausts itself and paints itself into a corner. It works so hard trying to get into control of everything, only to find out that in the end, it can’t control anything!
All power reaches the point where everything they think is wrong, and every idea they have only makes things worse, and every move is met with failure.
This is a world of individual liberty, not of power. If it were a world of power, it would not be here today. The world would have been destroyed long ago, or would have never have come into existence in the first place.
Life is Liberty and eternal vigilance is the price of keeping it.