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A Sage in Time

January 1, 2016

As we begin further (ill advised, in my view) intrusion of handguns into public life in Texas, I came across this by Edward Abbey in his book Desert Solitaire, A Season in the Wilderness (1968).


Suppose we were planning to impose a dictatorial regime upon the American people – the following preparations would be essential:

  1.  Concentrate the populace in megalopolitan masses so they can be kept under close surveillance, and where, in case of trouble, they can be bombed, burned, gassed, or machine-gunned with a minimum of expense and waste.
  2. Mechanize agriculture to the highest degree of refinement, thus forcing most of the scattered farm and ranching population into the cities.  Such a policy is desirable because farmers, woodsmen, cowboys, Indians, fishermen and other relatively self-sufficient types are difficult to manage unless displaced from their natural environment.
  3. Restrict the possession of firearms to the police and the regular military organizations.
  4. Encourage or at least fail to discourage population growth.  Large masses of people are more easily manipulated and dominated than scattered individuals.
  5. Continue military conscription.  Nothing excels military training for creating in young men an attitude of prompt, cheerful obedience to officially constituted authority.
  6.  Divert attention from deep conflicts within the society by engaging in foreign wars; make support of those wars a test of loyalty, thereby exposing and isolating potential opposition to the new order.
  7. Overlay the nation with a finely reticulated network of communications, airlines and interstate autobahns.
  8. Raze the wilderness.  Dam the rivers, flood the canyons, drain the swamps, log the forests, strip-mine the hills, bulldoze the mountains, irrigate the deserts and improve the national parks into national parking lots.

Idle speculation, feeble and hopeless protest.  It was all foreseen nearly a half a century ago by the most cold-eyed and clear-eyed of our national poets, on California’s shore, at the end of the open rode.  Shine, perishing republic.

Visionary or curmudgeon?  Read Abbey at your peril.

From → Writing Fiction

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