Friday, March 7, 2014

Crazy Horse against mind control

Speaking of books that influenced me when I was growing up, one of the books I read several times and which made a big impression on me when I was in high school was Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, by Stephen Ambrose (1975).  It tells the backstory of the people and events leading up to the utter defeat of the US 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June of 1876, by a group of warriors from the Cheyenne and the Sioux, whom Ambrose describe as "the only Indian nation to defeat the United States in war and force it to sign a peace treaty favorable to the red man"(8).

When I was just a young lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne, we had a new battalion commander who asked each of the lieutenants in the battalion to write an essay describing American military leaders whom we respected most.  I wrote about Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull; for some reason this did not seem to go over very well.

In spite of the tactical genius of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, and their success in inflicting total defeat on the military forces sent by those who were quite open about their desire to invade, to steal, to incarcerate on reservations, and to put an end as quickly as possible to the way of life of the people they found living on the Plains before the white man arrived, military victories alone would not be enough to stop the invasion and the destruction of their way of life.

This is not to say that Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and those who fought with them were mistaken to try to oppose with force of arms those who had demonstrated a willingness to massacre entire villages of Native Americans, as the US troops had demonstrated time and again.  They had every right and even the duty to do so under what philosopher Lysander Spooner termed natural law, which could also be called universal law: the teaching that individuals have the inherent right to be free against violence done to themselves, to use force if necessary to stop violence being done to themselves or to others in their immediate vicinity, and to live in freedom which is only bounded by the prohibition against doing violence to others.  By coming together against armed men (the forces commanded by Custer) who were riding into their home country with intent to subjugate them against all dictates of natural law, the Sioux and Cheyenne who took up arms against Custer's forces were entirely justified.

That previous post on Spooner's writings argued that there is an inherent link between violations of natural law and what we can call "mind control," saying:
Getting people to agree to human laws which go against natural law must necessarily involve mind control, because people have a powerful, innate, intuitive sense of natural law.  Overcoming this powerful human sense requires forms of coercion, deception, ritual, and the repetition of propaganda. 
In other words, even in the 1800s the populace that was committing mass murder and mass theft against the people whose lands they were stealing and way of life they were destroying gave themselves various forms of deception and propaganda in order to throw a veil of legitimacy against their illegitimate actions.  The mechanisms by which the people of that time deluded themselves into overlooking their gross violation of natural law included institutionalized racism (telling themselves that the American Indians were not possessed of the same inherent natural rights that all men and women possess by virtue of being human beings), the religiously-tinged concept of "Manifest Destiny," the costumes and pageantry surrounding the military and the institutions of the federal government, convoluted arguments about the necessity of taking the lands and especially the mineral resources that had been found in the Black Hills region, the opaque and verbose legalese with which various treaties and official pronouncements were written and the imposing documents and parchments on which these treaties and pronouncements were written, and a host of other artificial aids designed to dress up as legitimate a sustained campaign of genocide.

These mechanisms can be extremely effective: indeed, even today, most people living in the US looking back on the depredations of the United States against the Sioux and other tribes do not like to admit outright that those actions were blatantly illegitimate, and will attempt to at least partially justify those crimes to themselves or to others, when they are forced to think about them at all.  Most people would rather cloak these past atrocities at least in part with that illusory veil of legitimacy rather than admit that the seizure of the lands from the Native Americans was entirely illegitimate in every case.

And here is where the clear and unaffected understanding of natural law which Crazy Horse demonstrated in his words and deeds during his lifetime can be even more powerful than the military victory which he and Sitting Bull achieved at the Little Bighorn so many years ago.  For Crazy Horse had an exemplary awareness of natural law, both in his dignified retention of his own rights as a free individual, and in his gracious recognition of the rights of those around him.

A quotation from Crazy Horse, recounted by his friend He Dog in an interview sometime long after the murder of Crazy Horse himself, has already been cited in this regard (see this previous post).  Referring to a time when He Dog was urging everyone to move across a certain creek if they wanted to avoid being killed by the army, and seeing that everyone had moved their camp across the creek except for Crazy Horse, He Dog went to his friend and talked to him:
I said, "Does this mean that you will be my enemy if I move across the creek?"  Crazy Horse laughed in my face.  He said, "I am no white man!  They are the only people who make rules for other people, that say, 'If you stay on one side of this line it is peace, but if you go on the other side I will kill you all.'  I don't hold with deadlines.  There is plenty of room; camp where you please."
This interview with He Dog remembered this conversation with his friend Crazy Horse took place in 1930, and a transcript of the entire interview can be read here.  Other interviews with He Dog can be found here.

Note that in the above exchange, Crazy Horse bluntly expresses his commitment to what we are calling (after Spooner) natural law (perhaps universal law might be an even better term), as well as his disgust for those who create artificial constructs (arbitrary lines, the crossing of which justify killing --  what Crazy Horse dismissively terms "deadlines") which they use as excuses for violating that same natural law.

It is this penetrating ability to see right through the fictional illusions and veils described above, and to rip them aside, which Crazy Horse demonstrates in this quotation, which is the real hope against the depredations of those habitual violators of natural law whose institutions have only grown stronger in the intervening years.  This ability to cut through the artificial "veil of legitimacy" is a far more powerful weapon than even the armed resistance Crazy Horse demonstrated at Little Bighorn, and which was ultimately not successful.

Crazy Horse is also well known for his refusal to allow his photograph to be taken.  Here again he demonstrates a powerful and important lesson which can be related back to the concept of natural law or universal law, and one that has never been more appropriate than it is today.  While this refusal to allow someone else to take his photograph is often dismissed as a primitive fear of having his "shadow stolen,"and dismissed as a relic of a long-bygone era with nothing to do with the "modern world," the reason he did not wish to have his picture taken is not the important point: the important point is that he saw his image (or his "shadow," if you will) as inherently belonging to himself, and not to be taken without his express consent.

While there are disputed images purporting to be of a young Crazy Horse allowing his photograph to be taken, Ambrose at least flatly states that Crazy Horse never let anyone take his photograph.  Either way, the real point is that Crazy Horse -- with his deeply ingrained understanding of natural law -- believed that his image belonged to him, and if someone wanted to take it they had to have permission to do so.  Contrast this natural understanding to the situation in the United States today, in which government entities routinely collect visual photographic surveillance images of men and women and children going about their daily business, such as riding on the bus or driving down the street -- and maintain that because there is "no expectation of privacy" on a public bus or roadway that these images can be taken with impunity, as well as subjected to facial recognition technology and storage for indefinite periods for retrieval at a later time.

Because most people have lost the fine sense of natural law which Crazy Horse demonstrated in his life, they accede to this constant "stealing of their shadow" on a daily basis, without even giving it any thought.  In fact, it would probably be more accurate to say that, rather than having lost the dignified sense of natural rights which Crazy Horse possessed, most people today never have a chance to even develop it (such ideas are drilled out of them in compulsory schooling which begins before the age of seven, during which they are indoctrinated with the various mechanisms used to cast a veil of legitimacy over violations of natural law).

Because of this, his example is more important today than ever.  Developing, or regaining, the integrity he demonstrated is the best hope for the removal of the false veil of legitimacy by which violators try to cloak their illegitimate actions.

Ultimately, the violations of universal or natural law which governments perpetrate with impunity are supported more through mind control -- the illusions and veils described above -- than with military might.  Because of this, the example of Crazy Horse in his dignified rejection of those illusions is an even more powerful legacy against tyranny than is his resistance against it on the battlefield of the Little Bighorn.