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WND Commentary
Who needs leaders, anyway?

By Claire Wolfe
© 1999 Claire Wolfe

Where are our leaders? There's the question of the day. Tyrants and bureaucrats trample our rights. Freedom lovers are growing angrier by the minute. But here we sit -- informed, ready, but not knowing what to do.

We are a vast and potentially powerful force. Though we disagree on many things, virtually all freedom lovers hold to a central goal: less government, more individual responsibility. We're waiting here with a well-defined, workable issue. But no one of stature is stepping forward to seize the standard and lead us.

"Where's our Thomas Jefferson?" people ask. "Our George Washington? Our Madison? Our Adams, Paine, Henry, Joan of Arc, our free-market Che?"

Ed Moats of Shelton, Wash., put it as well as anyone when he wrote:

Action is risky, and people, separated and isolated, are disinclined to court this risk unless they know they are part of something larger than themselves. The role of leadership is to create this something, then lead it into action.

Where have you gone, Thomas Jefferson? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

But leaders are dangerous as well as great. What if this time we didn't get a Jefferson, or a Henry or a Sam Adams? What if this time we got a Lenin or a Pol Pot? In desperate times, people have a history of following the worst, not the most thoughtful.

That's one of many reasons I don't join the call for leaders. Still, the question hangs there, pending, brooding, looming like a thundercloud. Where are the leaders of the freedom movement?

Maybe we ought to ask what we're looking for. When we talk about leadership, we're talking about at least four different things:

  1. Political
  2. Inspirational
  3. Organizational
  4. Military

Where are they all in this soul-trying time?

Political leaders

Not even worth talking about. The crop of contenders is pathetic. Most are folks with an ax to grind, more than a vision of freedom. This guy says he wants smaller government -- but only after we've militarized our borders and jailed a few million more hapless dopers, thank you. That guy says he wants smaller government -- but only after giving the central state additional unconstitutional powers to police doctors' offices and bedrooms. The other guy is genuinely committed to smaller government -- but is backed by a corrupt and ineffective party machine.

But even if Thomas Jefferson rose again (sans slaveholding and womanizing, please) he couldn't get enough of a hearing to draw more than five percent of any nationwide vote.

"What, you don't want to give anybody anything? You want to take away benefits? You're going to take away my subsidy? How can you be so mean-spirited, Tom? Where's your compassion? What about the children?"

The political arena is where freedom is sold -- but never acquired.

Inspirational leaders

We've got 'em. Well potentially we have them. We've wonderful writers, from Vin Suprynowicz to Walter Williams to our own Joseph Farah. We own the radio airwaves.

But most freedom-loving commentators focus almost entirely on the problem, not on truly effective solutions. They get us angry, but offer no direction out of anger and into liberation. Our commentators, unfortunately, leave that to the novelists.

In a sense, they have little choice. Anyone who speaks non-fictionally about effective solutions will be shut out by the mainstream media -- and probably arrested, audited or otherwise subjected to the tender mercies of power lovers. Advocating resistance is dangerous.

I do believe the freedom movement could be electrified by a visionary writer or speaker -- not just another superb muckraker, or another media clown with an agenda, but someone with a true vision of how it would be to live free and why it's worth getting there. And I miss this leader, deeply. Where have you gone, Ayn Rand?

Organizational leaders

Reader Mitch McConnell writes from the "Live Free or Die" state:

No [freedom movement] will be effective if only each person "chooses his own way" of resisting. After all, a single person can be rounded up and jailed (or shot) easier than a crowd! Even for some of the ideas you mention, like resisting SSN requests, would be effective only if practiced on a massive scale by many thousands of people.

It may be dangerous to try and organize such disobedience, but that is part of the liberty equation, too.

Again, he's right, in a way. For the record, although I (like many before me) focus on individual resistance, I'm not against organizing. It's one valid tactic in a varied world of tactics. Organizing around specific issues like SSN resistance also has an advantage: It doesn't require nation-striding greatness. If you have some analytical skills, people skills and persistence -- you can do it.

As Mitch acknowledges, it is dangerous. But I differ with his assessment of the danger. On the contrary, it's easier to bust a militia group, burn a church, or mow down 2,000 people in a public square than it is to identify, catch and prosecute a lone individual who screws up a privacy-invading database, silently retaliates against a thug, carries a gun without a government license, or refuses to fill out a "required" form.

The person who chooses to step forth as a leader of resistance also becomes a juicy target. Governments know that by ruthlessly crushing that single person they can often kill a movement. Is it worth the risk?

But maybe Mitch and I can both be right. What if someone came up with workable, detailed and fairly easy strategies for resistance -- so that people who didn't want to do their own brainwork could just "follow Plan A"? What if Plan A could mutate into Plan B at the speed of light? What if these organizational leaders remained anonymous, well-secured and ever-moving -- as effective resistance leaders have always done in dire times? What if they spread their plans through a vast, amorphous network without a central headquarters? A network capable of reaching millions, rapidly, invisibly? Now, there we'd have something powerful.

What, you say? It's already being done? Yeah, it sounds a lot like every day on the Internet. All that remains is for resistance leaders to come up with the right, simple plans and make effective use of this cat-herding tool.

Military leaders

It's too early. The poor, busted militia movement showed that -- though it was a noble try, guys.

This is the one area in which -- if it comes to that -- we really will need, en masse, to follow traditional leaders. It's also the one area where I'm sure the freedom movement does have potential leadership. I hear from too many freedom loving veterans, soldiers, former mercenary fighters and strategic thinkers to doubt that.

When dire need arises, leaders will, too. I just hope we get some Francis Marions and Major Mosbys, not Jack D. Rippers.

In the meantime, we're still left with the one category of leader we don't have to wait and hope for, the one we can follow today:

Ourselves alone

We are all leaders of our own lives. And no government is powerful enough to crush a million or more separate, silent, resistance movements.

We can sit around and wait for heroes. Most of us will. But if we take our own freedom into our own hands -- if we actively resist tyranny with all our might and mind -- we may even find, someday, that we are the leaders and the heroes we've been longing for.

Personal note: Jim Bovard -- who has been praised and denounced in more exalted circles than I -- told me this week that my first book, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution is currently at number five on the Modern Library readers-choice list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the twentieth century.

I was, to say the least, dumbstruck. While I suspect there must be a friendly conspiracy somewhere to stuff the ballot box... well, who's gonna complain? I can only say thank you to all the unknown readers who raised 101 Things up so high. And -- since voting for as many as 10 separate titles per day is allowed -- GO! Vote early and often for your freedom favorites. There are already lots of intriguing books among the 100, including Jim's new and powerful Freedom in Chains (which deserves a strong push upward).

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