Friederich Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, famously wrote, “Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen.”
This was not meant to be understood in a strict sense, but rather it expresses the truth about the nature of the ideas of the State, though not necessarily its statements per se or its tangible property (which, it is true, has been stolen). The term ‘State’ here does not refer to some discreet and acting body, as no such thing exists, but only to those individuals who claim to represent the State and the actions they take as a result of this claim. The State as an entity is a Keyser Söze phantom, only appearing in the in the words and actions of individuals, always in the shadows, and always just out of sight.
The lies of the State are those things which it claims to justify its existence. They are the original and unique concepts created by the State to advance its ends. That which the state has stolen are the concepts, like compassion, security, and law, which existed before it and which exist apart from it but which it has commandeered by force or by fraud, perverted, and established a sort of monopoly on the use of. The State has stolen the idea of justice, perverted it, and now lies and says that it itself is the sole mechanism for the production of justice. All the concepts used by the State are either stolen from pre-existing society, or are devious falsehoods, created solely for its own glory.
Several years ago when I was a teenager, a few of my friends and I found ourselves in line one night at the video rental store behind a middle-aged man and his young daughter. He was obviously intoxicated; he had trouble with balance, was red in the face, disheveled, had slurred speech, and reeked with the foul sweetness of fermentation which is unique to alcohol.
I imagined that he was divorced from his daughter’s mother, his alcoholism being either the cause or the effect of the divorce, and that he was enjoying his daughter’s court-ordered weekend visit. Of course I have no way of knowing if this was actually true. Indeed I do not even know if she was his daughter. As he stumbled out of the store and they got into a small and battered car, we realized that they were both in serious danger. He could barely find his way out of the automatic door without bumping into things, how was he going to make it home?
The video rental store was located at a busy intersection just off a large state highway, a few blocks north of the county line. After we had paid for our movie, we hurried to our car and took off following the drunken father. I dialed 9-1-1 and by the time the operator answered, it was clear by his driving that the man was severely impaired. I explained the situation as quickly and clearly as possible to the operator and she began asking reassuring questions, “What model is the vehicle,” “Where is your location,” and so on. When I explained where we were, she paused for a moment and then said that she would have to transfer us. Our cell signal had registered our location in the other county, and had routed our emergency call to that county’s operators. However, by the time we had become connected with the second operator, we had crossed the county line and my call was transferred back to the original operator. She assured us that she would now be able to send a police officer within just a few moments. As we continued following the drunken father, I updated the operator with each turn. When we turned on to the on-ramp for the state highway, she explained that she would have to again transfer us to the State Patrol, the agency responsible for that particular highway.
So I sat on hold again and waited for yet another operator to pick up the line, powerless to do anything but watch the car in front of us swerve and jolt its way down the road at ever increasing speed. When the State patrol operator answered, I explained the situation again, for the third time. By this time we were all frustrated, as several minutes had elapsed since the phone call began and we all felt a very powerful sense of urgency. Watching someone put a child’s life in extreme and imminent danger is emotionally very difficult.
I pleaded with the operator and expressed the seriousness of the situation. At the very moment when it appeared that everything was going to be resolved – the operator said that there was a patrol car waiting just one mile down the road – the drunken father exited the highway. Our call was once again transferred.
At that point it was clear that nobody on the other end of the phone cared one bit for the lives of either the man or his daughter, or even for some innocent passerby who might become a victim of his recklessness. I hung up the phone in disgust and we turned around and went home.
This system of jurisdictional demarcation seems so profoundly and obviously flawed that it is hard even now to really accept. I would have long ago dismissed it as some kind of horrible misunderstanding had I not, just a few years later, spent several minutes on the phone with a 9-1-1 operator trying to determine which side of the street I was on to ensure that an officer from the proper jurisdiction would be dispatched.
The State claims that it exists to protect the weak of society, to help those who cannot help themselves, to ward off aggressors and to ensure that peace and order is maintained. But this claim is a lie. On that night I watched the agents of the State refuse to offer any help to a small child who was in serious danger, perhaps not only physical danger because of her father’s driving, but, as I imagined, psychological danger as well because of a divorce, possible abuse, neglect, and fear.
Reflecting on that event, it is clear that I had an expectation about the nature of the State and its enforcers, the police, which was false. If my friends and I would have known this at the time we could have done something which might have actually been appropriate to the situation. It was only because we had believed the lies of the State that we did nothing. We were led by flaxen threads until we were bound and unable to help. It had never occurred to any of us that the police might not come when they were called. When we suddenly faced that that truth, the chains by which we were held became sharply apparent. We had become powerless to act. Like slaves we had handed that power to the State.
Nietzsche was right to describe the State as the coldest of all cold monsters. It slowly and quietly drains the humanity from people with whom it comes in contact and reduces them to unthinking dependents, incapable of resisting its parasitical tentacles. Everything it says is a lie and everything it has is stolen. Do not let it convince you otherwise.