The Individual Under Pressure


This morning, I spoke with an old friend in New York who told me the story of a friend of his—an actor in a Broadway theater—who is obliged to attend critical race theory workshops every Monday in order to retain his job. The workshops have nothing to do with drama or story-telling, nor do they do anything to foster understanding or sympathy for anyone. They are dreary and repetitive ideological catechisms that he must dutifully sit through or be fired.

This evening I met a friend for dinner whose daughter is a Hollywood actress. She told me about the myriad trials, strictures, and demands with which her daughter has had to contend since SARS-CoV-2 arrived—first with testing and masking, and then with vaccine compliance.

To both friends, I asked the same question: “Why comply with requirements that are inimical to the liberal ideal of individual sovereignty and freedom of conscience? Why would anyone in the United States allow himself to be subjected to such a gross ideological regimen?

My first friend answered, “Because he can’t afford to lose his job.” My second friend answered, “Because she’s worked so hard to become an actress. If she doesn’t comply she’ll have nowhere else to go.”

Both answers are rational, and I couldn’t really argue with them. Who—after working diligently for many years to land a desirable position in his chosen industry—wouldn’t comply with creepy ideological directives in order to retain the position? If he loses his job, where is he going to go and how will he pay his mortgage and other bills?

This is the perfectly understandable reasoning that enables ideological tyranny to establish itself in organizations and in the state. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn pointed out, the tyrant is never satisfied. Little or no resistance to his initial demands will only whet his appetite for more power and control. This is what Solzhenitsyn meant when he pointed out that if we comply with the imposition of ideology instead of resisting it, many of us will eventually end up in a Gulag anyway.

The trick is for individuals to act together in unison. Getting them to do so requires tremendous persuasion and organization. The challenge that lies ahead for the medical freedom movement is figuring out how to persuade reasonable and law-abiding citizens NOT to comply with unreasonable mandates. People with capital and celebrity could play an outsize role. Where to find them, and how to motivate them?

So far, MMA fighter and actress, Gina Carano, has set an outstanding example. When Disney fired her from her role in The Mandalorian for voicing opinions that were deemed politically incorrect, she didn’t grovel or issue an insincere apology, but stood strong, even though it meant losing her career. The precise content of her opinions or the style and tone with which she expresses them isn’t nearly as important as her determination to maintain her individual sovereignty. As Kipling put it:

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

Brava Gina Carano!