Human Spirit Will Always Triumph over Tyranny

EspañolThe German-American political theorist Hanna Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism: “Totalitarian domination, however, aims at abolishing freedom, even at eliminating human spontaneity in general, and by no means at a restriction of freedom no matter how tyrannical.”

This elimination of human spontaneity, which is the ultimate hope of every totalitarian regime, implies the presence of the regime in every single moment of our existence. Under a totalitarian regime, we feel the presence of the state even when deciding what to eat, what to wear, and where and how to live. If this is true, how can one survive a regime like this? In other words, how can someone live within it?

I believe that everything professionals, professors, or students do to advance liberty, besides reading the works of authors like Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard, is reinforced when exposed to the work of those who lived in conditions where liberty was always at risk.

I can’t hide my admiration for the French writer Albert Camus. He never evaded his responsibility as an author and his influence in shaping public opinion. My admiration grows every time I remember he did this in the mid-20th century, during an era of great tribulation, and after living through the tragedy of his native Algeria during World War II.

Consider the letter he wrote when Spain, under the rule of Francisco Franco, was accepted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

UNESCO asked for my collaboration in a study about a problem that affects culture and education.… I have received this news with outrage.… I doubt that this can be attributed to the interest of UNESCO in the cultural activities of the Madrid government.… I doubt even more than this is explained by the enthusiasm that Franco’s government shows for the values that UNESCO attempts to inspire. In reality, in Franco’s Spain, where any free expression is censored, your publications are also censored.… I feel compelled to reject all contact with your organization until it rectifies this decision and, until then, to denounce the unacceptable ambiguity of your actions.

In The Rebel: An Essay of a Man in Revolt, Camus makes his first criticism of communism and denounces the way revolutionary ideals degenerate into totalitarian forms. If the totalitarian states aims to eliminate any space for freedom, then what’s left to be done? What can we take from this?

Camus provides an answer when he says that a rebellious man is the one who says “no”; the one who says “enough is enough.”

But how can we say “no” when there is no freedom? How can we say “enough is enough” when there are no other alternatives, and our conditions force us to worry over our immediate problems: making ends meet, surviving insecurity, and so on?

Sixteen years ago, I came to the conclusion that the only thing a totalitarian state cannot touch or destroy is our spirit. That is what allows us to stay on our feet and keep fighting.

The spirit is the last thing a totalitarian regime must break, and we must protect it above all else. In the end, it’s what will allow us to survive this and make a better future.

Translated by Adam Dubove.

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