I hesitate to start a new topic as it would seem the sad tale relayed below should be able to be housed in a category already initiated. Still, as various utopian ideals concentrating power in the hand of the few at the cost of liberty are hard sold, it strikes me as a prime time to review instances where those ideals led to dystopian realities. Examples abound and are too darn depressing for me to catalog at the moment in full.
A book I encountered during my shift from a leftward leaner to libertarian was Avraham Shifrin's The First Guidebook to Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union
. It's difficult to communicate just how eye opening Shifrin's book was: here's a former political prisoner carefully cataloging information the former USSR was very interested in keeping secret, then smuggling it out and publishing it in a fairly crude form. Don't know what the original production run of the book was, though it couldn't be much of one and I recall it was difficult to lay hands on my copy.
Regardless, I was at a graduate student party with a bunch of University of Illinois students at one point in the mid-80s when I encountered a couple of Soviet fellow travelers who were dissing Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech in a condescending manner very much alive today. I joined the fray and began citing material from the The First Guidebook to Prisons
, which put a damper on things but, as often the case, quieted rather than swayed the travelers. Be that as it may, as the evening wound down I was approached by a couple of Eastern European students who had kept quiet most the evening. With moist eyes they told me how refreshing it was to encounter an American aware of the true situation behind the then Iron Curtain, and how good it was to hear someone speak of facts they had to stand mute on lest the folks they left at home suffer for it. It's my hope that the material assembled here proves as transformational as the Guidebook
was for me, provides a measure of solace to those who had to stand mute through a tyrants depredations, and warns those that would force their utopian dreams on the masses that nightmares are what emerge instead.
Remembering Government at Its Worst
Posted by Doug Bandow
The 20th Century featured many examples of genocide, mass murder, brutality, and other forms of human horror at the hands of totalitarian governments. Perhaps none was worse — at least in terms of the proportion of the population slaughtered and resulting impact on the survivors — than Cambodia.
The commandant of the notorious S-21, or Tuol Sleng, is currently on trial. The proceedings offer a stark reminder of what monstrosities cruel social engineers with guns can wreak. Reports Reuters:
A senior Khmer Rouge prison guard on Thursday told a war crimes tribunal he was forced to send thousands of detainees to an execution site, where they were brutally killed and their bodies thrown into mass graves.
Him Huy, 54, a guard at Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 prison, said he was ordered by Pol Pot’s chief jailor to transport prisoners to a rice field where they were stripped naked and beaten with clubs as they bled to death.
“All prisoners were blindfolded so they did not know where they were taken and their hands were tied up to prevent them from contesting us,” Huy told the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal.
“They were asked to sit on the edge of the pits and they were struck with stick on their necks,” he said, his voice breaking as he gave his harrowing account of the Choeung Ek executions.
“Their throats were slashed before we removed their handcuffs and clothes, and they were thrown into the pits.”
Huy was testifying against S-21 chief Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, the first of the five indicted former Khmer Rouge cadres to face trial.
I’ve visited both Tuol Sleng and the so-called Killing Fields. The experience is incredibly depressing and moving. These sites should be mandatory viewing for anyone tempted to surrender his or her liberty, even to the most supposedly well-meaning politicians, bureaucrats, and activists.http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2009/07/27/remembering-government-at-its-worst/