It is Monday, 8 June 2009, two hundred years to the day since my miserable death, though I should add that while death was, indeed, miserable it was a swim in the sea compared with my life as it finally turned out. However, I have been dead for too long to want to harp on those wretched final years of my life-the assassination of my character, of my person, the unspeakable hypocrisy of it all, my freefall from grace and renown, the poverty, ill health, my seeking refuge in a bottle. But if there remains even one son or daughter of Liberty and Democracy in this present day-that is, the person to and for whom I write, as opposed to those who celebrate the cartoon Tom Paine, never thinking to read my works or to carry forth the struggle-then I should think that such a son or daughter of Liberty is unlikely to protest my assuming the privilege of penning this brief posthumous account. If not a single such person remains who is, in word and deed, committed to Liberty and Democracy-the only fit state for a human being who wishes to live as a whole person and who refuses to be infantilised-then rather than to assume the privilege, if there's none worthy to grant it, I shall steal it back as rightfully my own.
I can quite quickly sum up what befell me and what has befallen countless other revolutionaries over the course of history; however, I do so not out of a desire or need to explain myself, but rather as a word of warning to those whom I consider my rightful progeny. My task is made easier by the fact that my rightful progeny, by the nature of the task which lies before them, shall already have apprised themselves of the historical accounts of revolutions, failed and successful, if in fact there has ever been an example of the latter. In brief, revolutionaries with integrity-those who hold, still, to the original stated aims of the revolution, the aims of Liberty and Democracy-are, at the point of the revolution's failure (as opposed to the success touted in history books), quickly stripped of their honours, hollowed out, and hung safely out to die so that the 'revolutionaries' who were merely playing a part can usurp The Powers That Were to become those That Be. This perverted outcome must be avoided, and it shall not be avoided unless those who are in the struggle forever keep this near-inevitable outcome in mind, day in and day out, and for ever more, as the innumerable false actors lie constantly in wait.
My good friend Benjamin Franklin did his best to warn us. In response to being asked at the close of the Constitutional Convention, 'Well, Doctor, what have we got-a Republic or a Monarchy?', Dr. Franklin said, simply, 'A Republic, if you can keep it.' A prescient warning, indeed. And it is clear even, or perhaps particularly so, in this post-Obamamania, post-Democratic-controlled-Congress present day that the Republic has been lost, for the Republic cannot coexist with an undermined Constitution. The Republic is dead when the State itself no longer abides by the rule of law, no matter what pseudo-legislation is ushered through Congress, usually unread, in an attempt to provide a cover of legitimacy which no one is fooled by, certainly not the politicians nor their corporate paymasters.
The situation is at least as bad in Britain-Closed Circuit TV capital of the world-but in both the U.S. and the UK, the rule of law, any protection against the State, has been wilfully obliterated under the false pretext of National Security, which rightfully understood covers anything which might threaten not the well-being of the people, the mock citizenry, but the powers of the State. And, so, blatant lies which have been proven to be lies have enabled myriad murderous and treasonous crimes to be committed by the State, including the supreme international crime of wars of aggression, the murder of one-million-plus innocent civilians, numerous political assassinations, international kidnappings, torture, widespread domestic surveillance, and other intrusions into our civil liberties. And those persons who repeatedly and blatantly lied to the public and who committed the crimes which followed from those lies stand not in prison but remain protected by the full powers of the State under the pretext of National Security.
Let me state now that revolutions never end, and that it is not a fixed state which we are shooting for but, rather, an asymptotic ideal which requires a never-ending commitment to process rather than an end, for the ideal end is hogwash if the process does not remain. Democracy-very far, indeed, from what nauseatingly passes for it today, as I write-cannot be institutionalised, it cannot be spoken of as an objective achieved, it cannot reside, ever, in the State, and it can never be brought to bear upon a people by a foreign occupier, the very idea of which is absurd and oxymoronic. Democracy and its sacred sister, Liberty, reside within the individual, and such an individual who is committed to protecting these innate ideals from those who would usurp them from without must pursue, always, an anti-authoritarian way of life, a mode of being , which requires that we be adults, not overgrown children.
We shall no longer look to the State as provider, as head of the family, or as Big Brother, but shall, instead, seek to govern ourselves, the very act of which shall nullify in an instant any presumed pretensions of the State as our benefactor. We shall act in our own best interests, for we have all witnessed everywhere around us what happens when the State purports to so provide-the law is used against us to empower and enrich the State and those within its favour, and we, the people, pay the price. We must also-if we are to become and remain free-disassemble the myriad mechanisms by way of which the rotten State derives and attempts to maintain its rotten powers, as opposed to the only legitimate source of government-that is, through the will of the people, fully realised.
Such mechanisms which must be abolished include, but are not limited to, the various agencies and machinations of the secret State, the State (and the corporate-State) media as its controlled propaganda arm-the primary means by which, in conjunction with the 'education' system, the mock citizenry is kept under heel, ignorant, and wholly uneducated irrespective of the attainment of virtually meaningless university degrees-the corrupted courts of justice, the torture centres, the criminalised military, and the militarised police forces which do far more to tyrannise than to protect the people.
For those who might wonder, still, whether they are free, whether this account seems too strong, too reactionary-as no doubt many in America, England and Europe thought my words too strong, too reactionary more than two centuries ago-then there exists a simple litmus test which tells us immediately whether we are, in fact, a free people or enslaved. If the majority finds itself in the demeaning position of having to ask the State, to beg of it, to plead with it, to protest against it, then we are no longer free, but in chains and fetters. This is true even when the State obliges us and fulfils our request, which it should be noted typically permits the transfer of power from us to the State, a dynamic which is unfortunately lost on so many, who think they're getting something for nothing. But, if a majority of the people finds itself asking the State to serve it or to abide by the rule of law, and it either refuses outright or deliberates and finally fails to deliver, then we live not in a democracy but under the dictates of a despotic and authoritarian regime which has no rightful place amongst us but which has over the years, decades and centuries slowly stolen our Liberty because we ceded it, in exact measure.
If we are to live as adults rather than as children, each and every one of my rightful progeny must hold a truth within their innermost selves which must always be kept alive, for in dark times such as those presently upon us the flame of Liberty shall surely flicker, waver, and without a steady stream of fresh air, fresh energy and fresh commitment it shall die, first, within you, and then as surely as we ourselves are mortal, Liberty herself shall be frog-marched to her death. That aforementioned truth is this: The State is not and shall never be your friend, its intentions are not yours. You are its enemy.
In authoritarian regimes like the ones which I see have befallen all of you, the State, of course, spares no horses in co-opting the terms of Democracy, of Liberty, of Freedom, but those words have been drained of life, of meaning; worse, they've been inverted just as George Orwell prophesied-Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength. They've become, in short, tools of oppression which, while some of us might more readily accept the truth that these emptied-out concepts are being used to justify unjust wars against the peoples of lands outside our own-Iraq and Afghanistan come readily to mind; however, this is but the tip of the iceberg, for there's nary a land beyond which the State and the State of its Ally-in-Arms is not overtly or covertly oppressing, tyrannising at this very moment-while there are, I know, quite a few of you who might more readily accept this truth, there are unfortunately many more of you who might find it more difficult to recognise that these same emptied-out concepts are being deployed against the State's more foundational enemy-those of you who live within its borders.
Do you really think that those CCTV cameras which are multiplying more quickly than springtime bunnies are there to protect you? Do you think the War OF Terror is being fought to protect you? Do you think that the news which you watch, which you listen to, which you read, exists to inform you? Did the State protect you on 9/11, or did it, in fact, commit the crimes? Did the State protect you during the 7/7 London bombings, or did it, in fact, commit the crimes? Did the State prove to you beyond any reasonable doubt who actually perpetrated those acts? Were independent investigations forthcoming, or were they precluded and the facts buried by those guilty of or complicit in the crimes? Were the politicians readily forthcoming, or did they, too, seek to bury the facts? And were such facts buried in large part by the State's media-propaganda-arm? With CCTV cameras ubiquitous in airports and Tube stations even in 2001-2005, there would be video footage which demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt who committed these inhuman crimes. But why have we not seen such critical footage? Why has it been kept from you-the public-the bedrock upon which any good government gains its legitimacy?
These are just a few of the many questions you must ask yourself, if you are to carry on the struggle which I gave my life and my creative energies to more than two centuries ago, and if you are to remain amongst my rightful progeny who desire Liberty and Democracy not only in word but in deed as well. I shall leave off with something I said a long time ago: 'Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.' And, lastly, a corollary quip from Henry David Thoreau: 'That government is best which governs least.' Is this, rightful progeny, what you have, here, in this moment?
* Transcribed by Sean M. Madden on 8 June 2009. Thomas Paine also transferred the copyright to Sean M. Madden, 2009.
Thomas Paine (January 29, 1737 – June 8, 1809) was a Britishpamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, inventor, intellectual, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He lived and worked in Britain until age 37, when he emigrated to the British American colonies, in time to participate in the American Revolution. His principal contributions were the powerful, widely-read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series.
Later, Paine greatly influenced the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791), a guide to Enlightenment ideas. Despite not speaking French, he was elected to the French National Convention in 1792. The GirondistsMontagnards, especially Robespierre, regarded him as an enemy. In December of 1793, he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris, then released in 1794. He became notorious because of The Age of Reason (1793–94), the book advocating deism and arguing against institutionalized religion, Christian doctrines, and promoted reason and freethinking, for which he would become derided in America. regarded him as an ally, so, the