A popular meme is captioned “The People Don’t Know Their True Power.” A politician speaks from a lectern, which sits upon a large plank, which juts over a cliff. An audience watches. One person leaves, stepping off the plank. If the others knew, they could do likewise, and the political “leader” would lose his support; he’d plunge into the abyss.
This meme may have been inspired by Étienne de La Boétie’s short book, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude; the sentiment is surely similar.
Boétie observed that “Every tyranny must necessarily be grounded upon general popular acceptance” – and that it cannot be otherwise, since the tyrant has only two hands, and can only accomplish so much on his own; he must depend on numerous police, soldiers, and other functionaries; and those agents in turn are too few, compared to the rest, to accomplish much without tacit consent. The agents of the tyrant cannot even eat, without the permission of those who produce food.
This is our hidden power, one which most are reluctant to grasp, as it requires one to stop believing in, stop legitimizing, stop supporting the tyrants.
Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.