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The Paranoia with Government

          "They rigged the election!", "It was the Russians!", "One of 'ems corrupt!" These are all phrases that went through many American minds, and not just back in 2016. For a long time, humanity has been unsatisfied with their earthly overlords. So, let's take a step back, and examine this trend: where did it start, and why has it continued into our present day?

          Humanity has been unsatisfied with governments ever since their fates have been intertwined with one another. A lack of satisfaction, however, does not necessarily constitute paranoia. So for the sake of my sanity, I will begin in medieval Europe. Feudalism or enforced serfdom was in place throughout the continent. Farmers gave up large portions of their crops to their local lords and barons, in exchange for military protection.

          Separate from both the peasantry and the nobility, were a middle class of merchants and craftsmen. They not only had the unsatisfactory social position of the lower class, but the time, the ability, and the craving to ascend higher. Paranoia emerged in a primitive state, with the middle class suspecting that the nobles were purposefully suppressing their ability to enjoy society. A chance appeared when some noble families grew poor, forcing them to marry into the wealthy ranks of the merchants.

          In this way, the middle class had partially assimilated into the government. Industrialization brought in the next phase of human history. Poor peasants who had managed to build a small farm, or rent from a landlord found themselves without a job or land. Enormous tracts of land were put under the ownership of the higher classes in order to profit from the revolutionary four crop rotation: wheat, turnips, barley, and clover.

          This trend of evictions occurred all over Europe, and in other places around the globe. The former peasantry went the only place they could: the city, creating the infamous conditions of the industrial slum. When the only life for many people involved  twelve-hour workdays, child labor, early death, and an impossible choice between food and rent, paranoia fastened its grip. What was the government doing to help those suffering in its dominions? Nothing. And so the idea that the current administration had lost the mandate of the people - the right to rule - found fertile ground.

          It was the time of revolution: blood and torch in France, printing press and demagogues elsewhere. Karl Marx set forth his Manifesto, and gave the paranoia of the people a physical form to grasp onto as a bludgeon. World War I broke out, and webs of alliances ensnared the world entire. How could one trust one's government after such reckless fighting? The world plunged into economic depression, and chaos.

          Communism and Socialism ran their deadly course, and are today on their last legs. After the extremes of their societies had been unveiled, the world recoiled. Government, the tool for ensuring the survival and prosperity of their people, had done precisely the opposite, sinking its responsibility into a sea of economic, cultural, and religious poverty.

          This history, which has led us to where we are today, is the base, the foundation for why we feel our current paranoia with any and all governments.

          It would be simplistic, however, to say that this history is the only reason people feel our current, pervasive paranoia with government. George Orwell, with his novels Animal Farm and 1984, should not be underestimated in his effect. Franz Kafka, though focused primarily on the ill-constructed bureaucracy, also inspired paranoia on the part of the reader. Funnily enough, both authors have gotten adjectives to describe their work: Orwellian, and Kafkaesque.

          The end of paranoia's spread through literature doesn't stop with these 20th century writers. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker joins the Rebellion, becomes a Jedi pilot, and destroys the death star. By doing so, he aimed to save his friends, and overthrow the evil Empire. Battle Royale and Hunger Games both show a fascist government forcing children to fight one another. This framing of the government as evil is something seen more and more frequently, and it is shaping the public perception whether they realize it or not.

          Many writers and directors show this paranoia in less direct ways. In superhero stories, the police and government officials are shown to be incompetent, which is why the hero is necessary in the first place. The same can be seen in spy and action movies. The bumbling official or officer is a trope in and of itself by this point.

          You don't often see a story about a hero protecting law and order from the evil forces attempting to overthrow it.

          My tangent on the way stories are influencing our paranoia has digressed. The final reason for why we are feeling paranoia nowadays is due to technology. It surrounds and encompasses all of our lives and is the reason you're reading this right now. Internet, satellites, cameras, online security, privacy of data, hacking, drones - all of these terms can inspire fear and paranoia. Now more than ever humans are vulnerable.

          If there is one thing I'd like to leave off with, it's this thought: when corruption is laid bare for all to see, the result is paranoia. I will not be so bold as to say I know a solution to the problem of paranoia. Perhaps it is good to have a healthy fear of our rulers. All that I can do is present the reasons for why mankind is feeling its current paranoia with authority. I hope this article has been insightful.
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