“Civil disobedience, as I put it to the audience, was not the problem, despite the warnings of some that it threatened social stability, that it led to anarchy. The greatest danger, I argued, was civil obedience, the submission of individual conscience to governmental authority. Such obedience led to the horrors we saw in totalitarian states, and in liberal states it led to the public’s acceptance of war whenever the so-called democratic government decided on it…
In such a world, the rule of law maintains things as they are. Therefore, to begin the process of change, to stop a war, to establish justice, it may be necessary to break the law, to commit acts of civil disobedience, as Southern black did, as antiwar protesters did.”
― Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times
If It Pleases The Crown: Behind The Internet’s Hottest New Anti-Establishment Meme
By Carey Wedler
A new meme has been making the rounds on the Internet, alluding to the American government as “the crown.” While at first glance this may appear confusing considering America is a “democracy” (or “republic,” depending on who you ask), the ‘If it pleases the crown’ meme is actually making a radical point.
The United States was born out of resistance to monarchy; to excessive taxation, restrictions on trade, and the imposing policies that came with having a “crown.” According to popular American nationalist mythology, the American Revolution changed all this, spawning a nation of free, brave, and independent individuals.
Never mind that at the same time this “Republican” (or Democratic, depending on who you ask) government was slaughtering and exploiting indigenous people and codifying slavery into law. Never mind that corruption and abuses of power reared their ugly heads before the ink had even dried on the Constitution; the constitutional convention was held in secret, George Washington crushed a tax rebellion, and 2nd president of the United States John Adams limited speech critical of the government and attempted to pack the Supreme Court for political reasons at the turn of the 19th century.
Regardless of the huge extent of misconduct, inefficiency, and violence the American government has routinely committed and continues to commit in 2017, it still enjoys a safe space in most Americans’ hearts as the best form of government “we” could hope to achieve.
‘If it pleases the crown,’ however, turns this notion on its head. The formula of the meme is simple: it begins with ‘If it pleases the crown’ and is followed by an articulation of an absurd government policy that violates freedom on a fundamental level:
The meme “[s]hows how we are in fact not “free people”. We must ask permission and pay for all that we do, seemingly never really seceding from Britain,” said Cathy Higgs, a Facebook user, when explaining the meme in a thread discussing its meaning. Another user, Mike Paster, agreed, noting the meme presents “the idea that there isn’t much difference between a Monarchy and the American Empire.”
Though the meme is an explicit reference to monarchy, it arguably tackles the fundamental nature of government as a whole: that whether it is a monarchy, democracy, republic, or dictatorship, individuals must ask permission from a central authority to engage in otherwise non-violent behavior.
“It’s comparing the current style of governing in the U.S. to the draconian style of governing practiced by 16th-century Britain, where the common people [were] not citizens, but subjects, which are essentially slaves,” said Rob Gore.
“We’re subjects, and like good subjects, we ask permission first,” added Humberto Misteroni.
This permission is often contradictory because, as the meme demonstrates, those asking permission are the ones financing the authority of the institutions they must ask permission from in the first place.
Two examples of this dynamic are parking enforcement and the DMV. In the case of the former, parking enforcement agents, whose salaries are funded by taxpayers, patrol the streets (paid for by taxpayers) in cars funded by taxpayers, only to charge taxpayers additional fines for parking. In the case of the latter, car owners must pay fines and fees to obtain permission to operate their own property, all in exchange for a slip of paper or sticker — the absence of which yields further fines and fees from government employees whose salaries come from those paying the fines and fees.
As meme maker Ryan Butcher observed, “Those memes beautifully mock the ridiculousness of unnecessary ‘revenue generation’ laws. I love how they highlight the ‘no victim no crime’ mentality that many people abide by.”
“To me, it’s a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that we must ask an arbitrary governing official for permission to do mundane things and then, often pay for the ‘right,’” said Amanda Carrol, another Facebook user describing the meme.
Activist Michael Heise agreed with that assessment, adding that “It’s not just things that require licensing, but also matters of privacy…It’s highlighting how unfree we are.”
On that note, the meme also references what happens if any given action does not please the crown — and how privacy is sacrificed to implement “the crown’s” wishes:
In doing so, this meme illustrates the fundamental violence inherent to the State; that if the “crown” does not approve, it reserves and exercises its authority to point guns at individuals as a means to control their behavior.
As Dylan Hock observed in the thread, the memes are increasingly timely. “[The memes] make me laugh. Most I’ve seen so far seem on point, considering the fascist nature the country is slipping into more and more,” he said.
It appears the meme will continue to gain popularity whether it pleases the crown or not.