It’s actually not all that common to have the Evil Tyrant take over the land and impose crushing new rules that the Hero and friends spend the book trying to overthrow. No, more commonly the Evil Tyrant replaces the previous Evil Tyrant (meet the new boss, just like the old boss) and changes who’s on the enemies list and the beleaguered subjects do the same as they’ve been doing forever and get on with life in general.
And bruised souls from the compromises that are necessary to get by when living in an abusive regime.
When some flavor of tyranny happens in a place that was more or less free, the usual way is after a period of complete anarchy that happens when a legitimate – or not – government collapses, or it creeps in the back door via ever more restrictive laws passed “for your own good”. This is, of course, what C. S. Lewis was talking about when he said
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
This can lead to slippery slopes and domino theories and plots that aren’t nearly as exciting as the violent overthrows, but when you see it happening, it’s worrying. Also fuel for dystopian tales that I’d rather not be writing thank you very much.
Interestingly enough, I wasn’t chasing that kind of story or nightmare fodder, but earlier this week I ran across a tidbit of news to the effect that another US state has written legislation intended to ban employers from making getting a microchip compulsory for employees. There are several states now that have rules to the effect that companies can’t make getting chipped a condition of employment. There are also rules requiring the VA to accept chipping to identify and monitor patients. I haven’t dug far enough to which came first, but I have absolutely no doubt that once the technology got to the point where it was simple and easy to use there were people with power rubbing their hands together with glee at the opportunities for abuse it provided.
Because yeah, I can’t see any way being able to monitor someone’s location and tell exactly what they did when as long as they’re in reach of a scanner can be abused. Next there’ll be reports of employees being forced to take paid time off for excess loo time. Or something.
Sure most people are decent and do what’s right most of the time. There are always predators around, and it’s inevitable that some of those predators are in governments or in charge of large corporations (they tend to be less inclined towards smaller businesses unless they’re doing the fly-by-night Dodgy Brothers deal where they shut down and move on to the next set of marks before they can get hit by consequences) and busily arranging as much as they can to suit their desires.
And the smart ones will introduce oppressive rules slowly. First it’s an option. Then it’s the preferred option. Until eventually it’s mandatory. And if it’s done well enough, people keep trundling along, never realizing that what used to be relatively free has become rather less so until they get smacked in the face with the changes and wonder where their freedom went.
It doesn’t make for exciting storytelling, unless done by a master. What it does make for is a chilling realization that, as Wendell Phillips said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”