So. Interesting weekend. I lazed around a good deal, and read ‘Into the Buzzsaw’, which is a fascinating look into the world of self-censoring news organizations. To every Libertarian, this is standard stuff – i.e. why do the important questions never get asked? – but it also gave me food for thought in a few areas that I rarely deal with.
The first is the realm of lawsuits. Everyone knows that lawsuits are largely foolish, but reading this book this weekend really helped me understand the degree to which large organizations use lawsuits to keep smaller organizations from disseminating unpleasant facts (particularly in England, which has no constitutional protections for the freedom of the press).
The sad and funny aspect to all this is that journalists who get sued invariably end up taking those who sue them to court as well. In other words, those who are abused by bad laws end up trying to use those bad laws to avenge themselves. Of course, it never works.
It also helped me with another personal agony that I’m sure all Libertarians face – the feeling that I should be doing more to help ‘the cause’, but feeling that nothing I do will ever really change anything. Take Harry Browne – a great speaker, and strong thinker, and an excellent writer. Been hacking at things for decades. Nothing. Not a scrap. Not even a tiny part of the national debate. He takes his stabs where he can, but the fact of the matter is that the State is a closed, self-healing system. Nothing lasts, everything goes down the memory hole in a blinding rush of absence. Iraq has no WMD’s – change the story. Prisoners get tortured? Next story. Foreign aid a catastrophe? More foreign aid! The minds of the citizens are crippled by brain-busting, droningly dull education, and then distracted with celebrities, empty whiz-bang movies, false seriousness and sentimental throat-lump patriotism.
So old Harry didn’t get much done – and neither did Rand, or Rothbard, or any of the other major activists for liberty. I’ve read, written and argued for over twenty years, and all I’ve noticed is that people don’t fight back any more – not because they’ve becoming convinced, but because they just really don’t care. They know the deal. Our society was dead before we were even born. Our society died in the First World War – the age of the Fed, the income tax, and the rise of pensions. The Libertarian experiment lasted just over a hundred years. By the time I was born – 1966 – the government controlled nuclear weapons, education, old age pensions, energy, the poor, the farmers, the media – and many corporations to boot. Getting upset with the government is like trying to apply a defibrillator to a corpse from the 19th century. It’s all done and gone. There is no rescuing our societies as they are, as they stand. It has never been done in the past, and it will not be done now. You can’t fight the degree of violence that our society has descended to. Billions of dollars, millions of guns. You can never fight violence with words. You can only expose violence with words – and if that does not galvanize the population, then the society is dead. We’ve been decapitated – all that remains now is the final, spasmodic dance.
So why am I writing? Why, for the same reason that Winston Smith did. Not for me. Not for now. For those who come after.
All that is required, really, is just to hate violence. Just hate it. That’s the one thing that drives me more than anything. Violence is the furnace at the center of my fire. I grew up in a violent family, and I know how destructive and corrupting violence is. I know how no one ever survives using violence. I must have been a pacifist in the womb, since I never retaliated, and have never hit anyone in my life – the very idea makes me nauseous. I have a wonderfully peaceful and loving relationship with my beautiful wife, and have worked hard to get all the crazy people out of my life, both personally and professionally. That is what is required if you are to really oppose violence. You have to ditch the crazies. I have no contact with my family any more, and couldn’t be happier for it! (My wife is the same way.) I can’t do anything about the State, except write and think and talk, and I can’t do anything about the casual violence, instability and unreliability of the average person (read: almost everyone). The only think I can do is live my life as strongly, passionately and peacefully as possible, and say to everyone who will listen that I truly hate violence, and that they should to.
If that’s the only drumbeat of mine that reaches out of this current jungle into the future, beyond the ruins of what is to come, then that is worth everything to me.