Tuesday, January 03, 2006

How Will We Win? (or: what will the weather be like in 2015?)

All freedom-lovers hunger for an answer to a basic and seemingly-essential question: when will we win? When will the headlong rush of State power be arrested – let alone reversed? We can we begin the process of exploring just how little violence is needed in a free society?

The odds are formidable, of course. The State has overwhelming force, almost all the money, control of education and the media, and massive phalanxes of well-bribed dependents. So how on earth are we going to win?

Here are my thoughts, for what they’re worth – but first, some methodology.

My first premise in examining our possibilities is to work with both current empirical and past historical evidence. My second is that it is only rational to apply our willpower to spheres we have the greatest effect on. The third is that the future of society as a whole is – except in the broadest categories – unpredictable. The fourth is that if we have ideas which we do not put into practice in the spheres we have the greatest effect on, they are not worth having at all.

So – first of all, we have to accept the fact that the current system is so embedded in the hearts, minds and wallets of the general population that no mere argument can prevail against it. From von Mises in the 1920s onward, over eighty of years of powerful arguments for the free market and limited government has done almost nothing to reduce the modern State’s continued aggregation of power, violence and wealth. I doubt anyone out there can write better philosophical novels than Ayn Rand’s, or better books than Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises or Murray Rothbard.

Thus it seems fair to say that abstract argument, compelling evidence or passionate speeches will never grant us victory. The logic of the free market does not convince. The historical success of capitalism does not convince. The ongoing failures of government do not convince. Barn-burning speeches do not convince.

There is also no society in history that I have ever read about (I have a Masters in history from the University of Toronto) that has been able to reverse the growth of government power. From the ancient Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans to the Enlightenment English and Americans to the Russians, Italians, Germans and modern Western societies in general, the pattern is everywhere and always the same: more state, more compulsion, more corruption, more democratic bribery, more debt, more taxes, more regulations – more of everything except freedom.

All such societies eventually and inevitably crash – and ours will be no exception. It is not a question of whether, but when. When will this crash occur? It is impossible to say. My own opinion is that within 10-15 years, everything will absolutely fall apart. The demands of the elderly for health care and pensions will shatter the economy, and a fascistic form of youth-power will emerge, as the young violently attempt to throw off the exploitation of the aged. (This is what happened in Germany and Italy in the 1930s.)

Sadly, history shows that institutional violence is a pandemic virus that must just run its course – it grows exponentially, peaks and then self-destructs. State violence becomes so deeply embedded in society (and so carefully hidden through the corruption of common sense) that its exponential growth cannot be stopped.

Thus it makes little sense for us to spend our energies attempting to oppose the state in its current form. Governments were far smaller in the 1920s than they are now, and the freedom movement failed to restrain their growth even then – what chance do we have now? We must look elsewhere to effect change.

If the lesson of the past is that argument and reason do not work, the question becomes: what will?

The first thing to recognize is that we only have control over our own thoughts and actions – controlling others is impossible save through violence, and violence can never build a free society. Thus we can only change our own behaviour, not the minds of others. (Changing our own thoughts and behaviours will have an effect on the thoughts and behaviours of others, but that effect cannot be predicted in advance.)

We currently live in a society so bereft of logic and evidence that people generally judge the truth of a belief based on the passion and conviction of the speaker. Knowing the truth is all well and good, but we will never convince anyone until we act on it. Thus freedom-lovers must display the greatest possible integrity if freedom is to have any chance at all.

This simple fact is the greatest challenge involved in advocating freedom. If I oppose state violence, but remain ‘friends’ with those who support it, they immediately understand that I are merely posturing, and my ideas mean very little. If I constantly say that I passionately oppose racism, but continue to associate with outright racists, what does that say about my convictions? Won’t they appear little more than a shallow form of oppositional pomposity?

If, on the other hand, I make my convictions clear to those around me – and then refuse to associate with those who reject them – then I am beginning to treat the truth with the seriousness it deserves.

For instance, if I oppose the initiation of force used in the invasion of Iraq, and make the case to my friends and family, I must insist that they either refute my case or accept my position. If they do neither, I have a choice. I can either reject my beliefs, or stop associating with them. There is no honourable ‘third way’.

In the 19th century, the abolitionists who successfully opposed slavery didn’t sit around endlessly arguing with slave-owners. They made their case, and then refused to associate with anyone who turned a deaf ear to reason and evidence. The fact that they took their ideas so seriously helped society in general see that the ideas themselves were serious.

Thus if we love freedom, we must stand for the truth against all social convention. This hard, of course, but wins us several significant benefits.

The first – and most important – benefit is that we rid our lives of irrational people, and so of empty and difficult relationships. We can never gain satisfaction from any ‘relationship’ based on conformity, accidental family history or a rejection of what we know is good and true and right.

If you refuse to give up either your beliefs or your false friends, you undermine the cause of truth in an abhorrent fashion. You may choose to betray the truth for the sake of social conformity, but at least have the decency to stop pretending that the truth is at all important – if you don’t, you make it that much harder for the rest of us!

What is important in life is not family, or spouses, or careers, or money – but truth, integrity, morality and rationality. The reason for this is purely practical – nothing in life is worth a damn if it is not earned honestly. Whether we like it or not, we are so constituted that truth and integrity are all that can give us joy. We can only truly relate to people through a mutual respect for reality and rationality – everything else is habit and illusion and corrupting conformity, and will only bring us pain in the long run.

Thus don’t worry about the State or how we will ‘bring it down’. The first step is to recognize that rationality is its own reward. Standing up for what is right – although difficult – will bring you deep and intense pleasure – and ditching the corrupt and blind people around you will give you self-respect, since you won’t be playing both sides of the fence anymore.

The State will likely fall of its own accord. We cannot predict when, or what will follow. We only know that speaking the truth and living with integrity is the greatest service we can do for the truth, reality, goodness – and those who will come after us, who we hope, if we fail, will inherit our thoughts and take their own stand.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your articles very much, as it is refreshing to see someone make the attempt at having a coherent viewpoint.

But... (always a but in these comments, right?) the very question asked in your title exposes that all of us have so, so far yet to go. We will never win anything, if for no other reason than we don't exist in any form that allows for accurate score-keeping.

As all of the suggestions in your article make very clear, the only solutions available are all within the individual. And all rely upon improvement of self, as opposed to the political (we) answer of improvement of others. Which, given this monopoly of force that is politics, it is obvious that no improvement can occur.

We can't win. However, I am winning, and so can you. All I had to do was to stop accepting ideas the are designed to keep me from recognizing the truth, and to cast them instead as the examples of tyranny that they are.

Once enough of us individuals have deprogrammed ourselves, society will reinforce our cultural education as being a better way. In the meantime, government will grow until it kills off the true believers, and thus itself, while the survivors undergo a vast re-education known as the school of hard knocks.

As you stated, there is no example of government ever shrinking. Which is to be expected, since there is no way for life to revert to its past.

The only way out is forward, past the end-state of the current state. Just like all other forms of life, government grows until it can grow no more, then it succumbs to its own unsustainability.

We just happen to be living at a time when Greenspan has made this outcome our own future, thanks to his undermining of the government's system of graft. He may not have a reverse button, but he not only found, but locked down the fast-forward button.

May we live in interesting times.

(8?»

blogspew@regenerationx.org

thomas said...

The first - and most important - benefit is that we rid our lives of irrational people, and so of empty and difficult relationships. We can never gain satisfaction from any 'relationship' based on conformity

Even conformity with rationalism?

And the problem is how to rid oneself of irrational people - those who collect taxes on behalf of the state, who enforce traffic laws, etc. It is not so much that they are kept, but that they are invaders.

But there is a problem. Even the most rational people I know will come to different opinions, both from "reason". Do you accept Rothbard or Gordon (l4l.org) on abortion? She seems to present far better arguments, or would that cause you to lose your irrationally pro-abort rationalist friends?

You have already noted you cannot stay friends. So like the protestant movement, whatever you call this kind of libertarianism will fragment into thousands of denominations, each preaching a slightly different resolution to the problems under consideration.

But to play the Catholic card again, you will lose simply because you don't even take up atheistic versions of the spiritual works of mercy such as admonishing sinners (which for these purposes I think would be those you consider irrational - instead you excommunicate them). You don't even seem to want to educate the ignorant. They must educate themselves before you will even talk to them.

Those who preach only to the choir will have a very small church.

It is also where I think you mean something utterly different most times when you use the word "morality". A friend will seek to help a friend see the truth and will persist since friendship philea is stronger than any difference of opinion.

Otherwise you merely wish relationships based on conformity, but to your new opinion. You create an atheistic institution mirroring a church, but with the identical enforcement against heretics and a ban on paganism I think I've heard you condemn when others do it.

I forgot which book, but it was available in audio by Mortimer Adler, who knows something about philosophy. It was about speaking and used three rhyming greek words about what you need to do to get a point across. I forgot one of the words, but two were pathos and logos.

In order:

Pathos - yes, emotion, or "why you should care about what I am saying". Why is it important or even significant. The difference between a play and a lecture is that the former is only meant to be entertaining and not change my mind or life.

?os - "Why you should listen to me on the subject". Why should I take you on as a teacher? There is some logos and some pathos here. If you sound snobbish or bigoted I might dismiss your arguments just as I might if you are incompetent, because in the former case I would assume you are biased and selling something for your own profit, not mine. I could fact-check everything you say, but that would be tiresome and if I must go to the original source material anyway, why should I listen to you?

Logos - After presenting the first two, only then present your argument and reasoning, your facts and figures.

Roger said...

This is an interesting concept. I have noticed it before in other people (and myself), but I have never seen it spelled out in such detail. However, you are wrong and Thomas is right.

“If, on the other hand, I make my convictions clear to those around me-and then refuse to associate with those who reject them-then I am beginning to treat the truth with the seriousness it deserves.”

This statement is true as far as it goes, but if you stop there it is a dead-end. When we move from pragmatism to conviction, as you have done, then we have begun to live the truth. Beginning, not refuse, is the key word in this statement. You must go on.

There are times when my wife, children, and grandchildren show irrationality. Sometimes these relationships are difficult. Shall I discard them? Sometimes my boss and the people I work with are irrational. Should I quit and get another job? Will that be any better? Why? For that matter, sometimes I exhibit irrational behavior and think irrational thoughts. If everyone around me refused to associate with me, how would that make my life better?

While you may have correctly identified “freedom” as the be-all and end-all, your method of reaching it is flawed and will inevitably fail. Freedom is not man-made and can’t be reached by using man-made methods. Gandhi may have beaten the British Empire, but India didn’t become a haven of freedom. Tibetan Buddhist monks may have lived non-violent lives, but their blood ran red when the Chinese Maoists arrived. Abstention from violence will not produce freedom from violence. Refusing to associate with anyone who disagrees with you will only produce loneliness, irrelevance, and death of relationships.

Is it possible that you are practicing a form of violence by attempting to force others (by shunning them) to conform to your standard? Are you walling yourself into your retreat and only admitting those who become like you? Are you using the control of disassociation to make everyone around you into your image? If this is the case, you are really practicing violence against yourself and hurting yourself in the process. Maybe you need to change.

You mentioned that you must either reject your beliefs or stop associating with those who disagree with you. You also stated that, “There is no honorable ‘third way’.” Actually, there is. There is a better way and it is the only one which will work. True freedom can only be achieved by one means—love. Pure, total, unconditional love. The kind of love God exhibits. God is love. Love produces freedom because it overcomes everything in the human heart which holds a person back from reaching his or her true potential. Love will (and does) change people for the better.

This doesn’t mean it isn’t forceful or violent. For instance, because I love my grandson, I will use any means necessary, violent or otherwise, to stop him from putting his hand onto a red-hot burner on my kitchen stove. Further, I will discipline (teach) him in such a way that he understands it is better for him not to do this. He will become more free and I will have exercised love, albeit, perhaps in a violent way. The goal, of course, is to raise him so that eventually he can take his place in society as a responsible, mature, loving, non-violent man who will assist in making this world a better place.

One of my very good friends hates Wal-Mart. I shop there. He would like to see Wal-Mart handicapped and restricted by ever-increasing government regulation and/or simply put out of business. I want to see Wal-Mart flourish and prosper in a competitive free market. We talk about this occasionally. I don’t expect either of us will change his viewpoint anytime soon. However, we are still friends because we have a mutual bond of love between us. Disagreements will not change this and both of us are better off because of it. Because I love him, I can allow him to be different without feeling threatened by that difference.

The opposite of love isn’t hatred, as many think, but fear. Any action by any person can be distilled down more and more until only one of two emotions are left—love or fear. This fear may very well be masked and unrecognizable, but it is there nevertheless. The first negative emotion Adam & Eve experienced after they ate the apple was fear. The human race hasn’t recovered. Yet.

We act towards others the way we do out of love or because we are afraid of...something. My friend probably will not admit it, but he hates Wal-Mart because he is afraid that he will lose his union-based work and pay scale, if the status quo is allowed to continue. Wal-Mart is seen as the bogey-man, the scapegoat, and therefore must be driven out.

On the other hand, there are numerous instances where American POW’s in North Vietnam learned to love so greatly that beatings, deprivation, and torture could not break them, and in the process they earned the (grudging) respect of their captors. The early Christians knew and experienced real love and were not afraid to die. “Perfect love casts out fear” is just as relevant and meaningful today as it was two thousand years ago. We just have to learn it and accept it.

I know what it is like to walk in your shoes. I know what it is like to throw someone away because they would not conform to my point of view. I have done that. I have driven people away because of my adamant, stubborn dogmatism. Three quarters of my life was spent in a virtual state of war, angry at God, the world, and myself.

I also know what it is like to experience the spiritual peace which comes from knowing that God loves me. Furthermore, I know that I can give that love to others around me, regardless of who they are or how they act. This is real freedom. It is available to everyone and no government can (ultimately) stand against it--“...They shall beat their swords into plowshares. Nation shall not rise up against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Furthermore, “...(g)overnment shall be on His shoulders and of the increase of His kingdom [love], there shall be no end.”

This is my faith and my future. I cannot lose. I am free. May you be so blessed.