I think there are a series of unintentionally self imposed barriers with the liberty movements. We are trying to label and define everything; everything but the foundation of liberty. There is so much emphasis on why ‘An-caps’ are this, on why ‘Ancoms’ are not that, and why Voluntaryists are impractical because they ‘only believe’ something else that every group gets into a shouting match over with a fence post. This turns people off leaving those believing they are debating in an echoing corner with supporters. And this presents a very unique problem.
There are too many different categories of groups. There is too much to filter through and find exactly what it is we believe in order to acquire the proper label. We are too busy searching for labels instead of trying to understand the foundation of our beliefs. Essentially we, as in a non-combative and generic observation, are trying to tear down what we don’t like from others instead of building up what we want to see.
Still though, it is difficult to create when we have so many people whom at least feel in sentiment what we also feel clawing at us trying to bring us down for no other reason than they believe we are wrong; not that we are wrong and actually hurting them. Many who know of my work privately may immediately point out how I seem to like to ‘pick on’ individuals such as Larken Rose. However, as I have grown over the last half decade, my points of contention are less about how mean people are and more about how nescient they are. Whether that lack of knowledge turns into a self cultivated wisdom or a flammable and dangerous ignorance is to be determined.
I believe this problem stems from a lack of critical thinking skills and or a very large distraction from utilizing critical thinking skills. Instead of understanding the foundations of our beliefs we are tempted with trying to interpret every view possible and respond to every single challenge we are presented with. And this is something I’ve noticed about a lot of liberty minded individuals. In the beginning I did this too. I am a firm believer that trying to right every wrong is in fact part of learning when we first stumble upon such revelations of thought, like the Nonaggression Principle.
I think of this as more of a barrier with celebrities such as Russell Brand, Matt Damon, and Jon Stewart than I do what are dubbed ‘celebritarians’ like Rose, Cantwell, and the like. There are others out there who preach various messages. Many in the liberty movements are also guilty of this bickering to be sure. What I’m getting at specifically are their failures, by innocence or design, to lay the ground work for what it is they actually believe. Seriously consider that for a moment. Do you know how to define your life philosophy and the concepts employed to make that work to their most simplistic ideas?
I’m not talking about telling others that you support Natural Law. I’m talking about what Natural Law comes from in terms of a clear path of thought progression from why all interactions should be voluntary ‘because the benefits far outweigh the negatives’ instead of ‘because it is because it is’ while wrapping that latter sentiment up with the words ‘inherent,’ ‘axiomatic,’ or ‘self evident.’
It is not a weakness to believe what one believes; but it is a weakness to refuse to understand why one believes what they believe. It is also a mistake to not challenge one’s own ideas for quality too! And if what you believe is that others should be governed in some fashion without their complete voluntary consent free of any form of unwarranted duress by another human being then, what you believe is dangerous to more than just you. It becomes dangerous to others. But that’s not all.
So many dissenters of government fail to understand what they believe in and promote. What do I mean? Well, if I ask why we need to hold onto a ladder with both hands as we climb we might say, “For safety, so we don’t fall.” While that is a fair assessment it falls short of actually understanding the problem. Break the problem down. What will happen if we let go? We won’t instantly fall. Other criteria must occur first.
If climbing a contractor’s ladder propped up against the side of a house we must ensure it is on a flat and solid surface. The ladder needs to be propped up against the house without leaning to one side or the other. We should avoid using the ladder during extreme wind and weather. We probably shouldn’t try to double step as we climb. And if we want to avoid falling, our safety would be greatly improved if we did not engage in horse play while on the ladder. Yet this is not enough.
Even though many of the actions have been highlighted concerning greater clarity of what the safety concerns are we need to know more. What is the context of being on the ladder? Were there other alternatives? While this may seem daft and picky, the issue is entirely about control. And what can we control? Clarity is what we can control, context too!
Let us look at this in another fashion. What is the square root of 16? Four, of course! Why? Because of the rules of multiplication and division is why. And what might we need to understand fully before understanding how those rules work and why? Addition and subtraction is what. And before we can add and subtract? How to count!
However, I often ask people in when I teach, “Why do we count?!” Well, we count to organize. But I’m not stopping here. Why do we organize? We organize for control. And this is what human action is about. We control things for the purpose maintaining and improving the quality of our lives.
Now I’m sure many of you are wondering what I am getting at with these examples. Comprehension, clarity, and context are what I am getting at. The barriers presented concerning these ideas are not just the applicable to the advocates of government. These barriers are equally applicable to the self proclaimed champions of freedom, the voluntaryists, anarchists, dissenters of government alike. Many will label self ownership as ‘self-evident,’ ‘inherent,’ or even ‘axiomatic.’ But why stop there?
How many of us have actually looked up what these words mean? Sure it’s easy to look into a reference material and read a definition. However, reading a definition and understanding the context of that words employment often are two different things. Did the freedom advocate employ the word ‘axiomatic’ because the idea of self-ownership is a universally accepted principle as defined by many dictionaries or because it was his or her cheap way out of explaining something?
Are you beginning to follow my path of thought here? No? Okay. How about this?!
If I say the word ‘tree’, what image do you immediately see in your mind’s eye? I’m going to make an educated guess and say a tree of some kind. But if I say ‘a red apple tree’, what do you see? Again, I’m going to make an educated guess and say you imagined an apple tree with red apples. At least that was what was intended for you to imagine since the word ‘red’ preceded the word ‘apple’ in order to describe the word ‘apple’ which preceded the word ‘tree’ to describe the word ‘tree’.
So what if I say ‘axiomatic?’ What does your mind’s eye see? Well, unless you have practiced a lot with learning definitions and studied philosophy, you probably don’t see anything in your mind’s eye. There is nothing wrong with you. It’s normal to not see anything immediately upon coming across such a word. Without regular association and employment of such a word one probably won’t recognize it immediately.
However, there is more to the lack of a mental image for a word like ‘axiomatic.’ Axiomatic is a term describing the state of something. Axiomatic doesn’t have any tangible or visual presence which we can picture in our minds the way the color red does, an apple does, a tree does, or even a red apple tree does. The word ‘axiomatic’ is a descriptive word used in the context of liberty to describe yet another intangible noun. It is an intangible idea used to describe another intangible idea. And that right there is what presents so much difficulty for so many people in understanding the importance of philosophy.
Some words sound terrific. Words not typically invoked into the everyday lives of people can be ways to captivate them, stealing their attention, and gaining their trust. Think of this idea as if a teacher is giving students multiplication facts starting with one times one. She lists off forty and fifty facts which are all easily verifiable in the exact moment for the students. Then she lists one off that is incredibly complex and large. The students at first take the answer their teacher provides at face value for being true.
Well, that’s a lot of how things work in the various liberty movements when people invoke something as being ‘axiomatic’, ‘self-evident’, or even ‘inherent.’
Even as dissenters of government, advocates of freedom, we inadvertently employ many of the same tactics as champions of government and don’t even realize it. The truly sad part is that many of us sling a mountain’s worth of mud to cover up what we don’t understand because we are nescient and poorly invest our pride since being wrong is so often looked down upon in many societies.
While it is acceptable to truly not understand and admit so, many freedom advocates do not if they even realize they don’t know. Then there are those whom invest into pride to avoid being seen as wrong in public and ignorant of something so simple a concept as ‘voluntary interactions’. Though such a concept is easy to define, self ownership is less simplistic; so people tend to invoke fancy words they can’t explain.
And that is among the largest barriers limiting the various liberty movements.
People grab an idea from somewhere and it fits the new criteria of solving the latest problem. It fits for a solution for so many problems. The initial excitement is often overwhelming. People take their messages to the streets and the world before they’ve allowed themselves to contemplate this new idea a little further.
But it’s not just with new ideas. It’s the same with old ideas that never were truly contemplated in such a fashion as to seek out any potential conflicts in ideology or clouded concepts taken for fact without as much transparency as others. When one conflict or contradiction is found it’s often just overlooked and ignored. When it’s a bigger problem it’s addressed as a necessary conflict or evil. Or in the case of freedom advocates, “its Natural Law,” or “you ignorant -insert expletive or derogatory remark-, it’s fairly obvious why and I’m not wasting my time to show you.”
Essentially what that is stating is that people don’t wish to provide the things they believe are necessary without doing the work for themselves; thus the necessary evil in terms of taxation and the issuing of insults to demean hidden behind the mantra of ‘sticks and stones’ and a loosely defined Nonaggression Principle. The truth is that people are impatient, fickle, and often emotionally charged about a particular cause as well as their pride. People in the various liberty movements are just as susceptible to cognitive dissonance as are their targets of ridicule who advocate for government.
At the end of the day, for both champions of government and advocates of voluntaryism alike, the failure to fully comprehend our emotional sentiments of accepted ideas is what gets us into trouble. Government isn’t a necessary evil anymore than self ownership is axiomatic because it is a generally accepted principle. In both cases each side is simply making an excuse to cover for their inabilities to offer greater clarity of comprehension. And if disclaimers are used to excuse one’s own actions so they may teach what they know, then there might be other issues at hand too!
I find that when someone employs a disclaimer about their own actions when trying to teach others the importance of consistency, the individual relaying the disclaimer is often doing one of the following:
-promoting an incomplete idea
-failing to self reflect
-hiding something potentially self destructive
Just to be clear, I’m not bashing or trying to attack advocates of liberty or government dissenters. The kind of disclaimer where one says to avoid their behaviors in other areas of their lives is a direct contradiction many times to what is being taught.
“DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO!”
Consistency is important when building foundations. If there is a lack of consistency one should seek out answers to the question of ‘WHY?’ Disclaimers do not seek those answers and are tools used in the moment to avoid responsibiility to achieve greater clarity. These are the kinds of things which get us into trouble with others regardless of which side of the argument concerning government we are on.
It is the same sentiment behind why we feel as if we have to go and shout the new things we’ve learned to the world right away! Patience is important, a virtue in fact. Before we go and try to excitedly share with the world everything we just learned, we might want to take a step back, ponder what it is we want to share, and then explore it a little more. Our initial excitement might not be shared with others; especially when we come across as eccentric bordering on crazy! This includes discussing these ideas with others whom are already on the same or similar paths we are on.
In fact, the most important thing we can do to help our own causes in relation to understanding freedom, morality, voluntaryism, and self ownership is ownership of the ideas we promote by putting them into practice ourselves where we have complete voluntary control over our abilities to do so! That means minding our actions regardless of whether or not they are in face-to-face or performed with some anonymity. If we want true pragmatism, this is where we will find it; by being the change in the world we want to see!
It is something that seems to be sorely lacking in every liberty movement and political campaign. It doesn’t matter what the style or class of the liberty movement is. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Voluntaryist, or Communist; it doesn’t matter as all are impatient and demanding change now! This is impatience is indicative of the first steps of a mind exploring new ideas that are desired. They are not indicative of minds which have been scrutinized by their advocate to ensure consistency.
All make the same mistakes. They all try to rush into the market place of intellectual exchange and push their ideas on everyone. Yeah, even Voluntaryists do this; albeit not as frequent as the others but it happens. Typically it happens when we’ve discovered that epiphany, that moment of enlightenment, when all the ideas connect and we realize the problems with all the other groups.
Yet, voluntaryists, abolitionists, government advocates, the religious, and anarchists alike all suffer from the same problem the other groups do. Every one of them typically fails to take the time to understand the foundation of their beliefs. It’s easy to invoke something that is complex or simple sounding. But when that is challenged so many on both sides of the fence act like so many politicians, tenured faculty at prestigious universities, and wealthy aristocracy. They all gang up on the radically different position or the idea which seems to point out their flaws.
In terms of advocates of government the main reasons are:
-but without government warlords and gangs would take over!
-don’t’ you care about making your life easier!?
For dissenters of government the main reasons seem to akin to these:
-Natural Law is based on how people were born into the world, free; so to challenge that with questions of what they should be free from is ridiculous!
-You either control yourself or you don’t; that’s why things are inherent, don’t’ need proof!
These statements are just the most common statements issued to me. They may be different for you. In terms of the latter statements, they are made by ardent supporters of particular liberty movement celebritarians. But make no mistake, these refusals to accept honest challenges, invest the time to understand them, and be willing to at least honestly take a look into one’s own championed philosophy is likely the largest of all barriers slowing down the liberty movements advocating for the abolition of government founded upon less than unanimous consent of the governed; by the dissenters and the champions of government alike!
This is typical and a generalization that is founded on the fact that we still go around defending our pride about being wrong. And why is that? In short, because we are a reason capable and sentient species which rose to the highest levels of the food chain on earth because intelligence through problem solving and critical thinking skills to maintain and improve the quality of our lives as individuals and families and our futures is a desirable trait. So when that is proven in public areas for others to see we fight it since the knee-jerk reaction of so many untrained or inexperienced minds sees a weakness to be exploited for social acceptance.
So you see? The liberty movements have a long way to go before they attract AND keep people open to their ideas. And to help this process along it is to our greatest benefit as advocates of freedom to fully define terms to their core. Logic will not help everyone. Catering to emotions won’t help everyone either. But a little empathy will. Small steps are what it will take.
If what we invoke as the foundation for our desires to be free is not the lowest common denominator connecting us all, then we have already failed. There is a lot of talk recently, at least in the circles of thought I seem to find myself part of, about employing more compassion and emotion to attract the attention of new recruits to exploring voluntaryism. That’s so incredibly exciting to me! But let’s not forget to ensure our logical foundations are transparent and fully exposed for all of the world to see too!
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