9/11 and My Search for the Isle de Monte Cristo
There are undoubtedly a thousand articles, tenfold that number in posts, and infinite comments shared about September 11th discussing those historical events for the United States that day in 2001. Some will theorize about how the federal government did this and that to incite the attacks or even plotted the attacks entirely. Whatever the case maybe, many of those a part of my generation, generation X, the generation trailing the baby boomers, now associate that particular event the same way the previous does with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
So, where were you when the trade towers were struck?
I remember where I was when the events were unfolding. I also remember listening
to the news reports for the next several weeks. During the late nineties and early
2000s I remember well what was important to me. What was important to me then
were all the things I later considered wastes of my time. Today I don’t think that
anymore. In fact the things I did before I began trying to comprehend the world
around me eventually helped me on my path to understanding.
Throughout the years I have posted and blogged about the importance of
critical thinking. Often times I have dismissed any ability on my part to think
critically before acquiring the family I made during the mid 2000s until the mid 2010s.
Today with the new family I am building I have twenty years of adulthood under
my proverbial experience cache. However, the most important aspect is not the
family experience, rather the internal confidence to problem solve and not rely
upon others without first having a clear idea of what I can do for myself prior
to interacting with others. I used to dismiss a lot of my own ability to think critically
because the path I walked seemed so radically different than what is often taken
for normal. I had always been capable of critical thinking before I started one family,
was forced to let that go, and began a new one. The trouble was that I just didn’t
understand it because of my social environment.
I didn’t realize what I was capable of because the interests I had were not normal for much of the social aspect I was a part of. I enjoyed playing video games and computer games which required a fair amount of thought beyond simple Pac-Man and the like. While I did play chess, my focus was on role playing games such as Final Fantasy. In my earliest adult years, between working in various bar and grill establishments as a cook, trainer, and low end management while trying to attend college, I played hundreds of hours of Civilization, Sim-City, Star Craft, and a plethora of different Star Wars games filled with riddles and puzzles to unravel.
I was told often by family, particularly my father, that these things would never help me. I was told that I was wasting my time; that I should learn to value working and get a good state job for security with him! I played these games because I enjoyed the comfort of figuring out challenges that didn’t scream in my face like my father did. I enjoyed them because I could control their outcome in a way I wasn’t able to fathom about my own life at the time. They were my escape from my past reality. They may not have been real challenges to some. To me though, they were how I figured out how to problem solve a lot of things in my life at the time. I learned a lot about cause and effect since so many of the games were complex trigger based.
I know that will sound pretty lame to some big name intellectuals and the internet bullies but that was my path. The creators of the games I played did a spectacular job in designing their products. In order to get beyond beating mere challenges by figuring out strategies, I had to look up information about the virtual enemies I was competing against in actual library books. I could have easily played the games as they were but I realized they were often based on real life events or strategies employed in real life.
These games set me on the path to researching real historical events. The Civilization series had me falling in love with history. At first I enjoyed only ancient history but as the series progressed I began to love modern U.S. history and the development of the Americas. In fact it was the little shiny tidbits of information about personalities in American History which presented themselves to me as each game progressed in Civilization 3 that sparked my new love!
I spent time researching civil functions because of Sim-City. I learned more about how local government work by researching the various advisors in the game through real encyclopedias. This was before the internet was as available as it is to us today to a ‘quick & easy’ assignment project! I learned things I never would have learned listing to some teacher barking at the class clowns and answering the questions of those students whose minds more easily fit the mold of the Prussian model school system.
And through the more than one thousand games of Star Craft I played, I began taking an interest in reading what other science fiction authors had to say about the infinite ‘what ifs’. I hated reading as a child because I couldn’t stay focused. It was constantly thrust in my face as something of vital importance but never would the individuals pressing the matter explain to me with a clear path of thought progression exactly why reading is important. I could lay that out entirely in a single meme, paragraph, or even a huge essay today, but I’ll save that for another time.
I could be exponentially smarter today if I learned how to focus while reading sooner. Oh, but of all the would’ve, should’ve, and could’ve ‘s! While I want to blame those responsible for my upbringing and the society which produced them, I cannot honestly do so today knowing they were and remain nescient. No matter about that because all of the boring authors forced on me in school once filled my book shelves years later.
I began questioning my own religion because of the back stories associated with the Star Craft real time strategy game. I won’t go into detail, but I will share that the stores I read brought back hundreds of memories of speaking with my grandmother about life on other planets as a kid. The fondest memories I have of her are the stories she told me about how she and her father would have peaceful moments together in the midst of all the chaos Hitler was causing in Germany as she passed through her teenage years. These moments were spent stargazing with her father as he told her of how mankind might have come to Earth after they destroyed Mars by building too many polluting factories. The conversations we had about how and why the Earth is so big and small in such a vast space are just as amazing to me today as they were then. I understood the basics premises of such technologies, the potential of mankind to make things happen, and am excited I took the journey I did thinking. I only wish my father hadn’t been as gruff, tunnel vision focused, and angry leading him to accept that it was okay to scream at a little boy who was terrified of him so often.
But as I grew came the big fights with my father and the scare of my life when I entered into the world with nothing except a bit of poor information; authority is good.
I knew the whole time that the things I enjoyed would be useful. Or at least I hoped they would. It was just a feeling deep down inside because I couldn’t believe they didn’t have a purpose. How could I be so good at them and somehow be worthless in everything else in my life? I just had to find a way to relate them to the world around me.
That was terribly difficult with so many people yelling at me, putting pressure on me to conform to what they thought was normal. None of these people understood how to truly communicate an idea because they couldn’t even explain to me with the utmost clarity what they felt in sentiment. So I clung to my video games and science fiction like a bastard child to his only teddy bear friend, even as a twenty-four year old man. And to throw gasoline on an oil fire, I became especially scared when the various news organizations in late 2001 were hinting, cheering, and berating the possibility of a draft. That was my wake up call to start paying attention to things outside my insignificant bubble of influence. I knew that there was nothing my parents could do to stop the federal government from collecting me for use as a bullet catcher if a draft was initiated.
I don’t ever recall being that afraid of government before or since. It was absolutely my wakeup call from a dream world to the real world in a matter of just a few weeks. I think maybe that is a little unfair in terms of wording. I wasn’t really dreaming and off in another world. I was simply nescient. I didn’t know any better. What I knew was that authority was not quite correct or off or something other than trust worthy. At the time I couldn’t distinguish between legitimate authority earned such as that of a teacher or artisan crafter who learns a profession or skill for years to understand it and the authority of legality and ‘might makes right’ and that which comes with the pointing of a gun or the raising of a truncheon.
What I did know was that I could have everything taken away from me that I worked for. To many who do not understand deeply the purpose and value of creation, I am probably some weak and pathetic fool. Yet to recognize this about myself, admit it, and be willing to share it with others to help enlighten takes a kind of strength that those who ridicule me for being weak likely do not have, if they understand it at all. And in this understanding I immediately realized the entire sentiment about draft dodgers in the Vietnam War. I felt that understanding in sentiment but could not quite explain it.
I had acquired the first of many epiphanies on my journey to understanding liberty. The few skills and knowledge I picked up from my games helped me along. It didn’t give me a lot at first. But it did grant me the idea that clarity of context is an absolute necessity in problem solving. I also had learned during my time as a cook that communication is a major key to success in such environments, though I wouldn’t recognize either of these lessons until more than a decade after the terrorist attacks of September eleventh. Though for the time, I searched for clues and answers to questions I didn’t know I was asking just yet.
I began listening to talking heads on television and reading their books. I was more actively discussing politics and even made temporary patches in my relationship with my father by doing so. Finally I was taking an interest in the real world that he so desired I do instead of wasting my time on things he didn’t understand how I experience and why. I remember thinking something was grossly wrong with the news media in time and his politics. I kept listening to the talking heads over the years. I was introduced to books by people whom I thought were kooky. Many of these books were by authors I’d never heard of before, such as Ayn Rand, Mises, Rothbard, and a few others.
I didn’t reject the books because what they were saying was wrong. I rejected reading them because the people advocating them were discussing what the current U.S. political left touts as extremist right wing insanity far beyond Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilly. I was raised as a conservative Roman Catholic. I was also raised to recognize that the Southern Confederacy was the victim and the Northern federal republic the bully which was a bit of a contradiction in the political philosophies I was taught. Of course, thinking back about it today, those books were entirely a rejection made for no other reason than because those promoting such works couldn’t break down the ideas beyond sentiment. They encouraged me to read something they didn’t fully understand well enough to explain.
As of today I still haven’t really read any of their works in whole, except Atlas Shrugged. Most of what I read was historical in accounts. I read actual letters written between loved ones and political allies and opponents alike from the 1600s through the late 1900s. I studied the context of historical battles and the speeches given in legislatures around the United States and western world. I asked questions to understand what people fought for and why. I also asked questions as to why people did anything they did. Chiefly, I pressed the questions of ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘how,’ and ‘why’ incessantly like a toddler.
And I did all of this while listening to how much the mainstream media didn’t tow actual facts as much as the popular sentiment of them or what was emotionally charged. I started with WSB channel 2 News and the Atlanta Journal Constitution in Atlanta Georgia. I moved to AM 750 WSB talk radio, like my father and found Neil Boortz. What I picked up from him was to question everything I hear and read, even from him and what I think I previously knew to be true. And then I got bored and began feeling inconsistencies in his statements about such things as his promotion of a Fair Tax.
I turned to Fox News and liked what I heard there far more than what I heard on CNN and talk radio. After a while I didn’t really care for what I heard there anymore than what I heard elsewhere. Hostility! HOSTILITY! HOSTILITY!!!!!
I probably listened to Fox News for about six years. I thought with the new talking heads they brought on that things were getting better. And then Glenn Beck, whom I really thought was doing well with his message, began preaching history. No, not teaching, but preaching. His path of thought progression was actually beginning to get into understanding the importance of philosophical consistency. Next thing I know, he seemed to go out of his way to maliciously verbally attack Southerners and their heritage concerning what I began to understand as the War of Federal Aggression, what he and everyone else called the American Civil War.
What Beck was preaching was in direct contradiction to what I had found out to be the truth by going through various state and local archives to read documents written by the people at the time. I read through more than the secession documents written by the seceded states. I read many congressional speeches their legislatures and senators gave discussing the reasons for taking their positions. I read their federal counterparts’ speeches as well. And I also read so many of the personal letters saved from Northerners and Southerners alike detailing the horrors they feared in war to come.
What I read was absolutely different than what the supposed professionals Beck hosted said happened. And then he had a guest on his show who basically said that the only time in human history that history wasn’t written by the victors was the American Civil War. I was so damned angry about that! It was a lie and I stopped watching television in the following months. I only continued because I found a program by Andrew Napolitano and I liked what I heard. Following that was a show by John Stossel, whom I remembered I enjoyed listening to when he was a journalist on regular broadcast news programs.
By the end of the next ten months or so, I was done with television. By the time Ron Paul in 2012 was being cheated out of the Republican nomination I really hadn’t watch much television. I promoted him loosely but knew it was a waste of time even though I wrote up articles about how it wasn’t a wasted vote to check his name on the ballot. That was the time I was writing my third book.
It was a redrafting and heavily revised version of my previous two books which I pulled from circulation. I didn’t like the inconsistencies I wrote in them. I didn’t like the loose ends I didn’t recognize at the time of writing. And then I had another powerful epiphany. I was beginning to understand how to deconstruct liberty by finding the most common denominator. I had to learn what few others could teach. I couldn’t spend any more time searching for the perfect book to explain what I thought was needed. I had to write it myself. So I had to do a lot of deeper thinking than I was used to. That I am sure helped cause a rift between my adopted daughter’s mother and I to a certain extent that we amicably chalk up to be a simple growing apart.
By the time I was done, Ron Paul had written another book with the same title I had chosen for mine, Liberty Defined. I read his book. It wasn’t anything like what I wrote. It wasn’t horrible. It was good, yet still fairly clouded from what I remember thinking it should be. In fairness, I quite literally defined liberty in my book where he discussed political issues a lot and why some positions were wrong. I don’t find Ron Paul to be a poster boy for what is wrong with U.S. politics at all. He was at the time certainly on the right path of thinking. I just wish he hadn’t stayed perched on the same stepping stone of thought for so long. But who really knows what will come of things if they were different?
And that’s just it! We can’t teach what we don’t know. So we remain stagnant and stuck sometimes in pools of thought. I just didn’t like seeing inconsistencies in my own works. A lot of this was rooted in my father’s constant ridiculing me of not completing a task by always finding something I missed. And this trend continued when I found the internet chat rooms and forums. What’s the saying? ‘The quickest way to find out alternative methods or why you’re wrong is to make a definitive or absolute statement on the internet?!
That kind of ridicule is hard to handle because even if we are correct and the aggressor or individual attempting to offer constructive or destructive criticism is wrong, we crave vindication. And that is something we so often do not get which leads many people to feeling as if the internet is full of an overwhelming majority of mean and nasty monsters. In face to face conversations it is different usually. But in virtual communications there is little recourse since it is so easy to just walk away or build up one’s own ego by socially pointing out the flaws in others.
This ends up being nothing more than not the slowest individual running from an angry bear. Don’t do or say anything and you won’t get attacked. It’s almost depressing and for me at least often difficult to handle every day because of how my father ridiculed me relentlessly being macho and the tough disciplinarian and authoritarian he was and is.
These kinds of encounters only helped to fuel my desire for consistency. Communication is difficult. We don’t communicate strictly through words alone. We employ body language, volume of voice, tone, pronunciation, and more. And then we end up writing as if we are talking. The words we use often offend because as we read we forget or don’t realize that all the aspects we use to communicate can’t be attached to every word we write out. It was the recognition of this concept in part which helped me formulate the ideas of Liberty Defined. And in time it would aid me in understanding what I missed so I could write Morality Defined.
Had I not been scared by the prospect of being drafted and taken away from what little I knew without seemingly a choice because I was nescient, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have in my own self development; in my own self reflection and self discovery. I began understanding what the government claiming jurisdiction over me was doing by listening to stories set in fictional realms. I began to make the connections with entertainment I enjoyed and the research I was doing. Everyone from George Lucas’ Star Wars and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Kevin Costner’s The Postman and Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo aided me in understanding the problems and solutions.
Interestingly enough, as of now, the creation of this piece of work you are reading, I haven’t read Mises, Rothbard, or others in whole yet. I figured out something that is universally applicable and promotes creation by ensuring the means are in line with achieving the goals. I created a peaceful path out of a dark, shame filled cowering start. It’s certainly not as horrendous as some of the fictional character’s journeys were, but it is also worse than others having been thrown in a fire place and terrorized by a man whom never stopped to truly understand what he did to me was not discipline but abuse because I didn’t understand what he was trying to convey as he was unable to explain simply enough to me as a child what the issue was.
It is my tale of how I played the role of Edmond Dantes. It is how I came to understand the world around me. To some it will be a sad, pathetic tale. To others I hope it is inspiring. Regardless of what happens, it is my story and I have chosen not to compete with anyone else except my former selves. We all have stories. What is important is that we learn to understand them so we can tell them to ourselves and listen to them in order to grow.
We don’t always need to ensure the world knows about us all the time. What we need to ensure is that we know about ourselves all the time. And that is how I came to realize the full importance of clarity, context, and communication.
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