Don"t Shoo Firefly

The concept of 'Self Ownership' ' corollary to 'Love thy Neighbor as Thyself' ' takes a stretch of the cerebral muscle. Most people never make the effort to venture beyond the 'I'm bored/hungry/thirsty/angry/tired/excited . . .' state of mind. Consequently, berating people, no matter how logical one's arguments, simply does not inspire a mind to shake loose of its shackles. Frequently, a whiff of political or religious conversation triggers an automatic off switch on a listening brain. But as the culture so aptly demonstrates in our day-to-day world, simple messages based on emotion effectively convey ideas. And fortunately, not all of the voices in the group mind ' television ' preach the message that bureaucrats with guns and badges are the saviors of civilization.

Fox TV's entertainment division gave us a fantasy gem called 'Firefly' the season of 2001, and it now can be seen on DVD. As testament to being a smarter than average show, Firefly lasted only 11 hours on the boob tube. But its small, loyal following got their wish: 14 episodes on DVD, including three not shown on television. This good piece of anti-state mind candy charges my own libertarian batteries in two ways. For one, viewing heroic anarchy elevates my mood and is especially effective after I've depressed my dopamine levels reading the particulars of something like the Bank Secrecy Act. Secondly, I have something to discuss with someone else that connects us on an emotional level. With a friendly recommendation, I can get a few sci-fi fans to give it a look. And then we can talk about it later. So far, I've not met anyone who gave it a negative review, while most of positive reviewers have gushed over it as one of the best things they've seen on television.

The themes resonate with liberty. Let me recap some of its elements. The protagonist was a soldier in a planetary war of secession. His postwar trade is to be a smuggler on the spatial fringes of an interplanetary empire. One of his long-term passengers is a career prostitute. Yet the protagonists are portrayed heroically. Outside of a single character, they are portrayed as loyal, honorable and self-reliant. Their violence is usually, though not always, limited to self-defense. In contrast, the state appears as lawless and authoritarian through agents such as indifferent warship commanders, murderous rogue cops, and two sinister figures in blue gloves who murder anyone who happens to ask them the wrong questions. Finally, as a pleasant extra, I was personally amazed to find two major characters on the show who are married, affectionate, competent, and the husband isn't just a vehicle for comedic pratfalls. The characters aren't libertarian saints: They aggress against property on a regular basis, though usually the anarchist-correct, state-kidnapped kind.

Political leanings may be inborn traits, or at least they seem to be with most of the people I encounter. There are legions of people who feel happy, safe and secure being told what to do by someone else. But even amongst that group, a lot of people prefer to live good, moral lives if the opportunity costs are not too high. The most important battle in our fight for political liberty is the one for the hearts of the unconverted. But people put blinders on to moral instruction that intrudes upon the comforts of their daily lives. However, we can borrow a tactic from modern educational theory and sneak a lesson in behind entertainment. Afterwards, you can bring up the libertarian ideas and relate how situations in the show are similar to the situations in the life of the person to whom you are speaking. 'Firefly,' in particular, is a wonderful opening to people who count themselves as sci-fi fans who, as a group, may be susceptible to arguments based on reason, though, amazingly, are mentally trapped on the socialist federation in large numbers. Entertaining through books, movies, jokes, parables ' whatever is appropriate for the person to whom you are speaking--can be a means to spread our ideas. Remember that the hearts we save may eventually be our own.

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Columns on STR: 27

Bob Jackson is the author of "The Amazing Liberteens."  His libertarian comic book can be viewed online by clicking the SANCTUARY link at www.amazingliberteens.com.