The Way Out


Experience and what wisdom I possess have shown me that if a person pretends to be something else for long enough, they end up becoming that thing in truth. What does this have to do with liberty? What has it to do with your life? And, honestly, is there anything that you can do in the real world to avoid this unwitting "character assimilation"?

Let's begin with an example that has some application to real life. Consider the fate of a historical reenactor. He must balance who he is in real life--the "mundane" self--with at least one and sometimes multiple historical personas. How long is it before his persona develops on its own? How long before the persona has a name, a birthplace, a set of parents, and one or two hobbies that no one in the non-reenactment world has ever heard of?  Think of this--how long does it take before the persona starts to bleed into the modern life of its owner? How long before the modern person slips for just one moment and calls his boss "my lady"? How long before the hobbies have taken over his garage and backyard; how long before the historical hobbies take up more time than the modern ones?

For those people who don't reenact, consider the face you put on when you're in the business world, and the face you put on at home with your wife or kids. Would you want your boss to see you crawling around on the floor playing horsey with your daughter? How would your kids react if they saw mommy lunching with her boss? It would be incomprehensible to them. Just once in a while, however, those two faces blend. One day the mood to act silly might just fall upon you at the office. You might just set up a little practical joke to get Johnson down the hall; hey, it's all in fun, no? At home, you could perhaps bark orders at your children as if they were paid employees you found lounging by the water cooler. No matter what you might do to stop this blending of personalities, it will happen sooner or later.

Well, it's back to our old questions. What does this have to do with liberty? Maybe we should ponder this for a moment. Did we come to the same conclusion? Good. The actions and attitudes you undertake in public have everything to do with liberty.

Think for a moment about yourself. Do you have one set of political views when at home and a more "socially acceptable" set for when you go out into the world? Think of what this sets up. Yes, you're quite correct. It sets up a double standard. Even if it's just subconsciously, every time you modify or try to soften your beliefs to become friendlier to your Republicrat friends, you tell yourself that it is perfectly alright to stand for liberty only when convenient.

What does this do to you? The first and most damaging effect of this moral posing (delude yourself no further, my pretties, you know exactly what I mean) is that it makes you more guarded in your interactions with others. Think of meeting a new person. Do you automatically say to them "Hello, I'm X. I'm a 40 year old Libertarian with two kids and I like to go bowling and work on cars in my spare time." If you're like most people, you don't. In fact, that would likely be the furthest thing from your mind. You might strike up a small conversation with the new person; maybe tell her your name and ask hers, and make a little innocuous talk about the latest episode of a popular television show. The point is, you're afraid that your views on subjects that in private mean a great deal to you might be offensive, so you don't discuss them at all.

But wait, doesn't everyone do that? If you asked 15 people right now, about five would say yes, seven would say they weren't sure, and the remaining few might have the temerity to remind you that small children don't, but that doesn't count since they're not adults. That last could be true, but neither of us have time for an extended elegy on the pains of growing up. Just think--being one person in public and another in public is what has gotten this nation and we personally into trouble for all these years.

So you're now guarded. Well, what else? You're an intelligent human being, so I'm sure you can follow my logic when I tell you to think long term. Every time you deny your feelings about the state of the world or the terrible job Shrub Bush and Co. are doing or war or coercion or taxes or anything else, you are invalidating what you believe. You are saying thus: "These views make me an outcast, and rightly so. I'll just either shut up or modify my views to be more commodious for you and your band of Dempublican cronies." Now what does that do to your self esteem? But equally as important--think long term with me here--what does this do to the liberty you hope you and your children will be able to enjoy? By invalidating your love of liberty, you invalidate the cause of liberty. That, dear friend, is the surest way to lose what freedom you still have, and all the freedom you hope to win for your children and grandchildren.

It is time someone acknowledged these things. Will it be you? Will you stand up and say "Hey. I'm a guarded and morally amorphous lump of matter who is letting my heart's desire slip away for the sake of convenience and a good laugh with a bunch of sods who don't know what they're talking about anyway.  However, I can change. I will stand up for my beliefs--I don't have to yell from the mountaintops, but I can sure put my true feelings out there when called upon. I don't have to be one of the ones who are sabotaging the cause of freedom."

Maybe you don't want to do that. Well, why are you here then? Go click on some other page. Donate money to Hillary Clinton, or something. Catch the football game on Fox instead of reading a newspaper or talking intelligently with people who care about the same things as you do. Go! Begone! I give you five seconds.

Still here? I commend you, brave soul. You now want me to tell you what you can do in your own life in place of ducking and running every time someone brings up President Cheney? Here's a list of five simple things you can do to avoid moral bankruptcy:

1. Acknowledge your values. Sit down at the table with a pen and a pad of paper. Ask yourself what liberty means to you. What would you be willing to die to defend? Less melodramatically, what do you believe is essential to a good life? Do you need the ability to make as much money as ability lets you and to keep all that you earn? Maybe the ability to say whatever you like so long as it avoids personal injury to people? The list goes on and on. The most important bit is that you *do not* say what you think your wife or your neighbor or I want you to say, but that you write on that pad what you yourself must have. This is why the first step is called acknowledging your values. 

2. Make a conscious decision to stick by these values. This means no backpedaling, whether in public or in your own mind. When and if you are asked your views, speak up and defend them intelligently. Do only things that enhance and uphold these views. Don't vote blindly or for the candidate of the moment. Do some research. Maybe donate to an organization which upholds the same values as you do. In short, practice what you preach. Now I'm not saying you have to be a stainless Puritan. If in your moral infancy you slip, don't give up as broke. Instead, resolve to do better. If they glared you down in the break room at work, try to do better the next day.

3. Take your views to the people. This is analogous to #2. Do whatever you can to let other people know that you believe strongly that man must have liberty to survive. Now don't take this advice and go make a fool of yourself; this hurts more than it helps. At first, talk only to your family and closest friends. Practice some simple, logical arguments on them. Which ones work? Which don't? Now you're ready to broaden your horizons. If you're not the type for impromptu debate, try volunteering. If you're not a people person or haven't the time necessary to volunteer, why not--this may sound strange--write an article? There are 50,000 things you can do to help yourself and future generations. Do them! 

4. Keep informed. Information is--though it might sound trite--the best weapon against any foe. Read the news, be it online or in paper form. Sign up for an email list. Talk to people. Subscribe to a journal or digest. Surf for information on the internet. Current events are important. So are all the old champions of reason. Thoreau. Locke. Bastiat, if you can get him.  Read the books that are for tyranny--Hobbes, Kant, Marx. Formulate your own arguments against their theories. This is not only a decent form of entertainment, it is wonderful exercise for your mind. It might even make you smarter.

5. Avoid double standards. You don't wish someone to harm you? Don't harm anyone else. The reverse applies. If someone hurts you, hit back with all your might. "But that is childish!" you cry. Did you ever think that maybe the children have something there? If you let someone coerce you, you only show that you're a sucker for any parasite who comes waltzing in. If you coerce someone else, you show only that you're one of those parasites. Everyone--regardless of values--is a human being until they prove otherwise. Drop that guard! You might get knocked around the first time out, but in the end you'll be a better person for it.

Personal responsibility can be difficult. Avoiding the assimilation of so-called "societal values" can be difficult. Neither is impossible. You have a reason to be a person that others can look up to. You have a reason to push for liberty in your thoughts and actions. You have no reason to be a poseur. You have no reason to become a creeping sod such as everyone despises. Show the world what a fine and rational spirit you posses! If enough people do it, we just might get our world back sooner.  

Your rating: None
Amanda Bowen's picture
Columns on STR: 10

Amanda Bowen is an unaverage high school student who hopes one day to pursue a life of study.