Anything that is written, as this is, must come from some perspective. Something that is created must go somewhere. Must have some meaning. There has to be a reason for why the creator created it. It must come from the vision of the creator. The creator wants people to see his end result. He has intrinsic motivations that he expresses outwardly. This fact isn’t exclusive to “artists”. This is true every second of every day from every person on the planet. I’m not going to attempt to rewrite “Human Action”, but human beings do things in attempts to satiate their desires. This occurs constantly. There is no avoiding this. Along this path, each individual has a different perspective: an overall way of viewing the world, or an outlook.
This outlook is influenced by countless factors. There’s certainly a “natural” element to it: genetics, “fate”, etc. And, of course, experience has a large part to do with it as well: particularly, early on in life. Of course, experience always changes a person, but youth includes a deep impressionability that is unlike any other time in a person’s life. A person’s childhood affects them forever. It doesn’t mean that they will always be “the same”, but one’s first experiences shape the way a person views the world, and these first realized experiences “stick with” a person because of the desperate impressionability of youth, as well as just the fact that your first experiences will be the experiences you carry with you the longest in life simply by virtue of them being “the first” that you recognize.
My first thought is that it is very clear how an individual can become just an absolute disaster of a person because of their earliest experiences. I just imagine a baby being raised in a scientific experiment where he or she is conditioned to be extraordinarily angry, and I quiver. Thankfully, most parents care for their children, I would argue, so this situation is not the majority. There’s certainly a lot of problems that will always exist in the world with regards to parenting, but at least there are many parents that care for their kids, even if there will be those unfortunate souls who are abandoned or abused in ways hardly imaginable to the compassionate mind.
What should we do with our time here on Earth? There is hardly a more important question. This is about what we do. What else is there but “to do”? There’s nothing but “to do”. Life is “to do”. So what to do is what life is. Since “life” is all we have while we are alive, and we do things while we are alive, it is important to know what we are doing, and why. Anyone that doesn’t like the question “why” should be avoided: they have absolutely no sagacity in them whatsoever. You should always ask “why”. Why? That’s the spirit. You get it. Be skeptical of me. I encourage it. Challenge me. You should ask why until you reach your breaking point. For me, that takes a while.
If action is inevitable, does it matter what action is taken, or why specific actions are taken or not taken? From what perspective would these matter? Who do these actions matter to, and why? Quite obviously, it matters to the person taking the action. Individuals take action in an attempt to satisfy themselves more so than they are currently. And we do this until we die. That’s the end of it. That is “life”.
I am tempted to ask why we are different from one another. Why we have different desires, personalities, etc. One might say “Because God wanted it that way”, but I’m skeptical of religious answers. They’re usually a way to fearfully avoid questions. And I try to “avoid” that. “We just are” is probably the best answer, but I can’t get the question out of my head. A sane person would just “move on”, but I never do. I ponder the unanswerable perpetually. I don’t know why. It’s just how I am. That’s just how I see the world.
Everyone that exists has a perspective of everything they can conceive of. This makes something such as “perspective” hard to write about. Perspective regarding what? Whose perspective? Even when discussing perspective “in general”, you have to give examples to illustrate your point. For instance, one of my “perspectives” or “philosophies” is an acceptance of evil in the world. What do I mean by this? Surely everyone knows that evil is an inevitability. Well, this perspective is very prevalent to me on a regular basis. I’m always deeply aware of injustices that I find are important to me, and thinking about them takes up a large portion of my time. I know they’ll never go away completely, in an ultimate sense, but yet, I still think about them. I’ll never “ultimately” satisfy my hunger: I’m always going to be hungry in the future, and I’ll think about food at that time. This is how I feel about “injustice”: there’s always going to be another one to direct my attention to. Injustice will always exist, but it will always get my attention to some degree. That’s the point. I’m always going to notice things, and always going to talk about them. That’s a large part of my “perspective” about life. And, as I said, it occupies a large portion of it.
Another perspective that occupies a lot of my time is: why do I have to be here on this planet with other people? I understand the humor in that question. And, of course, why do other people have to be on this planet with me? The majority of people that I encounter just “exist” in my world. I’m not friends with them, nor enemies with them, but just aware of them. I think this is inevitable for everyone. There’s just too many people to be intimate with them all. And, of course, I’m more grumpy than extroverts who enjoy the presence of other people, so this attitude of mine is “skewed” from the point of view of someone that would consider themselves to be more extroverted. There’s many jokes about how “cold” people are, especially in big cities. I don’t want to go on some moral crusade about it.
There’s so many people that exist today. It’s frightening, in a sense. For one, babies are being born into an imperfect world, and thus, are going to experience suffering and joy, back and forth, throughout their entire lives. Would it just be better for them if they were never born? If they never had to experience the bad? Sure, they’d never experience the good. But what about the bad? Is it worth it to bring another child into this world? I don’t think so, but I’m not in charge of the decision of others to have children. Secondly, just the number of people is frightening. Human ingenuity has a way of finding ways to make things work, but I just envision a doomsday overpopulation scenario when I try to conceive of the number of people that exist on the planet. I truly can’t, so I don’t think about it too often.
“Growing up” is a phrase I commonly hear. I want to whine and complain, and already I can hear others saying that I need to “grow up”. And I’m already ignoring them. Whining and complaining is fun. It is going to my grave with me. I’m never just going to “accept” something shitty. I’m going to whine and complain and drag my heels the entire time, and if that depresses you to a point where my very existence makes you feel negative emotion, then all I can tell you is just to grow up.
A less frequent thought pattern that enters my mind is failings in my past. Failure drives me mad. It eats me alive. It cripples me until God has mercy on me and somehow motivates me to act again. This has gotten better over time, but it used to be unbearable. I guess everyone goes through that, though. I’m glad it’s over to the extent that it is, but I still think about present mistakes I’m no doubt making now, and how they are going to affect me in the future. When I feel the most in control is when I make my biggest mistakes, so it really isn’t any wonder that I’ve shied away from independence as much as possible. Of course, this has caused problems of its own. That’s the problem with problems: they always exist.
My career failures eat me alive as well. The more that I hear I can’t, the more that I want to prove that I can. It feeds me. I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to starve myself to death from lack of nourishment, but I can’t give up, because I know that would be spiritually defeating. I’m never going to let myself give up, even if I don’t succeed. That regret would be unbearable. I enjoy the challenge and the ridicule. It makes the dream that much more sweet. My “delusion” is what I live for.
In many ways, my overall perspective is hopelessness. When I notice injustices, I feel hopeless. When I’m working on my career, I feel optimistic. That’s all the more incentive for me to consume myself with it, of course. But I face my own hurdles there as well: namely, getting burnt out. Another struggle of work and relaxation. It’s easy to notice your failures when your eyes are on the goal. If it ever does happen, it is going to be a giant, unpredictable slap in the face.
All of the doubt fuels me. All of the “advice”, “hate”, everything that says that I can’t or that I won’t fuels me immensely. It’s why I do it. I do it just because I’m told I can’t. That drives me every single day. I wake up, and say “What am I going to write today? What jokes am I going to create today? Today is the day I go viral.” I don’t really care if today isn’t the day that it happens. It’ll happen tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be an old man, full of regret for these days. But that’s a chance that I’m willing to take. I’d rather regret trying than regret never trying.
Admittedly, I have a long way to go. The more that I want to write, the more I realize just how far I have to go to get it to a quality that I’ll really be satisfied with. But the thought of being able to wave my paychecks in the faces of my doubters is motivation enough. No doubt, you are looking forward to seeing a 40-year-old me flipping hamburgers. May the best man win.
Keeping with themes already mentioned, perhaps the deepest question one can ever ask is: Why are we here? Why do we have life here on this planet? Man has always had this question. This question is at the root of all of the “what” that I mentioned earlier. Because what you do is largely influenced by why you believe you are here. Many who believe that we are here to serve God live out their lives in accordance with what they believe serving God means. If you believe that we are “just here”, that will influence the what that you do while alive. The “why” is at the root of every “what”. It drives every “what”. “Why” helps create your entire overall perspective of your life: your attitudes, your actions, etc. Perspective is impossible to avoid. Some may ignorantly say “What do you mean ‘perspective’? You’re looking too much into this. I don’t have a ‘perspective’.” But you’re wrong. You have to have a perspective. You have to have some way of looking at the world. It doesn’t mean that you have “rose-tinted glasses”, but you have to have some intrinsic beliefs that affect the way you see the world. This is impossible to avoid. This perspective is altered by countless things. There’s always a reason for doing the things that we do.
What was my reason for writing this? I enjoyed it. Have I said anything “revolutionary”? Have I said anything that isn’t already commonly known? No, I haven’t. I just get pleasure out of writing about truths, and, clearly, the fact that we all have different perspectives, influenced by countless things, is a “truth”. Have I essentially said something as true as “We need air to breathe”? Yes. So why write about it at all? Because it brings me joy. That’s the only reason I need.
I find the need for mental stimulation to be annoying and tiresome. Boredom drives me constantly. It is frequently satisfied, but it always comes back. This will always be the case. My entire life is going to be a pendulum between boredom and being swamped. This constant lack of complete satisfaction drives me crazy. “The world doesn’t revolve around you, Cody. You can’t always get what you want.” I have to wonder why people so proudly proclaim these obvious truths. My first thought is “Well, Cody, didn’t you just admit in this piece that you are writing about basic truths, and that you enjoy it? Aren’t they doing the same thing by stating truths?” Well, I can certainly see that they get some satisfaction from it. But who am I trying to tear down in this piece? People who say these “truths” often do it to make themselves feel better. They themselves feel like shit, so they try to make other people feel like shit so that they feel better about themselves. That’s a major theme that I see any time I see “advice” flying around. That’s not why I started this piece. Am I not ridiculing these assholes? This comes down to “who started it”. If I were to be envious of someone and then tried to tear down what they were doing, this whole situation would be different. That isn’t what started this piece. I’m discussing people that do that frequently, and that doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily doing that myself.
People are obstacles. There will be helping hands, and there will be fisticuffs. I think there is a natural tendency to focus on the bad that is actually necessary to our survival. If our house is burning down, we can’t just sit and watch the T.V. show we are enjoying just so that we “feel” good. We need to do something about the fire. Focusing on the bad isn’t a bad thing. It is crucial. But it goes without saying that we need to be able to fully experience the good when it comes around. My entire childhood revolved around how bad everything was: how bad I was in the eyes of God, how lost the world was. There was a lot of “bad” that has affected my perspective of the world to this very day. But, of course, there were many great things about my childhood that also stick with me to this very day that I’m very thankful for. My life is going to be about fully embracing the good when it comes around. I’m going to still enjoy railing against the bad, because it brings me joy, and it feels important to do so. But that has always been easy for me to do, and it will always be easy for me to do. Enjoying the good will be much more difficult (which is such a fucking irony, on so many levels). It is going to take a reprogramming on my part to fully be able to appreciate the good. Developing a life philosophy takes……….well, a lifetime to do. If I die sooner rather than later, none of this is going to matter as much. But I’m not going to “bank” on the fact that I’m going to die soon to keep me from developing a life philosophy. Death has consumed my mind for long enough. Thinking about Heaven and Hell has consumed enough of my life. Sadly, this occurred early on, and you remember what I said about earlier experiences. It will be tough to move on from this, but it is absolutely fucking necessary for my mental health to do so. I pity those still trapped in a “Heaven and Hell” mindset. And damn you all that introduce that concept to children. Children should never be made to fear. They need to be taught things about life, and they need to experience happiness. That is the role of a good parent. If it doesn’t make their life better, they don’t need it.
Of course, the hard part is explaining why fearing Hell is not something that children need to learn. That would take a lot of time and in-depth explanation to explain. In simplest terms, if God exists, and wants me to go to this perfect paradise, why does He want me to go? The common explanation is that He loves me and cares for me. Well, if He does, why would He make me torture myself while I’m here on Earth? If it is because I am a sinner, why would He ever forgive me for my sins? In other words, let’s say that misery exists on this Earth because we are all sinners. Why should that be our focal point if we are religious? Why must we focus on that exclusively as Christians? Once again, if our house was burning down, we should turn off the T.V. But our house isn’t burning down. Isn’t that the point of being a “Christian”? “Christian”. “Christ”. Obviously, that’s where the term comes from. So who was Christ? Well, there’s a lot of talk of forgiveness of sins, and of love. So if we are Christians, why can’t we accept this? Why can’t we forgive ourselves? If the Almighty has forgiven us, as Christians believe, why would we consider it a requirement for this forgiveness to torture ourselves? It does not compute. If we cannot accept the forgiveness of our sins through Christ, then Christ was pointless. Christ did not die for us simply for after we die: He died for us while we are here. He put us on a planet, not in Heaven (although, admittedly, initially on a perfect planet, but we fucked it up. How could we fuck up a perfect planet? I don’t know. Why do I believe this? At the risk of turning people off, I’m going to say that God forces me to with a gentle force. It isn’t a fearful force, but a loving force. I guess the nature of “believers” and “non-believers” is that there will always exist an incompatibility between the two, but we don’t have to murder each other because of it. “Live and let live”. If it makes you happy to debate, then do so. But you shouldn’t feel a “duty” to do so if you get no enjoyment from it. If that means people condemn you as some religious crazy, I guess you’ll just have to live with it (I’m talking to myself, of course)).
Life is about learning who to listen to and who to ignore. There will always be an inherent incompatibility between all of the ideas that exist: either you believe murder is acceptable, or it isn’t (I’m not talking about self-defense or abortion, but simply murdering someone walking down the street whom you have never met in your entire life before that moment). If you take all of the actions that a human being could take, there will, obviously, exist contradictory actions. Some actions are simply incongruous with others. The same is true for ideas: some ideas are just completely contradictory to others. Some ideas cannot simultaneously be believed. Life is about figuring out which ideas to adopt for yourself, and then, applying those ideas into actions that satisfy you the most. Once again, this is all we do, every single day, of our entire lives, until we die. This is “the struggle”. Living this “struggle” without being able to stop and smell the roses makes the struggle all the more difficult. And I think that’s the lesson here. Don’t ignore your burning house, but make sure that you’re actually focusing on your burning house, and not some other non-issue. Focus on what is important, enjoy the good, but don’t waste your time on struggles that don’t benefit you to focus on. Life is about figuring out which struggles are worth focusing on and which aren’t. It’s a constant conflict, but if you believe smelling roses is “bad”, and should be avoided, or even worse, condemned, you need to reevaluate your life. What good is eliminating the bad if good is seen as a bad? Then, you’re just eliminating the good, and that, by very definition, is not “good”. (Once again, don’t interpret this to mean that focusing on the bad is inherently bad. You must find some good from focusing on the bad, or else, you are wasting your time. The degree to which one focuses on “bad” differs from individual to individual, with there, obviously, being a diverse, individualistic pleasure derived from focusing on the “bad” to degrees, and upon which “bad” is focused).
Sadly, even good news can be perverted with duty. There has to be some naturality when it comes to good. I’m thinking of moralistic phrases like “You can’t always get what you want”, or “Stop and smell the flowers every once in a while.” There’s a dark side to these phrases. I already mentioned one aspect of the dark side to these phrases: the “envious” side. But there’s a more innocent dark side as well. I have found that a lot of these phrases are repeated by people that aren’t very smart. This isn’t a knock on them, but just an observation. I think that when people have a hard time understanding the world, they just repeat these phrases to themselves to help them get through the day. There’s nothing wrong with that: do the best you can with what you have. It’s just an observation, and more reason why I, personally, resent repetitive, “feel-good” phrases.
I am becoming more and more convinced that each person gives his or her life its own meaning. Lives are long. Days add up. We just need things to do. We crave mental stimulation. We crave meaning. We desire things, and try to achieve them. All of this adds up to “life”. We create our lives for ourselves through our actions. We accept the things that we cannot change, but we still take actions to better ourselves. We make decisions. And we desire. We see the world through a “lens” affected by genetics and our experiences. The variety of these “perspectives” is immense. There will naturally be conflicts among various perspectives. But I cannot live your life, and you cannot live my life. I live mine, and you live yours. The best thing to do is to focus on oneself. Do what you want, and do the best you can. A large majority of us care that other people succeed, and we can “live and let live” when people pursue their own interests. Of course, there will be busy-bodies that try to physically force individuals from living their own lives, and they should be condemned as the moral busy-bodies that they are (and there are plenty of them). But, intrinsically, we should all understand the value of the individual will. It should be cherished and respected, because the will is what makes a man who he is. We can’t respect individuals if we don’t respect individual will. This does not mean that people and choices cannot be critiqued and condemned, but will itself is not something that should be destroyed through violent subjection. The human will is human nature. There can be no peace among humans without peace of human wills. There should be a definitive critique of evil wills, and, simultaneously, a heralding of good wills. Life is a constant conflict between these two, and that’s just the way it is always going to be until we die. (I’m not saying that, for instance, murderers should keep all of the rights they had before they murdered. There are, of course, actions that should be dealt with. But humans still need the ability to exercise these wills, and they should not be prevented from exercising their wills in a matter that only affects themselves. “What if their actions affect their family, Cody? What if their family doesn’t like the choices the individual is making?” Why is a “negative rights” philosophy so prevalent today? Why was there an “Enlightenment”? Men have written about this whole concept of “the will”, and of individuality, so I’d suggest you go read some of them, as I’m probably not going to be able to add anything more beneficial to the conversation. But it is “natural” for man to be able to exercise his own will. When a man’s will chooses to do good, peaceful, loving things to and for his fellow man, good, peace, and love increase. Without his ability to choose to do these things, the entire purposes behind good, peace, and love are lost). I’ve spoken a lot about “will” here. But don’t I believe that humans don’t have free will? Well, the question becomes: free from “what”? I’ll write more about this later.
There is a deep, moralistic fear among progressives and conservatives. For conservatives, that fear is facing God’s wrath, and going to Hell. For progressives, it is the fear of not being a good person. Both of these, very obviously, overlap. The differences are in the specific details. But they both miss an important point about life: they do not value happiness. To the conservative, “God” is more important than your happiness. For the progressive, “social duty” is more important than your happiness. I reject both of these ideas wholeheartedly. I’ve already discussed why I think the idea that God doesn’t care about my happiness is nonsense. But as far as “social duty” is concerned, what good is it to hold this “moral” idea if it doesn’t bring you pleasure? What is the ultimate goal with regards to this “social duty”? There has to be a goal at the end. If the goal involves any sort of “perfection”, I immediately reject it. Any notion of completely eliminating poverty, or any other social ill is an impossibility. “Perfection” can never be a goal. This is why I reject “social duty” philosophy: it is all hellbent on completely eradicating, for example, racism, sexism, poverty, etc. “Perfection” is not something humans can achieve. Thankfully, I know this intrinsically. Any attempt at “perfection” is a waste of time. Any goal regarding “social good” must be approached from a different “perspective”: the doer of the “social good” must derive some pleasure from the good he is doing. On an individual basis, it does feel good to help other people. This is why good should be done. It increases the “social happiness” of everyone involved. Of course, the receiver of the charity is, more than likely (and that’s an understatement), going to be happy at receiving the charity, and the betterment of his lot. But, and this is something that isn’t sold enough, in my opinion, the giver of the charity also receives a psychological benefit from the giving. That needs to be stressed. There certainly is a “good” in giving to those that are in need, but doing so without receiving a psychological benefit from doing so is to give in vain. There’s a very crucial piece to the puzzle missing. Some may ignorantly claim that “giving is about more than yourself.” I clearly said the same: it’s not just about you benefiting. Very obviously, the receiver is benefiting as well. But we must accept that we feel good when we give, and we must be able to experience that goodness in full. We must, once again, “be able to stop and smell the roses every once in a while.” Those opportunities are not a constant state of being. Without being able to recognize and experience them, we are cheating ourselves terribly. When we are able to naturally accept good for ourselves, we will naturally want to spread that good to others, and this will be our perspective of the world. It will not be tainted with fear of God, and a fear of Hell. It will be the natural love and goodness that, ironically, God desires. That’s the tragic irony about religious conservatism: is that it misses the point of “religiosity” altogether.
“Happiness” as an end goal is condemned on many fronts, and that’s a damn shame. Truly evil people have contaminated the idea of “happiness”. “Isn’t the rapist happy when he rapes?” Admittedly, that’s a pertinent question. I, personally, don’t think that evil can make one happy. I think that evil just makes one more miserable, and that makes evil all the more tragic. “Why would someone do evil if they didn’t gain something from it? Did you not say, earlier in this piece, that everyone performs actions in an attempt to better themselves? Are not the murderer and the rapist doing this?” Sure. In the case of a rapist, it is easy to see what they “gain” by raping. Very clearly, it should be condemned. But, and this is more controversial, it should be stated that the rapist is, very clearly, missing out on something very important by raping. He is missing out on emotional intimacy, romance, and love. This, of course, is not to downplay the fact that the victim of rape is being cheated of even more than this, and to a horrifically higher degree. The idea of feeling pity on evil people is not a common idea, and I truly understand that position. But I do feel a sympathy for evil people, because they are truly missing out on a lot of life. Having a desire to kill cheats you of healthy relationships. Of course, it cheats the one killed of their very life, which should be vehemently condemned. But to neglect the fact that the perpetrator is cheating himself is disingenuous. It should be said. Of course, more attention should be given to his heinousness, and empathy should be given to the loved ones, with mourning occurring for the victims. None of this is debatable. But evil people are cheating themselves, and this needs to be said. It may fall on deaf ears, and I believe there are truly people beyond rehabilitation, but when discussing serious matters such as these, it is important to recognize all realities of the situation. Very obviously, focus more attention on the victims of heinous crimes, but understand that all involved are cheated, albeit to vastly different degrees. So while it is still true that people try to satisfy their desires, and some of these desires are going to include murder and rape, we must understand that ultimately everyone is getting cheated in these situations, and that, very clearly, there are ideals that we should herald and conditions that we must strive for through our actions. But we must have an effective philosophical perspective about this all.
I suppose that I am very blessed. I am very good at introspection. I’m, typically, good at figuring out why I think or feel the way that I do. I have a high ability to observe myself, and analyze myself. This, of course, makes writing about myself easier to do. And while, rightly so, many will dismiss me as just some young jackass that can’t stop talking about himself as if the world cares, I think there’s value in what I say. Maybe not to you, or to “successful” people, but I’m sure there are people out there that will say “Huh. That’s pretty good. I never thought of it that way. I like that.”
It is tragic that I could not fully understand my past perspectives as I was experiencing them for the first time. It makes me sad that I couldn’t recognize the worthlessness of my past religious philosophies. It has affected me for the worst. I am thankful that I can see it now, but I can’t help but wonder what might have been. Once again, injustices eat me alive, and I can’t help but think how much better my life would be today if I would’ve never been introduced to religious conservatism. I’m no longer “as”, I suppose I’ll phrase it, religiously conservative as I used to be. But I still remember what it was like, and I lament at the fact that I, as a child, thought the things I did. It pains me to a great degree. I’ll never get those years back. No one that is cheated in their youth, in a variety of “cheats”, ranging in degrees, do. That’s very sad. This never-ending conflict between good and evil is exhausting.
I still see religious conservatism in my perspectives today. My rational mind will ask “Why am I doing this?” And then, I’ll realize it is because of a past religious belief, and think “Oh. This goes deeper than I thought. This is a whole can of worms here.” It’s hard to really know what to replace it with. I don’t want anything to do with it. I want it all gone. I want a new way of looking at the world. And that’s the hard part. Realizing that I’m doing it is now happening. But it is hard to find a new way of looking at things. My entire life has revolved around avoiding “pleasure” in order to obtain “Heaven”. “Pleasure” makes me emotionally uncomfortable. But that attitude has always made me fucking miserable, so I want it gone. I want to learn how to value pleasure. And that’s hard to do when you have years and years of crippling emotional baggage of sadness and anxiety. It really is hard to teach and old dog new tricks (thankfully, I’m changing at a relatively young age. I wasn’t “conservative” for 50 years, or so).
I’m constantly looking for new things. I’m always trying to learn. Frequently, I learn a little about many different things, but they don’t interest me enough to continue really learning about them in any detail. My mind is too consumed with philosophy to care about much else. I don’t care about zoology, or whatever. I learn a little bit here and there, but there’s always something missing. Besides attempting to pursue my interest in philosophy, the thing that has satisfied me most to-date from an educational standpoint has been economics. The subject has taken over my life for the past several years, and I am very thankful for it. It truly has made me see the world in an entirely new way. It is a very satisfying way. (It only depresses me when I realize the way so many others view economics. Education is an uphill battle, but how do you “educate” people out of wanting to rule the world? How do you “educate” people out of envy? It seems as if many problems are insurmountable, even if they are deadly problems).
My perspective is now one of valuing my personal individual happiness. I am always looking for something to make me happy. Ultimately, I think everyone does this. But I don’t think they understand the value of what they are doing. It is very easy to tell yourself that other things matter more than your happiness. But I think this is a superficial understanding of happiness. As I said, it is important to recognize that giving not only helps out the receiver, but it gives the giver satisfaction as well. This is not stressed enough, in my opinion. This is valuable. Giving increases the happiness of the giver and the receiver.
My “happiness perspective” affects me constantly. I remember, being a child, and having certain ways of viewing the world. You adopt the prejudices and attitudes of your superiors, whether they be parents, teachers, or whatever. I remember, very early on, acting like my father, and having people not respond well to it. My father wasn’t a “bad” man, but he was incredibly sarcastic. “Stubborn”, “opinionated”, what have you. Clearly, these traits were passed on to me. But (and this is quite humorous to say), I learned, quite early on, that not everybody liked me. Not everybody enjoyed sarcasm as much as me. People just thought differently than me. I certainly changed my mind about many different things over time. Changed the way I acted around people, and what I said. (And this has, quite obviously, “corrected” itself over time to a more “normal” and “natural” way of being for me (where I settled to a level of sarcasm and stubbornness that I’m content with, even if others deplore it)). But I never had a sense that I mattered. In a metaphysical sense. I was insignificant “in the grand scheme of things”. First, God didn’t care about my happiness. Then, my happiness didn’t matter because I needed to make money. And that was it. “Your life shall be making money until you die and go to Heaven.” That was an awfully depressing outlook of the world: especially considering the fact that almost everyone I knew hated their job. Their had to be something more: there had to be a deeper perspective than this. I’m glad to say that, for me, there was a deeper perspective. I’m not particularly proud of everything I did to lead me up to adopting this perspective, but I don’t see how I can live without it now. My outlook from my teenage years to now is drastically different. Now, I think this is true for almost everyone. But, in my opinion, I think many adults are missing out on an effective perspective about life. I still interpret adults as miserable people. I know there are countless exemptions to this rule: many are parents, whose kids bring them the ultimate joy. Some are optimists, who are able to stay positive regardless of what happens around them. Many find joy in the countless ways they distract themselves from the mundane. Once again, there’s countless exemptions to my “rule”, but I still get a sense that many adults don’t think that happiness matters in a “universal” sense. I still think there’s many adults that say “God doesn’t care about the happiness of man”, and I’m not just talking about atheists saying that. I’m talking conservatives. Once again, I reject that wholeheartedly. There are, of course, “realistic constraints” in the world. I’ve spent several years learning about these “constraints” (and I think my education is better than the way the “average person” sees these constraints). But they are missing very obvious pieces to the puzzle.
Reality truly is terrifying at times, and it is easy to ignore the writing on the wall. But that’s dangerous. Most people live in ignorant denial about what their governments are capable of. And this is how Holocausts happen. Through my own personal education, I can see countless people trying to ring the warning bells to the American public. In some ways, I think history is still on our side, particularly in the South. As much as I hate the religious conservatism of Southern culture (as well as other things I dislike about the culture), I think there still exists a vibrant skepticism of government that is crucial and healthy to the survival of freedom. They ain’t takin’ our guns without a fight. I want to believe that’s still an attitude that runs through Southerners, but I sometimes doubt that when I see how often they worship the politicians of whatever political party they “belong” to (for whatever reason; or, more often, police officers and soldiers) no matter what they do. It is hard to tell what the future will bring, but I am hopeful. Sadly, evil people will always attempt to encroach, and it takes a brave people to retaliate: a sense of justice isn’t enough. Many in the past have known that what they were doing was wrong, but they didn’t have the courage to confront it. I worry about that today, based on certain trends that I see regarding worship of the American State, but hopefully, our history is still alive and well. Hopefully, our history of revolting from Britain still remains. Sadly, I think the revolution of the South is all but dead, except for very small pockets. I think it is growing, but the growth is so small as to seem impossible to amount to any change in the status quo. But that’s just my personal opinion (it’s hard to accurately gauge any “trend”). It is hard to tell how “the Left” views government. Clearly, they are against cronyism and war. But their assault on capitalism itself is worrisome. Communism isn’t a viable solution to capitalism. “Capitalism” isn’t the problem. But an education can’t really “solve” envy. And it can’t really “solve” evil. These facts are always worrisome. I’m not saying that a communist can’t “convert”. But, inevitably, there are aspects of human nature that can’t be completely “eradicated”: there will always be another murderer, etc.
But, I am an introspective, driven person. I know what my goals are. I am beginning to learn not to state what those goals are, because the main thing that is going to happen is that other people are going to tell me how “unrealistic” they are, how I’m “wasting my time”, etc. I think it is time that I make a choice: a choice that I just don’t even tell anyone what my goals are. It, more than likely, isn’t going to benefit me in any way. More than likely, it’s just going to create more hurdles. I think it’s best to keep my goals private (even though I’ve already written them a billion times on this blog), and focus on myself, and not so much what other people have to say to me.
I look forward to, as I live, writing about all of the different ways in which religious conservatism has affected my perspective. I’ve already done that to a large degree, but I hope there will come a day when it feels like it has disappeared altogether. When it becomes a distant memory instead of a subconscious reality. I don’t know how to rid myself of it: I think it is just going to take time.
Life is a constant ebb and flow. “[We] get knocked down, but [we] get up again.” I want to have as much fun as I possibly can, and I want to learn as much as I possibly can. If I think I have learned something valuable, I want to share it. I want to keep off the boredom and misery as much as possible, even though they have already taken up significant amounts of my life. I guess I’m just like everyone else.
I’m very blessed to have ever been rid of my past conservatism to any degree. The fact that I’m able to criticize it at all is a miracle. I’m extremely pleased with my overall perspective regarding life. I’m looking forward to learning more, and writing more, but the uncertainty of many aspects of the future, including the prospect of negativity, in all of the various forms that it could exist, will always keep me up at night. I’m looking forward to analyzing myself throughout the entire journey, and writing about it.
I’m looking forward to seeing where my perspective goes from here. I know there will be pain involved in the process, but I’m hopeful that the end result will be something that I’m happy with.
I think the most important aspect of my perspective to-date is about my own personal will. As I’ve already stated, in the past, I viewed my will as something to completely ignore. But my interest in politics has lead me to believe in freedom. It truly is just an idea that rings out: people are free. Who wouldn’t want that? I know many don’t, but I still it is still an intrinsic idea to many of us. We have wills, and to not be able to exercise these is an injustice. We need the freedom to be able to make mistakes. We should be reprimanded if we impede upon the freedoms of others. But I value the rights of others to be free. I enjoy learning about how the world works, sociology included. But I need to continue developing myself. My past failings still eat me alive, as I will always wonder “Why didn’t I know that back then?” I fear this will be a lifetime process. I will always look back and say “Why did I think that?” Lamentation will be frequent. But I want to develop values and find joy in what I do. I want to make myself as happy as I can possibly make myself, and that might not be a helluva lot. But I’m looking forward to continue developing and exercising my will, and I hope that nothing to catastrophic comes my way. Like most other people, I just want to be happy, and I’m going to continue practicing to get what I want, and exercise my own personal volition.
Americans don’t care about the world or world history because we’ve already done, in 200 years, what it took millennia for the rest of the world to start doing, and they still haven’t even caught up yet.
I’m only half joking.
Why was America known as the “Land of Opportunity”? Why is America known as such a “melting pot”? What other countries were known as “melting pots”? I’m sure there has had to have been others. How much of the rest of the world was a “melting pot”, and who made up the “ingredients”? How “diverse” were they? I don’t believe that America is known as a “melting pot” simply because we scream it louder so that people believe it. There has to be some truth to it. People have come here from all over the world: the question is: why? War-mongering politicians have corrupted the phrase “American exceptionalism”. They have hijacked it and perverted it. But there’s some truth to the idea of “American exceptionalism”. There’s truth to the phrase “greatest country in the world”. America is a product of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Historically speaking, they occurred right after the other. This has bode exceptionally well for us Americans.
There’s certainly a significant stain across American history, mainly in the form of slavery. Also, of course, “Native Americans” are described as “Natives” for a reason. But I have a feeling I’m missing out significant information regarding the mix between Europeans and Native Americans. Something tells me my government education has left very significant facts out of the picture. I’m skeptical of the common account of “history”.
But the Industrial Revolution occurred very early on in America’s history (when you compare the histories of other nations, and how long it took for them to undergo an “Industrial Revolution”). The impact of the Industrial Revolution cannot be understated. This combination of the rebellious “Enlightenment” coupled with the Industrial Revolution has created a sense of superiority within Americans. Honestly……….considering these two factors, it’s justified. Of course, America’s flaws should be pointed out, past or present. But us Americans know why we feel superior to the rest of the world. It is because we were fucking lucky. We’ve had it better than everyone else before us. We’re happy about that fact. Our history is one of rebelliousness, particularly of government, and of capitalism. This was, for all intents and purposes, our birth. We didn’t have centuries of history before this. Granted, we can look at those people that moved here, and trace their histories back to countries with rich histories. But we identify as Americans. The world sucked for a very long time, and we got extremely lucky. Our life was one of extreme fortune. For us, America is truly when history starts.
I should do more research on the Enlightenment thinkers and the historical capitalists that have made America what it is today: where they were from, etc. Something beyond the superficial “history” that I learned in school.
The “world” is a whole nother matter entirely.
The point is that world history is a complicated subject.
If there is anything a libertarian must be squarely and totally against, it is involuntary servitude—forced labor—an act which denies the most elemental right of self-ownership. “Liberty” and “slavery” have ever been recognized to be polar opposites. The libertarian, therefore, is totally opposed to slavery.1 An academic question nowadays, one might object? But is it really? For what is slavery but (a) forcing people to work at tasks the slavemaster wishes, and (b) paying them either pure subsistence or, at any rate, less than the slave would have accepted voluntarily. In sort, forced labor at below free-market wages.
1There is one exception: the punishment of criminals who had themselves aggressed against or enslaved their victims. Such punishment in a libertarian system would at least involve forcing the criminal to work in order to pay restitution to his victim.
Thus, are we really free of “slavery,” of involuntary servitude in present-day America? Is the prohibition against involuntary servitude of the Thirteenth Amendment really being obeyed?2
2Significantly, the Thirteenth Amendment’s only exception is the punishment of convicted criminals mentioned in the previous note: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Surely, for one example, there can be no more blatant case of involuntary servitude than our entire system of conscription. Every youth is forced to register with the selective service system when he turns eighteen. He is compelled to carry his draft card at all times, and, at whatever time the federal government deems fit, he is seized by the authorities and inducted into the armed forces. There his body and will are no longer his own; he is subject to the dictates of the government; and he can be forced to kill and to place his own life in jeopardy if the authorities so decree. What else is involuntary servitude if not the draft?
The utilitarian aspect permeates the argument for the conscription system. Thus the government uses the argument: Who will defend us against foreign attack if we do not employ coercion and conscript our defenders? There are several rebuttals for a libertarian to make to this line of reasoning. In the first place, if you and I and our next-door neighbor think that we need defending, we have no moral right to use coercion—the bayonet or the revolver—to force someone else to defend us. This act of conscripting is just as much a deed of unjustifiable aggression—of kidnapping and possibly murder—as the alleged aggression we are trying to guard ourselves against in the first place. If we add that the draftees owe their bodies and their lives, if necessary, to “society” or to “their country,” then we must retort: Who is this “society” or this “country” that is being used as a talisman to justify enslavement? It is simply all individuals in the territorial area except the youths being conscripted. “Society” and “country” are in this case mythical abstractions that are being used to cloak the naked use of coercion to promote the interests of specific individuals.
Secondly, to move to the utilitarian plane, why is it considered necessary to conscript defenders? No one is conscripted on the free market, yet on that market people obtain, through voluntary purchase and sale, every conceivable manner of goods and services, even the most necessary ones. On the market, people can and do obtain food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc. Why can’t they hire defenders as well? Indeed, there are plenty of people being hired every day to perform dangerous services: forest firefighters, rangers, test pilots, and. . . police and private guards and watchmen. Why can’t soldiers be hired in the same way?
Or, to put it another way, the government employs countless thousands of people for all sorts of services, from truck drivers to scientists to typists; how is it that none of these people have to be conscripted? Why is there no “shortage” of these occupations to supposedly force the government to resort to compulsion to obtain them? To go a step further, even within the army there is no “shortage” of officers and no need to draft them; no one conscripts generals or admirals. The answer to these questions is simple: there is no shortage of government typists because the government goes out on the market and hires them at the market wage; there is no shortage of generals because they are paid handsomely, in salaries, perquisites, and pensions. There is a shortage of buck privates because their pay is—or was, until very recently— abysmally below the market wage. For years, even including the monetary value of the free food, shelter, and other services supplied the GIs, the earnings of the buck private were something like one-half the salary he could have earned in civilian life. Is it any wonder that there has been a chronic shortage of enlistees? For years it has been known that the way to induce people to volunteer for hazardous jobs is to pay them extra as a compensation. But the government has been paying the men half of what they could earn in private life.3
3Cf. James C. Miller III, ed., Why the Draft? (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968).
There is also the special disgrace of the doctors’ draft, in which physicians are subject to the draft at ages far beyond anyone else. Are doctors, then, to be penalized for their entry into the profession of medicine? What is the moral justification for onerous burdens placed on this particular, and vitally important, profession? Is this the way to cure the shortage of doctors—to put every man on notice that if he becomes a physician he will be sure to be drafted, and at a specially late age? Once again, the armed forces’ need for doctors could easily be satisfied if the government were willing to pay physicians the market salary, plus enough to compensate them for the hazardous labor. If the government wishes to hire nuclear physicists or “think-tank” strategists, it finds ways of doing so at extremely handsome salaries. Are doctors lower forms of humanity?
While conscription into the armed forces is a blatant and aggravated form of involuntary servitude, there is another, far more subtle and therefore less detectable form: the structure of the army itself. Consider this: in what other occupation in the country are there severe penalties, including prison and in some cases execution, for “desertion,” i.e., for quitting the particular employment? If someone quits General Motors, is he shot at sunrise?
It might be objected that, in the case of enlistees, the soldier or officer has voluntarily agreed to serve for a certain term, and he is therefore obligated to continue in service for that term of years. But the whole concept of “term of service” is part of the problem. Suppose, for example, that an engineer signs a contract with ARAMCO to serve for three years in Saudi Arabia. After a few months he decides that the life is not for him and he quits. This may well be a moral default on his part—a breach of moral obligation. But is it a legally enforceable obligation? In short, can he or should he be forced by the monopoly of weaponry of government to keep working for the remainder of his term? If so, that would be forced labor and enslavement. For while it is true that he made a promise of future work, his body continues, in a free society, to be owned by himself alone. In practice and in libertarian theory as well, then, the engineer might be morally criticized for the breach, he may be blacklisted by other oil firms, he may be forced to return any advance pay tendered to him by the company, but he will not be enslaved to ARAMCO for the three-year period.
But if this is true of ARAMCO, or of any other occupation or job in private life, why should it be different in the army? If a man signs up for seven years and then quits, he should be allowed to leave. He will lose pension rights, he will be morally criticized, he may be blacklisted from similar occupations, but he cannot, as a self-owner, be enslaved against his will.
It may be protested that the armed forces is a peculiarly important occupation that needs this sort of coercive sanction that other jobs do not have. Setting aside the importance of such occupations as medicine, agriculture and transportation that need not resort to such methods, let us consider a comparable defense occupation in civilian life—the police. Surely the police perform an equally, and perhaps more vital, service—and yet every year people join the police and quit the force, and there is no coercive attempt to bind their labor through years of enlistment. In addition to demanding the end of conscription, then, the libertarian also proposes to do away with the entire concept of a term of enlistment and the practice of slavery this implies. Let the armed forces operate in ways similar to police, firemen, rangers, private guards, etc.—free of the blight and the moral crime of involuntary servitude.
But there is more to be said about the army as an institution, even if it were made completely voluntary. Americans have almost totally forgotten one of the noblest and strongest elements in the original America heritage: determined opposition to the entire institution of a “standing army.” A government that has a permanent standing army at its disposal will always be tempted to use it, and to use it in an aggressive, interventionist, and warlike manner. While foreign policy will be dealt with below, it is clear that a permanent army is a standing temptation to the State to enlarge its power, to push around other people as well as other countries, and to dominate the internal life of the nation. The original aim of the Jeffersonian movement—a largely libertarian factor in political life—was to abolish the standing army and navy altogether. The original American principle was that if the nation attacked, then the citizens would hasten to join to repell the invader. A standing armed force, then, could only lead to trouble and to the aggrandizement of State power. In the course of his trenchant and prophetic attack on the proposed Constitution in the Virginia ratifying convention, Patrick Henry warned of a standing army: “Congress, by the power of taxation, by that of raising an army, and by their control over the militia, have the sword in one hand, and the purse in the other. Shall we be safe without either?”4
4Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., The Civilian and the Military (New York: Oxford Universitiy Press, 1956), p. 28. For a trenchant attack by a Jeffersonian theorist on the American executive as a commander-in-chief of the armed forces, see John Taylor of Caroline, An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814, rep. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950), pp. 175ff. On the important influence of seventeenth-century English libertarian theorists and their hostility to a standing army upon the American Revolution, see Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 61-64. Also see Don Higgenbotham, The War of American Independence (New York: Macmillan, 1971), pp. 14-16.
Any standing army, then, poses a standing threat to liberty. Its monopoly of coercive weapons, its modern tendency toward creating and supporting a “military-industrial complex” to supply that army, and last, but not least, as Patrick Henry notes, the taxing power to finance that army, pose a continuing threat of the army’s perpetual expansion in size and power. Any tax-supported institution, of course, is opposed by the libertarian as coercive, but an army is uniquely menacing for its amassing and collecting into one set of hands the massive power of modern weaponry.
By Joseph R. Peden
April, 1971 The Libertarian Forum [PDF]
Libertarians have often dreamed of escaping the tyranny of the State; some have sought to do so by seeking refuge in distant and uninhabited lands where they could live in solitary hermitage or in small communities held together by the principle of voluntary association and mutual aid. But historians know that such experiments seldom survive in peace for long; sooner or later the State finds and confronts them with its instinctive will to violence, its mania for coercion rather than persuasion, for compulsion rather than voluntarism. Such has been the fate of the Mormons and Mennonites, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Amish people, among others.
As exploited peoples all over the world are beginning to realize, their true enemy is always within their midst – the coercive violence of the State – and it must be fought constantly…
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