Steve G.

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.

In Libertarian on December 16, 2008 at 1:56 pm

In college, I concentrated in politics and religion — the two subjects you’re not supposed to talk about in friendly conversation — and those two subject areas are still at the center of much of my work and inquiry. The political and religious perspectives I currently have — I say “currently” because they have changed throughout my first 34 years and will probably continue to change during the rest of my life — do not seem especially radical to me, and compared to those of some of my friends may be seen as downright timid.

Still, in both political and religious views, I am in the extreme minority of Americans. My first instinct is that this is a call to activism, not to try to convince others that I am correct, but to force them to see my heterodox views as equally valid and equally deserving of a place in the public trade of ideas. Many of my friends have committed themselves to this task, because they are braver and stronger folks that I am. I shudder at the notion of spending my time trying to convince the angry and the closed-minded to give my ideas a chance. I firmly believe in the idea that no one owns my life except me, and I do not want to cast the pearls of my limited time before the swine of the mob. But this means I have to accept seeing my ideas besmirched on a regular basis, and to accept it without grumbling, since I am doing nothing to overcome the contempt.

I am therefore so thankful for all of you who do have the will and the desire to make the fight.

  1. Peter, one way to think about the contemptuous besmirchers is that they are in sense unconscious, and therefore know not what they do.

    Don’t “fight” the sleepwalkers. Instead, help them to awaken.

  2. Many of my friends have committed themselves to this task, because they are braver and stronger folks that I am.

    Some people actually enjoy it, you know. Takes all kinds!

    … I do not want to cast the pearls of my limited time before the swine of the mob.

    Good! That’s a healthy attitude, I think. (Not that I think activism is unhealthy, mind you. Much.)

    But this means I have to accept seeing my ideas besmirched on a regular basis, and to accept it without grumbling, since I am doing nothing to overcome the contempt.

    Oh, piffle! I very much disagree with this notion that one only has the ‘right’ to complain if one is actively engaged in some sort of heroic struggle. Grumble away – it’s good practice, if nothing else, and you might be surprised at the number of people who are influenced significantly by the ‘grumblings’ of their respected ‘apolitical’ associates.

  3. There is an old story from when the Soviet Union was still a power about an American and a Russian discussing the relative freedoms of their respective governments. The American argued that we have a democratically elected legislative body and the Russian countered well so what we do too. The American said well our constitution guarantees us certain freedoms and the Russian countered so what ours does to and look at how both governments routinely ignore their peoples liberties. Finally in exasperation the American exclaims “Well, we have the right to criticize our government!” The Russian responded, so what in the USSR we also have the right to criticize your government.

  4. On the efficacy of “grumbling”: actually, I agree with Susan, up to a point…misery does indeed often love company. Malcontentedness, while unhealthy, can attract malcontents, to be sure. Optimal strategy for peace on Earth? Not so much. IMO, as always!

  5. Let’s hope you really don’t see non-believers as “swine.”
    There’s usually an audience watching, probably more on the other guys side than yours, and they won’t respond well to bullying, name-calling, and contemptuous behavior. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) work on NatCom and it won’t work at your next cocktail party, church social, or weenie roast.

  6. yes, those who appear angry and close-minded can be a monumental energy drain. The cross they must be bearing leads them to act out in dysfunctional ways. but labeling them “swine” may coarsen your experience, compounding the dysfunction.

  7. I like this post as I’m the sort that thinks religion and politics should ALWAYS be discussed in friendly conversation. You guys may have seen in another thread at another blog that I visited with my dear neighbors on Saturday for some spiked eggnog. It was at first a lady’s date- my host is 75 and her hubby opted to remain retired to his rooms of the house during the get-together.

    When most ladies left, my husband joined and we all got into a spirited discussion over my mention of my casual pot use. (I admit that I only mentioned that I used it the week prior in Amsterdam; I’m not yet willing to admit to my hardcore Republican Party neighbor that I smoke on my patio too.) They said that they almost put their son in rehab because he smoked it once when he was at school at UT. I was explaining that pot isn’t addictive, deadly or anything else- standard MPP stuff. When they told me that we must follow the law no matter what I mentioned Bastiat.

    “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”

    They said it didn’t matter at all; you have to change the law first. I was a little bit tipsy so asked, “*So, if the law was written that you, married 50 years, now have to screw six Mexican guys a week, you’d follow it until changed?*”

    My sweet neighbor said, “Yes, if that’s the law, I’d do it.”

    Her husband then told her that she might have to look up additional meanings of ‘screw.’

    We had a laugh, they conceded that pot shouldn’t be illegal, my knee was bruised from the doc’s pinching and the subject was changed to another.

    **I used that example because we were tipsy, my neighbors grew up in the Jim Crow south and I thought it crazy enough to make them see the absurdity of it all.

  8. Wittgenstein, eh? Or pass over. But hey, the world is what is the case. Or as a psychologist might conclude, one’s case. I’m still considering the first sentence of the Republic: Into depths I went, etc.

    Since starting with a few people in a living room in 1970, I have never convinced anyone of Libertarianism or any Libertarian application.

    I have, in contrast, presented empowering information, stories or exapleswhere in due course people convinced themselves, more than once the people that I least expected.

    That’s a lot of silence on my part.

    Convincing one person is involving but difficult. Sharing information with many is easy. Boring, but easy, and effective.

    Keep on punchin’, my friend. Get a bumpersticker, hand out literature like the DISCOVER LIBERTY for people to read at home, get a Light of Liberty award periodically, get on or monior an advisory board if you feel up to it, and sleep the sleep of the just each night.

    Our job as Libertarians is not to solve problems, but see that through needed information and a gentle push that our conservatives and progressives solve them in a non-coercive fashion and avoid self-created problems. The middle way that arises from dialogue will do the rest.

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