Watch Where Those Other Four Fingers Point!

Sunni's picture

Catching up on some blog reading lately, I came across something that was so suffused with irony I can’t help but remark on it ... even though I have misgivings about doing so.

It’s a little piece I encountered Joel’s place; he linked to the original. For convenience, I’ll put it here, too (emphasis in original):

It takes a special kind of hubris to wake up one morning and decide that what this world is lacking is your visionary leadership, and an even more perfectly-distilled narcissism to think that if millions of people don't like you, the problem is with all of them.

This was offered as an observation of politicians and would–be politicans, and it certainly applies. However, reading it gave me an immediate and humbling flashback to my n00bie anarcho–capitalist days. I was certain that I had seen The Light, and my task was to bring as many others to It as possible. Of course frustration and burnout was the result; and I continue to see evidence that others who hope to spread the light of the freedom philosophy are following the same path.

And really, how much of a difference is it to many people to suspect that “millions of people don’t like you” versus “millions of people don’t like your ideas”? For so many of us, our egos are so deeply insinuated into our belief system that to question, challenge, or reject our ideas is a personal attack.

I guess I really don’t see that much difference between the office–seeking politician and the evangelical libertarian any more.

Big difference

The evangelical libertarians, Jehovah's Witnesses and other non-state evangelicals are at worst annoying. Politicians are dangerous. The first group seeks to convince people, through non-coercive means, that their way is best. Yes they can be a pain, and yes they can do their cause more harm then good by alienating people, but they do not hurt people. The politicians are more that willing to steal from people and to hurt people in order to implement their vision. There is a big difference.

Big Difference Two...

I echo Jorge’s statement.

Evangelical is a means of persuasion; political is a means of enforcement. Evangelicals strive to convince others; politicians strive to control others.

I see what you both are saying

... and agree that I overstated the similarities between the two, in our context. By that I mean a context of valuing liberty. Thank you both for being so gentle in pointing out my error.

That said, I think that for some people, a libertarian can be viewed as being very dangerous, in large part because so many would dread reclaiming individual responsibility, which is an indispensible part of living in a free, civil society. To take it a step further, those libertarians who seek to enforce their philosophy via winning elections do muddy the waters even more between these two groups.

You mean some libertarians ....

... like the ones Joel talks about in a different post?
"You think the latest "republican revolution" will make Obamacare go away? Rotsa Ruck - I'll bet some Obama voters are still waiting for their free TVs and unicorns, too."

You want unicorn? We gotcher

You want unicorn? We gotcher unicorn:

Libertarian zeal might also

Libertarian zeal might also act like narcissism at times. Outnumbered and out-played most of the time, there seems to be an intellectual desperation involved in many libertarians’ zealousness. I’m not sure it has to do with ego as such, so much as knowledge of the enemy’s strength which often makes some libbers strident or sound threatening and defensive. Freedom is losing status and meaning in the world and desperation can sound (and feel) like paranoia when questioned or challenged. Time is running out, and we don’t know what to do about it.

I think, too, that emphasis on specific issues — marijuana, abortion, gun-toting, etc — rather than the lib philosophy _per se_ has confused non-libbers. They want to know what it means as it relates to them in specific terms, and freedom-lovers are eager to tell them. But many people don’t understand what individual responsibilty fully involves, and the concept of “individual sovereignty” is totally alien. They must comprehend and trust the foundation before they can embrace specific issues.

Is it, really?

At the risk of continuing to communicate poorly here, I nonetheless dive in again ...

Freedom is losing status and meaning in the world .... Time is running out, and we don’t know what to do about it.

If one’s eyes are focused on systems—and especially the numerous large systems operating today, including multinational corporate conglomerates, non–government organizations [what exactly does that mean, anyway??] and nation–states—then I can see how one might think freedom is “losing status”. But I think with very few exceptions, most individuals do value at least some liberty, and aren’t happy when someone or something tries to encroach on that.

More important to me, though, is the other declaration—that time is running out. How can that be? It can certainly seem to be for individuals of a certain age who are determined to draw at least one breath in a fully free society; and it may well seem so for individuals who measure their freedom primarily as something given them, rather than arising from their own internal state and way of being. I don’t mean to sound dismissive or all visionary here ... we simply do not know what may come around the corner tomorrow, or next week, or next year to change the milieu. As I understand it, an old Chinese proverb puts it pretty well: “Heaven is high and the emperor is far away.”

Clarification -- I hope

Sunni, what you quoted was referring to the _apparent_ takeover by statists everywhere. Socialism around the world and at home, inflation, increasing threats to privacy, the breakdown of the justice system, the paramilitary system growing... so much is going on that is overwhelming the ability of any freedom-lover to overcome. The very fact that many believe “it will only get worse before it gets better” tells us that we think time IS, indeed, running out and we can’t get on top of it.

So, yes, then I was talking “numerous large systems”. (This doesn’t mean that individuals can’t find their own freedom, can’t make their own happiness; nor does it mean we shouldn’t be trying.)
I was merely trying to point out — unsuccessfully — that perhaps it’s not ego involved in any given libertarian’s approach so much as his/her feeling of desperation, coupled with intensity of purpose, that makes some libertarians *sound* egotistical.

You’re right... we don’t know what will happen next. But — based on current events, which is all we have to go on — we can’t assume the direction will be positive. Most of the people’s responses seem to be biased AGAINST governmental action, not biased TOWARD libertarian philosophy. The response _against_ TSA’s porno-scanners, for example, is building. The response _against_ health care legislation, _against_ prolonging the war further, _against_ job loss, inflation, and foreclosures, _against_ political corruption and politics in general, plus the formation of the tea party itself — is all due to what’s happening in D.C. and on Wall Street.

How would that play out if those issues were resolved? Another Alexander Hamilton will surely rise if libertarians aren’t there to re-direct America toward “freedom in our time.”

I can resist anything but temptation ...

So, although it’d probably be better if I save my thoughts for a separate post, here I am again. Thank you for your patience with me, Pat.

I was merely trying to point out — unsuccessfully — that perhaps it’s not ego involved in any given libertarian’s approach so much as his/her feeling of desperation, coupled with intensity of purpose, that makes some libertarians *sound* egotistical.

Thanks; I think I understand better now. Part of the problem seems to be differing ways of thinking about ego here ... does not the ego drive those feelings of desperation and purpose to try to change things to closer to the way one wants them to be?

Your con and pro observations are spot on; moreover, they hit the toughest aspect of the freedom philosophy, in my opinion. Freedom is itself a negative concept—it is defined as a lack of coercion and/or force. And as that old song put it, “You don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone”. Makes the quote currently atop the sidebar even more apt ...

Two egos?

“... does not the ego drive those feelings of desperation and purpose to try to change things to closer to the way one wants them to be?”

Yes... it might. (To be honest, at this point I’m not sure if you’re talking about the psychiatric Ego — the me-centric self — or the psychological ego, which IS narcissistic.)

But if the drive *for freedom* was strong enough, it might be simply a response to do what one can, i.e. not thinking *I* can change this, but you doing your thing, me doing mine — working to bring about a change for freedom. As in, the more of us who have input, the stronger the message, and somehow we might get through to those who need to hear it. Most of us say much the same thing in different ways; the ignorant-in-freedom may respond to one style or wording, and not another.

Egos ...

Oops—yes, defining the term at the outset would’ve been very helpful. I wasn’t using it in an academic way at all; I mean that part of our cognitive processes that tries to put one and one’s desires and stories at the center of everything, often to unhappy effect. And you’re right, Pat: the ego may drive one’s activism, but it needn’t. Sometimes it can be hard to discern what’s going on within ourselves, much less another person.

What is Freedom?

Sunni, you said:

Freedom is itself a negative concept—it is defined as a lack of coercion and/or force.

Is it?

I call you back to frith, Sunni. Freedom is not negative, but positive: the ability of a community, a family, a tribe to maintain its independence, to live as it sees fit, to create and build and trade, to share meals and music, to learn, to laugh, to heal, to live. Yes, free people need to defend themselves from aggression, but I submit that the essence of freedom is frith: the power that makes a group of people friends towards one another and free men towards the rest of the world.

More misunderstanding ...

Saint, of course I agree with you that freedom is positive. What I was trying to say is that in defining/describing freedom, what one is usually doing is noting an absence of things, rather than the presence of certain criteria or characteristics. And that can make it hard for some people to understand: I suppose for them, not having something automtically means there’s a lack, rather than an opportunity to create.

I Know You Know

Sunni, I know you know. It's hard to explain, though, isn't it? Heck, I wrote that comment almost as much to remind myself as anything else. :)

I'd say the most dangerous

I'd say the most dangerous are the evangelical government type.

The classic example I've been using for a few years is the global warming movement. It requires total adherence to it's articles of faith, and seeks political and economic control.

There are other examples of the two being combined, but the trendlines are looking good. These days it's hard for an American politico to demand that others adhere to "Christian principles" and "God's Law."

On the other hand, I look elsewhere on the globe and I shudder. I still say that religion can't be allowed the coercive power of government and government can't be allowed the moral justification of religion. I absolutely agree that anytime those two institutions are mixed, liberty is destroyed.

It still amazes me when certain people (not mentioning names) claim that the U.S. was founded solely on Christian ideas. Especially when one house of the national legislature is called the Senate.

No evangelism here...

A lot of us just print up tracts at our own expense and stand on street corners handing them out to willing takers. The 21st century version being the internet blog.

No coercion, pressure or even loud noises on the part of most of us. We're weird, and probably demented... but everybody needs a hobby. [grin]

Those other fingers are your friends

I think the key words in your original post are "belief system". A belief system without the self-check of "What if I'm wrong?" or "Am I open to new information?" can only lead to dogma be it in science, politics, religion, etc.

To me, any faith position is tenuous. It's fine to hold certain beliefs based on your current understanding--haha--that pretty much describes all of human history! The problem lies in the current enlightened times where the tendency is to hold firm in the belief we are somehow at the pinnacle of wisdom, knowledge & understanding.

That we naturally build on prior knowledge should at least make us pause to consider that we might be some future's flat-earth thinkers. And of course we are and will continue to be just that.

That's not to say the plateaus aren't a continual source of breakthrough thinking. We relish in our achievements and gains in understanding but often fail to keep that mirror handy.

A belief or faith that runs into conflicting data is where it gets interesting. Not many are willing to leave the safety of a faith-based world (not necessarily religion based, but often though). But that faith foundation has to hold a lot of rules, understandings and further beliefs (and even facts). Pretty soon so much is invested in this system that even when confronted with opposing proofs, die hard zealots continue to hold firm in their faith, not realising their Jenga situation.

The mirror can be a real bitch if one is willing to be open and honest with what they see. But any pain the ego perceives as a direct hit is worth it in order to allow for truth and clarity to emerge. And that mirror turns out to be your best friend (not the ego's though!). The mirror is an ego destroyer if the mind is willing to let go of things.

And the thinking mind with no purpose or essence behind its actions will do whatever it takes to relieve boredom. It will create the chaos, drama and ultimately "the unsolvable puzzle" because it (ego) has a huge stake in it. The inherent fear that ego can thrive on is played out to its ultimate ends when individuals find ego identity in larger groups. Their purpose becomes to conquer the opposing egos (beliefs). The more I think about it, the polarity in things political actually makes sense. The ego extremes do battle and it doesn't matter who if ever will win because that particular wiring will constantly seek division and food for its never-ending ego needs.

The fact that you look back on your past thinking with a new lens is proof of your ability to adapt, change, learn, grow (not to discount the incredible wealth of all things liberty here in the blog). And that trait is what sets free-thinkers apart from their statist-minded counterparts.

While you might look back on your early anarchy enlightenment as preachy, the fact you're even looking back justifies it as it is an obvious change of lens and now you are aware of it. And that discounts the impact you may have had in jarring others the rethink their system. The office seeker, evangelical anything, look-at-me-while-i-show-you-the-way types, all should be treated with care in that they are the ones that tend to treat anything that doesn't jive with what they're selling as an enemy to be destroyed. The more the ego is exposed and tamed, the more likely there will be a move to peace, quiet and individualism. The biggest obstacle to individual liberty and freedom is the ego whose food is fear and constant drama. Where you find the collective ego, you tend to find mass graves.

But I might be wrong...

Not by a long shot.

Thank you, Galactic Monk—it appears that you understand what I had observed and was trying to communicate. A freedom lover is not necessarily a free thinker. The Buddha emphasized questioning and challenging his teachings to his followers, saying, “Believe nothing, question everything”. Discovering that vaulted the man, in my mind, far above others who claim divinity.

I expect some of your observations will grace the top of the sidebar, at some point.