It has been mentioned before in this blog, but one of the hardest things to not only do, but also to truly understand, is logical thought. At first glance, it seems like logic is something that is very black and white and has no room for interpretation, but unfortunately like many things in life it isn’t really that simple. Using logic in our arguments is a critical part of effectively conveying our point of view, but logic by itself is not a trump card that wipes out opposing ideas as simply wrong.

This is the problem in our modern version of discourse in America. Everyone has an opinion, and with the education we have access to in this country everyone applies at least a basic level of logical reasoning to their position. It is rare to come across someone who holds an opinion “just because”. There is almost always a reason, even if they are not explicitly aware of it. For the most part, a person can tell you why they think they way they do, and the reasons are usually understandable if you follow their logic.

Where we run into trouble is when we take that logical resolution and start believing that our viewpoint is objective because we have logical reasons to hold that view. Nothing in human relationships is ever purely objective. It isn’t possible to ever make it so. This is because we are all unique individuals with different backgrounds, different biology, and different situations. We are influenced by myriad factors on a daily basis that change how we look at the world.

A fairly simple example of the differences in how logic is applied is a sensitive topic for me: gun control. Both sides have logical arguments that support why they think we should act in a certain way toward firearm possession and use, but that same logical approach to figuring out what they think is right has led to polar opposite views on what should be done with firearms in our country. This is because both sides are starting from vastly different premises.

Advocates for strict gun control begin from the concept that public safety is the primary concern above everything else, even their own personal freedom. It is a belief that stems from a compassionate viewpoint that violence or loss of life is something that we should be fighting to prevent at any cost. It is a noble sentiment and one that even the most ardent gun rights advocates support to some degree, but ultimately it is an opinion and even though one logical outcome of that way of thinking is to do everything possible to remove the tools of death, it assumes the premise that preventing violence is the most important thing we can do.

On the other side of the debate, gun rights advocates still abhor the loss of life, but for them it is not something that is viewed as the most important factor we should be considering. For a conservative, public safety is very important, but individual freedom is paramount. They start from a position that each individual has certain rights that he should defend at any cost. The logical outcome from this line of thinking is to believe that he should have access to any means necessary to defend his own rights from those who would infringe on them. Gun control for a conservative is far worse than death because for him it is a limitation on what he views as an immutable right that he is obligated to defend as a free person.

As you can see, both sides make logical arguments, and which side resonates with you will depend on what beginning point of view you start with. For full disclosure, I will say that for myself I value individual freedom, so while I can lay out the arguments of both sides fairly objectively, I recognize that I hold a certain bias that many will disagree with. The point of this article is not to try to convince anyone on the issue of gun control, but to help you understand that just because someone holds a different point of view from you, it doesn’t mean they are stupid. They simply hold different values.

We have reached a point in this country where is has become unacceptable to disagree. This is mostly because we believe that our media has converted us into zealots who blindly repeat talking points that have been shoved in our faces for so long that we just don’t think about it anymore. The reality is that most people are somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum, not radical left or alt right. There is so much common ground we share as Americans, or even at a more basic level as human beings in general. When you’re having an argument with someone, try to remember that they are a complete individual with their own thoughts and opinions. If you assume that they are an intelligent person who has reasonable arrived at their point of view through logical thought, you are in a much better position to have a rational discussion about the issue.

What do you think about this topic? How have you applied logical thought to your way of thinking? Can you delineate where you started from and how you got to your current point of view? You may not have thought about it before, but if you trace your steps back, you’ll realize that you may have put more rational thought into it than you first assumed. Once you can do that, try to apply that same process to a point of view you oppose, and you may start to find that your opponent isn’t as crazy as you thought and it will be far easier to treat them with respect.

Respect is a powerful thing.

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We previously discussed perseverance as the first part of what makes a person successful in life. Without it there is no chance at all that you can make a sustained effort toward accomplishing your goals. It is only when we are able to continue on in the face of adversity that we are able to realize our dreams, because no matter what your dream is there will always be some sort of resistance trying to prevent you from getting where you want to go.

Though it is not necessarily required, patience is an important part of the process. It is something that most of us struggle with in this new world of instant gratification. There are certainly impatient people who have achieved many amazing things, but these are truly outliers. Their success can usually be attributed to extreme chance. Truly successful people tend to be very patient, and there is an important reason for this.

To persevere in the face of challenge, you have to be able to set aside your desire for instant reward. A goal worth obtaining is unlikely something that is possible to achieve overnight, which means that you will have to assume some amount of time between starting down the road toward your destination and actually arriving there. It is exactly this understanding of required time to completion that makes patience such a powerful asset. Perseverance is greatly enhanced when you have it and greatly undermined when you don’t.

There are two aspects to patience to consider when applying it to personal objectives. The first is capacity, by which I mean that the more patience you are able to learn, the more capacity for perseverance you will have. When you are able to keep patience in the forefront of your thinking, you will find it much easier to take those small steps that perseverance requires. Knowing that this one step isn’t going to instantly deliver you the results you seek will make taking that step far less daunting.

Not only that, but it also increases your capacity for perseverance by intuitively helping you to break that huge task into smaller chunks. It is almost impossible to become overwhelmed by a big task when you have the patience to understand that big tasks are simply a combination of smaller tasks over time. Rather than fixating on the end product, you are able to let go of the idea that it needs to be done right away and you start focusing your effort on the goal of the moment. You aren’t ignoring the destination, but you are ensuring that you are taking the proper step right now that pushes you toward your destination.

The second aspect of patience is that of personal well being. While capacity is the ability to increase your level of perseverance from a process perspective, personal well being is the ability to reduce stress on yourself so that it doesn’t interfere with your motivation to continue with your task. It is an emotional property rather than a technical one that directly influences our ability to find the strength to continue.

At first glance, it seems like these are the same thing. They both allow us to begin a big task and continue forward, but there is a subtle difference and it is important to understand it because both sides are critical. The capacity aspect of patience is more about finding ways to make the process more manageable, while the well being aspect is about learning to control our feelings so negativity doesn’t creep in and start undermining our efforts. When you practice patience toward your goal, you are not only making a plan, but you are aligning your emotions so they fit in with that plan.

The most dangerous impediment to your plans is allowing impatience to make your decisions for you. Perhaps you started with the patience of making a plan that breaks your task up into smaller pieces, but then you run into some sort of roadblock and start becoming frustrated. Impatience rears its head and you give in to it and make a decision that completely ruins everything you’ve done so far. Failing to practice emotional patience usually results in the same outcome as simply failing to practice patience in our planning. There are stumbling blocks at every turn, and the best plan in the world fails every time if we don’t actually follow it.

So if we understand that patience has at least two properties that we need to implement into our process, it becomes easier to learn how to combine patience with perseverance to get where we’re trying to go. Unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple. If it were, everyone would do it, and clearly we do not. I am certainly continually guilty of not being able to find patience, regardless of the fact that I understand its value and I am laying it out here in this article. No one is perfect.

That shouldn’t discourage us. Part of patience is knowing that you probably aren’t going to do it right the first time. I have failed so many times in my life, but if I can find the patience to continue trying, there is a good chance that simply through the law of averages I will find some level of success that is meaningful to me. If you try enough times, you eventually win. That’s just statistics.

The idea here is to learn how to not be discouraged by failure or waiting. It is extremely hard to wait and your emotions are going to roil about inside you trying to knock you off course. If you can learn to control that turmoil, you will begin to see that you are much more effective and things begin coming much more quickly because your effort is focused and you are much more efficient about getting things done.

What do you think about perseverance and patience? How much more do you need to work on it? Does thinking about these concepts in a more defined way help you see where you’re struggling? Hopefully something here causes a click inside that makes things make more sense, and someday that will turn into the amazing success you’ve been hoping for.

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Fundamental Rights

I was thinking about this in light of some of the things I’ve been watching and reading lately and I wanted to put it down in writing before the train of thought left me. One of the biggest debates going on in our modern society today is about rights. What constitutes a right and how are we to interact with them? It’s difficult to come to a consensus on this issue.

Every issue we have stems from this very topic, from gender politics to gun control to welfare. It is the definition of a right versus what the majority of people think about it that causes so many issues. For example, the right to freedom of speech is an American value that virtually all citizens agree with. We do so because we value individual freedom and the ability to express ourselves our way without being stifled by anyone else. Very few people in the United States would disagree that self expression is an important part of a free society.

On the other side is the contentious topic of the Second Amendment. A growing portion of the country has come to feel that firearms have no place in a civilized society and have campaigned for their removal. It used to be felt that a person had the right to defend himself from any danger in whatever way he felt was necessary, but more and more the government is restricting our access to the ability to effectively defend ourselves. What was once a mostly undisputed right has now become a privilege in some parts of the country. For example, in some parts of California, it is nearly impossible to obtain a license to carry a firearm on your person (“bear arms”) in public. It is a direct infringement on our right to self defense.

The problem with this viewpoint is that we are not settling on a set definition of what constitutes a right, and that causes so much confusion in our politics. A right is something that is a default part of who we are as individuals. It is something that cannot be dictated by others. It is something that applies to every person in the entire world, regardless of government or creed or any other social construct. It is inherent in who we are.

The Bill of Rights isn’t really what empowers us with the rights we enjoy as Americans. That document can be torn up and discarded at any moment if we so choose. A piece of paper has no power by itself. What the Bill of Rights does is put down in writing what we all know to be fundamental rights attributable to all human beings. They are what we intuitively understand are part of what it means to be individuals. They are immutable and not open to debate.

You can argue the finer points of how we interpret these rights, but fundamental rights are a part of the human condition. Freedom of expression is something that every person in the world longs for. No one can seriously argue that a person has no right to defend themselves from harm, physical or otherwise. Privacy is an important part of being an individual, as without privacy you can never develop your own way of looking at the world. Individual rights are fundamental exactly because we are a world of individuals. We may come together in common cause, but at the end of the day we each make our own decisions. We are not a hive mind, and our will is our own.

The purpose of this post isn’t to extol the virtues of any one specific right, but to point out that these rights do exist and we need to understand what they are and what they aren’t. A right is something that only you have the power to exercise. It is not something that is bestowed to you by someone else. No one can give them to you. It is for you to hold them and protect them.

Things like freedom of speech and the right to bear arms are not something that anyone can give to you. You choose to express yourself or not; to defend yourself or not. No one else has any obligation at all to express your point of view for you or protect you from harm. Many may choose to, but it is exactly that they have that choice that your rights are yours alone. If you have to force someone else to do it, it isn’t a right.

An example of this is health care. Many people have come to view this as a basic right, but this is directly contrary to the idea that rights only apply at the individual level. You can’t force someone to become a doctor, and even if you tried, the care they provide would be vastly inferior to someone who had a passion for healing people. Would you jail them for failing to provide proper healthcare? What then? Who would replace them? Another person who cares nothing about medicine but is a doctor now because there is a quota? No matter how much money you spend, you can’t make someone a good doctor when he doesn’t care.

This is the problem with the idea that we can engineer a society. When you start deciding that it is necessary to impose things on people you are starting to push against the fundamental rights of those people. It is when we choose our own way that we become the best version of ourselves. The freedom to make our own choices is paramount to anything else. The attempt to force a way on someone else violates those rights.

This is not to say that certain things are not good because they put the needs of the community before those of the individual. Most people would agree that there are many things in which it is virtuous to make sacrifices for the greater good. However, it is necessary to differentiate between sacrifices made voluntarily and those that are forced upon individuals who disagree. That is what makes all the difference.

Charity is a prime example of this. When a person receives their paycheck and chooses to give a portion of it to help others, that is something almost anyone would see as a good thing. However, when the government slices out a portion of that check via taxes so it can be given as charity in the form of welfare programs, the outcome may still be good, but the method violates the right of the individual to choose to not be charitable, or at the very least choose what cause to give his money to. The decision is made for him and he has no say in the matter. And if he tries not paying his taxes because he disagrees, either his money is stolen from him or he is put in jail. His right to choose how he spends his resources has been taken away.

When we look at what it is that makes us human, we can’t ignore individuality. No matter how many of us might agree on a topic, there will always be those who don’t and it is fundamentally wrong to force our ways on them. We know this to be true because we know that we would feel violated if those people found a way to force their ideology on us. This is why we established from the outset that we would specifically recognize that we have individual rights that are encoded into our system of government. The hope was that we wouldn’t have to fight for them again because it is a default part of our nation.

There are many who want to wipe out individual liberty because they feel threatened by the ideas or actions of others, or find them to be an impediment to their own ambitions. What they fail to realize is that these fundamental rights are a core part of who we are as human beings, and eventually that part of us that craves individuality will lash out when we realize that there is no other option. When we are backed into a corner and the only option is force, we will rise up against those who try to oppress us. It is just who we are.

So before you start thinking that your favorite idea is a right, ask yourself this question: is this something that someone else has to do for me? If the answer is yes, then it is not a right and it is not something you should be trying to force one someone else. Our fundamental rights give us the ability to reject the thoughts and opinions of others, regardless of the reasons, and you have no right to force your ways on others, whether that be through coercion, government, or physical violence.

You do so at your own peril.

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Racism is Back…and It Sucks Just as Bad

I have to take a break from talking about some of the more esoteric and self-motivational things I’ve been writing about lately. This morning I watched a video about the “8 White Identities“, which is basically a chart that describes what the creators believe are the different types of white people in America. It is the most appalling thing I’ve seen in a while.

According to this chart, people fall into a spectrum that ranges from full on white supremacy on one end to complete anti-white activism on the other. Among the groups included are those who are “white privileged” or “white benefited” and those who are “white confessional” or “white traitor”. There are descriptions for all of these included with the chart. The gist of the list is that at one end you are a terrible person because you love your race and at the other end you are a great person because you want to completely purge “whiteness” from society. I’m not sure how either end of the spectrum could be considered good, but racism is never rational.

The appalling part isn’t that someone created this chart and that it is making the rounds amongst the usual suspects. What’s scary is that this is being sanctioned and included as part of the New York public school system. This document attempts to convince the reader that regardless of your attitude toward racism, if you are white you are an obstacle to be overcome. Institutionalized racism has returned to not only our government, but now our public school system. Young, impressionable minds are once again being indoctrinated into the forms of racism that were once found abhorrent and evil.

This new racist movement is primarily the work of two different groups of people. The first are those who want revenge for the racism this country endured for most of its history. It is a terrible group of people who aren’t able to forgive and move on and want to force someone to suffer for what happened to their ancestors. Rather than focusing their efforts on making a better life for themselves, they would rather pull down the people around them so they can feel better about the fact that their lives aren’t what they wish it would be. It’s easier to tear other people down than to build yourself up.

The second group is even worse than the first. It is the group of people who have no moral values and are willing to align themselves with any ideology that gives them an opportunity for money or power. The first group at least has a principle they truly believe in. This second group cares only for their own position. They will do whatever it takes and hurt whoever needs to be hurt to get what they want.

When ideology meets opportunism, it becomes a deadly weapon. We have seen many times in the past how racist sentiment turned into violent action against people who were innocent and did not deserve what happened to them. After a long struggle, we finally made it to a place where racism was truly starting to fade into the past, but now it is being dragged back into the forefront to start a new conflict that will tear into the fabric of our society.

Make no mistake: racism is racism regardless of what race it is against. If your attitude is that a person’s skin color defines how you treat them, you are a racist. The idea that somehow the only way to get rid of racism is to shame white people into giving up everything they have is ridiculous. It is a ridiculous attempt to fight perceived racism with more racism. No reasonable person should ever look at any document that talks about racial equity of any kind and think it is a good thing. That kind of thinking misses the point entirely.

There is a maxim that states that two wrongs don’t make a right. Revenge is no way to move a society forward. When you hurt one group of people, they inevitably become angry and want to hurt you back. If both sides continue retaliating, things get worse, not better. It is understandable that certain communities feel hurt by what has happened in our past. There is nothing wrong with that and we should do everything we can to help those who have suffered find a way to make their lives better. Where we run into trouble is when people start thinking that we should start hurting others as a form of justice. There is no revenge in justice.

The true way to remove racism from our society is the one way that some people just don’t want to hear: remove race from the conversation. All mention of race needs to be removed from our dialogue. Our laws need to have the concept of race completely removed. There should be no structure that provides any advantage or disadvantaged based on what ethnicity you belong to. When someone brings up race as a basis for any sort of action, good or bad, they should be shamed into silence. We are human beings; the color of your skin shouldn’t matter.

Unfortunately, it seems that the fight against racism will continue on. We just don’t seem to know how to let it die. This next battle should be about removing all racial identity from our thinking, because until we are able to put aside our obsession with skin color, our society will never find any real peace. It seems that the side of hatred is making their move and it is up to those of us who value peace to stand up to it. We can’t allow this kind of thinking to become the norm.

I put it to you, reader, to examine your own feelings and decide what group you want to belong to. History will record what we do and we will be judged for the attitudes we choose to cling to. Will you push the ideology of revenge, or will you stand up for unity?

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In the last post we talked about laziness and how it invades our lives in a way that is difficult to overcome. Today, let’s talk about the opposite of laziness. It’s a good thing to discuss given what I said about myself in the last article, having fallen victim to it for most of my life. Especially in the last eight years, I have been gripped by apathy because nothing seems worth it. Writing a post about perseverance seems like a logical next step toward pulling out of the pit of laziness and starting to climb that mountain of success.

That’s all you really need to get started. You make a choice. You decide that this one thing is important enough to do, regardless of whether it leads to something rewarding later on. Most successful people take life one decision at a time. They have goals, but they don’t fixate on them. The healthy ones don’t, at any rate. They focus on the issue of the moment and give it their full attention and effort. It is because they are able to disregard the noise of life that they make the consistently correct decisions that lead to success.

It seems to me that we are meant to live life in the moment. We have a deep seated need to look toward the future, but we are never happier than when we are satisfied with what we have right now. Hopes and dreams are wonderful things. They propel us forward into a future we can’t even imagine. The problem is when we constantly live there and aren’t doing the things we need to be doing right now to move toward those dreams. It is an extremely hard thing to learn. I haven’t learned it yet, and odds are you haven’t either.

Perseverance is probably the hardest thing for us to keep. It’s so easy to just decide you can’t do something and sit down and let life pass you by. Laziness is so enticing because it promises us the easy life. The truth is that there is no such thing as the easy life. Not for any but a select few individuals. The rest of us have to continue working hard to make life happen. Regardless of what we do, we’re going to spend a great deal of effort just trying to survive. The question is how do we spend that effort?

If you’re like me, your default state is to do the bare minimum to make the money you need and then hurry home and immerse yourself in whatever pointless activity you like to engage in. Your relationships suffer because those require effort as well and you just can’t summon the energy for it. You shut yourself in your home, not wanting to deal with the frustrations that come with dealing with being out in public. Traffic, long lines, crazy people; it feels like too much.

The thing is that nothing is ever too much. It only feels that way because we focus on all the negative things as one big thing rather than small little things we can conquer one at a time. We don’t have to overcome these things all at once. We’re not capable of doing that anyway. We just have to choose one thing to get started on and focus our full attention on it. There are a bunch of clich├ęs I could probably use right now to illustrate the point, but all you really need to understand is that we have to chip away at the wall of negativity a tiny piece at a time. It’s really that simple.

This is what perseverance really is. It’s making the choice each and every time to put in that small effort to chip away at the wall that is stopping us from getting where we want to go. It’s not a new lifestyle or completely different way of thinking. People just don’t change like that. It’s small adjustments over time that accumulate into a huge change. When you get to the other side you’ll see that things are vastly different than they were when you started, but the unfortunate truth is that you probably won’t be able to see it while you’re in it. It’s only when we look back that we see the difference.

So what now? That really is up to you. For me, I think maybe it means that I just have to keep writing a little bit at a time. I think I might have something to contribute that people need, and maybe that might be the thing that brings meaning and value to my life. Perhaps it will lead to the financial independence I’ve been longing for. Or maybe it will just make me a better person. Sometimes just working through these things on paper and sharing them with others can help you to think about things in a different way.

Perseverance is important, but it isn’t the only thing you need to get where you’re going. One key ingredient is patience, and perhaps that will be the topic of our next post.

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The Insidiousness of Laziness

I’ve always been very lazy. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this. From my earliest memories of hating to do chores to my current search for a new career, laziness is always at the forefront of my mind. It is the biggest hindrance to my life. Why? Because it is so hard to overcome once you allow yourself to be enveloped by it.

It’s a problem of momentum. The trajectory you’re on right now is probably the direction you’re going to continue on for the rest of your life, assuming that nothing powerful comes along to change it. If your trajectory is low, you’re probably going to continue along a lower path unless maybe you win the lottery, which has the potential to shift your trajectory if the change is enough to get you out of your own way. Most people can’t and end up wasting the opportunity. How many times have you heard about lottery winners who were poor again in just a couple of years?

That’s the hard part. No matter what comes along in your life, you need sufficient external force to alter your path. It could be becoming overweight and finding out that it’s going to kill you early if you don’t do something about it. Perhaps you lose your comfortable job and now you have to figure out what you’re going to do next. It might be as simple as deciding that you don’t like how your life is going and you find the strength within yourself to do something more because you can’t bear the thought of wasting your life. Fear can be a powerful motivator.

The problem for people like me is that if you can’t seem to find a way to truly care about anything, it’s very hard to motivate yourself to put in the effort to change the trajectory of your life. The insidious part is that every time that attitude is rewarded, your laziness is reinforced. You subconsciously accept that you don’t really have to do anything different because life is going to happen regardless of what you do, so why try? You don’t really put in any effort, but a job lands in your lap. Why would you put effort into self improvement? You lose a relationship, but another one is right behind it. What did you learn from your previous experience?

Change is hard. The momentum of our personal lives is as real as the momentum of physics. We are creatures of habit and those habits define us. We can be changed, but it requires a monumental effort to do it. Most of us just aren’t up to the challenge. We want to take the path of least resistance because we’re trapped in that insidious snare of laziness. It’s built into our biology. We always look for the quickest and easiest way to get what we want. Hard work is admirable, but if you can get what you want without it, why would you waste the effort?

For myself, I don’t know where my trajectory is going. I would love for it to shift into becoming a professional writer, but I don’t see how it could happen. Too many years of being shoehorned into traditional jobs has stunted my imagination and I can’t see myself doing anything else. Previous attempts to get books published and noticed were failures, and I don’t know how to fix it. Creative attempts at online video creation were stifled by an inability to maintain interest in it. Even this blog suffers from a lack of focus and the ability to see where I want to take it. It’s hard to put effort into something when you don’t know you will be rewarded for it.

That’s the difference between those who succeed and those who fail. Being willing to put in effort even if you don’t know what will happen is the first requirement to becoming a successful person. It’s the reason why only a small percentage of the population are able to realize their dreams. They have the capacity to have a dream and fanatically put all their effort into it even if they know they will probably fail.

The rest of us simply can’t comprehend that. We need security. We need guaranteed results. Even as we consciously know that there is no such thing as security, we cling to the idea that we need it. Each of us could lose our job at any moment and find ourselves unable to provide for ourselves and our families. We take as much risk as the dreamers, yet we reap none of the reward. We just can’t push ourselves to act on that knowledge.

Why? What is it about us that forces us to remain stuck in jobs we hate and remain fearful of what might happen tomorrow? Laziness is my reason. I have this big wall of uncertainty that has been clearly scheduled for several months from now, and while I should be putting in time and effort into finding something new, I just can’t bring myself to put in the effort yet. The situation isn’t urgent enough. The effort isn’t worth it yet. Laziness has me in its grip.

Fortunately, my life experience has provided me with the ability to overcome this when it becomes vital to my survival. At some point I know I will finally kick it into overdrive to find a replacement for my current source of income. The problem is that by waiting it will be yet another job I can’t stand because it is all I could find. Rather than putting effort into finding something more interesting and getting started with that before my current job ends, I will end up doing what I always do and wait until the last minute and scoop up whatever opportunity passes by. It’s a terrible and self-inflicted cycle.

So what is the point of this post? Mostly it is to share my condition with others so that the many people out there to whom this applies can know that they aren’t alone. I think most of us are like this. It’s why most people feel stuck and unfulfilled. We are a world filled with dreamers who can’t fulfill their dreams. Don’t feel like you’re the only one. It’s most of us.

Another point might be that in writing this down, perhaps it will cause some sort of change in my own trajectory. Maybe it could be the first step in dragging myself out of the laziness. Perhaps putting this out into the world might attract some sort of external force that alters my trajectory, even if just a little bit. Who knows what opportunities can arise from simply putting yourself out there?

At my heart, I am a writer and a reader. I love movies and have spent a lot of my life doing that. For the last few years I’ve made feeble attempts to get back into reading and writing, and to be honest it is the career I think I would find the most fulfilling. These blog posts are partly to share my opinions on certain things and provide logical arguments for why things are the way they are, but they are also a hope that maybe it could turn into something more than just an occasional post about some random topic. Maybe it could turn into my life.

Here’s hoping for the future, and the will (and luck) to change my own trajectory. It can’t be done alone, and I hope that I won’t have to try it that way. Perhaps I can find help in getting to where I want to go. It would be an amazing thing.

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Socialism (is) for Dummies

It never seems to go away. No matter how many times it’s tried and how many times it fails in spectacular fashion, socialist ideologies continue to infest modern thinking like roaches. The empirical evidence against socialism is so strong that no sane person can object to the argument that it is dead on arrival in any version, but still it persists as an ideological “truth”. No matter how many times you poke holes in their logic, and no matter how many people end up dying as a direct result of it, socialism just keeps on keeping on.

The reason for this is that socialism on paper is an amazing concept. It pulls at our hearts because the ideas themselves espouse championing the little guy and making sure everyone has what they need. It calls for a fair playing field where everyone makes it, regardless of where you come from or what you’re doing. Utopia is an amazing idea, and socialism looks like the perfect way to get there.

The problem is that socialism ignores one glaring problem: human nature. As survivalist animals, we are always on the lookout for what is best for ourselves, not the other guy. In optimal circumstances we can find it within us to be selfless, but unless the reward is big enough we are typically unwilling to put anyone before ourselves, that being our individual person or those who we include in our sphere of concern. We will always prioritize people who mean something to us over those who do not. There is a reason family continues to be a thing.

If we accept the fact that people will always be looking for ways to advance themselves and those they care about, we start to see where the ideals of socialism fall short. When people start to have a preference for one person or group over another, conflict is inevitable. The only way those disparities can be peacefully resolved is if we all feel that the disparity is fair. The primary way in which this resolution occurs is in the way we view how society provides us with the ability to interact with those resources. In modern times it is simply the difference between equality and equity.

In a good capitalist society, the goal is equality of opportunity. If you can remove most of the unfair impediments to access to good opportunities, everyone has a reasonable chance to find success in whatever it is that they want to do. Equality of opportunity means we start with a level playing field and then let each person figure out how they’re going to reach their own individual goals. The end result will never be the same, and the goal isn’t to manipulate things to make it that way. Nothing is forced on anyone; it is a completely cooperative system and your results are determined by your skill and a bit of luck.

In the perfect socialist society, the goal is equality of outcome. The desire isn’t to put people in positions to become successful on their own, but to force those who are already successful to help those who haven’t figured things out (or simply can’t figure things out) and save them from their problems. The idea is nice, but the end result is always the same. The successful people get pulled down by the masses of the desperate and everyone ends up losing.

The problem is one of production. A small percentage of very successful people produce the majority of things, be it goods or services or whatever. This is not due to people gaming the system to keep talent in a very small pool of people. It requires extraordinary skill and dedication to produce the kinds of things we take for granted every day, and that skill and dedication are rare. This means that only a small percentage of the population will possess enough skill or talent to make a meaningful difference on a society level scale, and because of this they end up getting most of the reward. This is true in any society, be it a capitalist system that measures success with money, or a socialist society that measures success by position or prestige. It’s simply the way things work, and no amount of political manipulation is going to change it.

If we understand that resources are finite and that a small percentage of people will always disproportionately control them, then we have to decide what system we are going to use to make that allocation of control as fair as possible. Socialists will tell you it should be the government because people are greedy and selfish and won’t do anything to help society without being forced to. Capitalists say that government is corrupt and just steals our money, so trusting them with complete control is dangerous and stupid. Both sides have good points, and the answer is likely somewhere in the middle.

There must be freedom for people to make their own choices so they can develop their talents in whatever direction makes them the most productive and satisfied. That is a key part of the equation. Personal satisfaction makes all the difference in the world when it comes to individual productivity. Happy people produce more than sad or anxious people. People who are forced into things they don’t want to do will be unhappy, and that reduces productivity. On the other side, too much freedom results in the worst of human nature materializing and ruining innocent lives. Some level of external control is warranted.

This is where we run into trouble. How much external control is necessary before becoming oppressive? We recognize the need to place limits on society and we start out with the best of intentions. Then people start going overboard with the rules and eventually no one has any room left to breathe. When you start to feel like your effort no longer provides enough benefit to you, or the effort required is just too much to keep going, you lose your happiness and your productivity decreases, which results in a ripple affect across society. When enough people feel those effects, the system collapses.

Part of the problem is human nature itself. We like to believe that we can achieve a utopian society with enough government intervention, but this ignores the fact that people in power will always be corrupted if given enough of it and the rewards are worth the risk. The more we give control over to the flawed human beings in government, the worse things will inevitably get as back room deals and large sums of money or prestige or whatever other version of currency begins changing hands in exchange for special favors.

If we understand that we fundamentally can’t trust putting human beings in direct control of things, it seems that the answer truly lies in a heavily capitalist leaning society with minimal controls to reduce corruption. The ideal capitalist system has no face or ideology; it is simply about producing the most stuff at the most profit. With proper controls, everyone wins. If it’s a choice between an impartial system or a cabal of corruptible human beings, I’ll take my chances with the system, please.

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Hands off!

I think we all know what this blog post is about. It’s one of the most controversial topics in American history. We fight over it almost every day because it sparks outrage in some and fear in others. The argument stems from a fundamental difference in the way the various participants see the world, and it isn’t something that is likely to be resolved soon.

The debate over firearms is always going to start a huge argument when held in a forum where disagreement exists. The reason for this is self-evident: it is a life and death issue. Many of the things we argue about have some room for rational discussion and most people would be willing to at least listen to your side of the discussion because they have the capacity to think about things a different way, even if they ultimately don’t agree with you. Guns are a completely different animal. They are deadly weapons, and in the hands of the wrong person can result in the catastrophic loss of human life. The traditional argument on both sides hold no real value in terms of being objective because firearms inherently contain a fear component that many people simply can’t get over, regardless of how rational the arguments might be.

The conservative side holds to the idea that the Constitution endows us with the right to keep and bear firearms, and while that’s technically correct, it also contains provisions for changing the laws when enough people decide it needs to be changed. Holding to that argument is ultimately futile as more and more people grow up in a society where guns seem to be less and less necessary. Regardless of whether or not the claims of needing guns are valid, the argument is futile in the face of a growing population who is totally afraid of crazy people with guns.

The liberal argument is that we have police and military to protect us from danger, so the average person has no need for a firearm. On the surface, the argument makes sense, but when you start to pick it apart you begin to realize that no matter how much money we pour into government protection programs, they will never have the capability of preventing something bad from happening to you. The best we could hope for is that they find the person who hurt or killed you, but that will be little comfort to you or your family because the damage is already done. No matter how much you choose to place your faith in the system, you will never convince the other side to do the same.

We are at an impasse on this issue. Both sides have strong arguments that make sense from their point of view, but if the other side just can’t agree with that point of view, no amount of argument will lead to a resolution. A change in perspective on both sides is necessary if we’re going to reach a final decision on this issue. The reality is that it may be necessary to step back from the gun debate entirely to find the answer to it.

The fundamental disagreement of our time is which is sovereign: the individual or the government. We thought we had this all figured out when we extricated ourselves from the English crown more than 200 years ago and crafted a foundational document that specifically emphasized that we are a nation of individuals with rights that are not subject to control by the country’s leadership. Everything about the Constitution is laid out to prevent any one person or group from gaining control of our government and forcing the rest of us to bend to their will.

This attitude has slowly eroded over the life of our nation and people have forgotten why our country exists in the first place. Individual sovereignty is the primary reason America was created and it’s the reason why it has become the superpower that it is. We freely choose to work together for the betterment of our nation, and because we choose it and are not forced into it, we put in our best effort. From our individual right to choose we build a nation of people who want to work together in common cause.

If we begin from a position that individual rights are sovereign, then the answer to the question of gun control becomes clear. It is a very simple argument: if the individual has the right to choose, then no one has no right to bar us from choosing the methods we use to defend ourselves. When we accept that we are each responsible for our own security and stop believing in the fantasy that the government can completely protect us, it starts becoming much more reasonable to acquire the most effective means of self defense available.

The only exception to this is a method the represents a clear and present danger to others. Explosive or radioactive material in close proximity to others is a very real and imminent hazard, so some minimal limitations are called for because your right to self defense ends when it puts others in immediate danger. No matter how careful you are, a small mistake could result in serious loss of life and that is a direct infringement on the rights of those around you.

Barring examples like that, though, it is unreasonable to make the argument that any other method of self defense represents a clear and present danger to others. A firearm is a tool with a specific purpose, and much like a hammer or screwdriver, it only performs its function in the hands of a human being. It is the person who is responsible for what it does, not the firearm. In the hands of a responsible adult, it represents a threat only to those whom the threat is warranted: criminals with violent intent. It is bad actors who cause us problems, not guns. Taking them away won’t solve the issue. It just shifts how the violence happens.

Of course, the idea of completely removing guns from America is ridiculous from the start. There are so many firearms in America that even if the government somehow passed a complete ban, they would never get rid of even most of them. The moment such a law passed, those who disagree will find a way to hold on to what is a fundamental part of their lives. And the number of guns would probably see a massive spike as smugglers flood our country with illegal weapons. Much like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s, the average American will rebel and find a way to hold on to the only means of self defense they can find.

So what do we do about this? We can argue about guns until we’re blue in the face and it will never resolve anything. The argument is really about personal rights. If we answer the question of how we feel about individual liberty, then the answer to the gun debate becomes self evident. I for one believe that each of us is responsible for our own lives, so that puts me squarely in the pro second amendment camp, not just because I like guns and want to have them, but because it is the logical conclusion of one of my fundamental beliefs, and as I stated in my very first blog, the logical outcome stems from your chosen starting point.

As Americans, we need to go back to the very beginning and figure out where our starting point is. Once we do, we’ll have a much better understanding of where we’re going. If we don’t, the aimless wandering of our government policy will continue to drain away our wealth and prestige, and hopelessly partisan arguments will hinder our ability to remain the most powerful nation on the planet. This post is a call to every person’s sense of reasonableness, and I hope that this attitude can become infectious and we can start forcing the more radical people on both sides of the debate back into the shadows…or even better bring them further into the light.

It is only with the light that we can expel the darkness.

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Political Distancing

I struggle to understand the thinking of some people today. It used to be that each of us had a right to our own thoughts, and we could share those thoughts without fear of reprisal because we all understood that words don’t hurt people. The sharing of ideas is a critical part of a free society, even if they are bad ones. It is only by sifting through ideas in an objective and critical way that we come up with the most pure version of what we believe in.

The current viewpoint seems to be that we have to shield ourselves from “dangerous” ideas. Apparently the average person is so weak minded that if they even come within spitting distance of a “dangerous” idea, they will become hopelessly contaminated by it and be lost forever. It seems that the good old days of sitting down with someone and having a healthy debate about a controversial topic just isn’t something the modern American is equipped for anymore. At least, that is what many in our leadership appear to believe.

For the last year, we have been forced to live with an alternate version of reality as we deal with COVID-19. Social distancing is one of the many new buzz words that have emerged from this pandemic. Before last year, people would have looked at you funny if you said those words, justifiably confused at the idea that we have to maintain our distance from people. While I personally tend toward social distancing by default, the average person tends to want to be in close proximity to others. Social distancing is an unnatural concept for most people.

It is interesting, then, that political distancing has been alive and well for decades. We crave social interaction, but when it comes to those we disagree with, we feel a strong need to group ourselves into ideological strongholds, desperately holding on to our viewpoints in the vain hope that if we just ignore it then it will go away. Rather than sit down and work out our issues like adults, we choose to fall on the floor and thrash about like a toddler. Better to stubbornly cling to our viewpoint than risk finding out we’re actually wrong.

The current trend in media today is disturbing. There are calls by many in positions of power to start silencing people because of what they claim to believe in. Rarely do you hear anyone say that we should maybe go and talk to these people and find out who they are and what they are about. We are a society of labels, and if you have the wrong label, then you are cast out as a pariah. People clump into their homogenous groups and move further and further from each other in an attempt to avoid “contamination”.

There is another place that most of us attended in one form or another: high school. If you had anything to do with school at all, everything I have stated above should make perfect sense to you. In high school, popularity is everything. You find a group that makes you feel socially relevant. Few high school students are interested in facts or logic. The focus is on how they feel. The questions they ask are “what fun thing are we doing today?” or “who do we go pick on today?” or “what are people thinking about me?” Rarely is there ever a discussion between students about anything meaningful.

Politics today is a mirror of this mentality. When you look at what the people we put in charge are doing, it is a sad reflection of what we all went through in high school. One of the common tropes is that high school sucked for most of us and we were glad when it was over. It is curious, then, that we choose to continue that pattern into adulthood. We claim to be responsible adults, but rather than choosing sensible people who are well equipped to have intelligent debate, we elect fools who are more concerned with their own popularity than running our country in a way that reflects the values it was founded on.

The problem is mostly apathy on the part of the average American citizen. We have jobs and families and plans for our own futures, and most people rarely think about what the politicians are doing. They pass these huge packages of laws that rarely get the attention they need, even by the politicians voting on them, and most of the changes occur so slowly that we just don’t notice it. It’s like the frog in the boiling water. They turn the heat up so slowly that we don’t notice it until it’s too late.

I don’t feel like I’ve put anything in this post that is particularly controversial, yet when you really think about this topic, you should be horrified. The fact that the age of discussion seems to be over should cause you to run around in stark panic. If the days of reasonable discourse and logical thinking are over, it means we are all back in high school again, subject to the whims of the popular and in a position to be bullied by those who decide that their viewpoint is the only one that matters. It is a dangerous way to live.

The only way this can change is if we can convince the average person to pick their head up and start looking around. Whether they are Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Socialist, or anything in between, it is critically important that every person realize that we don’t want to live in a society where a small portion of the community runs unchecked over the rest of us.

In the end, these people only have the power that we give them, and it is up to us to force them to behave in the way that we as their employers dictate that they do. All it takes is raising our voices, and it doesn’t take too many to drown out these crazy people who have found ways of mooching off of our system of government for many years. There are so many more people who agree with your point of view than you know, regardless of what it is. The tactic of those in power is to get us to feel that we are alone and powerless, but the truth is that when we come together in good faith, there is far more the same about us than different. No amount of vitriol or partisanship or fear can stop Americans when we decide we are going to get something done. We just have to remember who we are and what we believe in.

We can absolutely come together to get done what we agree on, and rationally discuss the things we don’t. But until we purge the parasites from our system, we will continue to struggle just to survive. If you are reading this post and you feel alone, know that you are not. Regardless of which political party happens to be in power, there are so many people out there who are more like you than are different. Don’t allow the media to convince you that your neighbor is crazy because they think differently than you do. We are all Americans.

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The Danger of Freedom

I like Star Wars. It is a compelling story with interesting characters and an emotional message. Beneath all of the entertainment, however, lies a message of warning that many people just don’t internalize because all they see are the flashing lightsabers and cool spaceships. It is a story of oppression by a government who claims to be providing security, and the people willingly give themselves over to it. When people see hard times, it becomes easy to give over control to someone else who claims they can take care of the problem for us. The truth is that no one can solve your problems for you. You have to do it.

Human beings crave freedom. It is a fundamental part of our existence. The ability to choose our own path and shape our own future is one of the most powerful dreams a person can have. Western society has been formed around the idea that a person is a free individual who has the right to choose. Our governments have been formed around this central concept and everything in our lives is shaped by it.

Unfortunately, human beings are also filled with fear, and this manifests itself in a strong desire for security. That same freedom that we so crave is often a source of anxiety because we fear the possibility of failure or privation or even death. We are equipped with a powerful survival instinct, and it usually serves us well, but sometimes it can get in the way of the higher ideals to which we strive. When push comes to shove, our instincts usually take center stage.

It has been said that freedom isn’t free. It has a cost. Part of that cost is certainly the blood and sacrifice paid by those who came before to provide us with a world where freedom can flourish. Many have paid the price for the lives we live now, and most of us respect those sacrifices and salute those who came before. The problem is that while we respect it, we don’t really understand it, and because we haven’t experienced what they had to go through, we don’t value it as much as those who came before. It isn’t until we are forced to go through what they went through that we truly understand the value of what they have given us.

We always struggle to reconcile this dichotomy inside us. We want our freedom, but we don’t want to pay the price that comes with that freedom. It is always preferable to have someone else deal with the problems that come with making a society free, and the ideas that emerge from that line of thinking invariably lead to socialism, and then communism. It is because we don’t want to deal with the dangers of freedom that we eventually lose it. We aren’t willing to live with risk, so we give up our freedom a bit at a time hoping that it will result in a safer community, all the while not realizing that it’s all a lie.

The world isn’t a safe place, and it never will be. To believe that anyone can provide you with a safe place to live is foolish. Our history is rife with incidents of riots and violent protests, many of which were in places where the people believed they had safe communities. It only takes a moment to go from order to chaos, and what will you do when the systems in place are inadequate to respond to unfolding events?

It gets even worse than that. Setting aside random acts of societal violence against cities or governments, what about you as an individual? We trust in our police to provide us with justice, and that is the right thing to do. When someone wrongs us, there must be a price paid for that act, and we rely on our police force to investigate and bring criminals to justice. The problem is that it is very unlikely that the police will prevent the act in the first place; they almost always arrive after the crime is committed. It is very rare for the police to stop something bad from happening to you. The national average for police response time is 18 minutes following a 911 call. Even if it were only five minutes, we can imagine what can happen to us in even such a short time, and that assumes you ever get the chance to call the police anyway.

The lie of big government is that it can somehow mitigate all of these dangers and provide us with a free and open society with none of the risks that freedom entails. This is false. When people are truly free, there is an inherent risk that some of those free people will do something horrible. When we allow people to do what they want, some of them are going to want to do evil things. It is the danger of freedom.

So what do we do about it? Lock everyone down in the futile hope that it will prevent some of us from doing bad? How much government does it take to stop all bad things from happening? Is it even possible? I believe that history has shown us that there is no way to prevent people from doing bad things when they decide they’re going to do it. Criminals will always find a way to get around whatever laws we put in place. It is only those who wouldn’t do bad things in the first place who actually abide by the rules. They aren’t the ones we have to worry about.

If we understand that no government will ever provide us with security, then we have to start moving our goals toward the other end of the spectrum. The more we allow government to interfere in our lives, the most danger we expose ourselves to. This instinctively feels wrong, but when you think through logically to the end, it is the only conclusion. Even putting aside the conspiratorial ideas that the government itself will do something bad to you, which historically it does, big government can never protect you from even the most basic dangers in life. Why would we trust our safety to it?

In the end, we are all responsible for our own lives. Our survival ultimately rests on us. When we trade our personal liberty for a false sense of security, we get neither freedom nor security. Our founding fathers understood this, and we should remember it. If you think you can sit back and enjoy the luxury that has been provided for us without paying the price for it, you are sadly mistaken. We ignore the advance of false security at our own peril.

So if we already know the problem, what do we do about it? Take to the streets? Put on our tin foil hats and gather in dark rooms to obsess over conspiracy theories? Join a cult? No, none of those things are helpful. As Americans, we live in a country that allows us to make new choices and change our way forward. All it takes is a little bit of effort and a little bit of reason to find the way to overcome this false doctrine of security. The power lies in that piece of paper that we all have the opportunity to mark when a new round of elections come around. It is the first cost we must pay to ensure our own freedom. If we are too lazy to pay that small fee for freedom, then our procrastination will lead to far steeper costs in the future, and we will deserve the bondage in which we find ourselves.

The power lies with us. Don’t waste it.

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