“Seaspiracy” Documentary

This is not an official post. I simply wanted to recommend that you watch the “Seaspiracy” documentary on Netflix because it moved me to the point that I want to share it.

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Why Is Individual Liberty Important?

One of the biggest debates in our modern political climate is the balance between what is best for the individual versus what is best for the community. It is not usually at the forefront of our minds when we think about political issues, but the basis for most arguments from both sides revolves around which of these categories is more important. Understanding how you think about the issue of individual liberty can help solidify your point of view.

For many, the argument that anything about the individual should come first appears to be evil, because for them “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”. This is clearly an altruistic sounding statement, and when you look at it from a cold mathematics perspective, making a decision that helps ten people at the cost of one seems like something that just makes sense. If you look at it in that very simplistic way, it becomes an easy decision to put the group before the individual.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it completely ignores the reality of human nature. There are billions of unique human beings on the planet, and while many of us share myriad viewpoints, none of us are exactly the same. Different things are important to each of us, and while we might group together to push for a cause we believe in, at our core we are individuals who want individualistic things. How do we decide which ideas to adopt and which ones to reject when we are all so different?

This is the problem with large societies. Once the population grows to a certain point, the expediency of “group think” begins to erode the emphasis on our own individuality in favor of what is best for the biggest number of people. Rather than remembering that we each have things the we like and dislike, we start focusing on what the group decides is important and begin ignoring the needs of the minority. This is an extremely dangerous way to make decisions, because it causes the kind of terrible back and forth societal shifts we are experiencing today as power shifts from one major group to another.

One of the founding principles of our American Republic was the idea that we wanted to preserve the freedoms of the individual and avoid any one group from ruling over another. To quote one of my favorite movies: “why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away?”. The understanding from the very beginning of our nation was that we did not want a repeat of what had happened in the past with dictatorial rulers oppressing the people with their power.

Today’s political climate has become exactly what the founders of the nation feared and did everything they could to prevent with the Constitution: large groups of people banding together in an attempt to force other groups of people into submitting to their authority. Despite what each side tries to tell us, it is no longer about what is good, but who can win and assert their dominion over the population. It is 1775 all over again.

This is the reason why individual liberty is so important. Of all the things about us as human beings, the fact that we are each a unique individual is the one thing that is universal, regardless of nation, creed, religion, or otherwise. Understanding this fact, the logical conclusion when deciding how to run a society is to make this single factor the foundation upon which we build everything else. When we all have such differing viewpoints on how we see the world, the only fair way is to only put rules in place that preserve the ability for each of us to live our lives the way we decide is best. Forcing people to do things a certain way can never lead to lasting peace.

The crux of the issue is all about learning to understand that large groups of people aren’t just numbers to be manipulated, but real human beings who are affected by the decisions imposed by others. We rarely think about how the policies we support force unbearable restrictions to people who oppose our point of view. It doesn’t matter if living with the restriction doesn’t bother you; you have to understand and empathize with the fact that it does bother them.

The problem we have today is that we can’t put ourselves in the place of others and realize that we wouldn’t like it any better if they forced their way onto us. By believing that individuals rights come first is selfish, we become truly selfish by forcing others to bend to our way of thinking because we can only see our way as the good way. We forget that there are actual people who must radically change their lives to accommodate our personal preferences, and we become oppressors rather than fellow citizens.

One of the biggest changes we can make in the way we interact with our political structure is to shift ourselves away from these big groups who care only about being in charge and start voting for people who understand that it is free individuals who made our society great and who will make it great again. It is when we all freely choose come together around common goals that we find the best in ourselves and make great strides as a species. One free man who willingly joins you is worth far more than many slaves who obey only out of fear. As counterintuitive as it sounds, it is when we stop worrying about the group and provide individual people with maximum freedom that our society finds the greatest good.

What do you think about individualism? Have you traditionally regarded it as selfish, or do you believe we should try to accommodate different points of view? What can you do today to advance the cause of individual liberty? While many will never be able to understand the seeming contradiction, it is important for us to think critically about human nature and carefully insert it into our political decision making. Failing to do this inevitably results in conflict, just like we are seeing today.

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How Do You Shift Your Perspective?

Much like most of us, I have been through many changes in my life. After a fairly normal childhood, I joined military service as a musician, a decidedly paradoxical role in which both extreme discipline and expressive art were jarringly crammed together into a strange but interesting caricature of creativity. Since then I’ve spent most of my time in offices doing computer work, rarely stopping to think about some of the things I realize I’ve lost since not only my time as a musician, but also my childhood.

When I was young, I was far more imaginative than I am today. This can be said for most people, but I think I can say I was above average in the creativity department. Childhood games of fantasy pretending to be crazy characters from books, hours and hours spent reading adventure novels and imagining myself alongside the characters, creating and leading fantasy adventure games with family and friends; I used to have a far more interesting way of looking at the world than I do now.

Somewhere along the way I lost that spark of creativity. I feel that part of it was the discipline I was required to maintain as a Marine for what is now about half of my adult life. It is difficult to find the motivation for creative thought when your daily routine is so highly regimented by others. In order to satisfy that creative spark, I retreated more fully into things like video games than I already had by that point, and it feels like the creative side of me has atrophied due to relying on other forms of entertainment than my own imagination.

Since leaving the military, I haven’t really been able to pull myself out of that. I’ve gotten used to the routine of day by day life, looking ahead to the future but never really knowing how to get there. I’ve accepted boring office jobs because they seem to be the only kind of work I am qualified to do. Setting aside the fact that I’ve convinced myself I can’t afford it financially to start over, the truth is I don’t believe in myself enough to branch out into something else.

In order to jump into something new, you have to have a part of you that can visualize success. Sometimes, that success depends very highly on your ability to think outside of the box, because the thing you jump into might require very different solutions and actions than you’re used to. More than a decade in the military planted me firmly inside the box, and I struggle to this day to break out of it. As part of this struggle, I keep searching for different ways to use one of my interests to break free.

Writing is something that I’ve always had an interest in. I even wrote the first book of a fantasy trilogy, though it hasn’t found success. I have made several attempts to break away from the traditional labor space into more creative endeavors, but it feels like there is just something missing from my makeup that I can’t seem to get past. The hard part is that I can’t figure out if it’s something I lost to adulthood that I can maybe get back, or if it’s something I just never really had in the first place.

Like many things in life, that question can only be answered by continuing to try and seeing what happens. Sometimes looking at the world a different way requires that you change the way you look at it. I have traditionally felt that I don’t have what it takes to move out from under the shadows of others to stand in the light on my own. The only way to get past that doubt is to simply ignore it and keep trying. It may never happen, but if I don’t even try it certainly won’t.

What do you think about your perspective on life? Are you satisfied with where you are headed? If not, have you thought about trying to break into something new? Sometimes all we can do is simply take the first step down the path and hope for the best. None of us knows the future, and many times it is a small change that ends up making the biggest difference in our lives. If we support each other in taking those steps, perhaps many more of us can live the kinds of lives we dream of.

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Working for Employers Who Don’t Value You

One of the hardest things for a working adult to figure out is learning to live under a boss who views you as an asset rather than a person. It is natural for someone managing so many things all at once to lose sight of the fact that the people he employs aren’t just pieces to be moved, but at the same time it is very difficult to use that understanding to avoid becoming resentful. The boss may be a good person, and he may have a true desire to treat his employees with respect, but at the end of the day his job is to get the job done and your desires are secondary.

It is one thing to be able to look at this objectively and understand how things are and why they are that way, but it is quite another to reconcile that in your own heart. We can understand why the boss needs to have that sort of attitude to some extent, but eventually we begin to become disenfranchised with our work environment when we realize that we don’t really matter past what our employer can get out of us. The longer this goes on, the harder it becomes to withstand our own angst and continue maintaining a positive attitude.

Of course, this post is being written in response to my own current employment experience. I have to be upfront and honest and say that I have a pretty good boss. He treats me with respect and has allowed me a lot of leeway with time off for childcare and other things of that nature. I can’t fault him for his character in the slightest. Most people would be very satisfied with their experience here. I certainly was for several years.

On the other hand, there is an expectation that as you continue to work for an employer, you move out of the tasks and responsibilities that you started and begin advancing further into your career. The problem with this employer is that I have nothing to offer them outside of what I already do, and to advance I would have to shift my focus from my current skillset to an entirely new one…a skillset that I’m definitely not interested in. So instead of moving forward with my career, I get stuck with all the random tasks that no one else wants to do. It is difficult to find satisfaction in that sort of position, and it makes it quite clear that I am seen as a convenience rather than a meaningful and contributing member of the team.

This is the problem with being an employee. No matter how good or nice or positive your boss might be, at the end of the day you are working for the enrichment of someone else. You are compensated for the effort you put in, but you are not adding any lasting value to yourself, aside from more job experience added to your resume. That’s nice, I suppose, but it doesn’t have the same staying power that it had in the past. The current gig economy makes it very difficult to find quality positions regardless of your experience because everyone is always looking for work.

This is the second post in which I’ve come to unload some of my issues in written form. I try to focus on the positive, but like you, reader, I have my ups and downs. For me to paint myself as a beacon of hope in a world of darkness would be hypocritical. All of the issues I’ve written about on the blog thus far are things I struggle with, not things that I’ve learned to master. I do my best to implement my own advice, but there are days like today where the circumstances of life press down on me and I want to just walk away. It’s all harder than it sounds.

Where I find a difference between myself and many other people is that I am able to objectively look at these things once I get past my initial frustration. Will I just walk away from my job because I hate it? No. I can’t afford to just walk away without somewhere to go. Will I allow my frustration to poison my life? No. It’s not worth dwelling on it. I have to keep my focus on getting to the next step in my life and not shooting myself in the foot before I get there. We all go through this at one level or another, but bringing this thought to the forefront can make all the difference in our ability to find peace and happiness.

So what do you think about working for employers? Do you have a good one or a bad one? Do they make you feel valued, or despite their kindness do you feel like a chess piece? Sharing your own experiences is one of the best things we can do to assuage our own angst and frustration, because the sharing of our experiences in a constructive way has a strong, positive effect on our psychological condition. I encourage you to share your story and get the weight off your chest.

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The Paradox of Freedom

As a person who values individual liberty, it is not lost on me that there are many contradictions when it comes to the idea that we should focus on preserving the freedoms of people and not allow ourselves to become absorbed into groups that force their viewpoints on others. In an ideal society, everyone would have the same value system and there would be no need for groups because we would all be one big group. Unfortunately, this just isn’t how the world works. Conflict is an inevitable part of the human condition and our differences invariably cause us to form into groups in an effort to protect our ideology.

This is the paradox of freedom. There are forces in the world who wish to impose their rule on others, whether it be for selfish or ideological reasons, and if we are to maintain our way of life, we can’t do it on our own. When a powerful force comes knocking at your door, you need a means to defend against that force. How do you fight against ideologies that pull in huge communities when your principles define individual rights as the most important thing? It seems difficult to argue for individual liberty while immersing yourself in what typically becomes just another group. What makes you any different?

It is an unfortunate truth that no matter how strongly we believe in freedom, there will always be a price to pay for it. Part of that price might be struggle or sacrifice or privation or death. These are things that many advocates of freedom would willingly put up with to obtain or keep what they feel is the highest ideal. But one of the prices we pay that many don’t really pay attention to is accepting a certain level of the opposing viewpoint because it is a necessary small evil to combat a bigger one.

The idea of individual liberty is directly opposed to things like political parties. When we form into groups, we think we’re getting into them because we want to join up with people we think agree with our outlook on life. Where this becomes a problem is when the groups we think are on our side change into something we never expected, and then we feel stuck going along for the ride. The ideology is still close enough to what we originally wanted that we feel we can’t leave, but not close enough anymore to feel satisfied with where it is going.

This is the state America today. We have all formed up into these big groups for the same reasons we had in the Cold War. Our enemy is big, so we need to become bigger. They grow larger to gain an advantage, and we follow suit. What choice do we have? If we don’t play the game, the other side wins and gets to force us to adjust our lives to suit their vision of it. It becomes a vicious cycle that is nearly impossible to get out of.

It’s difficult to resolve this paradox of freedom. I think most people in the world place a significant value on personal choice, but it all ends up being drowned out by one form or another of “group think”. We stop thinking for ourselves and start toeing the party line, and end up giving up our freedom one small piece at a time because we’re afraid of what might happen if we don’t have the protection of the group. Like many things in life, there doesn’t seem to be a happy medium; you’re either moving one way or you’re moving another.

How do we resolve this problem? If the answer were simple, it wouldn’t still be an issue. Part of the solution is simply keeping an eye on it. You’re never going to find a place where you can just set it down and leave it alone. We will always be moving either toward more power to groups or more freedom to individuals. It must be treated like trying to stand on top of a ball: constantly in motion and shifting from one side to the other. If we can keep it pretty close to the middle, we have a chance to get the best possible outcome.

What do you think about the paradox of freedom? Can you see in your own life how this applies to you? Are there any groups you disagree with that you feel you need help to resist? Understanding these things in our life that have no complete resolution doesn’t make things easier to do, but it can help us to find peace with the process. It is not hypocritical to value freedom and then band together in common cause as long as we keep in mind what the true goal is.

How much better could our country be if we could incorporate this thought into our ideology?

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Respect and Insults

It looks like today is going to be a two post day. I have in my circle a few individuals who feel like they need to ridicule others to make a point. I’ve never understood this way of thinking. I get being confrontational and forceful, because if you can’t learn to stand up against the opposition, your voice will be drowned out by the crowd. There is a difference between being forceful and being offensive, and if we are to become mature adults trying to make valid points, it is important to know the difference.

It’s incredibly easy to be offensive. All you have to do is just find something you don’t like about someone and start bringing it up in the most rude way you can think of. Our brains are wired to attack first and ask questions later. It requires no effort to listen to an opinion and then spout off any sort of vitriol that pops into your head. The first problem with being offensive is that it’s just lazy. If you can’t come up with a measured response to an opposing viewpoint, then why should anyone listen to you?

The second problem with being offensive is that it doesn’t accomplish anything. Has anyone ever said something offensive to you and your immediate response was to actually listen to what it was they were trying to say? I seriously doubt it. When we are attacked, our natural reaction is to bring up our defenses and get ready for a fight. Our goal of getting the other side to really hear us is completely washed away because the person isn’t listening to what we’re saying, only to how we’re saying it. It is a complete waste of time.

The third issue with being offensive is that our human nature starts a pattern of escalation. You look at the politics in the country today and it’s no mystery why our country is as polarized as it is. Both sides focus on attacking the other in the worst possible ways, and each side ends up trying to raise the bar to get the upper hand. Our political situation today is a prime example of why being offensive is not only ineffective, but it actually makes things worse for everyone. Instead of respectful disagreements, we have plotting and revenge. No progress can be made in such an environment.

The only way to move forward as a society is to start from a place of respect. Regardless of your viewpoint, you should be trying to treat everyone you meet as if they are the same as you. Imagine yourself in them, and treat them the way you would want to be treated. Growing up, this was taught to me as “the golden rule”. It is probably the most important relational lesson that anyone can learn. Much of human history would be very different if people had actually learned it. Our future certainly can be.

So how do we change things? Our situation today seems so hopeless, but the wonderful thing about life is that it’s never too late to fix things, and in the end each of us is responsible for our own behavior. You can’t do anything about the other guy, but you can practice being respectful even in the face of offensive behavior. While they shout and hurl insults, you stand firmly with measured responses, tempered by logical thought and a refusal to be brought down to that level of interaction. You’re better than that, and even if the other guy won’t change his own behavior, when other people see that you are behaving in a mature and respectful way they will be far more inclined to listen to your arguments than the other guy.

Something to keep in mind: you will never change another person’s belief. Once a person has committed themselves to an idea, no amount of argument is going to change it. It requires some kind of shock to force a believer out of their own ideology. Your goal is never to convince the believer, but to make calm arguments as to why you think that you’re right and they’re wrong so that bystanders without a set point of view can make their own decision. When you keep this in mind, it is much easier to argue your point because you start to realize that your effort isn’t at all for the person you’re talking to, but those who haven’t made up their mind yet.

So how do you feel about being offensive? Can you think of a time when you were offensive and it actually had a positive result? How can you start to incorporate unconditional respect into your arguments? We should never give in to ideas that don’t align with our own philosophies just because someone tries to force it on us. Careful thought and introspection are required, and logical and respectful debate is the only way to convince anyone of anything. If we can truly learn this concept, our future will be all the brighter for it.

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Why Does Freedom Matter?

I saw a video yesterday that had a gentleman who stated that Americans tend to be “freedom obsessed”, and it struck me as odd that anyone would view it quite that way, especially because over the years Americans have slowly given up certain freedoms for the sake of the public security. Still, there are far worse claims that can be made against us as Americans, and I know that for my part I am absolutely obsessed with freedom. While this is fueled by an emotional need, there are many good reasons to see freedom as a critical part of a meaningful life.

First and foremost, freedom is essential to a person’s emotional well being. While we tend to think it noble to put our community before ourselves, the reality is that we struggle to feel like it really means anything if there is no individual reward attached to that service. It may not be a monetary reward, but the feeling of helping others can be a powerful form of compensation that affects us on an individual, selfish level. The only way one can truly feel as is if they are helping others is if they feel as if they are freely choosing to do so. A system where a person is coerced into helping others results in a dissatisfying effort at best and resentment toward the people receiving the help at worst, which is not what charity is all about.

Security is another important result of a free society, despite what certain other ideologies might believe. While it is true that in societies with strict rules that the state itself is far more secure, history has shown us that government overreach causes far more harm to its own population than good. This is because a society that puts the state before the people is willing to do anything to those people to ensure the security of the state. It is when individual rights are put first that the safety of citizens is at its highest because no person is viewed as expendable.

Not only is individual safety objectively more likely, but we actually feel safer in a free society as well. Putting aside the more factual and logic based arguments, a person living in a free society will tend to be happier because he believes that he is generally safe from the oppression of others. He may become unlucky and fall victim to some random act, but on a daily basis he has no conscious fear that something bad will happen to him. There is an explicit social agreement that it is not acceptable to harm others for personal gain, and there will be consequences for anyone who does so. Though the state is not able to impose strict safety measures to protect its citizens, a truly free society still feels safer because there is far more chance of danger from a huge, omnipresent government than from some random person on the street.

Another very important aspect of a free society is the advancement of society in general. It is clear that countries with open and free societies display a much higher rate of progress in the fields of science, economics, and artistic expression. Every example of communist or heavily socialist countries have shown that they are generally unable to develop anything truly revolutionary on their own and are forced to receive that information from more open societies, typically through the use of espionage. This is because innovation requires a new way of thinking, and state run societies tend to discourage new thinking to protect itself from revolutions.

When a society limits the rules they place on themselves, individual people feel more free and are more willing to take certain chances. A person sees the potential for personal reward for opening a new business and takes on the risk of a loan to see if he can make it happen. Inventors spend their free time coming up with useful new things because they think they might discover something the brings them success. Activists feel free to come together and demonstrate for a cause because they feel strongly about it, and are able to make their voices heard because we agree they have the right to do so.

None of these things are truly possible in a society where individual freedom is not the primary goal. The future business owner does not take the risk because there is no longer any meaningful reward for him. Most or all of the effort he puts into his own company benefits the state, not himself. Fewer inventors are willing to spend their time coming up with amazing new things because if they did come up with something useful, the government will take that idea “for the good of the public”. What benefit is that to him? And of course activists will no longer have a voice because in a restrictive society voices of dissent are actively silenced. Even the people who pushed for that government in the first place become enemies when they finally express a point of view that doesn’t align with the current regime.

Lastly, basic human rights simply aren’t a thing in countries where the state is more important that the people. Putting aside the safety of citizens, which we discussed earlier, a country where the state is the driving force is far more likely to commit acts of atrocity against others. When a faceless committee that holds state security ahead of human dignity has the power of life and death in their hands, the result is almost always the same. A group of people, or even another nation, who have become a nuisance lose their right to life and are forcibly silenced through “relocation” or murder or war. A state centric government has no value for individual life because it can justify taking that life for the greater good. And when it becomes acceptable to take one life purely to silence dissenting opinions, it isn’t long before it is a daily occurrence on a far grander scale.

People use the phrase “slippery slope” quite a lot these days. For many things this is an exaggeration, but when it comes to individual liberty history has shown that the slippery slope is a real thing and constant care is required to guard against it. When people begin to give up their own freedom for the sake of security, we run into two problems.

The first is that any sense of security is purely false. The government can no more protect you from random incidents than you can. They can’t even reduce the likelihood of it happening to you. They just make you feel like they can, and that makes you far less safe because you lower your guard and stop paying attention. You are at far greater risk from harm from a large and powerful government than from some random person on the street, and that false feeling of safety makes you feel protected from the smaller danger and blinds you to the bigger one.

The second is that each of us has some particular freedom that we simply can’t bear to lose. It might be the freedom to travel where you want, or the freedom to protect yourself in the manner that you choose, or perhaps the ability to work in whatever career field you wish to. Whatever the freedom is, we all have at least one thing that we feel no one has the right to determine for us. When we start allowing anyone’s freedom to be reduced, we start running a very real risk that the freedom that is important to us ends up being taken away as well when enough people start to believe it is a threat. How will you feel then?

This is why freedom is important. Not just your freedom, but the freedom of the person you disagree with. You may not agree with their point of view, but if you start to understand that their right to choose is equally important to your own, it becomes much harder to suggest that laws should be pass that prevent that person from doing something that they feel should be their own free choice. When you imagine how you would feel if your own right to choose was taken away for something you feel strongly about and use that feeling to empathize with that person, it becomes almost impossible.

So how does this knowledge help you to live a more free life? Does thinking about other people more like yourself change your perspective? Could you truly empathize with someone who holds a different view from you and concede that maybe they deserve to choose their own way just as you do? The conversations in our country would be far more productive and civil if everyone thought this way, and I certainly hope that the type of message contained in this post is something that finally catches on and spreads. We need it so very badly, but it can only happen if people start listening to and sharing this idea with others. Will you?

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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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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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