Government Can’t Save You

As our society moves forward into higher and higher levels of technological advancement, we are starting to exhibit some very troubling tendencies. In the past, we used to accept a lot of things about life that were simply variables outside of our control, and we adjusted our lives to cope with this reality. Whether it was protecting ourselves from wild predators or enemy tribes or even just dealing with the inconsistency of the weather for our crops, we had the capacity to understand that we couldn’t waste time fixating on things that we can’t do anything about.

In this modern era, we have a lot of free time. While this idleness has allowed us to move our focus from basic survival to more meaningful pursuits, it has also allowed us to come up with some pretty unrealistic ideas about how life should be. As life becomes easier and we are required to work less and less, our sense of entitlement is increasing at an exponential rate. Because we live in our sheltered little worlds, we have lost touch with reality and expect the world to bend to our will.

You can see this in a lot of the political ideologies that have surfaced in recent years. Their goal appears to be eliminating many of the struggles that our citizens face and bringing everyone up to the same quality of life. This is a noble sentiment, but it ignores many of the problems associated not only with the fact that the world is a harsh place to exist, but also that human nature is not conducive to this type of political structure. All of the worst qualities of humanity still exist in full force, our system of government must reflect this.

Systems like socialism or communism sound great because they are designed to implement control on the world around us. We like to feel that we can put rules or contingencies into place that will safeguard us from danger, and it becomes easy to turn to people who seem to know what they’re doing. This is foolish because it ignores the reality of the human condition. Ambitious and selfish people from every period of time have stepped up to claim the mantle of leader, and they implemented strict controls into the societies they led in order to get people into line under their power.

The problem is that any sense of control is a total fiction. Even ignoring the chaos of the natural world, human beings themselves are impossible to permanently subjugate. They yearn to live out their hopes and dreams. The longer they are forced to live in conditions they find detestable, the more angry they become and eventually revolution sparks. The control that the leadership believed they had is shattered in an instant by the very human nature that propelled them into power in the first place. It is a deadly cycle.

We see this in our society today. The reason our country is so divided is not only because of misinformation by the media or large groups of people shifting to one extreme or the other. A big part of the problem is the slow encroachment into our personal lives that our system of government has been pushing for more than a hundred years. Social programs, unjust wars, increased police states and more have begun to weigh down on the spirit of Americans both left and right. We simply can’t see that our common enemy is our own government, not each other.

So instead of pushing off the control of these people who want us to do what they tell us, we call these same people to implement more rules in the hope that they can somehow protect us from the people we’ve been propagandized into fearing. Rather than seeing these “leaders” for what they are, we blindly follow these evil shepherds into terrifying ideas in the hope that they actually know what they’re doing. They don’t.

What do you think about government? Is it something you trust, or something you fear? Have you seen anything done by government that guaranteed you a positive result? We like to believe that most people are good and will do what is right for the betterment of society, but history has shown us over and over that this just isn’t the case. Good people become corrupted very quickly when given power, and their ideas are generally no better than yours. If we can remember that human nature will always be what it is, we can start to take responsibility for ourselves and push our future forward the right way.

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Avoiding Hate in Politics

One of the biggest problems in our political landscape today is that we all seem to hate each other. The other side is out to get us and we have no choice but to fight against them with all our might. American politics has become a warzone where the bodies of the vanquished are piled higher than anyone could ever reach, and we watch this happening with morbid curiosity and a sense of dread. Those who actively participate in the process are almost invariably consumed by all or nothing ideologies that force them into behaving in ways we used to find completely unacceptable. This all stems from one thing: hate.

We talk about hate all the time, but when we do we’re normally thinking of certain groups of people who have established themselves as people who have an unreasoning hatred for a certain group of people. Virtually everyone in modern America is disgusted by these attitudes and maintains an active distance from such philosophies. There is little debate that these groups are wrong and every effort should be made to try and convince them to change their minds. Living a life of hatred is bad not only for the people you hate, but also yourself. You can never find peace that way.

Where we’ve gone off the rails politically is the current two party system of government that has evolved in our country. Much like the Civil War, both sides are ratcheting up the hatred over disagreements in basic points of view and all we seem to do is fight. Each side sees the other as an existential threat to over come at any cost, and falling to that threat would mean a permanent loss of the things they hold most dear. When your very survival is at stake, whether it be physical or otherwise, you tend to start hating your enemy because you can’t see anything other than what they’re trying to take from you.

I struggle with this myself. I work in a place where one of my employees is very committed to leftist ideology. While I try to stay more in the middle politically, I do tend to lean right on most issues and I really struggle to maintain neutrality because I strongly disagree with most of what the left stands for today. Regardless of how hard I try, I tend to view my coworker through a political lens because my fear of what his ideology wants to impose on me overrides my ability to see him simply as a human being with a differing opinion. He stops being a regular guy and becomes the symbol of something that scares me more than just about anything else in the world. It is very difficult to avoid hating him.

This is the biggest test for America today. We all have neighbors and coworkers who hold different points of view than we do, and because they are ideas that can have a huge impact on our every day lives it becomes almost impossible to see the person through the ideology. Learning to overcome this instinctive reaction to people who are different from us is critical to learning how to live peacefully on this ever shrinking planet. An attitude of mutual respect goes a long way in resolving our differences.

This does not mean we have to give up our own position just to obtain peace. Sometimes there is no other option than resorting to fighting to solve intractable issues. I would never submit myself to socialist or communist ideas just to avoid a fight, and we must do everything possible to prevent those philosophies from consuming our way of life. At the same time, however, we need to remember that our political enemies are people too, and many of them simply haven’t put in the time to truly understand what it is they are subscribing to. Many of them have been brainwashed from childhood to think the way they do, and if they put in any amount of honest thought into what they believe, they’d start to realize how dangerous the views they hold are.

If we can remember that people are people and not a faceless entity, it becomes much easier to become empathetic toward them rather than hating them. You can be forceful in your empathy, and I would never suggest laying down your argument, but maintaining a calm yet resolute stance is the best way to prevent hatred from creeping into our hearts. When we assume that the person is simply misguided, it becomes very hard to hate them and we are far more able to treat them with empathy and respect. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we can’t be friends…at least until the point one of us tries forcing our way on the other.

So what do you think about political hatred? How often do you experience this in your personal life? What do you do when someone you disagree with starts speaking and all you can feel is anger at what they’re saying? Learning to control our hate and treating people as people is a critical part of building a free and open society. As much as we fear those who want to exert their control over us, we can’t allow that fear to cause us to alienate people who just don’t know any better. As much as it seems like the other side is evil, we have to remember that it is only a very vocal minority that is pushing the agenda. Most people just want to live their lives.

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Should We Be Automating Our Military?

I served as a Marine for more than a decade of my life. I am proud of my service and of the men and women who served beside me. The values instilled in me as a Marine will be with me for the rest of my life, and I truly believe in the Marine Corps mantra of “once a Marine, always a Marine”. You are changed when you serve.

Though I have a certain bias due to my military service, I am concerned over the high level of automation that has creeped into the way wars are fought in modern times. It seems logical and inevitable that technology should reduce the role of human beings in dangerous situations, and it is very hard to make an argument against this when there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the lives of our brave men and women are saved when they don’t have to go into combat at all. I would never state otherwise. However, there is a looming concern that we ignore at our peril.

Many will have a hard time agreeing with what I’m about to say, and I can truly understand why because I have a hard time agreeing with it myself: combat jobs should not be automated. I say this for one reason and one reason alone: human beings are not easily controlled. At the time of this writing, there is no technology or program or magic formula that can alter a person’s mind to the point that they will do whatever they are told without question. We are autonomous individuals with the ability to make our own moral choices. Computers have no such impediments to control.

The danger of automating our military forces is highly evident when you start thinking about what that really means. Traditionally, our military forces relied on a large standing army of many thousands of individuals, each of which had to be convinced that what they were fighting for was right. Computers, on the other hand, do not have any moral compass to follow except what their programmers choose to put inside them. They have no remorse or compassion or any of the human values that can resist the corruption of those who control them.

Knowing this, it becomes terrifying to imagine the danger inherent in putting so much power into the hands of fewer and fewer people. We have seen many times in our history how this dynamic plays out. As power consolidates and more people are left outside of it, oppression and tyranny become the norm as citizens become too afraid of the consequences of standing up against them. When you add a completely obedient military force to the equation, you have a recipe for an appalling disaster. You can’t get anything more obedient than a computer.

Many people will hear this argument and dismiss it out of hand. It sounds paranoid and too much like science fiction to think that anything like this could happen in the near future. But the reality is that it’s already here. Think about modern drone technology. They can already fly themselves and operate their own weapon systems. The only reason they really need a pilot is as a backup, and as the technology improves and becomes more reliable, those pilots won’t be necessary anymore. Orders will come from a central computer controlled by those in power that tells the drone to take off, fly to a target, and deploy it’s ordinance. Even arming, fueling, and maintenance will eventually become automated. Human beings won’t be necessary at all.

When this kind of power is put into the hands of a select few, who is safe? What is to stop these people from sending a drone over your house if they decide you’re too dangerous to live? If they can send these drones overseas to attack targets abroad, they can certainly drop those same bombs on you. And if we have no human service members with families and friends and a nation to fight for ready to step in and stop it, who will?

I’m not really sure what we can do about this nightmare scenario. Technology advances every day, and it’s only a matter of time before it reaches the point where this kind of thing could really happen. It is only through the will of the people that it can be avoided, and that can only happen if we are actually thinking about and considering scenarios like these. Much like the question of artificial intelligence, the topic of automated militaries is going to end up being one of the most hotly contested debates in human history. We just haven’t realized it yet.

What do you think about automated militaries? Do you trust the government keep you safe all on its own? Do we need a standing military of real human beings as a check against corruption of power? What can we do to stop this from happening? Do we really want to?

Our future may depend on the answers to those questions.

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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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Maintaining Political Neutrality

We have come to see how hyper-partisan politics is destroying our social structure, economy, and the basic freedoms we once enjoyed. As the rhetoric builds higher and higher, leaders feel emboldened to implement more and more rules to tightly regulate not only our public lives, but our private affairs as well. In this highly charged political climate, there is no more thought regarding how decisions are affecting the people. The only concern is advancing an ideology. This is true regardless of which side of the spectrum we’re talking about.

The problem with grouping ourselves together into political parties is that, for the most part, most people don’t actually agree with every single policy that a party stands for. They might agree with some, or even most, but rarely does a person truly agree with every single stance of a political party. For the vast majority of people, we have maybe one or two issues that we feel strongly about, and the rest are mostly just noise. Because we are part of a political party, though, we are forced to stand up for ideas that don’t really matter to us so we have a chance for the one or two that we do care about to get some attention.

It’s interesting to note that political parties end up causing a lot more problems than they solve. Because there is a line in the sand on every one of the party’s positions, they find ways to prevent an opposing ideology from having any voice at all. If you look at the way laws are packaged today, you start to get a clear understanding of how this works. Rather than passing bills on single issues, we get packages of various things that have absolutely nothing to do with one another and it becomes an all or nothing proposition. Rather than voting on each individual issue, they are grouped together to be used as leverage against the other side.

For example, you might have a bill that contains a provision for additional military funding, further restrictions on firearms, and a new program to better fund our national park system. Obviously, the first two issues are extremely polarizing, and this the bill never gets anywhere because neither side can give any ground at all, even though both sides would probably vote for the national park portion of the bill. By grouping these bills into packages rather than voting on the issues individually, nothing really gets done because even the things we agree on become lost in the fighting.

This is the problem with joining a political party. It is absolutely true that there is strength in numbers, and I’m not saying you should just go solo in the world. However, it has been clearly demonstrated that when you completely align yourself with a group and allow them to fully speak for you, many of the things that might actually be important to you get left by the wayside. The fight becomes more about making sure our party has the power rather than focusing on what the party was formed for in the first place: getting things done that matter to us.

For myself, I have stopped identifying myself with any political party. My values most closely align with Libertarianism, but in truth I prefer to remain completely independent because I disagree with a few of the things they see as deal breakers. As soon as you start incorporating yourself into someone else’s value system, you give up what’s important to you in favor of what’s important to them. What happens if they change their mind, or become corrupted, or refuse to make any compromises at all regardless of the cost? In the end, you have to make up your own mind, because only you can look at the evidence and figure out what you think.

So what do you think about political parties? Is it time to start casting them aside? Do they really get anything done, or do they cause more harm than good? Are you willing to go against the group of people you traditionally followed if they aren’t doing what you voted them into office to do? Independence of thought is critically important to advancing society in a way that is healthy for everyone. When every idea has a fair chance to be heard and truly considered, we are all better off. This doesn’t mean we have to do everything that everyone brings to the table, but the truth is that we tend to agree on far more issues than we disagree.

Imagine what we could get done if we stop fixating on the handful of issues we can’t seem to resolve.

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Fear Propaganda

Is climate change really caused by humans? Are guns really as dangerous as we’re told? Is nuclear power too dangerous to use? It’s hard to know in our modern political climate. The truth is constantly obscured under a layer of sensationalism and fear. How are we to get to the objective facts when no one seems to want to set aside political agendas and take a really good look at what’s actually going on.

I personally struggle with modern politics. It’s difficult for me to watch certain messages because I know their true goal isn’t to make the world a better place but to scare us into falling in line with that point of view. Facts are secondary to shock value, and the people in power know that if they can shock us into action we won’t think critically about what it is that they want us to do. Fear causes knee jerk reactions that almost invariably result in a negative outcome. Rarely is our first idea the best one.

This is the problem with progressive movements. While the desire to push our world toward a better place is noble, the very fact that people want to push it there so aggressively indicates a certain level of impatience that is ultimately counterproductive. As I stated in a previous article, perseverance is critically important to get where you want to go, but a goal without patience usually ends in failure because people can’t seem to understand that a big task is broken up into little tasks. Progressives want the end result right now and aren’t willing to wait for everyone else to catch up with them. More conservative people simply move too slow for these “enlightened” minds.

So rather than wait and patiently educate people on what they think needs to be done, and give those people a chance to truly look into the situation and determine for themselves if the facts bear out the hypothesis, progressives tend to bristle with anger and shout from the top of their lungs every negative factoid they can find in an attempt to shock people into action. In their view, they shouldn’t have to wait to actually change someone’s mind for real. They must convince them with fear that they just need to do what they’re told or the consequences will be dire.

This way of leading actually works for a time. When we are startled, we have a genuine reaction that causes us to act violently in a certain manner. However, once it becomes clear that whatever scared us isn’t actually causing any imminent danger, we learn to ignore that source of fear. For example, if you are walking down the street and someone jumps out from behind a corner and shouts at you, the first time it happens you will likely jump back and let out a scream. It might work again the second and third time, but eventually you will come to expect the person and it will no longer scare you at all. Fear only works when we believe whatever we’re supposed to fear as actually dangerous.

Fear propaganda works the same way. The reason things like climate change aren’t really accepted by more conservative people is that the rhetoric surrounding it has been so charged with fear mongering. At first, people were more inclined to actually listen because this was something new and we had to start really looking at the problem. Unfortunately, impatient progressives decided the process was taking too long and started throwing out wildly short, unsubstantiated timelines as to when we would start really seeing the effects of climate change. The message became incredibly inconsistent and it started to become clear that the progressive fears weren’t nearly as scary as they were making it out to be.

The same holds true with nuclear energy. In reality, fission power is one of the safest forms of energy production on the planet. Strict controls are placed on the materials used and the processes implemented to run the plants. However, the few disastrous accidents we’ve had were sensationalized to the point where much of the general public just doesn’t trust nuclear power anymore and plants are being closed. This is a shame because nuclear energy is one of the few viable green energy sources we have access to. The only thing it emits is water vapor from the cooling towers, and the actual fissile material itself is relatively harmless if stored properly. But rather than moving toward a powerful energy source that could drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the air, we fixate on a few rare accidents that were sensationalized because news outlets want more viewers.

What about gun control? Mass shootings in America are certainly on the rise and no one can really argue otherwise. The disagreement centers around the cause of these issues. Is it truly access to firearms? The fear mongers would like us to believe that a person can walk into a store, swipe their card, and then walk out with a machine gun ready to mow people down in a mall. The truth is that this simply isn’t the case if you’re purchasing your firearm through legal channels. Even for something as simple as a handgun, you can’t go to any gun store anywhere in the country and just pay for a gun and walk out. Your information is recorded and you are subjected to a federal background check before you are authorized to make the purchase. If you are flagged for any reason, it is illegal for the shop to sell you a gun. I have a feeling most reasonable people would feel this is sufficient, yet we are still calling for stricter controls because people are scaring us into believing the problem is worse than it is.

This is the problem with trying to convince people through fear. It only works if the public is uneducated, and the progressive movement isn’t willing to give you all the facts because you might figure out their message doesn’t make sense and decide against them. Once the public starts to realize that the fear is unjustified, they stop paying attention and go back to the way they liked it before. No permanent change can be reached using fear. It is only when reasonable discourse is used that people’s mind can be truly changed and effective measures taken to move society forward. It is when we use respect and genuine concern for everyone that real progress is made.

So how will you use this information? Will you look at things a little differently when you watch the news? Can you set aside your fear and impatience and look at the facts in a rational way? When we can finally learn to do this, our society will be in a much better place to start making serious and meaningful decisions about the future.

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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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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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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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