Murdering the Group, Saving Individuals

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Once more, bombs rain down in the Middle East , Arabs and Jews hurl fire and murder children, the world turns pale with horror and empty words pour from televised heads'and as usual, the obvious and effective solution can never be discussed!

It's the same with immigration, the national debt, welfare, the war on terror and all the other state-driven and media-obscured questions of the day. Obsessed by details, blind to the obvious, we are like swimmers in shark-infested waters worrying about cramps.

The saddest thing is that we know exactly how to bring peace to the Middle East 'and everywhere else for that matter! Solving the problem of collective violence might have been a real head-scratcher in the Middle Ages, but it takes a truly modern education to pretend ignorance now!

It's embarrassingly simple, of course, but you'll wear out the batteries on your TV remote scanning for a mention of it anywhere.

What is the solution to the problem of collective violence? Why, just this:

Stop believing in groups!

'Groups' don't exist, any more than a 'forest' exists independently of the trees it describes. A 'Jew' doesn't exist. An 'Arab' doesn't exist; neither does ' Israel ' or 'Muslim.' There are people and land and trees and sky. There are no 'groups.'

If people surrender their moral independence to some 'morally-superior' collective (or, more accurately, some madman claiming to speak for such a non-existent entity), then of course violence is the inevitable result. Irrational and collectivist moral absolutes are the fundamental WMDs of our species. Believing you are part of the 'master race' because you're Jewish, or the 'chosen of Allah' because you're Muslim, opens the path to blood, tears, flames and graves. Such delusions are both false and absolutist'the most deadly combination. Irrational moral ideals which must be enforced always end up murdering the innocent and the not-so-innocent en masse.

Beliefs that are irrational, required, universal and absolute will always put swords in the hands of men. Illogical and anti-empirical beliefs cannot be validated by external and objective factors. Two scientists who disagree on a theory can resolve their dispute via the scientific method; they can defer to logic and reproducible experiments'they do not have to bomb each other into submission. Mathematicians can disagree over a proposition, but in the end it is not personal'it is not the dominance of one over the others, but of logic and proof over one, or all.

The free market runs on the same principle. 'Value' is not decided by committees, or leaders, but by individual decisions. If I think that my product is better than yours, I don't have to blow up your offices, just appeal to the consumer, the final arbiter. Consumers don't have to burn down a Ford plant if they prefer Volvos'individual decisions determine the value and success of each company.

In religion, politics and nationalism, things are very different, because no objective method exists to resolve disputes. Who can prove that 'Jewish' is better than 'Christian' or 'Muslim' or 'Buddhist'? How can these absolute and irrational fantasies ever be reconciled in reality? They are impervious to logic and experimentation. Universal truth is willed, not proven. This irrationality creates instability, hostility and the endless desire for expansion. The more collectivist a society becomes, the more expansionistic it becomes. Witness Israel , Islam'and America .

The solution to the crisis in the Middle East is not easy, but it is simple'and the alternatives are stark. We must outgrow our addictions to the false gods of history'be they religious, political or national. Giving the modern equivalents of witch-doctors access to 21st Century weapons has become far too dangerous.

If we cannot break our addiction to our fantasies of collective virtue, the slaughter will only increase. And so we must say to the warring tribes of the Middle East 'and indeed to the whole world:

'As long as there are Arabs and Jews and Americans and Iranians, our natural brotherhood remains drowned in bloody tribal fantasies. If we refuse to give up our gods and groups and leaders, we will forever live in war and fear and hatred. If we can find the strength to outgrow this madness, we may not all find heaven, but at least we will be free to escape hell. The solution to violence is not vanquishing our foes, but our own illusions.'

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Stefan Molyneux's picture
Columns on STR: 17

Stefan Molyneux is the host of Freedomain Radio, the most popular philosophical podcast on the Internet, and a Top 10 Finalist in the 2007 Podcast Awards.  He is the author of Universally Preferable Behavior: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, On Truth: The Tyranny of Illusion, and the novel The God of Atheists.