Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly." ~Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955), physicist
Now that the 2012 version of the bi-annual charade known as American Democracy is at a close, it may profit those of us in the Voluntaryist community to take stock of where we’re at progress-wise . . . and what we’re up against.
My activism this time around as a libertarian anarchist (and I use the term here this once in lieu of Voluntaryism in order to point to Gerard Casey’s new book, Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State  [Continuum, 2012], which I just received via U.S. government postal monopoly, and expect to be a good read – please stay tuned) consisted mostly of my usual non-voting, placing my own personal Strike The Root “I Don’t Vote” lawn sign in front of my house (yes, a 2010 picture of it was the featured photo here on Tuesday, November 6th), and noodling around on Facebook, posting anarchist anecdotes, engaging in discussion.
The results? Hard to tell, of course. Perhaps my lawn sign, during the five weeks it was plainly visible to motorists traveling south on the piece of two-lane government blacktop that abuts my house and land, garnered some visitors to this website, or otherwise caused some passers-by to challenge their own belief systems. My own abstinence from participating in the election, such as it was, no doubt at least served to not compound the notion that there is anything legitimate about the idea of political governance and the violence that is so inextricably inherent to its implementation and continuance.
But as for my social networking activities, this resulted in at least three people becoming riled to the point of anger, sarcasm, and denunciation. If there were others, at least, they didn’t make themselves known anywhere near as vociferously as those in question.
The first among them, a very nice and interesting man with a long and even more fascinating past and background in the very core of the 1960s and 1970s rock & roll scene, became extremely offended when one of my Facebook postings (and it was a Share – not anything original by me) suggested that government was basically a form of terrorism. This man, who happens to be black (okay, African-American, if we need to be “politically correct” about it – but indeed, can’t we all just get along?), subsequently stated that he felt my post disrespected his ancestors, who picketed, demonstrated, and otherwise protested in order to gain suffrage – and were in turn beaten, humiliated, and even killed in the process.
There is of course nothing untrue about those historical facts. Certainly, at the very least all the way through the 1960s civil rights movement, injustices such as described above were visited upon members of the black population in their struggle for equality. I did not and would never contest that. But it also has little to do with my initial point – unless you consider that members of the white governmental establishment prior to civil rights reforms were in large part responsible for the persecution of blacks – something I would most certainly label as terrorism. But I would also ask in response to this: Would it have ultimately made more sense to revile, denounce, and seek the abolition of the very institution that made such heinous activity possible – or to simply seek equal footing within its existing structure, in order to be able to deal out such violence with similar impunity alongside those so positioned? True social reform, to my mind, would mean a full-scale renunciation of all such violence, no matter the guise given it.
But the man in question will not be swayed by such arguments. He views voluntaryism as naïve, impractical, undoable in the “real” world. And he has made his fierce loyalty to his family and ethnicity quite clear. Reason of any kind will scantly penetrate such precepts.
The other two individuals in question were both high school mates of mine once upon a time, and it would seem that government-owned, tax-financed institution did a remarkable job of molding both of them into state-worshipping, conformist robots (even though one of them currently makes his living in the Los Angeles punk rock scene – no “Anarchy in the UK” or elsewhere for him, evidently) since any suggestion of anything other than total idolatry of their deity (Obama) was unwelcome blasphemy. Their typical responses to my well-outlined reasoning -- before they both thankfully opted out of my life forever (and at my suggestion, I might add) – were such deeply analytical rebuttals as “Yay, Obama!” and “Take your wet blanket somewhere else.” The kind of intellectual greatness that moves mountains, in other words.
It is perhaps by no coincidence that Stefan Molyneaux of freedomainradio.com , in his most recent video, “Life After Politics: Lessons from the 2012 US Elections ,” points out that the vast majority of people categorically do not form their opinions on the basis of an objective analysis of information. Their belief systems are based upon a widespread conglomeration of prejudices, emotional conclusions, and subconscious impulses, all designed in order to achieve social acceptance. In fact, Stefan further points out that attempting to shift a person’s beliefs by using logic and reason is almost always, statistically, counterproductive: The individual in question will simply dig their mental heels in, and hew to their preconceived beliefs more strongly than ever. He in fact equates the process with putting up an umbrella in order to stop Mother Nature from raining.
This presents we voluntaryists (libertarian anarchists) with a bleak picture. Not an impossible one, of course, but bleak, for all of that. Our philosophy is nothing if not rooted in reason, logic, and the morality inherent to such.
One of the most heinous figures in Nazi Germany, the butcher of Auschwitz, Josef Mengele, once said something directed towards the general population: “The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it.” Hitler and his henchmen were well-chosen by the master propagandist himself in terms of understanding the inner workings of human psychology. Their rise to the summit of political power is nothing if not testament to this fact. Likewise, their ultimate demise was due to a lack of logical reasoning to underpin the house of cards they’d constructed with the help of the German people. And for the same reasons, such is the invariable fate of every government that has ever been, is, or ever will be.
Question then: How do we get to the statistical 10% of committed voluntaryists that sound scientific data demonstrates will successfully pierce through the dysfunctional emotional barriers most of the population are possessed of? In fact, after that 10% has been achieved, voluntaryism then presumably becomes itself the “emotional prejudice.” The rest of society then goes along to get along with the new order of things. The cycle of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” will be broken.
It’s a question I can’t yet and wouldn’t want to pretend to be able to answer here. I think a serious discussion needs to be had amongst voluntaryists, and the Comments section here seems a good enough place to start. We can scarcely stop projecting our rational philosophical observations. At the same time, we want to achieve a voluntary society as completely – and yes, soon – as possible.
How might we better appeal to people emotionally, and not exclusively on the merits of our logic? How can we infuse what the statists do to us all into emotional depth-charges that prompt the uninitiated into the same committed passion we feel? The fate of our movement may well hinge upon the answers.