I have always loved to travel. My parents often told me about my great enjoyment of a trip to the upper Midwest taken when I was just three years old -- I don't know whether I've reconstructed things from their recollections, or if they're genuine, but I've a few wisps of remembrance of immense bridges and lots of water from the trip through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. By the time I was old enough to consider it, I was yearning to get out of small-town Ohio and see some of the world. It took decades to accomplish that, but I have, yet wanderlust still pounds in my blood.
As I got older, I became fascinated with not just the places, but the people, too. That's a big part of why I became a psychologist, but even so, the academic interest has never exceeded the intensely personal interest I have in humans. By "intensely personal" I don't mean busybody nosiness -- I simply mean an interest in the unending variety and creativity of human creatures. As a teenager, I read Richard Bach's Illusions, and much of it resonated with me. One of the more powerful elements was Don Shimoda's attempt to teach "the reluctant Messiah" of the profound differences between individuals -- I'd thought a lot about that years before reading the book, and grokked its importance then. This was the first time, as best I recall, that I confronted the reality that other individuals didn't recognize that truth. I think that I had also begun to realize that freedom and tolerance are the essentials for creating a happy, healthy person and life, although it was (again) to be many years before I realized the full implications of my youthful philosophical ponderings. Having recently returned from a walkabout to the Arizona desert, doing a lot of thinking and observing (both within myself and of the areas I traveled to and through), I've been powerfully reminded of the glorious diversity of humankind.
From the cold, frozen Midwest, my companion and I traveled south and west. Breakfast was typically coffee and eggs of some sort, but as the temperature warmed as we neared our destination, so did the spiciness of the ingredients accompanying the eggs. Tabasco sauce was ever-present on the table, or brought with meals without needing to ask -- a welcome sign that I was among people who like their food the way I do. Shapes became less pasty and pudgy -- darker skin and darker, straighter hair became common. Physiques seemed to separate into "lean" and "fat" -- few people appeared to exist in that corporate-cubicle in-between of couch-potatodom. The pace of life slowed. As the landscape became drier, the effort required to live in its embrace became a visible constraint -- but not an insurmountable one. When we reached the small town that was our base of operations for the walkabout, I was met with another surprise. Or, more accurately, I saw it shimmering in the distance as we drove through the desert -- a glimmering white sea that was not sand, not salt, but aluminum. Snowbirds fly to the area in their RVs, creating a senior-citizen city the likes of which I'd never imagined. The sound of a toddler's laugh from a nearby table at Sunday breakfast was as foreign there as a moose call would be in downtown Los Angeles.
All that differentness, in a relatively small trip across one small area of this planet ...
The reality of Richard Bach's message walloped me again. Each of us is different, unique. The commonality we all share may be no more than being Homo sapiens.
So how can anyone dare to presume to tell someone how to live her or his life? How could the nannies possibly conceive that their narrow little boxes can adequately hold all of humanity's (and inhumanity's) possibilities? How can I tell my children in good conscience that I know what's best for them, that I know how they "ought to" live, when the times, society, and knowledge they're growing up in are so different from when I grew up?
The nanny-ninnies can't conceive of my horror at their prescriptions and proscriptions -- but that doesn't stop their efforts to push their ideas on others. I'm not convinced that their pleas of doing good are sincere, anyway; it's a good cover and nothing more, as any perceptive individual can twig, even under the cover of the state-approved media outlets. Their ultimate answer, when they're pushed to it, is that they're protecting us from anarchy -- a claim that stops many intelligent individuals, wrongly, in their tracks.
I've never shied away from the A-word. I transformed from confused statist to full-blown ancap in a span of days, and was much happier for it. While I've often pondered how to best offer my thoughts on the beneficence of anarchy to the freedom movement, it has never been an important enough issue to take up my digital pen and create the essay. Now, it would seem, I don't need to. I came across a clear, beautiful essay that says it much better than I likely ever could. Butler Shaffer is the author, and it's worth interrupting this ramble to read it now (or refresh yourself with it, if you've already seen the essay at LewRockwell.com. Go ahead. I'll wait.
For those who didn't bother to follow the link, here's a paragraph that sums it up nicely, and is worth plastering on every freedom-lover's site on the web:
"'Anarchy' is an expression of social behavior that reflects the individualized nature of life. Only as living beings are free to pursue their particular interests in the unique circumstances in which they find themselves, can conditions for the well-being of all be attained. Anarchy presumes decentralized and cooperative systems that serve the mutual interests of the individuals comprising them, without the systems ever becoming their own reasons for being. It is this thinking, and the practices that result therefrom, that is alone responsible for whatever peace and order exists in society."
Terrific stuff, eh? We act in harmony with this wonderful system so much of our lives, yet even we anarchists, we intellectually-minded libertarians, often overlook or forget its simplicity, scope, and unalterable truth.
After discovering that article, I was feeling quite good. Imagine my surprise when the day got even better.
For those of you who've been regulars to my personal web site, friends of mine at the Liberty Round Table, or conversed with me at The Claire Files or LibertyForum, you know that I had been having difficulty dealing with my self-imposed work and personal demands. One thing I was considering is what form, if any, my future activism should take. As I said in a temporary farewell message, I was as close to burnout as I'd ever been, and quite surprised by that. It seemed that no matter what I did, no matter how good I made Freedom News Daily, how much I wrote about the need for individuals to find their own way to "do freedom" in the way that works best for themselves, or helped promote others' great work, it was never enough. Why couldn't the cats, er, not herd themselves -- I'm not that deluded, nor would I want that -- but simply just go do it: do their own freedom without waiting for or worrying about others? Why do so many of us contrary, individualistic, stubborn libertarian types seem to be waiting for The Magic Bullet Solution to Winning Freedom Now and Forever?
My friend Richard Rieben offers some valuable insights to that, as I commented prior to my walkabout in the essay Individual and Group: A Perpetual Tug of War?. One of the most important points he makes is that any group runs counter to the interests of its individuals -- simply by virtue of the nature of individuals and groups. One need look no further than the national Libertarian Party to see how trying to herd individuals to greater freedom has brought more failure than success to the freedom movement. Yet in many pro-freedom circles, especially think tanks, the focus is on "public policy" -- essentially groups butting heads over how much freedom individuals ought to have, or need to have. So -- back to that surprise at last -- I was taken aback by the title of the essay I saw by FEE president Richard Ebeling:
Ebeling clearly presents why such a thing could never work, and discusses how each individual can choose a course that is most effective for him- or herself with respect to advancing liberty. Not surprising information or ideas, but terrific to see coming from a respected institute nonetheless. "No Magic Bullet Solution" and "Anarchy Works!" (as I think of these two essays) fell into my mind, which was refreshed from my time away and ready to tackle some challenges anew. But now I don't need to tackle a couple. Oh, I'm sure I will in some form or other, but it's nice to know -- again -- that my thoughts are not way out from others' in the freedom movement. It may be irrational of me, but those two essays renewed my hopes quite strongly.
My walkabout was an intensely solitary time, despite the near-constant presence of my traveling companion. That person -- one of the very best friends I've had (and could ever hope to have) in my life -- was on a similar mission, and in part because of that we were able to be together without intruding into each other's space. Our interactions were the epitome of a truly voluntary relationship; we worked out arrangements that suited each of us when necessary or desired by us, and left each other alone otherwise. Simple; easy; and gloriously effective. One of the unexpected joys of the journey were the vistas opened up to me by my friend's eclectic musical tastes. I smile every time I think of a pirate plundering the grain co-ops "on Regina's mighty shores", or reflect on an unusually insightful lyric about relationships wound around a catchy rock melody. I've long been encouraging individuals to do freedom. To that I add, with the reverberation of Captain Tractor's exuberant refrain prancing in my mind: free yourself!
Do it your way.
freedom. Free yourself.