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Thursday

I've got three little stories to tell. By themselves, none are very important, certainly nothing to blog home about. But together, they.... Well, I'll just tell the stories and try to make sense of what they mean afterward.

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-- I recently had dinner with a friend of mine, a very old-school former Mafioso. He can talk forever about the traditions of his people, and I can listen for hours. He doesn't tell about the stuff most people would want to hear from such a person. The stories he tells are far smaller, yet far more valuable. He talks about those little things, funny things, sad things, that reveal the values he has lived his life by, the values that for 800 years his people have been living by.

At this dinner, he told me about how in his day, when a man became a "made" man (he tells me that's a Hollywood term, he never heard it until late in his career), that even his best friends wouldn't have known the difference. In his day being made didn't change the person. Nowadays, the newly made mobster struts around and flaunts what a big man he thinks he is. That's because now, getting made is something you are given. It comes from outside of you, it's granting you a status you'd not had before.

Before, when the traditions meant something, a man didn't get made, he became made. And he became it long before the ceremony, long before anyone called him "made". That's why it didn't change him. He was already the man that the new guys, the ones without the traditions, think that being made makes them. He had to be it before he could be called it. It was a recognition of already existing fact - it was not something given to him, it was something he gave himself.

UPDATE: My friend, Bill Bonanno, died on New Years Day, 2008.

-- On my way to work a few days ago, I started thinking, apropos of nothing, about Claire Wolfe's book "101 Things to do 'Till the Revolution", which I had read years ago and had thought of occasionally since. (It's a very good book, and worth a read - I intend to give it another go soon). But I remember that there was something missing. Something that left it vaguely unsatisfying. I thought that what I'd like to see is a book called "101 Things to do After the Revolution".

-- When I first started venturing into the world wide web as a participant rather than a spectator, I planned my first site to be called "think!freedom". Even though it didn't amount to much, (I still have the domain www.thinkfreedom.com, and will likely do something with it again soon), I think I had the right idea. The "think!" at the beginning was intended to convey that freedom starts there. It starts with thinking. Not just philosophy and planning and being smart about protecting yourself - it means all that - but it goes deeper than that.

It means that freedom starts with thinking of yourself as free. It means that you have to be free first. You have to already be free of both the fear of and any respect for the authority of the state. It means you have to be free of the guilt that is used to supplement the state's control of you by fear. It means that you have to be free of the thought that you must serve anyone but yourself. It means you must be free of the thought that you can change the state, that you must change the state in order to live your own life. It means that you must be free in your own head, free to act entirely from your own motivations, free not to ignore the state, but to treat it like mindless, motivation less force of nature, to be dealt with as necessary and not dealt with at all when not.

If you woke up and found that the Libertarians had suddenly won a the day and had eliminated nanny state, the daddy state, the jack-booted-thug state all in one fell swoop, what do you think they'd do? My guess is they'd strut around and flaunt what big men they think they are now. I think they'd go around under the delusion that their revolution had made them free, and that now they have the power to make the rest of us free as well.

We've seen the results of that before.

Freedom has always been sought externally, right up to the libertarians of today. But real freedom is achieved on the inside, individually and privately. You can avoid the state, you can hide from it and drop out of the world. You can put life on hold until the day when outside forces "make" you free. You can defy the state. You be politically active and try to change the state from within. You can plot a revolution. You can do all those things if you really want to, but what none of those things does is to change you.

It's not enough to say "I believe in freedom, so now I'm free". It has to be something you simply are, something you no longer even have to think about. Until then, avoidance, defiance, voting and plotting are simply different forms of looking outward for a solution that doesn't exist out there. It means you're still allowing yourself to be controlled by the state, letting it dictate your values and decisions and actions.

Once that private freedom is achieved, no revolution or anything else outside of yourself will really change anything that counts. The real revolution will already have been won, elections won't matter, avoidance will be superfluous, and defiance will no longer be an overt act, it will simply mean that it never crosses your mind to comply. Revolution, while perhaps necessary to clear debris off the path, would have no deeper meaning. It would be little more than ceremony, a formal recognition of an already existing fact.

But at that point, why would we care about achieving that recognition? The state won't go away once enough people want the state to go away, the state will effectively disappear once enough people no longer care that much whether it stays or goes. We don't need a revolution, we need millions of them.


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NOTICE: Vin Suprynowicz and Claire Wolfe are auctioning off a double-autographed leather-bound first edition of Vin's first (and only so far) novel, The Black Arrow. Not only is this an incredible book (which I intend on reviewing here soon), the best libertarian fiction since "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", but the proceeds are dedicated to buying very expensive meds for a friend of theirs who is dying of cancer. We've already got the "bid early" part taken care of, so go ahead and "bid often".

Comments

Is your point "I think, therefore I am"? Or perhaps, "I think, I live the thoughts, therefore I am"?

Posted by sally at Thursday, December 15, 2005 07:52 AM

More like the latter, but thinking is not enough by itself. Maybe: think, then be, then then worry about how the outside world is.

Posted by kylben at Thursday, December 15, 2005 08:02 AM

Sally - you have it backwards. It should be, "I am, therefore I should think".

Posted by Kevin McCalix at Thursday, December 15, 2005 11:47 AM

Kevin,

Are you invoking the common misunderstanding of Descartes? "I think therefore I am" does not mean that thinking caused him to be, it means that thinking is evidence that he is.

My point is closer to the first (mis)understanding of Descartes, but it is no contradiction to say that once I exist, whatever I become from there is because I think.

Of course, thinking alone is not sufficient, but all action has to start from there, as do all things human. So in the larger context, you are certainly correct - I am, therefore I should think. Simply being is sufficient to create that one single moral obligation.

Posted by kylben at Thursday, December 15, 2005 02:42 PM

I love this article - it states very concisely what I have always felt.

being free is an inside job first - the politics come second.

Posted by Jay P Hailey at Wednesday, December 21, 2005 09:33 AM

Jay,

Thanks!

One thing, though, I don't really believe the the politics "comes second". What I mean is that the politics is not part of the goal at all. I don't want to be free on the inside as a way of setting my self up to then get politically active. I want to be free on the inside for its own sake, and then, if political action is necessary, fine. But politics is not a goal of any kind, it's simply a tool that may or may not be necessary depending on the circumstances.

It's kind of like if I said "I want to drive to work every day". Driving a car is not the goal - the real goal is to get a job. Driving a car is just incidental to that. And if I get a job within walking distance, I don't have to drive the car at all.

I've decided to not to vote or be politically active at all, under any circumstances, for a while. Not as a protest, not out of giving up, but because I want to break myself of the habit of thinking of politics as a goal, to break the psychological cycle of dependency on political solutions.

Later on, if political action becomes useful (or unavoidable for immediate reasons), then I'll get back into it. But then, hopefully, it will be from a different perspective.

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, December 21, 2005 11:59 AM

All of us are self made. The tragedy is that some people never start. They are waiting for that magical outside force to change them into that which they wish to be, never seeing that it never will. Yet they chase that force all their lives.

When the salvation show is over, the shrink has been paid and is gone, the mountains seen, the ocean viewed and all the "life changing" events have passed, those looking for something to change them are left with nothing.

Posted by Garry Stahl at Wednesday, December 21, 2005 02:56 PM

I agree with your main point, and even the point you make in the last paragraph (that explains the process by which the state eventually can effectively disappear).

However, it is possible to take this point too far. Just because you ignore the state, does not mean it ignores you. We want to be careful not to turn into "ghost dancers".

I think Jeff Snyder put it usefully. To paraphrase, he has about the same prescription as you, but warns not to throw away your life in the process, at least not for something trivial. Sometimes you have to get out of the way of the state, just as you have to avoid the mad drunk on the road. Fear can be a useful emotion at times; it is in us for a reason (e.g. survival).

Posted by Paul Bonneau at Wednesday, December 28, 2005 09:53 PM

Paul,

You're correct, but still not quite getting my point. I don't mean that you can completely ignore the state, nor that it will ignore you. But whatever you do vis-a-vis the state, realize that if you are doing it in order to *gain* your freedom, you will fail. The only thing you can accomplish by your choice of how to deal with the state is to *preserve* your freedom. You can't preserve it until you have already gained it. But you can get yourself killed or put in jail by trying to gain it through action against the state - the inherent contradiction will lead to futile and increasingly rash action.

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, December 28, 2005 11:12 PM

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