I closed a recent post by saying this:
If you’re not willing to suffer for your beliefs, you’re not much of a believer.
To that I will add that the statement remains true, no matter what types of beliefs we’re talking about. Either we have the guts to stand by our beliefs or we don’t. (Which is why a lot of people avoid them – they haven’t the guts to choose.) Holding to our beliefs under fire is the crucial test – not of our beliefs, but of ourselves.
Anytime you move the world forward in some way, you will receive a backlash. In a world like ours – a world neurotically devoted to stasis – that is almost unavoidable.
Have you ever noticed that when people complain about tax collectors or the police, they look around first and lower their voices? The reason why is ultra-obvious: They expect those groups to seek out and hurt people who oppose them.
Why We Suffer
In societies that dedicate themselves to law and punishment, people learn to neurotically avoid all blame. That’s the big problem with “law” – it demands that you remember tens of thousands of rules and punishes you if you fail to obey them. That leaves all of us subject to punishment at every moment of our lives. And that’s a recipe for stress and neurosis.
On top of that, people very well understand that by changing their opinions or actions, they are judging their previous choices as “bad.” And bad, of course, means that you can expect punishment.
Since everyone in a “modern society” grows up learning that changing opinions invites punishment, they come to instinctively avoid it.
What all of this means is this:
For all practical purposes, progress is grounds for punishment, and talk of progress is both suspicious and dangerous.
Yet here we are… and here all sane, healthy people are… trying to move forward.
The sad truth is this:
If you wish to progress, those people who’ve bought into the system will instantly see you as a threat and will therefore oppose you.
Sure, these people should grow up and do better, but the system has trained them in this behavior all their lives. My dad, for example, was a very bright man and definitely not a coward. But when he once asked me what I was doing that evening, I mentioned that I might attend a meeting of libertarians, and he said, “Ah, crap. You’re gonna go to jail.”
My dad may have leapt to a conclusion, but he very rightly understood that going against the status quo brings trouble.
(I didn’t actually go that night, and believe it or not, I’ve only attended one or two official libertarian meetings ever.)
The Price We Must Pay
As I say, in the current situation, moves forward will be opposed, and that means you’ll have to accept pain. That sucks, but it doesn’t suck worse than the alternative, which is a neutered stasis in a permanent semi-slavery.
And please don’t think you can avoid the pain and still make any meaningful progress. What’s going on when we move forward is that we suffer for our virtues. The only way to avoid that is to turn away from those virtues. And that means diminishing ourselves.
Don’t do it – your life is worth more than that.
We may as well accept that we’re enemies of the status quo, and our lives therefore involve risk.
Anyone who is serious about goodness becomes an enemy of the system. Anyone who is serious about liberty is already an enemy of the system. We can either accept that or evade that, but it will not go away.
If we accept it, we make ourselves better and we eventually make the world better.
If we evade it, we degrade ourselves and we degrade the world.
Let’s choose not to be harmless serfs. We’re so much better than that.