Lots of good people are frustrated with the world, and I understand that only too well. They are, furthermore, eager for the world to improve, and I respect that a great deal.
Their problem arises, however, right on the heels of these desires, when they ask the question, “What should I do?” And that’s where the wheels fall off.
All the Popular Answers Are Wrong
The world is full of people who are glad to tell you what to do. They have carefully thought out arguments as to why their plan is the right one and why everyone else’s is wrong. They’ll encourage you to commit to them, and they’ll try to surround you with people who have already chosen their plan. If you join, you’ll get lots of pats on the back and assurances that you’re a good person.
But all those ways are wrong. They offer you fast, cheap self-esteem. They offer you a fast track to feeling useful, important, and wanted. And all you have to do is join their very pleasant crowd.
Let me make this very clear: There is no blueprint for freedom. There will be no great plan to follow. People who say they have such a thing, while they may be well-meaning, bright, and even respectable, are moving in the wrong direction. (And I truly don’t mean to criticize here; we’ve all made our mistakes.) Here’s the core of the issue:
If we want a world that is safe for individuals, we’ll have to create it as individuals, not as groups.
Groups beget after their own kind, and individuals beget after their own kind.
I’m not the first person to decide this, by the way; here’s what Albert Schweitzer had to say on the subject many years ago:
The unnatural way of spreading ideas must be opposed by the natural one, which goes from man to man and relies solely on the truth of the thoughts and the hearer’s receptiveness for new truth.
The Easiest Thing to Do
Following someone else’s plan is the easy way. It saves us from responsibility. It allows us to deflect the blame, at least a little, if later we’re found to be wrong. This easy way, however, is a wrong way.
There’s a great line from Steven Stills’s song, “The Southern Cross,” that goes like this:
And we never failed to fail;
it was the easiest thing to do.
It will always be the easiest thing to go downward into servitude. That is the current condition of the world, with its dominance-obsessed and status-worshiping inertia. You can go downward quickly by handing your will to the status quo, or you can go slowly by standing still. But until you act, solely upon your own judgment, you’re not going to go upward.
Are You Saying…?
Yes, I’m saying that you have to make your own decision, all alone, and that you have to raise the courage to start acting upon it by yourself, with no leader telling you the best choice, with no famous author guiding you, and with no authority sanctifying the path for you.
You’ll have to choose, all by yourself. And you’ll have to face all the fears that hold you back from stepping out… you’ll have to push past them… you’ll have to make your own legs start walking.
That, my friends, is the price of progress… and we each have to pay it, or not pay it, alone.
We Should Act Without a Plan?
Emphatically yes. The central issue here is not following a plan, but dragging ourselves out of stasis and taking some kind of initiative.
Unless you’re making some kind of wild, violent choice, almost any choice you make is a good one. Your central necessity is to unfreeze yourself and start moving. Once you’re in motion, it’s easy to correct your course. But if you never move, you’ll just keep sliding down the majority’s path, regardless of how much you complain.
In our time, most of the good people in the world remain motionless. We complain about our local fiefdom’s abuses, of course, but that’s about all. That’s the seduction of “democracy,” you see: It magically turns complaints into progress.
Except that the magic of democracy never really shows up. Still, it’s the easiest thing to do. And so we complain and we wait, but we do not act.
But again: There’s never going to be a perfect plan and there’s never going to be a right time. If you wait for them, you’ll wait forever.
So, pick a spot and start. You probably already have choices in mind: Bitcoin, home school, 3D printing, intentional communities, temporary autonomous zones, agorism, becoming a perpetual traveler, or something else. Get moving. Your central necessity is to face the fear and to act anyway.
And if you’d like to know my favorite choice, here it is: Sit at a bus stop and talk to people. You can do that at almost any time and any place.
Who Happens to Whom?
In other words, “Who acts, and who is acted upon?”
As an old coworker of mine used to say, “He who hesitates is lost.” If you wait, you’ll be acted upon. And then you’ll have to re-form your plan, and you’ll hesitate again. And then you’ll be acted upon again… over and over, until you’re too old to do much of anything.
The ‘right time’ never comes. Either we let the world happen to us, or we transcend our fears and we happen to the world.
So, I propose a simple motto for people who actually give a damn:
The world doesn’t happen to us. We happen to the world.