Fond Memories of Hitching

Hitchhiking is something that is simply not done these days, at least where I live, but back in the olden days of the 1970s, I used to hitch rides on a regular basis. Lots of us did, as a matter of fact. And I’m not aware of anyone I knew, or that they knew, hitching a ride to their death… or even to an assault.

Hitchhiking is something that is simply not done these days, at least where I live, but back in the olden days of the 1970s, I used to hitch rides on a regular basis. Lots of us did, as a matter of fact((Though the girls didn’t, and I think they were smart not to. They’d attract far more “No thanks” offers than us boys.)). And I’m not aware of anyone I knew, or that they knew, hitching a ride to their death… or even to an assault.

Hitchhiking was still fairly common in those days. It had begun long before, in the days when few people owned cars. That was a less tormented time of course, before we were trained to see strangers as roving monsters.

To hitch, you’d stand in a safe but visible place at the side of the road, then stick out your thumb and make yourself look harmless. You’d give the person who stopped a good looking over, then get in and go… or occasionally, not.

A typical roadside encounter went like this:

The car stops, and either the driver rolls down the window (not terribly common because a lot of windows had to be manually rolled down) or you open the door.

“Where you going?” asks the driver.

“Peterson and Pulaski,” you might say.

“Hop in” the driver says. “I’m going past there.”

“Thanks!” you say while climbing in.

Rarely did I fail to get ride within 10 minutes on a busy road. You were especially likely to get a quick ride on days when it was cold, snowy, or rainy.

Hippies were always great rides. They were as likely as not to offer you a smoke, but they really didn’t care if you said no. More than that, they were talkative and interesting, and if you were friendly they might go out of their way and take you directly to your destination.

And as I say, I never knew of anyone who had a dangerous ride. I’m sure it must have happened somewhere at some time – among millions of people it could hardly be otherwise – but it was certainly not common. What we learned – and my friends and I definitely compared our experiences – was that most people were fairly cool, if you gave them a chance.

And once we started driving more regularly, we were fairly likely to give people rides as well. We were judicious of course. If there was a large, questionable-looking guy hitching, we’d give him a ride only if there were two or three of us in the car, for example. But we regularly gave rides. In fact, we often slowed down when we saw someone standing in the rain or snow and asked if they needed a ride. And I still do that from time to time, even in the present state of paranoia.

And if you’d like to confront a shocking fact, consider this: Things were a lot more dangerous in my youth than they are today. Take a look:

I haven’t seen a hitchhiker in a long time now, which is kind of sad. People trusting and helping one another is a good thing. The reason hitching dried up, of course, is that people are bombarded by fear 24/7 these days. We weren’t nearly as traumatized “back in the day.”

And given that violent crime was significantly worse in the 1970s, the difference between then and now is pretty clearly attributable to dark propaganda.

More Importantly…

Far more important than crime stats is the fact that we learned at a fairly young age to work without a net.

Hitching required you to choose, to act, to judge quickly, to take responsibility for your own safety, and to hold a pallet of options open in your mind. It was to engage yourself fully with other human beings and even more importantly, with strangers.

And there were hurdles to get over. Not only were our parents unhappy about of us hitching, but cops could arrest you for it too. The legal underpinnings for those arrests were pretty shaky, but cops arrested teenagers whenever they liked back then (in some cases still), fearing nothing and with no consequences that I ever heard about.

And so we had to risk the wrath of our parents and the cops, on top of any other dangers.

Before I close, I want to mention a final benefit we gained from hitching. We learned how to trust and how to be trusted. I think those are very important lessons, and I fear that a lot of people miss them these days, under the reign of permanent fear.

* * * * *

As it turns out, history was never too hard to understand; they just told you the wrong story.

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

Why You Can Do Anything You Want… And Why You Can’t


People frequently tell children “You can do anything you want.” And this causes a lot of confusion, because in the real world, they can’t. And after their first clash with the aforesaid real world, the child is left wondering all sorts of unpleasant things:

Did mom and dad lie to me?

Are they just ignorant?

Am I defective?

Should I find someone to blame?

The worst thing about this, however, is that the child is likely to have their opinion of themselves reduced. And that’s tragic. As I’ve noted many times, we are magical creatures. Humans, alone in the known universe, are able to create willfully… are able to reverse entropy willfully.

The child should think of his and her self as magical… because they really are!

So, let’s make some sense of this problem.

Why You Can

Humans are radically amazing. Sure, we’ve been long trained to consider each other to be sacks of crap – a belief that’s essential to rulership – but it simply isn’t true. We are stunningly capable beings, and we generally behave pretty well, even under the reign of self-debasement.

Take a look around you. Wherever you live, you’re surrounded by buildings, roads, and cars. All of them exist only because of human virtues. Without human creativity, they could not exist. Without human cooperation, they could not exist. And they are everywhere.

We’ve filled the Earth with hospitals and airplanes and food and computers and medicine. And the list could go on almost indefinitely.

More than that, we’ve learned how to cooperate very well. Forget wars; they’re run by competing states and will exist as long as states do. Instead, look at your local soccer league, little league, church choir, and family gathering.

And remember that we’ve been trained to see one flaw in a cooperative group and condemn the whole from it. (And to hypnotically accept any and every flaw of the state.) A few flaws are meaningless compared to modes of cooperation that thrive over decades, centuries, and millennia.

Does being less than perfect make us monsters? Does anything less than 100% equal zero?

So, we are wonderful creatures. And how much better might we be if we dared consider that possibility?

Here’s a quote from G.K. Chesterton that I’d like you to read:

There runs a strange law through the length of human history – that men are continually tending to undervalue their environment, to undervalue their happiness, to undervalue themselves. The great sin of mankind, the sin typified by the fall of Adam, is the tendency, not towards pride, but towards this weird and horrible humility.

Can we dare imagine that Chesterton was right? And if not, why not?

That kind of imagination is what the child needs, and it is that kind of imagination that results in human thriving, as noted by Leon Battista Alberti, the epitome of the Renaissance Man:

A man can do all things if he will.

Yes, that’s a bit overstated, but we have the essential ability to do amazing things, and if we thought and acted like it – thought and acted like Leon Battista Alberti – we’d do a lot more amazing things.

Why You Can’t

There are two reasons you can’t do anything at all. The first is simple: Nature stands in your way. No matter how much we imagine we can do something, if nature doesn’t agree, we can’t do it. We can work with nature to do “impossible” things (building flying machines for example), but we can’t simply violate it.

The second reason is also simple: Other human wills oppose us and stand ready to use violence against us.

This second reason is habitually cloaked in confusing and deceptive terminology of course, but the truth is that adversarial wills and their violence oppose us all.

What we lack is what we can call “a life affording scope.”

Limitations of our scope – weaponized wills set against us – have been colorfully covered by Reason magazine’s “Brickbats” section for decades, but the problem goes much farther than that. I’ll give you a few thoughts on that, then bring this column to a close:

Regulation forbids adaptation.

Obligation supplants compassion.

Only violent and corrupt human wills deserve restriction.

And one more, the “14 words” we used in a previous article:

We are a beautiful species, living in a beautiful world, ruled by abusive systems.

This is why I’ve been drawn to the cryptosphere. Our scope of life within that realm is not obstructed by weaponized wills.

It’s a special place.

* * * * *

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

Embracing Adventure and Danger

childrenOne of the worst things that has been done to children over the past generation or two has been insulating them from anything that could possibly have any danger attached. Parents keeping their children under permanent watch has become “what people do.” And it’s a BIG mistake.

I know why the parents have done this, of course – we live in a fear-based culture, and it has rubbed off on them. But the reason they have caved in to fear is not important – what matters is that they have harmed their children.

Children – at some point in their upbringing – need to confront danger; they need to explore; they need adventures.

At one time, parents knew this. It wasn’t too many years ago when parents let their kids go off into the woods by themselves, with rifles. If that was really so horribly dangerous, half of us wouldn’t be here.

Is it scary to watch your children walk into a subway station? Or out into the woods? You bet it is! But you have to do it anyway. Calculate the risks, pick your times, pick your spots, watch them from a distance if you must, but let them go out and face the world.

Remember, fear is merely an impulse, and it can be based on lies, distortions, or even on nothing at all. It’s a crazy thing on which to base your children’s lives.

A new German study shows clearly that adventure shapes the individual. As one of the researchers concluded, “Living our lives makes us who we are.” Your children need to live, and not merely exist inside of a fear-inspired bubble. The study also indicates that exploration and adventure not only affect personality development, but also brain growth.

I’m not alone in this opinion, of course. Here are two quotes from John Taylor Gatto, a home school advocate and one of the finest teachers of modern times (one of the most awarded too, ironically enough):

Sensible children do not wish to be incomplete human beings. And so, when you impose a stage theory of human development upon them, you are, in effect, tormenting them; you’re limiting their opportunity… Don’t be your kid’s enemy, because that’s not a kid, that’s your fellow human being. Be a partner, and enlarge their opportunities.

The easiest way to turn your kids into geniuses, by the time they’re seven, is just to front-load huge amounts of experience, including dangerous experience.

Like Gatto, I believe that the real dangers for your children lie in government schools, and even in private schools that function on the same model. Here’s what Gatto says on the subject:

Growth and mastery come only to those who vigorously self-direct. Initiating, creating, doing, reflecting, freely associating, enjoying privacy—these are precisely what the structures of schooling are set up to prevent, on one pretext or another.

Yes, I understand that people are pushed, economically, to put their children into public schools. If you feel like you’re in that position, make sure that you tell your children how the system is set up to condition them. Teach them that understanding is far more important than memorizing. Back them up if the teachers give them grief. Let people talk about you.

Your children should understand, very clearly, that teachers and principals are just average people doing particular jobs; that they are merely another neighbor to the people on their street. Some of them are good people, others are bad people, and a title is just a title – it means nothing more.

Teach your children to be bold, let them learn how to fall and rise again. Of course you want to let them encounter dangers slowly, and you’d never put them in positions to get truly hurt, but you should be nothing like the über-parents who surveil their children’s every move, in terror that poor little Johnny will encounter something that hasn’t been sanitized for his protection.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from John Taylor Gatto: something that applies both to schooling and the larger world:

After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.

Resist the fear, my friends.

Paul Rosenberg