Jews know how to suffer. Christians don’t, although they once did. Most libertarians don’t know how to suffer either.
While there’s no virtue in suffering itself, certain kinds of suffering are unavoidable if we want to change the world. (That is, to really change the world, not just to jabber about it.)
If you run away from suffering, anyone with a pin and a threat owns you.
Let’s be clear on this: Wanting to live in a new way opens you up to suffering. If you hope to avoid it and still attain liberty, you’re kidding yourself. It won’t happen. And to make this point very clearly, I’ll restate it:
Suffering is required; if you can’t hack that, stay home.
And while we’re at it, let me give you a few more stark statements:
If you care more about losing money than gaining liberty, you’re not going to get liberty.
If truth isn’t something you’re willing to be hated for, you’re not going to get much truth.
Entrenched hierarchies always oppose progress. They’ll want to tear down the things we build. If we can’t accept losses and rebuild… and then rebuild yet again… we’re not going to get past tyranny.
Please understand that I’m not endorsing masochism here; I don’t expect anyone to like losing money or to enjoy seeing something they built torn down. But if a negative reaction stops you in your tracks, if fear of “something going wrong” paralyzes you, please stay home until you’re ready to pay that price; you’ll only muck things up for yourself and others.
What Do We Value?
In the end, our willingness to suffer comes back to a simple question: What do we want and how badly do we want it?
We can “want liberty” or “want truth” all we like, but the ruling systems of this world don’t agree. More than that, they have millions of people who believe they are utterly necessary and their edicts must be obeyed without a second thought.
Furthermore, many of those people can be counted upon to enforce the status quo. Being different is punished in a hundred ways and in a thousand places, ranging from the subtle to the gross.
So the question remains: How badly do we want it?
Will being insulted at a cocktail party turn you away? Will the threat of losing a contract turn you back? Is putting your time and effort into something that might be torn down too big a risk? Too big an embarrassment?
If we can’t take such risks and more, we’re not ready to change the world.
How It’s Done
Changing the world requires that we hold our ideas of the good and right above the ideas of the world’s rulers. We’ll have to do what we think is right, regardless of what the world thinks.
Whether we’re believers or not, there’s a great deal to learn from Christians back in the early days, when they knew how to suffer. Jesus, as it happens, went out of his way to prepare them for just that, saying things like, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake,” and, “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.”
The early Christians avoided suffering when they could but took it when they had to. And they did change the world for the better. (You really should read issues #33 and #70 of my subscription letter.) Rome was built upon slavery, and the Christians eradicated it, pop history be damned.
Christianity, like Judaism, was never meant to be easy. A follower of Jesus was supposed to lead mankind “into the light,” thus angering those who remain in darkness.
As for the Jews, they’ve stood apart from centralized societies for thousands of years, making the world see a humane life outside of their precious boundaries. And for that, centralizers will always hate them.
Christianity was intended to continue that same model. And in fact it did continue it for some centuries.
To illustrate my opening line, that Jews know how to suffer, here’s a quote from my friend Joe Katzman. I think it’s worth some thought:
Judaism is like the Blues Brothers: “We’re on a mission from God.” It isn’t a safe mission, but it’s ours. Think. Adapt. Make your mission happen. Get back up. Keep. The. Faith. Oh, and you’re probably gonna be chased. A lot.
Those who wish to be better than the enforced status quo will have to start thinking like the early Christians once did, and as many Jews still do. We’ll have to transcend the specter of suffering.
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If you’ve enjoyed Free-Man’s Perspective or A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, you’re going to love Paul Rosenberg’s new novel, The Breaking Dawn.
It begins with an attack that crashes the investment markets, brings down economic systems, and divides the world. One part is dominated by mass surveillance and massive data systems: clean cities and empty minds… where everything is assured and everything is ordered. The other part is abandoned, without services, with limited communications, and shoved 50 years behind the times… but where human minds are left to find their own bearings.
You may never look at life the same way again.
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