The Declaration of Independence… Minus Politics

I’ll begin this post by admitting that I have an affinity for “declarations” and even for “manifestos.” Whether they be particularly good or bad, the people writing such things have invested more passion in these documents than most people have ever invested in anything. By itself, I think that’s worthy of respect. Right or wrong, the people who write such things are actively living… they are energetically engaging with herculean issues.

This world would be a lot farther along if more people had the courage and drive to do such things. It takes a lot of guts to write and publish a manifesto.

I further admit that I’m an ardent and long-time admirer of Thomas Jefferson.

And so, today I’m editing Jefferson’s Declaration on Independence. I’m really changing only one aspect of it, though it’s a significant aspect: I’m taking out the politics. And that, interestingly enough, leaves us with a document that revolves around morality and liberty.

Editorial Notes

Here are a few editorial notes on my version:

  1. As much as I admire the preamble to the Declaration (“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another….”), it’s about politics: nations separating themselves and so on. My version is apolitical. Like many others, I’m convinced that politics is, to use an American legal phrase, “fruit from the poisonous tree.” It derives from the practice of men ruling over other men, and I find that whole exercise degenerate.

  2. I’m ignoring all the complaints against King George. They’re also tied to politics, as well as being way out of date.

  3. Likewise I’m ignoring all the complaints about Britain in general.

  4. In order to keep the document pertinent to Americans, I’ve left the remaining text unchanged. That is, except for removing political material and doing some minor rewording around it, I have altered not a single word. I even left the old-style capitalizations in place. You can check the original text here.

This version, then, is shorter than the original. It’s also, and more importantly, an enlightening read. And it certainly should be for Americans, who tend to claim it as the justification for their way of life.

The Declaration

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That when any organization becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to separate from it, and to institute new arrangements, laying their foundations on such principles and organizing them in such forms, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that established arrangements should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such arrangements, and to provide new arrangements.

We, therefore, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of good people everywhere, solemnly publish and declare, That we are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent; that we are Absolved from all Allegiance and have full Power to conduct our own affairs.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

My Own Experience

My eyes opened to the Declaration in High School, where a copy of it hung on a schoolroom wall. I read the second section – “We hold these truths…” – and was awestruck by it.

My first impression, and a powerful one, was that this was the truth… that the ideas underneath this were the right ideas to live by… the right way to order my life.

My second impression, coming a second or two later from I know not where, was very simple:

No one believes this.

But whether anyone believes them or not, the core principles of the Declaration – the core principles of what’s written above – define a moral universe suited to all decent men and women. I think we should take it seriously.

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Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Specter of Suffering

SpecterSuffering

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.

An Illustration

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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Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

Get Ready for Adversity Now

adversityAdversity is coming. Get ready for it now.

I’m not pessimistic about the future, mind you, I’m optimistic. Once we get through the present transition (and presuming the world doesn’t descend into deep darkness), human life will massively improve. Our descendants will look back at our time as “the dark ages.”

All in all, things are going fairly well for us at the moment. The decade of government worship is falling behind us, the Internet remains, the NSA has been exposed as a criminal hacker collective, and Bitcoin has burst onto the scene.

Sure, there are the usual petty squabbles and distractions, but the younger crowd is learning to ignore them and to keep moving forward.

But adversity is coming. In situations like this, it always does. Forks off the main cultural line – which is what we are – are accompanied by problems from without and problems from within.

We’ve all seen libertarian movements and projects that shot themselves in the foot. For whatever reasons, that’s just part of the current landscape. We’ll see more of it.

We’ve had attacks from the outside also. And while the state is generally declining in potency, they still have millions of employees who are willing to authorize and/or use violence on their behalf.

Learn to Take the Blows

There will be blows, and they will hurt. I wish I could assure you that all will be sweetness and light, but I’d be lying.

The first big blow is rough. It leaves you questioning what you really believed. It may also leave you afraid for your own reputation, and even your safety. Probably the deepest issue is shame: a dread of people ridiculing you and casting you out.

I’m sorry that these things are so painful. None of them will be as bad as the first big blow, but we live in a screwed-up world at the moment, and these things happen.

Such things also happen to people who hide in the corner, obsessing over every rule and assuring their rulers that they love them. The difference is that they are given crowds to hide in – we stand by ourselves.

Then What?

Once you’ve taken your first big blow, you are left with a choice: What to do next.

You’ll have to make your own choices, of course, but I know I didn’t start caring about liberty because I was hoping to get rich out of it or to find the easiest path through life. I was interested because it was good and true. I wanted to learn and to grow.

So, if liberty is the better way, what else is there for us to do? Shall we try to forget everything we learned and recondition ourselves to passive state worship? Shall we go back to believing lies and repeating vapid slogans for the rest of our lives? Could we, really?

We are building a better world, person by person, piece by piece. What else is there for us to do? Should we deny our own minds because people think we’re weird? Should we disregard the value of lives because people are terrified of ideas that lack an official stamp?

Liberty requires you to value yourself. Shall we pretend that this is a bad thing?

Huge numbers of people are sure that leaving the approved path will call punishment down upon them. They are terrified of being different and doubly terrified of being different and better. Bad new ideas may bother them, but when a clearly better new idea comes along, they fall into an existential panic.

Jesus wasn’t killed for being a bad man, after all. He was killed for being better.

In the end, this is about living and thriving. Everything else is merely a means to that end. We’ve chosen life, and if we occasionally suffer for it, our only real alternative is to walk away from ourselves.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes, from Helen Keller. These are true words, and worthy of your consideration:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

To Freedom in 2014!

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com