We Have Undervalued Ourselves

undervaluedGrowing up, I heard lots of complaints from parents and teachers about children being conceited, proud, and arrogant. Looking back, it seems to me that most of these complaints were related to a failure to obey. We did have one or two kids who were arrogant jerks, but the rest of us received the same comments they did.

But whatever motivated the adults of my youth, they were mostly wrong – it’s not our overvaluation of ourselves that is the real problem; it’s our undervaluation.

Here is a passage from G.K. Chesterton’s The Defendant that makes this argument:

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.

I think Chesterton was entirely correct, and I think we have all been surrounded by, and influenced by, a “weird and horrible humility.”

Most of us, most of the time, fear making errors, think about our failures and deficits, and live in a sea of guilt. Not only is this dark self-image unnecessary, but it degrades us and is built upon falsehoods.

We are, since childhood, trained to view ourselves as dangerous creatures, teetering on the edge of error and harm. We absorb these ideas through what currently passes as “law” and by parts of modern religion… particularly the doctrine of “original sin.”

Even the definition of “good” is held to be “selflessness,” which clearly maintains that “self” is bad.

Bear in mind that I’m not saying all humans are good. Clearly, some of them are violent and vile. But these are a small minority, and we should not lump normal people in with them.

The System as It Is

The world system we were all raised in is built on the assumptions noted above: that people are dangerous, need to be controlled, and must be held in a permanent fear of punishment.

Furthermore, the system requires us to feel inferior, uncertain, and flawed:

  • Free, confident people don’t just obey because someone in a particular costume tells them to; they require a reason.
  • People who think on their own easily understand that when they are told, “The law requires this,” it really means, “Do this or we’ll hurt you.” And they also grasp that such statements are orders backed by violence, not reason.
  • People who are free from guilt do not feel inferior and do not automatically comply with authority.

Whenever it is that a significant number of people develop healthy psyches, modern systems of rulership, including “law and order,” will fail. These systems assume that they will always enjoy instant and unreasoned obedience. Once that changes, they will be ill-suited to survive.

Under the modern scenario of rulership, a truly healthy person is the proverbial “square peg,” and ruling institutions are the proverbial “round hole.” The two do not fit together naturally.

Other Views of Humanity

While my disapproval of doctrines such as “original sin” stands, it’s worth noting (for believers and nonbelievers alike) that this low opinion of mankind is not really a biblical thing. Consider these passages:

You are gods. All of you are children of the most high. (This was first spoken by David, then repeated by Jesus.)

You have crowned him (man) with glory and honor, and set him above all the works of your hands.

The noted psychologist Abraham Maslow found the same thing as Chesterton, by the way. He writes,

Human history is a record of the ways in which human nature has been sold short. The highest possibilities of human nature have practically always been underrated.

And as Maslow went about to study the healthiest and best people, he ran into another problem:

Even when ’good specimens,’ the saints and sages and great leaders of history, have been available for study, the temptation too often has been to consider them not human but supernaturally endowed.

In other words, human nature has been depreciated, and when a clearly good case comes along, it is promptly identified as being something other than human.

It has been an imperative that “human” must equal “broken and untrustworthy.” This is a false, degrading, and cruel sentiment; yet our current world systems rest fully upon it.

Last thoughts

In another passage in The Defendant, Chesterton writes,

Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelley, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.

If we could drop the dark images we hold of ourselves and accept credit for the good things we do, we would partake of pleasure without guilt, and we would have a greater capacity to experience beauty, awe, and wonder in our everyday lives.

Whenever it is that we come to understand ourselves and the true nature of the world, doing the right thing will cease being a burden. We will do the right thing simply because any other action would be stupid.

Give this some thought of your own, please.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

They We Just Don’t Get It

chessI got an email from a reader a few days ago, asking about something we’ve all faced. Here’s a snip:

It gets a little lonely sometimes. At times I feel a little resentful, sometimes just plain angry that so few people know or care to know about economics and/or philosophy when they are so important.

I’m sympathetic, of course, having felt similarly more than once. But, as I often say, perspective is key. We’ve all complained about people who “just don’t get it,” but the real problem is that we just haven’t gotten it.

We have grossly underestimated the kind of fight we’re in. We thought it was about economics and politics, but it’s much more than that. What we’re really fighting is idolatry. If that doesn’t make sense to you initially, I can’t blame you, but allow me to explain.

All Idolatry Shares a Single Root

We’ve all heard slogans like this one:

Why shouldn’t we take money from a billionaire who doesn’t need it, to feed a starving child?

After that, it’s almost impossible to make any argument without appearing heartless. And there’s a good reason for that: The slogan conveys a “first position” that is deceptive and manipulative… idolatrous, really.

This argument starts with an unspoken assumption that the state is beyond question and that any failures must be attributed to someone else. If there are starving kids, it could never be that the state was hurting them. Such a thought wouldn’t register.

Embedded in these questions (and in the minds that form them) is a complete certainty that the state always functions as the agent of good.

This is idolatry, the same as ancient people worshipping their city gods or medieval people holding their Holy Church above all question. In the same way, states are idols to modern people. The lines of thought are identical; the only changes involve the names of the idols – the entities that are given every benefit of the doubt at all times.

The state, our modern idol, steals half of what every working person makes. That means that people are stripped bare for trying to do the right thing. But there is no compassion for them.

And why is there no compassion for these people? Because it’s the state that is stripping them bare, and the state may never be accused; it may only be the agent of good!

It really comes down to this:

Whatever you esteem more highly than reality is your god.

In our time, the thing that is held above reality is the state. One may critique its parts, but the state as a whole is only questioned by crazy, dangerous people. In other words, by heretics.

What we are fighting is a different flavor of the dogma that kept medieval minds in chains. It may even be worse now.

Our Enemies Have Understood Better Than We Have

We’ve all seen people who are embedded in the state system fly into a rage upon hearing our ideas. We thought we were just talking about economics, but they acted as if we were trying to destroy everything they loved.

In other words, our enemies thought our ideas were more powerful than we did. And they were right; we haven’t appreciated what we have.

Governments are necessarily against human will. If they can’t make us feel that our desires and judgments are shameful, their entire operation stands in danger of collapse. Their game requires Joe Average to feel insecure and flawed. Our message rips that game wide open.

Our enemies were right to freak out, and we should start accepting the fact that our ideas are huge.

Big Battles Are Slow

We’ve been looking for a “revolution,” which means that we’ve been hoping for fast change, and have been disappointed when we didn’t get it. But those hopes were wrong – we’re not going to get fast change; we’re going to get slow change. If we don’t adjust our minds to that fact, we’ll remain miserable.

Our ideas are big, and our enemies have deep positions in the minds of our friends and neighbors. That means that most of them won’t change their minds overnight. I don’t like that any better than you do, but that’s the way it is. This is going to be slow.

But in this slow battle, we hold the winning hand, and our winning strategy is to work and to persevere. Forget about a fast win; that was a false dream. We must build, and keep building.

What to Do

Here are a few specific suggestions for dealing with people:

  • Rather than arguing words, show them what you’ve built.
  • Give people time to work through their issues. Plant a seed, walk away, and reengage later.
  • Don’t get into fights. If they ambush you, simply tell them that you won’t accept their tactics. Then walk away.
  • People close to you may be there for good reason. Give them time.
  • Remember that most people are confused and insecure most of the time. Offer them things that help, not hurt.
  • Find others who share at least some of your perspective, and work with them. If there’s no one nearby, join an online group.

Keep planting seeds and watering them whenever you can. For us, perseverance is the path to victory.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com