The Uniting Quest for Individualism

The goal of my work is to help human beings flourish. I want individuals to achieve their highest and best selves, but I also want humanity to unite under one common understanding. That understanding is that we are all individuals. Life is not a spectrum, rather it is a confluence of indivisible units. Every single human being is a unique individual. We are not small parts of larger groups. We are whole entities in and of ourselves. While we may be part of larger groups, whether defined by gender, race, geography, or sports team fandom, those affiliations are only a small part of our identity. Who we are is an entirely subjective experience, and it is only able to be understood completely by ourselves. The only thing that truly unites us all is the paradox that we have nothing in common except that we have nothing in common. We are all individuals struggling to define and comprehend the enormity of our own individuality.

How do you define yourself? Are you a morning person? A night person? A cat or dog person? Do you do yoga, or lift weights? Do you eat meat, or are you a vegan? Do you like to read, watch movies, or are you a TV junkie? Do you watch videos on the internet? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? These are all very small aspects of how we characterize ourselves in order that we are better able to relate to other people. However, even in these relatively inane categories, the deeper meaning of our preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla is really only understood by ourselves. The reason for this is that no one else has our tongue, its taste buds, or our brain. No other human being is capable of experiencing our subjective experience of the enjoyment that comes from that sweet chocolaty goodness. And, the only thing we have in common with other chocoholics is that while we all experience joy from chocolate ice cream, our experience of that joy is entirely our own.

Do you identify as part of a gender or racial group? We are all part of one whether we choose to align politically with those that share our designation and coalesce as a political movement based upon choices we were unable to make. The problem is, no matter how you identify, or with whom you align yourself, no other person can know what it is like to be you. Other individuals can empathize with experiences you may have gone through, and our emotions are similar. We all feel pain when injured, but only we can feel the pain of our own injuries and what that means to us.

We have the capacity to unite together in groups to advocate for our race, our gender, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the abused, and the huddled masses yearning to be free. We also have the capacity to unite for higher political ideals such as freedom, liberty, and justice for all. We can fight for equality of opportunity, or equality of outcome. We can go to war for capitalism or socialism, communism, or liberty. We can even riot together because our favorite sports team just won or lost the championship. No matter how we choose to unite ourselves in any given moment, the only thing that truly unites us is our individuality. No two of us are alike, and on that we must all agree.

Being able to express our own individuality is the highest purpose of life. I would argue it is the only purpose. We must understand and be able to express who we are as unique individuals, or we will never be happy. Being able to love, experience joy or sadness, feel responsibility or shame, and express pride or disappointment, are all aspects of our own individuality, and while those might be experiences worth living for, they are merely expressions of our own uniqueness as individuals. We may have a commonality with all other individuals in our ability to experience all of these feelings and aspects of life, however, what they mean to us and how we experience them is an entirely subjective experience all our own.

We are all unique and complex individuals, united only in our shared quest for individuality. So, the next time someone tries to characterize you as part of one group or another, using three or fewer adjectives to describe you, know that they are trying to put you in a box so they can easily dismiss you or control you. Anyone that does not recognize you as a unique individual wants to use you for their own ends. Anyone that does not want to let you flourish so that you may express fully your own individuality, is threatened by it.

A world full of complex and vibrant individuals, all expressing themselves peacefully as they see fit, is a complicated world to try to rule. This is why those that seek to rule you want to keep you small and collectivized into easily defined groups. People are easier to rule and dispose of when they are all just parts of one group. However, when you recognize that they are all unique individuals, they become very real, and very hard to justify their extermination. It was easy for the Nazis to kill the Jews, but Lenny your next door neighbor, he’s real to you, so killing him is hard. The bourgeois under Marxism, the Kulaks under Stalinism, and the poor under Mao all had the same fate. Those same broad collective groupings are appearing again today.

We are all categorized as white, black, brown, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, cis, trans, straight, queer, etc. etc. These categorizations seek to do one thing; strip us of our individuality. Without our individuality, we are not real, individual people, with real, meaningful lives. We are just part of the other. No matter how we identify, we are always the other to someone, and therefore, eligible for hate. Instead of identifying ourselves through part of a group, why don’t we quest to identify ourselves as unique individuals? If we united under the shared realization that we are all unique individuals in search of our own individuality, we might just find common ground upon which all of us can stand.

All Rights Are Positive Rights

If you’re not familiar with rights theory, two classifications of rights are said to exist, positive and negative. Negative claim rights came first, and they are called negative claim rights because they are considered to exist in absentia of other people. These include the right to life, liberty, and property mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States. These are considered negative claim rights because they do not require other people in order for them to exist. Positive claim rights, on the other hand, do require other people to be involved. These include, but are not limited to the right to healthcare, education, social security, and any other promised free handout a government wants to sell you. I cannot get healthcare without a doctor to treat me, and I cannot get educated (in theory) without an educator to teach me. This is why they are positive claim rights. In this article, I am going to argue that all rights are inherently positive claim rights. They are all derived from a positivist approach to legal theory.

There are two theories of law, natural law and positivism. Natural law is the idea that our conduct as humans is governed by an observable, objective set of moral principles. Murder, rape, theft, and deception are all considered crimes under natural law because they have an observable victim that has been harmed. These laws are believed to exist as gravity exists; they are a condition of reality. Legal positivism, on the other hand, believes that laws are socially constructed, are relative to the society that creates them, and are established by best practices within a given society. Under such a legal system, you have the right to free speech if and only if the law allows it. The only rights you have are those granted to you by the government.

At this point it would make sense to connect natural law to negative rights, and positivism to positive rights, and that is typically what has happened throughout most of our public discourse on rights and legal theory. However, rights do not exist. They are not a tangible part of reality. My water bottle and this computer are tangible. My physical body is tangible. Rights are not. They are beliefs held in your head, and sometimes they are written on paper. No matter their presentation, whether in your head or on paper, they require recognition from other people in order to be real. It is not a right that is observed when someone does not steal from you. You are witnessing a choice being made by an individual person. Choices are real, and actions are observable. However, the reasons people have for their choices are always up for debate. In any case, your right to life and your right to property are every bit as dependent upon the choices and actions of others as are your rights to healthcare and education.

Due to the fact that negative claim rights are as dependent upon the actions of others as are positive claim rights, all rights must be characterized as positive claim rights. Natural law does not require the recognition of rights, only the presentation of an aggrieved party. Also, anarchy does not require the recognition of rights, only the recognition of reality, part of which is self-ownership, something I discuss here.

Now, the argument can be made that natural law depends upon the actions and choices of others to recognize the suffering of the aggrieved party and act in a way to ameliorate that suffering. It can also be argued that anarchy demands that others recognize self-ownership. While both arguments are valid, natural law and anarchy require only that members in society live in accordance with observable reality. It is easy to observe when someone is the victim of a crime, and it is easy to observe self-ownership. In fact, one is using self-ownership when they engage in the act of observing. Determining when something is wrong, in the sense that it does not comport with reality or violates self-ownership, is like observing the weather; you need only pay attention. I would like to note here that punishments for crimes, justice, vengeance, and retribution are all positive acts and thus require a positivist framework within which to operate. These are concepts outside the scope of this discussion.

I do not argue from a rights perspective because rights do not exist, and the argument over rights is like arguing about whether or not a hypothetical rain storm will extinguish the fire that is currently consuming your house. So much time, effort, thought, and language goes into arguing and debating rights that in so doing we miss the very obvious wrongs being perpetrated by our governments and the people that run them. Taxation is theft. War is murder. Citizenship is slavery. Until we, as individuals, start recognizing reality for what it truly is, we are doomed to live a dimmed existence of our potential selves.

You Are the Variable

What is the purpose of a life well lived? What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of anything? Purpose denotes meaning, that there is a reason something happens. There is no preexisting reason you are alive. You exist. That is all. What you do with your existence is up to you. No one can give you anything you aren’t willing to take, no one can take from you anything you aren’t willing to give, and no one can show you things you aren’t willing to see. Reality is a constant, you are the variable, and you have the power to choose. You create your reality. Looking at a tree does not change the tree. I will remain the same whether you see it or not, but you will be different after you have seen the tree. What you do with that experience is up to you, because you are the variable. You change, and while you have the power to change the world around you, the greater change is always within yourself.

Let’s say you remodel your kitchen. What was it like before? It had some cabinets, a refrigerator, an oven, a stove top, counter tops, a sink, and maybe a dishwasher. What is it like now? It has some cabinets, a refrigerator, an oven, a stove top, counter tops, a sink, and maybe a dishwasher. It really hasn’t changed, at least not from what our concept of a kitchen is. Now, let us ask, how have you changed?

You went from being dissatisfied and possibly even distraught over the sight of your old kitchen to being positively elated! You love your new granite counter tops, your stainless steel fridge, and your center of the island stove top. You are so happy to be in your kitchen, and you love cooking in it. The chores that were a complete bore are now an absolute joy! Yet, your kitchen isn’t functionally any different than it was before. You could cook, do dishes, and feed your family just as well then as you could now. So what has changed?

You have changed. You took a reality you did not have control over, the original design of the kitchen, and you took control over it. You asserted your existence upon the kitchen. You have done this with other aspects of your life, but perhaps you weren’t aware of it. Every time you choose to change something in reality that exists so that makes you happier, you are asserting your existence. It is easier to do with inanimate objects, but it can be done with people too.

When you are in a relationship, whether with a friend or a lover, you assert your existence by stating your preferences and clarifying your boundaries. No matter how crazy of a story your buddy has, you don’t want him calling you at two in the morning to tell you about it. No matter how good the sex is, you will not tolerate an abusive lover. You do not have direct control over them in the way you do the kitchen, but you can control whether or not they are in your life.

Anarchy is the recognition that everything in the world is chaos, and we choose to forge from that chaos order. There is no meaning to life unless we choose to give it. Anarchy is the recognition of the fact that there is no reason why you are reading these words, unless you choose to give your action of reading meaning. What’s more, anarchy is recognizing that by reading these words, they will not change, but you will. You are the variable. Everything else in life is a constant.

 

What Is Politics?

A friend of mine recently told me that politics escapes her. Given that we recently had a presidential election in the United States, I thought it would be appropriate to take a stab at trying to explain the concept because it is clearly lost on many people.

The first thing we have to understand is that politics is the end of a much longer and more in-depth train of thought that begins with morality. I am going to define three concepts that all build upon each other, and I will start with morality.

Morality- The discussion and determination of the rightness and wrongness of an action based upon a universal standard of value. (See my discussion on morality here.)

Ethics- The discussion and determination of the rightness and wrongness of enforcing morality.

Politics- The discussion and determination of the rightness and wrongness of a system designed to enforce ethics in order to achieve justice.

These may seem esoteric and possibly difficult to conceptualize in these terms. So, allow me to simplify with an example. Murder is one of the most commonly cited morally wrong and universally banned actions, and as such, I will use it to explain how the action fits into my definitions.

When discussing morality, we ask, “Is murder right or wrong?” I think every person can agree that murder is wrong. Why murder is wrong is also something discussed in morality, and let me put it simply that murder is wrong because it violates the self-ownership of the victim. (Again, see my blog here for more.)

Now that we have accepted that murder is morally wrong, we must ask, “Is enforcing a ban on murder right or wrong?” As an aside here, you may be wondering if we should ask, “Should we ban murder?” The answer may seem a self-evident “Yes!” but for any detractors I will say this. What would be the point in determining if murder is right or wrong if you weren’t going to ban it on some level? Even restricting you own actions against murder because you know it is morally wrong is a ban on the act. If murder is wrong, and a ban on it is something we should support, even if only on a personal level, would it be acceptable to tolerate a murderer living amongst us? This would be a contradiction of morality. If a ban on murder is good, then people violating that ban are bad and must be dealt with. Thus, we establish that enforcing a ban on murder is right.

We know that murder is morally wrong and enforcing a ban on murder is ethically right, but how do we implement our ethical determination? This is where politics comes in. Politics is the engineering in a world where morality is the physics. What works neatly in theory does not always work with the materials available. Bridges used to be built with stone and wood, then brick and mortar, then steel, and now with steel, titanium, concrete, and computers. The materials improved and thus so did the bridges. The physics was always the same, but the engineering adapted to the materials. In politics, our materials are individual people. The physics is still the same; morality remains unchanged. The only way to improve our materials is to improve people’s understanding of morality and enhance their capacity to act upon that understanding.

Politics is like bridge building with rocks, bricks, wood, steel, titanium, and the occasional computer design; you never have enough of any one input to build a bridge perfect for your material, so you cobble together what you can where you can. This is pretty much why politics sucks. Imagine you are a piece of steel trying to justify the building of a bridge that you are capable of supporting, but you are talking to a bunch of timber, bricks, and rocks. Are the rocks going to be able work with you on that bridge? Most likely not. To dispel the idea that I am calling stupid people rocks in this analogy, think of it this way. How hard is it to build a bridge of rocks and stones compared to a bridge made of steel? When building with steel, the complexity increases considerably. With rocks, you just stack rocks until you get your bridge. Both are applying physics to meet a desired end, and one does it with far less complication. When discussing politics, you want to be the rock, not the steel.

To our idea of murder, how do we enforce a ban on murder in a way that does not violate morality while simultaneously achieving justice? Answering that question is the purpose of politics. The system devised is limited by the people devising it, implementing it, and to which it applies.

If the people devising the system believe that, while murder is wrong, forcible imprisonment is right, they might devise a system in which every single person is in solitary confinement all the time. Murder would certainly be stopped, but so too would anyone’s will to live.

If you lived on a world where the intelligent people were three feet tall and blind, while the aggressive and violent were six feet tall and had no compunction against murder, the implementation of any system the intelligent people designed would fail.

If all of the animals of the jungle were to try to devise a plan in which murder was banned, the entire ecosystem would collapse. The predators such as lions, cheetahs, and tigers would all die off as they would not be able to eat, and all of the prey species would overpopulate and decimate the vegetation, thus killing themselves off in the process. Trying to apply politics to that scenario would undoubtedly fail.

For humans, if we were all perfectly rational, well informed, and had a strong grounding in morality, we would have no problem building a political system out of rocks. Ideally, anarchy is a world in which the rocks work freely together with the rocks, the steel works with the steel, and whoever wants to build whatever wherever is perfectly free to do so because every participant is doing so voluntarily. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world, and few of the materials in our political metaphor understand politics, let alone anarchy. So, we are stuck building the best bridge we can with the inputs we have.

The Irony of Collective Individualism

Individualism triumphs the idea that humans should be evaluated on individual merits, not on the merits of the group to which they may belong. For example, a black man should be evaluated on his individual capacity to perform a job, not on the actions of the black people that destroyed Charlotte recently. This is a perfectly reasonable and good position to have. It is illogical to assume that every member of any group thinks the same way and has the exact same capacities, especially when that group affiliation is not freely chosen. The irony is that this line of thinking, that individualism is the ideal, requires a large collective of people, a vast majority, to value it in order for individualism to matter.

This can be plainly seen by the hatred toward white people and cops coming from the rioters in Charlotte and any other place Black Lives Matters shows up. The hatred, also known as racism, directed at whites by the black rioters is collectivism pure and simple, and no matter how much the white guy getting curb stomped in the parking garage values individualism, every black person there is beating his ass because he is white. The guy getting his skull crushed didn’t choose to be white, yet the color of his skin is the only thing the collectivist, racist, blacks care about in that moment.

The case for the cops is similar, but you still have the choice to be a police officer. There was only one police officer that pulled the trigger that killed Scott, yet all cops are being blamed, attacked, and hated for it. The vast majority of cops are good people, including the one that pulled the trigger in the incident as it was justified. Despite this, because there are a few bad apples, all cops are being demonized. This is also collectivism, and as a society that values individualism, we should not tolerate it. We have systems in place to evaluate when an individual acts inappropriately; we must have the courage to stand up for what is right and get rid of the bad apples.

When we evaluate every Muslim or refugee by the same standards of collectivism, believing they are all bad because they are Muslim or because they come from the Middle East, we are not living by our standards of individualism. Should we ban all Muslims from entering the country because some of the ones that come in may murder some people? Until we can find an adequate way to evaluate them as individuals, yes. Letting them all in because a majority of them are good is just as much collectivism as is not letting any of them in because a minority of them are bad. The difference is, you can only guarantee the safety of the domestic population by excluding everyone until you have an adequate screening process. Islam as a political ideal is a subject for another time, but it is a collectivist system worse than communism.

Given all of the different factions in our world attempting to establish dominance for their specific group, how are we as individualists expected to maintain our culture of individualism? This is where the irony comes in; we must form a collective movement. A collective movement of individualists is the only way we can advocate for our values and virtues. We must collectively work together to make sure each individual is evaluated as an individual, not as part of a group. This is not to be mistaken for the reality that a person’s voluntary affiliation with a group does speak to their character, however, it is not the only component, nor is it a disqualifying characteristic. We should not prevent a terrorist from entering our country because he is a Muslim; we should ban him because he wants to initiate force against the citizens of this country.

The idea of collective identity or collective organization can be a foreign one, especially to me as someone who takes great pride in my individualism. However, I know that if I want to continue to live in a world that values individuals, I must find likeminded individuals, and we must work together as a collective to ensure our ideals are achieved. Those of us that value individualism must work together not just for our own survival, but for the survival of our culture and because it is the right thing to do. I hope, like me, you are apprehensive about the idea, but I hope like me, you are willing to give it a shot. This fight is far too important.

Is Social Media Engineered Distraction?

Humans are social beings by nature and by evolution. As an individual, humans are not particularly well suited to survive. We don’t have sharp claws, massive amounts of strength, and we aren’t particularly fast. What we have is a cognitive frontal lobe that allows us to problem solve and create abstractions to better understand our environment. This alone, though, does not give us any advantage over a predator unless we can plan in advance a way to defeat the predator. What do we have then?

Humans are excellent at cooperating with each other. Together we can build traps and walls to keep out predators, cultivate land for a consistent food supply, and build houses and structures to protect us from nature. Effectively, we built civilization out of cooperating with each other. This cooperation requires us to be informed about the other members of our community as well as our own standing within that community. We have to know who is reliable and who is going to not shirk their responsibilities. We must also know how others perceive us; are we liked, do others find us dependable and trustworthy or are they going to kick us out of the group? Out of the necessity to be informed about the other members of the group and our standing within it, we have developed a hypersensitivity to social life.

In today’s world, we have the internet and social media; effectively social life on steroids. Not only can we keep up on the lives of everyone we went to high school with but on the lives of celebrities, politicians, and complete strangers. We are socially so well connected that our capacity to process and function in life is inundated at times. How much of your life have you wasted scrolling through your Facebook or Twitter feed? While it can provide necessary distraction from time to time, largely it distracts us from more productive activities. We could be improving our relationships with our friends, family, or significant other; we could be improving our knowledge base; we could be discovering virtue within our own lives and impacting the world. Instead, we are all consumed with what Suzie did on her last vacation, or if Terry from high school is doing as well as we are in social standing. The negative impacts of this on our life are evident, but I want to know if this detriment is intentional.

What if Facebook was designed to distract us from a failing economy, worsening race relations, international conflict, a European migrant crisis, potential currency collapse, chronic unemployment, and an international cabal of governments and corporations intent on constructing a supranational governmental body that supersedes national sovereignty and therefore individual sovereignty? I don’t think the original intent of any social media platform was to do just this. I think they were designed as a way to improve communication and provide a form of entertainment for internet users. I do, however, believe that the various platforms have been coopted for just the purpose of distraction and obfuscation of the truth.

When you see Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube actively policing posts or content providers for reasons that are clearly intended to silence their voices, and Google limits search results, the question of motives comes into play. When you have the owners of Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Apple all encouraging and supporting the United Nations, a supranational governmental body not beholden to any sovereign people, taking over the internet, you must ask why. Are these people technocrats that honestly believe they can use technology to reshape the thinking of humans? Do they believe they can control you if they limit the information to which you are exposed?

Yes they do. These people are no different from any other authoritarian in the past that has believed humans are flawed and must be reshaped into something better. Socialists, Communists, and Marxists all believed this. Proponents of the public education system believe this as indoctrination is the sole purpose of public education. If the government can control the information you are taught for twelve years, they can control how you approach any topic or idea for the rest of your life. Unfortunately for them, the human spirit desires to be free. Fortunately for humanity, those of us that desire freedom above all else are endeavoring to use every means necessary to fight back.

Social media is useful at distracting and controlling the sheeple, but it is also incredibly useful in waking them up. The phenomena of “Red Pilling” is something that was made famous in the movie The Matrix, and it has been overwhelmingly adopted across the internet thanks to freedom fighters and their use of social media platforms. People are waking up every day thanks to the internet and the moral virtue of individual freedom. Freedom is good and it is the best virtue to fight for. That is why it will win. The entirety of the world’s armies cannot adequately oppose men with morality on their side. Moral conviction is the strongest motivator within human action, so I ask you to take up the cause of freedom with me. Let us stand together as we wage the war for freedom all across the internet. No longer shall we let Suzie’s vacation pictures or Terry’s new car distract us. Let us be the content providers for how the future should be. Let us fill everyone else’s feeds the ideas of freedom, liberty, and anarchy. Let us espouse moral virtue as our guiding light so that others may find it and join us on this journey.  Together, we will achieve anarchy, we will achieve freedom!

What I Would Like to Know

We know that religions evolved all across the world in different cultures as a way to describe the things that could not be easily understood and as a way to codify morality among the people. We know that the races are biologically different. We also know that religions evolved to some extent along racial lines. We know that IQ has a biological component, although we do not fully understand what it is. What I want to know is to what degree genetics influences our cultures and our religions. Is religion an outward projection of our values based upon evolutionary pressures, is it an internal understanding of who we are as a race of people, is it some combination, or is it something else entirely?

We know that cultures are defined entirely by the people that inhabit them. Europe and the United States are very different from China and Japan, and different still from sub-Saharan Africa and South America. Christianity is different from Buddhism, which is different from Hinduism, which is different still from Islam. Christianity permeated Europe and subsequently the world from the proliferation of Western civilization across the globe, but when you look at pre-Christian religions in Europe, you find a different representation of the White man. Without getting into those specifics too much, I want to know to what degree are the Gods of these religions representations of the ideals of the specific races that created them. I also want to know to what degree the values of each of these religions reflect the innate or biological characteristics of the races that value them.

A recurring theme in all religions seems to be an idea of transcendence. Some religions describe it as the soul, and others describe it as a state of nothingness. While there are many different descriptions of this idea, its consistency across the races is indicative of our underlying unifying traits as humans. I want to know if there are biological underpinnings of this idea as they are so prevalent across the different races.

The last thing I want to know is the impact of IQ on religion and culture. We know there is a biological component to IQ, and given that the races have very distinct cultures and race is an effect of biology, to what extent does intellectual capacity impact the complexity, adherence to, and enforcement of religion. Take for instance that in Christian nations in the West there is large tolerance for other religions and even atheism, while in Muslim countries in the Middle East non-believers are put to death. How does intellectual capacity affect this, as well as if there is a biological component is something I find profoundly intriguing. We know the average IQ in the West is 100, while it is 85 in the Middle East. This clearly indicates that the intellectual capacity of citizens in the West on average is greater than it is in among the citizens of the Middle East. Is this entirely biological, cultural, religious, a combination, or something else entirely?

These are challenging and controversial questions, and I feel comfortable asking them because of the degree of freedom I have where I live. I know that if I am ever going to find the answers to these questions, I will have the easiest time in a society in which challenging ideas are not shunned or people that have them are not black listed. That is a society in which individual freedom and pursuit of the truth are the greatest ideals. That society is a state of anarchy. It is my hope in answering these questions I can understand what will be the most likely vehicles for bringing about a state of anarchy. Perhaps it is that anarchists are simply a different subspecies of people. It feels like it at times. Regardless, it is my hope that all of humanity can unite behind the ideal of human flourishing!

Freedom Isn’t Free

There are a number of misconceptions about anarchy, one of which is the idea that there are not consequences for your actions. This is false. Believing that government is the only arbiter of justice is an insult to the concept of justice. We have established that ethics can be derived rationally, so we can then rationally determine what constitutes a violation of those ethics and what might constitute a just resolution to the violation. As individuals capable of rational thought, we do not need one organization with a monopoly on force to tell us how to live or arbitrate disputes.

In our modern society, we are so conditioned to believe that the reasons people do not commit crime is because of the police that we lose our understanding of morality or our natural internalization of it. If police presence was really the reason for low crime, then in areas with the most police there would be the least crime. In fact the opposite is true. In white suburbia, there are maybe three cops that patrol localities of 30,000 plus people, and there is virtually no crime. There may be occasional property crime, but certainly no murders. However, if you look at inner city Chicago, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, there are hundreds, if not thousands of cops, and crime is rampant. Police presence is a symptom of criminality, not its remedy. So why then are the peaceful places peaceful and the violent places violent?

The answer lies within the people that live in the respective areas. The individuals that live in the suburbs are more capable and thus more apt to internalize morality. Earning money requires deferral of gratification, whereas stealing it results in immediate gratification. Earning money guarantees a steadier stream of consistent and potentially increasing income, whereas theft guarantees nothing. Earning money requires cooperation and respect of your fellow individuals, whereas theft requires only that your fellow individuals do not know you are the thief. If you have the capacity to rationally understand this, then you are far more likely to live in the suburbs, or a community of respectively low criminality.

In order for anarchy to succeed we need to live in a world where a plurality of people understand the aforementioned concepts and are willing to respect them. Thankfully, we do live in such a world. The majority of people, at least in America, do not commit crimes because they know they are wrong. Despite what your initial thoughts might be about your fellow citizens, if you put them to task, they will not steal from you, murder you, or rape you. In fact, they will most likely be as opposed to those ideas as you are. This is a good thing. It means we do not need to convince people of morality; we simply need them to recognize that most other people agree with and share their outlook on the topic. Recognizing this, all of the systems necessary to arbitrate disputes will arise organically. We have the power to thrive in a state of anarchy, all we need to do is have the courage to recognize it. Only then can we flourish!

Rights, Do We Have Them?

Definitions are important in order to ensure proper understanding. If I say my favorite fruit is an orange because I love the crisp crunch and bitter sweet taste as I bite into its green flesh, you are going to look at me like I am strange. Clearly what I am describing as an orange is actually a granny smith apple, and the concept of orange is different between the two of us. This is why the analogy of comparing apples to oranges makes sense. In my example, I am literally confusing an apple with an orange. This makes for very poor conversation, so I will always try my best to present the best definition possible for ideas I am discussing. That being said, I will now address the question at hand; do we have rights?

A quick Google search of “What is a right?” will return the following definition that is most pertinent to our discussion: “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.” When we think of rights, we think of the right to life, liberty, happiness, freedom of speech, to bear arms, and in more common dialogue, the right to healthcare or education. Let’s break this down a little bit. If we have a right to life, we are entitled to live, which means other people are obligated to not interfere with our life. This puts a claim on the actions of others. If I have a right to the freedom of speech, then others are obligated to let me speak in a public forum. If I have a right to healthcare, then doctors and nurses are obligated to treat me when I am ill or injured. A right, by definition, obligates others to affirm a claim I have as a living person. So, where do rights come from?

Natural Law would have you believe that your rights come from your humanity. You are a human being, so you are entitled to life, liberty, and property. This means other people are obligated to not interfere with your life or your freedom so long as you are respecting the rights of others, and to allow you to acquire property as long as you are not violating the rights of others. These are called negative claim rights as they do not require any positive action on the part of other people. However, these rights still place an obligation on other people. If you were on a tropical island with no other people, your need for rights would not exist as there would be no other people there. What about healthcare or education?

The United Nations has declared healthcare to be a basic human right. This means that other people are obligated to give you healthcare; doctors and nurses are obligated to give you care. Education is also often referred to as a human right. This means teachers are obligated to teach you. In fact, I would argue that if education is a human right, then anyone that knows more than anyone else is obligated to educate the less knowledgeable. Perhaps that’s why I’m writing this? I digress. These rights would be positive claim rights as they require positive actions on the part of other people. Doctors and teachers must intervene in your life and expend their time, energy, knowledge, and resources to give you something. This certainly does not seem just. Are we doomed then, to live an unjust life in an unjust world?!

That seems a bit hyperbolic, so let me put an end to this rhetoric of rights. Rights, as a physical entity, like say your shoes, do not exist. They are purely a construct of the human mind. Worse yet, they are a fabrication, and an elaborate one at that. Not only is the right to healthcare a farce, but so too is the right to life. There is no real difference between positive and negative claim rights as negative claim rights still place an obligation upon other people, even if that obligation is simply to do nothing but recognize that you are a person. At its worst, the right to life could be construed to mandate that all potential life has a right to life, meaning all eggs in a woman must be fertilized and granted life as a human. This would bind all living people to perpetually living for the not yet born, thus putting precedent on creating new life over living your own life. As rights to not exist, they are neither useful nor helpful in understanding our relationship with reality or each other. Instead of having a right to life, simply recognize that we exist, and any attempt to interfere with our existence from others violates the non-aggression principle. For more on that see my post, The Moral Framework. With all this talk of rights, who benefits?

Qui bono? That is the phrase we should always ask when unraveling a complex philosophical structure meant to deceive us. Who benefits from humans believing that we have rights and that they must be recognized and respected by other people? Why, those that enforce the rules for respecting those rights; governments and politicians. If I can convince you that you have an illness, and I am the only one with a cure, are you going to buy that cure from me? Of course you are! You get to feel better, and I get to take advantage of your ignorance. Governments have a direct incentive to grant the people as many rights as they can conceive of as those same governments will grow in size, scope, and revenue in order to preserve those rights. You have a right to life? Here’s a system to make sure people aren’t killing you. You have a right to property? Here’s a system to make sure people aren’t stealing from you. Oh, and we have to steal from you to pay for it, but we are going to call it taxation. What’s that? You want a right to healthcare? Of course! Here you go! You just have to wait six months before you see a doctor. You have a right to healthcare, but no one said you have a right to healthcare right now. Oh, and you definitely have a right to education. How else are we going to prevent you from thinking critically about any of our laws or your “rights” unless we indoctrinate, I mean educate you about them or how wonderful we are for providing them to you?

There is also the Positivist legal theory. This states that all rights are granted by the government. You can do only what the law allows you to do, and all power resides within the government to grant freedoms. You have the right to live because the government has given it to you. You have the right to speak as long as the government says it is OK. While this approach is more honest about the nature of rights, it is morally corrupt and logically inconsistent. To address the latter claim first, we know that ownership is defined as exclusive control over an object. In this case, we are referring to your body. If the government is the sole entity that can grant you the right to speak or move or live, then you are not the owner of your body. This is a contradiction of reality and it cannot stand. Governments understand this, which is why they use the threat of violence at the barrel of a gun to enforce their laws. This is also why this approach is morally corrupt. Enforcing the notion that the government has the authority to grant rights to people requires a violation of the non-aggression principle, and this is morally wrong. Positivism also fails to grant humans rights. So, what is the answer?

At this point, we can unequivocally say, “No, we do not have rights.”  Do you know the saying, “beware of strangers bearing gifts?” The government is one big entity of strangers, and the gifts they bear are called rights. Reject their rhetoric wholesale lest you get caught up in their convoluted mess of what rights you do or do not have and when, where and how. Instead recognize two simple truths. One, rights do not exist so you do not have them; and two, the ten scariest words in the human language are these, “I’m from the government, and I am here to help.”

 

The Curious Case of a Meaningful Life

Life is a series of random events. Your life has been a series of random events. You did not choose when you were born, who your parents were, or where you lived. You did not choose the house you grew up in, the school you went to, or the food you ate. You may have gotten to choose your friends, but that was limited by where you lived and what school you attended. As you grew up, you may have been able to express more preferences over the food you ate, who your friends were, the classes you took, or the extracurricular activities in which you participated, but you were still limited by the location of your house and your family, as well as their income. If you graduated high school, you may have faced the first real choice that was all yours; going to college.

Don’t get too excited, though, because like all the other events in your life, this one was not all of your doing either. The choice to go to college is dependent upon your intellectual aptitude, as is the college you go to. If you don’t like school, college is a bad idea, so you don’t go. If you like school, but aren’t intellectually gifted, Harvard is out of the question. Even if you are intellectually gifted, Harvard is expensive and may be out of the question anyway. You are also limited by your personal interests. If you love graphic design, going to a school that specializes in engineering would probably not be the best idea. Let’s say you do decide on a college that suits you, what then?

From that point on, all of the friends you make, and even if you find someone special and marry them, all depends on the fact that you chose that particular university. Let’s say you are a trained engineer upon graduation. You are not likely to get hired on somewhere as a Cold War Historian. Your current and future job opportunities are restricted to engineer, lest you get retrained or receive advanced training in a related field. You could also do something that is a far simpler occupation, like selling men’s shoes, but that would be far less money, so the choice is not likely to be made.

Did you find someone special along the way? Did you get married? Are you planning on having kids? The kids you have with your spouse are a random combination of your DNA, so even though you chose to have kids, you do not get to choose the kids you have. Did you choose your neighborhood, or was it the most affordable option in the nicest neighborhood outside of the city in which you work? Did you choose the route you take to work every day, or is it simply the fastest option given the outlay of the roads? Did someone cut you off on your way? Did they do this to spite you, or did they do it because they are a bad driver in a hurry? Did it make you late to work or cause a collision? These are all random events. You have some choice in the matter, but the vast majority of the circumstances surrounding your choices are out of your control. So, why am I bringing this up?

The human brain is a pattern recognition machine. It is so good at taking the randomness of our environment and organizing and codifying it to make sense of everything that when we see certain patterns or symbols regularly we stop consciously recognizing them. We do this with stop signs on a regular basis. If one said “Spot,” would you notice? Probably not. This is also why traffic cones and signs are bright orange; you are more likely to notice the change. But, how is this relevant to the topic at hand?

We like to believe that everything happens for a reason. The truth is, we ascribe meaning to all of the random things that happen to us. This is how we cope with a reality that is completely random and chaotic. We seek order externally, and we create it within our own lives. We have places for our dishes, our cleaning supplies, our clothes, our garbage, and even the rooms in which we sleep every night. We set up schedules so our bodies can operate optimally, and so we can interact with other people effectively. We eschew randomness at every opportunity. We even avoid people that are flakey and cannot show up on time or cancel on plans often. If you are like me, you have found that the more regimented and regular you can make your life and behaviors, the greater your functionality and chances of success are. These are choices I have made, and I value them. I have chosen to give them meaning.

Another, and possibly detrimental, occurrence when trying to make sense of our random world is to believe in a guiding power. God, or some other spiritual entity, has a plan for all of us, and what happens to you is what is best for you according to their plan. This is an incredibly dangerous mindset to cultivate as it takes away the agency you do have for the choices you make. If some supernatural entity has the control over the things in my life, then it doesn’t matter what choices I make. Everything happens for a reason, and it is all according to his plan. So, I will just go along for the ride. We become passengers in our own lives. I would argue this leads to a great deal of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. While we may not have complete control over our lives, there is great power and self-satisfaction in knowing we have the capacity to make the best possible choices for ourselves within the circumstances before us. Let that empower you.

As we progress through the randomness of life, remember, anything that has meaning in our lives does so because we have chosen to give it. A meaningful life is something entirely of our own creation. Take time to think of all of the people, places, events, and objects in your life that you value. Why do you value them? What is the meaning or significance they hold in your life? How have they changed who you are, and was it for the better or worse? How have you impacted the lives of others? Are you a meaningful person in the lives of other people? If you are, know that you are because they have chosen to make you so. We may live in a world of random events, but there is strength and power in knowing we have the capacity to choose how those events and people impact our lives. Use that power to make your life better. Give meaning to the events that make you better, and give meaning to the people that give you meaning in their lives and want the best for you. Your flourishing is within your own capacity.