I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but the other night as I was re-reading Ayn Rand’s classic novel Atlas Shrugged, I came across something that caused me to pause my reading and say to myself, “Damn, she’s describing me!” What stopped me in my tracks was a single sentence which said, “Reardon sat in his room at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, fighting an enemy more dangerous than weariness or fear: revulsion against the thought of having to deal with human beings.”
I have been asked why I’m so quiet when I am out in public. It’s not that I do not like engaging in conversation, it’s that I don’t like engaging in conversation over things I care nothing about. I have been told that my views and beliefs are offensive and radical, and that I should tone down my rhetoric and try to ‘just get along’ with people.
What has happened to society that any serious discussion containing the truth is deemed politically incorrect and that those who engage in such discussions are labeled as offensive or radical? Not to make this entirely about Atlas Shrugged, but throughout that book you will find conversations between the producers of goods and services and the looters and moochers, where the latter always end up saying something like, “There are no absolutes” or “Why do you have to use words like that.” I find it pretty amazing that a book could have so accurately described the state society would find itself in 5 decades after it was published; but then again, didn’t Orwell foresee the growth of Big Brother as well?
Anyway, the reason I don’t talk much with people can best be summed up by something I saw on a T-shirt design a few years back, “The reason I talk to myself so much is because I’m the only one I can have an intelligent conversation with.” I’m not saying everyone is stupid, but I am saying is that a great many people choose to discuss stupid subjects rather than subjects that actually matter.
I have a friend on Facebook who, over the course of the past 24 hours, has posted two things which tie in nicely to this discussion. The first was a post made yesterday morning that said, “What I learned this morning on Facebook:
One…I can provoke more discussion with a post about dogs than a post about guns, race, or politics combined.”
And the other thing my friend Bart said was, “I want to take a moment to specifically thank EVERYONE on my friends list who finds me disagreeable, my beliefs in TOTAL opposition, and my statements often offensive, but who still think enough of MY intellect and are confident enough in THEIR OWN beliefs that they don’t take the chicken-shit tap out, and boot and block me, and arent afraid to KNUCKLE UP (intellectually speaking) and DRAG IT OUT. I respect a fighter. And I DO NOT suffer cowards…”
I too feel the same way as Bart. I’d be willing to bet if I took a can of Van Camp’s pork n beans and opened it into a bowl, then took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook with a comment like, “Supper is ready”; I’d get about a dozen likes and possibly a few comments. But let me post a lengthy article that requires those who read it to actually think or one which causes them to question their beliefs and the silence is deafening.
I don’t know, could it be that some people just don’t want to think about anything serious anymore; choosing instead to focus their attention on trivialities over things that actually matter. Or is it that most people cannot back up their positions with any degree of competency in a serious debate; which leads me to Bart’s second comment.
I respect someone who I disagree with, but can support their position with facts of their own much more than I respect someone whose opinion is similar to mine, but can’t back it up with any facts. What I have found, and this is true with people I agree with and disagree with, is that those who have taken the time to research an issue, and I mean seriously research it, are comfortable enough in their position that they do not need to start hurling insults at those they disagree with.
I have had a few serious debates with people whose opinions I disagreed with, and after they ended we always agreed to disagree, but thanked each other for not resorting to name calling and insults. I truly think that the politically correct who hurl insults at those they disagree with, do so because they have no ammunition to back up their position. I believe they hurl insults because they are very insecure in their own beliefs and would rather insult someone than question their own beliefs.
But that is why I do not engage in a whole lot of conversation when I am out in public. I have found that it always ends up with them insulting me and I don’t have the time or the inclination to argue with people who refuse to deal in facts. It’s like the old Mark Twain saying, “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
My friend Bart mentions cowards, or cowardice in his second comment. Most people, when they think of cowardice, think of acts of bravery. But there is another form of cowardice that I believe is even more despicable; that describing a person who is unwilling to question their own beliefs. Again, I hate to make this all about Atlas Shrugged, but throughout the book you find the quote, “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”
If you are having a political discussion with a person who provides fact after fact after fact that contradict your belief, don’t you think it might be time for you to reevaluate your beliefs; or is that too uncomfortable a proposition for you?
There is a scene towards the end of the movie Jason Bourne where Matt Damon is holding a gun to Tommy Lee Jones and he says he’s trying to find a different way, whereupon Tommy Lee Jones asks him, “And how’s that working out for you?” I hear all these political debates among people and they always revolve around the premise that if their candidate gets elected everything will be okay. When I hear these type discussions I cannot decide whether I want to scream, or to vomit.
We had 8 years of the Democrat Bill Clinton, then 8 years of the Republican George W. Bush, then 8 years of Barack Obama. So I’ll ask the question Tommy Lee Jones asked of Matt Damon, “How’s that working out for you?” You do know that Einstein described insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result? Well that’s exactly what I see going on in this country; people vote for a Democrat hoping things will get better, and when they don’t they elect a Republican with the same hopes. When it doesn’t get any better they go back to a Democrat and the cycle keeps flip flopping back and forth.
You want to know what I find to be the scariest word in political discussions. I find the word bipartisan to be the scariest word in any political discussion because it means both parties are in agreement on something; and that typically results in some draconian law which violates our rights. Don’t believe me? Well, the Patriot Act was passed with almost unanimous bipartisan support, and the Patriot Act eviscerated the Bill of Rights.
Getting back to cowardice for a minute, I believe it is the ultimate expression of cowardice to reject facts simply because they do not conform to your beliefs. I know this may not be the wisest choice on my part, but I believe wholeheartedly in something Aleister Crowley once said, “The sin which is unpardonable is knowingly and willfully to reject truth, to fear knowledge lest that knowledge pander not to thy prejudices.”
There is an old saying I grew up having to hear over and over again, “Don’t put all of your chickens into one basket.” Yet isn’t that what people are doing when they place all their hopes for the future of this country into the hope that one good candidate from their party will come along and fix all the problems this country faces?
In 1775 the desire for separation from Britain had not gained enough support amongst the Colonists to become sufficient motivation for them to fight for their independence from the tyranny of King George III. Yet one evening, in a church in Virginia, a young orator named Patrick Henry stood up and delivered a rousing speech, which in part states, “Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”
What happened to that spirit which leads men to seek out the truth, that love of liberty that overrides all other Earthly concerns? How can anyone in their right minds believe that it is more important to be able to recite statistics from football games played two years ago, but not be able to identify the presidential chain of succession by name? How is it that people can sing along with hundreds of pop songs yet not be able to tell you what rights the Bill of Rights protects? How is it that people believe themselves qualified to vote for people to hold office in a government that the voters have no understanding of why it was established and what purposes it was to serve?
Ignorance is like a blindfold in that when you put it on you need someone to lead you around. If you do not know your countries history you cannot see how far it has strayed from the principles which it was founded upon. If you do not understand how your system of government was designed to work then you rely upon what those in office tell you are its powers; not the document which established it. If you are ignorant of these things you are easily manipulated and enslaved, and as Thomas Paine said, “When I contemplate the natural dignity of man, when I feel (for Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings) for the honour and happiness of its character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon.”
That’s why I don’t talk that much in public, it is because were I to open my mouth more often my disgust would become too obvious. There is another T-shirt design that I have seen that I’ve been tempted to purchase which says, “If you could read my mind you’d be traumatized for life.” While I don’t know about being traumatized, but if people could read my mind, I certainly wouldn’t have any problem with not wanting to talk to people; for be so angry they wouldn’t want to talk to me.
Most of the time, people choose their friends based upon shared likes. I choose my friends based upon how well I can count on them to have my back should I need it; upon how much competence they exhibit; how hard they work; how honest they are; and finally, how knowledgeable they are about things that matter to me. I didn’t say on how much they agree with me, for I have friends who disagree with my views. But I’d rather be friends with someone I disagree with who can back up their position, than friends with someone who agrees with me who can’t.
The Spring after our Declaration of Independence was adopted, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife in which he stated, “Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took such Pains to preserve it.”
I wonder what ole John Adams must be thinking now? Yet there is a remnant of the patriots of 1776 who live today, but we are ignored and shunned by the mainstream as being irrelevant or too radical in our beliefs. Although we’d like to see more like minded people, that’s fine with us. We believe as Jefferson when he said, “Our cause is just.” (Source: Declaration on the Cause and Necessities of Taking Up Arms, 1775)
We also believe as did Samuel Adams, “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
You see, it doesn’t matter if you agree with me, or even like me for that matter; I could care less. I care more about my liberty, and how your views will only lead to it being further eroded, than I do about having dozens of friends. And I guess when it all boils down to it, that’s what distinguishes a patriot from a slave.