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I recently had the immense pleasure of meeting Christian Michel, organizer for the Libertarian International, the Libertarian Alliance, and ISIL, the International Society for Individual Liberty as well as founder of the website liberalia.com.
It is not often, here, that I praise men, but I will do so in this case. Christian exudes both a deep-rooted self-confidence and a genuine interest in the people around him, their lives and their truths. To hear him speak of his travels, of his history and the history of others, of art, of his belief and of his loves is an education in what it is to be a human being. That he does this with neither pretension nor hyperbole is a testament, I believe, to his character. I do find him admirable.
During the Liberty English Camp last week, I heard him say something several times which resonated deeply with me, both for what the message contained and for tone and context in which it was delivered. Both because my memory is poor and because I heard several different versions of the same idea, I will paraphrase, with any necessary apology in advance if I distort Christian’s meaning:
I used to be a libertarian, and one who believed that liberty might be delivered through the action of States. Over the years, however, I have come to embrace a higher moral philosophy, and thus today call myself an anarchist without reservation.
Bravo, sir. Encore!
I have been reading and digesting a speech that Christian delivered several years ago, from the title of which the title of this post is derived. So long as we are to have State-mandated “education”, the entire thing should be made a rote-memory exercize for slavesstudents everywhere. Surely it less harmful than, say, what passes for a high school history curriculum in America these days.
A few glittering gems catch my eye:
Politics does not exist to eliminate violence but to legalise it.
Even in the Cold War-flavored, American exceptionalism-tinged milieu in which I grew up, I heard from an early age in school that “politics is the institutionalization of violence”. Here, though, the analysis came to an end, diverted from what might have been a valuable clarity of thought into a muddled and worthless utilitarianism.
Did you vote this year, last year? Were you able to ignore the blood on your hands as you did so? Or were you perhaps blinded by the dogma you clutched most dear to the blood’s very presence? Or, even worse, did you eagerly pull the wool over your own eyes, seizing the vaunted vote as that which might bring you deliverance in choosing which wolf might have you for dinner?
Democratic law does not say, “Thou shalt not kill”. Instead, it designates certain people who have the right to kill — soldiers and State police. Democratic law does not order, “Thou shalt not steal”. It says that only certain people have the right to steal — tax and customs agents. What does “power to the people” mean when the people enjoy fewer rights than their supposed servants?
Because I am a language geek, I shall go farther than Christian does in deconstructing the State’s (and the Bible’s) “thou shalt nots”. Thou, in archaic modern English, is the second-person familiar pronoun. It is cognate with the Spanish tú, the Slovak ty and many other Indo-European forms besides. The historical, linguistic sense of the informal construction is one of intimacy and/or condescension. We have lost the taste and meaning of it in modern English, and the missteps and awkwardnesses we face in communicating with those of cultures that have preserved the distinction are endless. The implication in using thou, or tú, or ty is that the speaker need express no deference to the listener, that he is either superior to or equal to the listener. In terms of the Biblical Commandments and the laws and institutions derived therefrom, the sense is always condescending.
Yet democracy pretends to put all of us on the same level. We gather periodically in celebratory binges to praise such sacred cows as “popular sovereignty” and “the will of the people”, but we still retain this disrespectful, condescending, patronizing thou. How is it that a group of free individuals get together and, by an act of collective decision, create a greater being, worthy of speaking down to us?
Michel speaks to the process:
[W]e still encounter magical practices today in our modern societies. […] We adore our idols. It is reassuring to believe that things we control, like amulets and charms, have more power than they really do. The institution of the democratic State is a remarkable example of modern idolatry. By ritually celebrating elections that are played out like a great social mass, the State allows us to participate in a religion that will influence the idol in our favour. If we make the idol an offering of the right ballot, it will bring us security, lifetime employment, a guaranteed pension, free medical care, environmental protection and a good school for our children. All these favours will rain down on us. We will not have to do anything to earn them. What could be more magical than that belief?
In closing, he gives us a formula:
The priesthood of government officials and its protégés are able to perpetuate their exploitation through this myth of the people’s political power upon which the democratic order is based. The best way to protect oneself from their violence, and especially to protect one’s soul, is to deny their basis for power. Don’t give it legitimacy. Don’t vote. Refuse to be part of their system. A just society will not be built from above by the magic of a good government, but from below by the emancipation of each individual, one conscience at a time. [emphasis mine]
With that, I bid you a safe journey on your own road to liberty.