Usually in this column, we have some fun taking the lid off some current absurd conventional propaganda and offering a more rational view of things. There is, however, an underlying principle or philosophy behind it all, and sometimes people ask, Where does it all come from? - how come you have such a [brilliantly clear / original / thought provoking / stimulating / infuriating / outrageous / fill in the blank] perspective on such a wide range of subjects?
The answer is of course that I do, indeed, have a simple standard or principle by which I evaluate things that go on around us, and offer the results here week by week. Many others share it, and some call it the "non-aggression" principle: does an action initiate force? - then it's wrong, morally. Does it not do so? - then it is perfectly acceptable, in a peaceful society. Not beneficial, necessarily, but at least acceptable.
That's one good way to express it, but today I'll try another: the principle that underlies everything written here is that ofself-ownership . The question before the house is, who is your owner?
It's worth each of us determining our own answer to that, for it will will affect pretty well everything we ever do.
Each of us can consider: am I, is my life, everything that makes up "Me", properly under the direction of someone else, or is it Mine? Who's boss? Who has the right to make the decisions, large and small? - that one is my Owner.
Now, some earnest religious person may answer piously, "Oh, I belong to God!" Hey, wait a minute, not so fast. Let's leave aside the fact that the very existence of God is absolutely incapable of being proven, and suppose that He does actually exist. How, exactly, did that religious person come to belong to Him, is the sense that (s)he was using the phrase - a sense that means that non-religious people do NOT "belong" to Him? Answer: at some point in life, he or she gave himself to God; handed over the keys, as it were.
Now, in order for that transfer of ownership to have been valid, he must have had absolute self-ownership in the first place - for otherwise the transaction would have been fraudulent. Nobody can give away something he does not own! So, the more vigorously our religious friend insists that he "belongs to God", the more certainly he establishes that he originally owned himself.
"But," the earnest Christian may reply, "originally, God made us and so is our original Owner by right of creation!" - again, not so fast. You really can't have it both ways, friend. If we all belong to God because He made us all, then there's no particular, distinguishing content or meaning in your claim that you "belong" to Him. In that sense, on that assumption, we're all in the same boat. But you used the phrase in the very different sense that you had a completed a special transaction with the Creator that other people haven't; and you could NOT validly have done that if you didn't own yourself at the time. You will have to reconcile how, for yourself; but one hint is that the Creator may have made us all and then unconditionally "handed us the keys". Call it "free will".
Well, that's enough religion for one day. What are other possible answers? One common one that suits any fervent patriot is, "America owns me"; that is, "I live at the pleasure of the State, and for its wellbeing."
Can't say I've ever heard that, in so many words, but any ardent young Nazi would have said it, sixty years ago, citing Deutschland ueber Alles as the guiding principle of his life. So would any earnest follower of Marx, especially if it earned her more Brownie Points in the Young Communist League. And if we listen hard to almost anything almost any conventional, current US politician says, he is implying that all of us exist for the benefit of the whole of society (the State) rather than for our own, selfish ends. Recall for example JFK's heavily-quoted (and very sinister!) speech: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." In fact, I dare say that that is the most prominent theme in all the propaganda to which we are exposed in government school and by government-licensed media.
I'll just point out that this wicked lie (that individuals exist for the wellbeing of the collective) has in this century passed so much power to States that they have used it to slaughter scores of millions of human beings.
Well, if we don't belong to God or the State, to whom DO we belong?
It's not hard, see, when we think about it: each of us belongs exclusively to him- or herself. How else could we validly marry anyone, for example; for that too is an act of self-giving? How could we make any decision of at all? - the principle of self-ownership is really so obvious as to be what is sometimes called an "axiom", or a self-evident truth . And John Q Citizen would agree: ask him on the street whether anyone but he has the right to control his life, and he'll likely answer "Hell, no!" or with words to that effect.
Now notice what follows from it. If each of us owns himself, none of us has any ownership rights over anyone else at all. Not individually, not collectively. Not unless some person surrenders some of his or her rights (as in marriage, again) by explicit contract. So immediately we (rightly) assert that we own our own lives, we necessarily concede that everyone else owns his! And so, right there, you have a fully sufficient basis for a peaceful society, a fully adequate limitation on any inclination to bully someone else.
Now for some homework. Try writing down answers to the following, starting from the principle that you own yourself and have entered no explicit, specific agreement with anyone to surrender some degree of control. (1) Is anyone entitled to take any of the money you earn? (2) Is anyone entitled to tell you how to behave? (3) Is anyone now taking any of your money or dictating how you shall behave? And if so, (4) What are you going to do about that, starting now?
|© Copyright Jim Davies 1999|
Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.
The above is Edition # 153