San Diego – So just what will it take to convince you we are in dangerous times vis-a-vis our nations, its culture, its values, its morals, its very spirit? Well, interestingly, both major sides of the political aisle are in agreement with that assessment. The difference is in what to do about it. But this is not a new or particularly unique debate since it has been around not just for years but for centuries. That means that for centuries the history of our attempts to move from from being hunter-gatherers and throw away our species’ core nature in the bargain to becoming first agrarian and then industrial societies where civilizations and various forms of government have been tried, leaves us with a pretty good record of not only what works and what doesn’t but of the nearly inevitable progression from something powerful and uplifting to something mean and crushing.
It is not as if that history has been locked in secret vaults so no rascal can read and spread the revolutionary data to the masses; it has been out there and available from the the days of the Ancient Greeks and Romans down to the present. And now, with the internet, one need not have to sit at the feet of some master intelligence (usually self-proclaimed) to learn that saga. One need only have a desire and the most modest of typing skills to access that information. All of those great civilizations of history have reached a tipping point where the next step could save them or drag them to ruin. Some even made a correct decision at one time but failed to learn from it the next time. In the end, the story has come to the same conclusion and for startlingly similar reasons as nation after nation from Babylon to Britain has risen to greatness and then been swept back into the list of lost, or at best (and rarely), somewhat common place status unable to again achieve their former glory.
And then it was our turn to enter the lists and rise to a status even the ancients would envy. But I would argue that our tipping point is upon us. Some say it has passed and we blew it so why worry. Perhaps, but I’d like to think that the internal fire that ignited those people who came to, bled for, sacrificed for, and somehow, maybe by divine providence or the sheerest of luck at the assemblage of courage and intellect, created The United States of America is still alive in enough of us. No longer an open flame, surely, but perhaps still an ember that can be blown back into life.
Our country was founded upon the principle of FREEDOM as I’ve noted before. But what is freedom founded on and how is it maintained. The answer is that it is a product of individual and personal responsibility. Only that responsibility can provide us with true freedom and the ability to enjoy, as the document so eloquently states, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Only that responsibility lets us see clearly that the last phrase does NOT guarantee happiness; it only guarantees that we are free to pursue it as best we can.
The problem is, as it seems like it has always been, the citizens of successful nations quickly forget that their pursuit of happiness is not something created by the government, it is in them. Instead they come to think, after a period of soft sheets and warm meals that the government is in the business of providing the happiness itself. And they forget that the reward of what Maslow called “self actualization” — our highest level of human need — derives only from our own efforts and soon tire of the efforts and instead look to the government to simply provide for them… period. They have forgotten the heady euphoric rush of the endorphins that flow from a person following the success of prodigious effort and that the flow is proportional to the effort. And soon become content with just laying back, watching the tube, listening to brain numbing noise passing for music, and decide the only effort they want to expend is what is required to hold their hand out for the government to fill.
It starts with a few, perhaps even some legitimately victimized by others or blind-sided by life but soon it spreads to others who learn to use and abuse that noble largesse for ignoble self centered purposes. And then, like a cancer, the parasitic cry for “social justice” arises and, if voiced with sufficiently skilled rhetoric, sounds like a reasonable thing. The government food trough gets bigger and bigger. More groups decide to cash in on the handouts and marginalized segments of society grow as fewer and fewer are wiling to step back to the era of self responsibility. They protect themselves from scrutiny and evaluation with unions and political correctness… and grow in numbers. Whether it is the Goths, Vandals, and Huns at the gate or mobs of looters of both goods and spirit inside the gates, sooner or later the numbers reach a point to overwhelm the system already rotten and dying.
We hide behind the idea that it could not happen to us and deny that history has no reason to treat us any differently than it did the Pharaohs and Caesars. And like a cultural Oedipus who blinded itself after screwing the mother country, we no longer can see where we are going.
It is not as if there have been voices crying int he wilderness and trying to get our attention. In 1857 a famous British author and historian named Thomas McCaulay wrote the following lines
“The day will come when [in the United States] a multitude of people will choose the legislature. Is it possible to doubt what sort of a legislature will be chosen? On the one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for rights, strict observance of public faith. On the other is a demagogue ranting about the tyranny of capitalism and usurers and asking why anybody should be permitted to drink Champagne and to ride in a carriage while thousands of honest people are in want of necessaries. Which of the candidates is likely to be preferred by a workman? … When Society has entered on this downward progress, either civilization or liberty must perish. Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand, or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire in the fifth; with this difference, that the Huns and vandals who ravaged the Roman Empire came from without, and that your Huns and vandals will have been engendered within your country, by your own institutions.”
The Spriit that created this country and carried it to the forefront of civilization is not about government handouts, indeed not about government control. From the first Madison wrote that
“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
I would suggest that a simple mathematical appraisal of the state of our government today reveals that we have not obliged it to control itself and have, instead, facilitated and perhaps perpetuated its loss of self control and abrogated our right, our duty, of control over it. Are we willing to take it back? Or are we so desperate for being taken care of we will risk our country and our future for just a little more slop at the government’s trough? We now see a marvelously crafted attempt to do an end run around us to get more money from us for that trough and to diminish the role of enterprise where our self reliance and responsibility are demanded.
Is that really what you want for you and for your children? if so you will soon have a chance to support it or, if not, a chance to oppose it. While I still can, I am determined to oppose it. THe question for you is, who will you believe? Forget me and other writers on all sides, forget the politicians whose motives are increasingly suspect. But you do have a record to look at and its called history. So will you believe those who argue for a system that sounds warm and fuzzy but never once in history worked and never once failed to lead to tyranny and authoritarianism? That has a virtually guaranteed outcome.
Or will you decide that history is pretty clear and that the only way to get us back on the track of greatness is to reject the warm and fuzzy, reject the easy route, accept the individual and collective responsibility for yourselves first and then your country? The truth is if we turn it around this time we may only be buying time. But if we buy a generation or two then they can make their own decisions but at least we may leave our children a better place than we found; not a worse one.