There’s always something to howl about

Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3.0.1: You are ungovernable: Other people have power over you only because you have surrendered your own sovereign authority to them — and they can’t stop you from taking it back.

Let’s start with this idea: You are a sovereign soul. I have a lot more to say about the nature of the self, within this series of posts and throughout my writing, but, in a political context, this is the most important fact of your life: You cannot be governed.

All of human history, ultimately, is an attempt to contravene and negate and obviate this simple fact, and it is for this reason that every human civilization — so far — must be rated a failure. Some have been better than others, of course, and I sing the praises of the Greeks not just for what they did in the Hellas of old, but for what they are still doing all over the world. The Greek idea — each man has the right and power to own and control his own life and property — undergirds the best approaches we have seen — so far — to truly human civilizations.

And the United States — for a while — was the best-ever expression of that Greek ideal, the freest civilization ever yet seen on the earth. But like the polities of the Greeks before us, American society carried within it the seeds of its own destruction and the horrors visited upon you every day in the news are those seeds bearing their full fruit at last.

Here is the problem, for the government of the United States and for any would-be governor of human behavior: There is nothing I can do to cause or prevent your purposive actions. I can threaten you or beat you or tax you or imprison you or kill you, but I cannot cause you to do anything I want you to do, nor can I prevent you from doing anything I want for you not to do. You are a moral free agent as a manifestation of your nature as a human being, and there is nothing I can do to contravene or negate or obviate your sovereign freedom.

But wait. Isn’t it true, as Rousseau had it, that “man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”? Indeed it is. So how do we resolve the conundrum? Humans cannot be enslaved, and yet everywhere we look, humans are slaves — most of them bound by terms much worse than those we suffer under.

Emerson gives us the answer: “We forge the chains that bind us.” Human beings cannot be enslaved against their will. In the case of bondage slavery, your choice might come down to work or die, but you still have a choice. In modern America, your self-initiated betrayal of your own inviolable sovereignty is much easier to take: Just pay your taxes and affect to obey thousands upon thousands of idiotic laws, and you won’t be sent to prison. Doesn’t seem like much of a price to pay, does it?

I can’t speak for you, but that price is much too high for me. And the course of recent events argues that more and more people are waking up to the idea that they don’t want government, at least, controlling so much of their lives.

But the war on your sovereignty did not start with government. Dig into any religion and you’ll find a profound hatred for your life, for your self and for its autonomy. As with governments, some religions are worse, in this respect, than others, but what every religion seeks is your voluntary submission of your own inviolable sovereignty — your free will — to the object of worship. You are called upon to deny your own mind and to accept apocrypha, divination and received doctrine as substitutes for reason. And you are called upon to denounce and renounce your life as you actually live it in praise and reverence for attested virtues that would result in your immediate demise, should you try to live as you are commanded by your faith to live. This is the political power religions have held over innocent people forever: If you accept the doctrine, you must condemn your own life. To stay alive, you must commit sins by your own standards, and yet the only life you yourself regard as being worthy of your love, honor, devotion, adoration — the only life you can worship unashamedly — is the one that allegedly commences after you are dead.

Governments have always envied the near-perfect power religions have over faithful people, but they came up with their own secret sauce in the form of altruism. People use that word to mean behaving kindly or charitably, but, at the same time, everyone understands its true meaning: Selflessness. In this respect, altruism is the exact opposite of egoism. Considered as ontology, selflessness is impossible, of course. To be alive as a human being is to be a self, this before anything else. It is not possible to remain alive while behaving — even as a matter of pretense — as if you have no self. And that’s the source of altruism’s power: You cannot live a life of virtue, by the moral standard you have set for yourself, and so you come to be self-imprisoned by your own failure to live up to your ideals.

In either of these cases — and in thousands of other variations on this theme — it is your own mind you must renounce, denounce and enslave, this as the price of your own on-going survival. An ordinary thug threatens only your body and your property. You might comply, for now, but there is always the chance that you will rebel. But the high priests of religion and of the welfare state have nothing to fear from the truly faithful. Once you’ve adopted a doctrine that insists that you yourself are fundamentally evil — this for committing the crime of remaining alive, even though, by your own moral convictions, you can only be truly good by engaging in behavior that would result in your death — once the price of your on-going life is your own damnation of that life — then you are well and truly enslaved, and by your own hand.

Here’s the good news about every cult of self-annihilation: There’s always an escape hatch. Only the very pious feel themselves obliged to ruin their lives in pursuit of a self-induced religious ecstasy. Normal people can toss some cash into the offering plate and express a ritualized regret for their latest sins. And only the very guilt-ridden actually give up the lives they might have had in pursuit of a life in the service of others. Normal people manage to get along by writing checks and expressing politically-correct sentiments at politically-correct moments.

But here’s the bad news about every cult of self-annihilation: The more you fail to live up to the doctrine you profess to believe in, the more do the purveyors of that doctrine have power over you. You forged the chains that bind you, and however loosely you think you might bear those chains, you are still enslaved.

But here’s the best news of all about every victim of every cult of self-annihilation: The chains you bear are yours to break, whenever you want to. Not easily, I will avow, and I am not entreating you to abandon any belief you cherish. But if you want to be free, all you have to do is say “No” and your chains will be broken. Other people have power over you only to the extent that you yourself have conceded that power to them. Withdraw your consent and other people will be forevermore powerless over you.

A thug can push your body in the same way he can push a barrel or a mannequin. If he is strong enough, or if he has confederates, he can bind your limbs or gag or blindfold you. He can tie you to a tree or lock you in a cage. But without your consent, without your explicit, freely-chosen, on-going cooperation, no thug, no priest, no politician can ever cause you to take any purposive action.

Anything a thug can do to you without your cooperation, he could do just as easily and just as productively with your corpse or with a mannequin. The only thing that thug actually wants — the only thing your church and your government actually want — is the one thing than none of them can ever have: To control your behavior.

Only you control your behavior, only your self controls your behavior, only within the silence and solitude of your mind, which no other person can ever enter or even experience at first hand, and which no other person can ever take control of by any sort of direct manipulation. You are a sovereign soul, completely ungovernable by anyone or anything but your self.

This is why the thugs and the priests and the politicians have to hustle you into surrendering your sovereignty to them — because that’s the only way they can have it, as a gift from you. A gift, very probably, that you didn’t even know you were extending to them, and which you might have an urge to snatch back.

[To be continued in Part 3.0.2.]

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14 Comments so far

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Real Estate Feeds, Real Estate Ninja and Mark Risley, My REALTY. My REALTY said: Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3.0.1: You are ungovernable: Other people have power over you only because you have s… […]

  2. Sean Purcell July 21st, 2010 9:13 am

    You describe so accurately the goal of religion, politics and thuggery, but not why so many people would willingly submit to such nonsense. I’m sure you’ve already written on the subject, but my take: Fear. We were blessed and cursed with temporal awareness: our true “original sin” (to put it in a religious context). The knowledge of our own demise is unacceptable to our ego – to the inherent drive to live that is present in anything and everything that lives – so we are susceptible to the enslavement of others if only they will extend us and protect us. Of course they cannot, but as a species we have shown time and again that our fear of fear is greater than our love of self.

    You say that to be free is simply (though not easily) to say “no.” I’d rather see it as a positive: to be free is simply to say “yes” to our own truth: our own, temporary moment in time. Losing our fear is a true act of self-heroism and reveals our freedom.

  3. Jim Klein July 21st, 2010 10:41 am

    IMO Sean, this hits the nail on the head with regard to the motivation of those so willing to be enslaved…at least individually, which is all there technically is. It’s fear, period.

    Philosophically, it’s pulled off with altruism though, even as the connection isn’t so clear. Maybe the underlying assumption is that if you can value others over yourself, then whatever is making you afraid, doesn’t hold sway.

    Or maybe not, just guessing. The fear is so basic and obvious IMO, that it could be that Splendor nearly translates to, “overcoming fear.” After all, that’s how we open the door to ego-adoration…when we realize there’s not a power in the universe greater than ourselves, over ourselves.

  4. Teri Lussier July 21st, 2010 11:54 am

    >this is the most important fact of your life: You cannot be governed.

    Beautiful to see these words, whispered to myself for decades, echoed back in the writing of another person.

    I might be getting it.

  5. Greg Swann July 21st, 2010 12:25 pm

    > Beautiful to see these words, whispered to myself for decades, echoed back in the writing of another person.

    How old were you the first time you felt anger or resentment at being pushed around by other people?

  6. Teri Lussier July 21st, 2010 1:52 pm

    >How old were you the first time you felt anger or resentment at being pushed around by other people?

    Wow. I have to think about that. I’m sure as a toddler I behaved with petulance when told I couldn’t put my hand on a hot stove, but my childhood, I don’t recall anger so much as recognizing coercion it when I saw it and filing it away as what not to do when I become an adult. Although, that could be resentment, right? Public school- I did openly resent that, but, even then, it wasn’t the coercion that I resented as much the coercion without an equal ROI- I just wasn’t getting an education that was worth that much coercion.

    18 or 19- adulthood, I remember deciding that I’d had my fill of coercion as a learning experience thankyouverymuch, and I was an adult so there was no legal reason for me to subject myself to anymore of it.

    My recognition of coercion and my response to it grew, grows and matures continuously, probably since the time I was a pouting little foot stomper.

  7. Greg Swann July 21st, 2010 3:27 pm

    What about other kids, or adults other than your parents when you where very young?

    I’m just curious. My first conscious memories were of grievous injustices — not all of them done to me 😉 — and I wonder how much of the birth of conceptual consciousness is the expression of primal outrage.

  8. Teri Lussier July 21st, 2010 3:59 pm

    I was very independent minded, Greg, and introverted, kind of taking or leaving people and being comfortable with my own company. I don’t recall anger over coercion from any bullies or groups or adults. Except for school and teachers.

    But, also I simply don’t carry anger or resentment around. I’m very forgiving. Sometimes Jamie has to remind me of some injustice inflicted on us by someone, (“don’t give that business our money!”) I simply don’t keep score like that. Which, to me, makes coercion all the more evil, because I’m kind of easy going about most stuff. Live and let live. I’m not going to bust someone’s chops over minutiae. I just want to be, ya know, free. Interesting though, it has to come from somewhere.

    How much are you charging for these therapy sessions? 😉

  9. Don Reedy July 21st, 2010 4:09 pm

    Greg, Sean, Jim & Teri:

    Sean, you wrote: “I’d rather see it as a positive: to be free is simply to say “yes” to our own truth: our own, temporary moment in time.

    Got to be the voice calling out once more for voice in all of these discussions that believes (and probably for these discussions believes I can talk with some logic and reason to)the idea that we aren’t really temporary at all.

    I’m with you all vis a vis “religion”, but in all of these discussions I fail to see any credence given to the idea that we are (in a form not corporal) alive for all of time.

    In one of the strings of these discussions about self and splendor that Greg has brought to our table to discuss and delight in, I asked about God. Jim indicated God to be a “contrivance”, and offline I commented to him and Greg that I thought a reasoned exploration of whether the words “God, religion, faith, Christianity, Islam, belief…etc.” get in the way of actually discussing whether we do in fact have the capability of knowing only the corporal self, or indeed whether we may seek to discover whether there is a “self” that is without the constraint of time (eternal, if you will).

    So perhaps, either here or in posts to come, we could as a group entertain the idea that when Greg or Jim or Sean or Teri talk about “self”, that exploring the root of “self” (i.e. does “self” cease to exist at corporal death) is of paramount import if we are to explore Splendor fully.

  10. Greg Swann July 21st, 2010 5:20 pm

    > does “self” cease to exist at corporal death

    I know of zero reliable evidence to suggest that it does not.

    I try to be nice about this, not alone because I like a lot of religious people, but I do not accept any proposition that I cannot demonstrate as a matter of fact to my own satisfaction. That means I do not believe in all kinds of stuff: An afterlife, heaven, hell, astrology, reincarnation, telepathy, etc. If other people want to believe in these things, that’s their business. My own belief is that the people peddling these ideas are con-men — at best.

    Is it plausible that the self could someday outlive or even entirely escape the corporeal body? Definitely — by means of technology. Those are two possible forms the singularity might take. Lovers of political freedom take note: You cannot be coerced in any way at all if you don’t have a body. Sex might not be very good, though. 😉

  11. Teri Lussier July 21st, 2010 7:14 pm

    >root of “self” (i.e. does “self” cease to exist at corporal death) is of paramount import if we are to explore Splendor fully.

    I was with my beloved Grannie when she died. Just she and me. We knew she was close to death, but not when. My mother and aunt had been with her for about 18 hrs and they called to say they were going for breakfast and to get cleaned up a bit. My aunt is a nurse, she figured Grannie Rose had another day or so, but I didn’t want Grannie to be alone so I went, just to go and say good-bye privately and in my own way as she had ceased communicating with the world the year before.

    I’d only been there about an hour when I saw a physical change/presence/entity become present in the room and I don’t know how else to explain what I saw, except that it was light that filled the room, gathered “her” up and took “her” away- very gently and peaceful like. Remember all the old gospel songs about “I’ll fly away” and being carried away and being lifted? That’s what I saw.

    I’d never seen anyone die before. I hadn’t spent any time researching death or anything like that. I wasn’t looking for anything to happen, I didn’t really think she would die while I was there, but I saw what I saw. It was a few years before I even mentioned it to anyone- because it’s crazy talk!- but I found out it’s not an uncommon experience. I’m married to an engineer. I’m sure this could be explained away by logic and reason, but it’s faith, not logic or reason.

    So. I believe we all have the potential to be connected to each other spiritually after death. I also believe this connectivity is there as a resource for beautiful and good things right now if you want to tap into it- prayer is powerful righteous stuff- but you ain’t goin’ to hell if you pay it no mind.

    That was way more than .02 cents, but Don, I don’t think of Splendor without also thinking of that one last thing that, in death, Grannie Rose taught me about life.

  12. Curtis Reddehase July 21st, 2010 7:19 pm

    I am amazed at how the web gives each and every one of us a voice. This factor is new to the world of government and it will interesting to see how us this to follow different course than past societies. I can imaging the Greeks would be impressed with us. not just for technology and all the ways we are different now but how that technology gave voice to so many and how it allows the world to chose what voice they want to hear.

  13. Greg Swann July 21st, 2010 8:27 pm

    > the Greeks would be impressed with us. not just for technology and all the ways we are different now but how that technology gave voice to so many and how it allows the world to chose what voice they want to hear.

    I spoke about this at the first BloodhoundBlog Unchained. I should post the video from that session.

  14. Don Reedy July 22nd, 2010 1:34 pm

    Greg and Teri,

    Thanks for sharing, both of you. Teri, magnificent and touching account of a very intimate moment in your life.

    Greg, I’ll just say that as far as what we can know as living corporeal beings teaches me that you are spot on with your analysis of Splendor and self. And you are clear about why my question results in a “no” for you.

    I don’t think this is a forum for a discussion of religion, and I have said as much in my comments. I do, however, believe that this forum on Splendor is a conversation about potential(s), and how we may organize ourselves to benefit from those potentials.

    I wish I were more schooled in philosophy. Alas, my skill set here is relegated to my interest in these fascinating works and ideas, while my training is better aligned with the physical sciences. Such training and interest drove me to read “The God Particle” by Leon Lederman back many years ago. Click on the link, go to page 10-12, and read the section about the “Invisible Soccer Ball.” Because I, like yourself, have a heart to discover our potential and all that which is essential to our splendor, my studies have driven me to measure and postulate the existence of that invisible soccer ball. And as the Twiloans come to conclude, this invisible ball must exist to make the game make sense.

    Life makes more sense to me, and the splendor I experience will of necessity be of a differing nature than the splendor you experience, when I postulate without proof that the invisible ball actually exists.

    So the discussion here, from which I now make a graceful exit, is one in which I’m merely positing that the potential existence of the invisible [] is a potential source of splendor in your own life should you decide to explore that potential. I asked the wrong question (does “self” continue after death?). I should have asked, does the exploration of the nature of spirit or soul have a place in the pursuit of splendor?