What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea. --Mahatma GandhiThere is a new brand of Patriot on the rise in America. I call them the Distant Cousins of Liberty, a part of the Neo-Whig Renewal Movement. What are they up to?
Well, let's look at a little history and see what their forebears did.
Once upon a time--in 1773, actually--King George consented to the Tea Act. This act required that all tea shipped by the East India Company to the British Colonies in America be tainted with a certain toxin that only affected women and children. After a couple dozen of these vulnerable innocents (nobodies, really) died in agony because of poisoned tea, there was some nonsense talk among a few cowardly colonists who wanted to send that tea right back to England. Well, the "Sons of Liberty" would have none of it. They would allow NO TYRANNICAL HAND to interfere with their fundamental, God-given right to have tea! So they dressed up as Mohawks, hoisted their rattlesnake colors, and marched righteously off to protect the tea shipments from being sent away or spoiled by overreaching public officials.
And thus the Sons of Liberty were endeared to all liberty-loving American Englishmen on that day, and the cause of liberty was cemented in the hearts of all these soon-to-be-Americans. Precious tea had been saved! It was the Boston Tea Party. Perhaps you've heard of it?
Yes, indeed. Sometimes it takes just this sort of standing-up-to-injustice to set things right. People who would otherwise stand idly by will often spring into action and join a worthy cause if only the correctness of it is made very evident by a few brave patriots. Our own Distant Cousins of Liberty, against the backdrop of the most Whiggy NRA, have taken this power-play right out of the history books and are presently headed for nothing but pure success, make no mistake.
Yes, yes. I'm being facetious and making stuff up in a weak and silly attempt to make some point or other. I'm alluding to the gun-lobby, of course, and all of my pro-gun Facebook friends, of whom I'm so honestly very tired. I ought to stop looking at my Facebook, the gun-talk is so tiresome; and now here I am, ranting about it myself.
Who would have thought? Our nation experiences one of the most heart-rending tragedies in its entire history, characterized by the use of firearms against innocent children, and an entire segment of the population--one that fancies itself "God-fearing"--suddenly erupts into what appears to me to be a veritable orgy of gun worship! It's a reaction to the fear of imminent government regulation (the fear of losing one's religion tends to elicit an excessively worshipful mood), and it comes to us complete with profane statistics in the spirit of this one: "You dumb, wishy-washy liberals! Don't you know that a BAZILLION kids were killed by PAPERCLIPS in the year 2012? Huh? So then why don't we ban paperclips along with assault weapons?? Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk! Take away my idols, will you..."
Ah, the logic of the psychopath. It's insanity! What is this country coming to? A note to all you gun-worshiping psychopaths: All who have actual human feelings resent you now! You have convinced nobody who didn't already agree with you.
Which is too bad, you know; because you gun-loving psychopaths are right. I'm being serious about this one.You are absolutely right that our federal government ought to have no business regulating firearms. There, I've said it, and I mean it.
Of course, you're making it almost impossible for sensible people to see the truth of this, because it's oh-so-hard to agree with smug psychopaths. You're endangering your own cause. You are your own worst enemy and will likely reap the whirlwind. When your self-fulfilling prophecy comes true, and you find yourselves taking up arms against mechanized government forces, get back with me and let me know how that goes for you.
In the meantime, let me tell you where you went wrong (I know you're not listening. I'm only writing this because nobody will read it, and it makes me feel better). In the first place, you don't understand the U.S. Constitution (which you also worship), because you don't understand the Philosophy behind it. And I mean "capital 'P' Philosophy," not, "oh, this general beliefy idea which I totally get" kind-of-philosophy.
That's OK, most of the old patriots didn't get it either. They, like you, were men of action.
Here's the key: The right to means is not the summum bonum of this pursuit of happiness we're allegedly engaged in. Happiness is the reason for the pursuit of happiness. Means enable ends; they are not, in themselves, the end that we seek. Right? Freedom from tyranny is itself a means to greater things. This "negative," libertarian freedom is a partial freedom only--just one half of the picture. It is absolutely necessary, but if a second tier of positive, expressive freedom isn't presently reached, negative freedom becomes a danger to us and soon enough is lost to history. The window for achieving positive liberty is closing fast, and we'll know it's closed on gun-rights, anyway, when we begin to realize that we are more likely to be harmed by that which ought to protect us.
If we're always fighting for negative liberty, we are doomed; for the most dangerous thing in any civilization is that the people will come to love their means above all else. Take any means at all, say "capital" or "liberty" of the libertarian sort, and tack an "ism" on the end of it. Congratulations! You've just named a thing that, when put in First Place, becomes a civilization-destroying pathology.
What is positive freedom? It's civic virtue. It's the freedom "of," or the freedom "to," as opposed to the freedom "from." It's the realization that the reason why we don't need government regulation is because we have chosen to regulate ourselves in a way that we, as a people (a family? a community? Yes, a "society"), choose to express. It is hard work, it requires enterprising resourcefulness, and it is not suitable for those who are unprepared for it or unwilling to take it up.
Yes, you psychopaths correctly discern that the nation is in peril. We're a people in need of nannies and have been drinking deeply from nanny-curricula for decades. But what you don't see is that your own foolhardy way to counter this is hastening our demise, not preventing it.
What drunk people don't need is more of the stuff that robbed them of their senses. In America, we got drunk on negative liberty and forgot how to behave ourselves (Regulation? Never! YeeeHAWWW!). Well, if we won't regulate ourselves, someone with a heavy hand will rise up and make us behave! You'll see. That is just what is happening today, Constitution be damned.
The proper response when a gunman massacres our kids, dear psychopaths, is to mourn our lost children and to fervently and vainly wish, for a good long time, that we had never invented such weapons in the first place. We must begin to talk about how to responsibly protect our children, and maybe whether or not our Constitution affords them enough consideration as it does our guns. We should discuss how to make guns our servants, rather than the other way around as it stands today, so that we can actually get the protection we deserve from them instead of death and destruction. It takes mastery and civic virtue of a high order to prepare ourselves to deserve such powerful tools; and to teach this respect, self-command, and reverence for others to our children. It means that we really, truly learn how to bear arms. Then we must take that proof to the King and show him that there is no need for his foolish and incompetent regulations, because--look!--we have become grown-up boys and girls and have resolved to look carefully after our own, thank-you-very-much.
But this Libertarian blindness that sees nothing virtuous but negative liberty (Why, hello there, Mr. Hobbes! What's that you say? You always knew negative liberty is the reason why kings must inevitably rise up? What? You spelled it out in detail? How thoughtful of you!) is a scourge to this nation and will see us thrust into the chains of bondage. It is invisible, systemic evil, because it replaces the Good with a pursuit of the tools that may or may not secure it, and thus prevents goodness from ever being fully achieved.
Freedom from government is an easy thing to champion. It used to sound reasonable in the days when people elevated, say, their children above their means. What needs an advocate today is the freedom to become a decent and civilized, peace-loving people as opposed to a reactionary, weaponized society predicated on the fear of each other. We have the right to bear arms but are incapable of doing so, having forgotten what it means. Guns have become playthings, accessories to whim, security blankets to ward off fear; and any angry kid can pick up and wield the sort of power over living things once possible only to a small handful of absolute monarchs.
As our means approach in potency those of the gods, so must our exercise of positive liberty become more complete. If it does not, we will no longer deserve the protections afforded by our Constitution to preserve them. Civilization in a free society is about who Free people choose to be. As I see it, we are turning out psychopaths.