A friend and I were talking last night and he said something that cut to the very core of what I believe deeply but often fall short of being able to convey. The effect of what he said was so striking to me it was like having a diamond suddenly polished from a piece of coal before my eyes, revealing the essence of a single shining and translucent reality, or truth.
We live under a collective, where individual action and autonomy must be curtailed if it does not conform to the stated ideals and objectives of the group at large. What’s more, individuals are not free to live apart from the collective. You don’t have a choice.
The evidence, is that if you live within the bounds of a certain geographical region commonly known as a “Country”, then you can and will be physically forced and coerced into paying your “fair share” of the entire group’s operating expenses. Since the whole world is divided into countries, there is no use in saying “if you don’t like it leave”, as there is no where one can go that one would not be subject to the same collective force and coercion.
Think of the following analogy: I make an argument that soda is unhealthy and drinking it is harmful, to which you respond, “if you don’t like Coke (the best soda in the world), then you can drink Mountain Dew instead.” This misses the point. As long as there is no option outside of drinking soda then I am simply forced to continue drinking it, regardless of the fact soda is unhealthy.
Most sane, rational, intelligent, thinking and feeling people would rightly agree that using coercion or force to manipulate or compel someone into doing something they would not otherwise do of their own volition, is both an unhealthy and unacceptable way to go about life. Yet those same people – perhaps you are one – do not see how we could possibly go about continuing this grand, highly functioning (or dysfunctioning, depending how one looks at it) society that we have built under the collective guise of the “State”. (e.g. Russia, America, India, Eurasia, Oceania, etc.)
How will we build the roads if we can’t force everyone living in the same geographical area to pay for it? How will we have Hospitals, and Universities, and how will we feed the homeless and take care of the underprivileged children if we can’t force everyone to contribute?
While these are all very noble and commendable things, notice that you have already (hopefully), acknowledged that the use of coercion and force (i.e. violence) to manipulate others is not okay.
Therefore, by the very asking of such questions, what you are really saying, in effect, is this: I am willing to do wrong in order to get what I want.
It’s a very simple equation. While most of us may desire to have such things (roads, hospitals, care for the poor, etc), if the only way that we can go about getting them is through exerting force, and exerting a collective will to dominate any individual who does not go along and share in our particular desires, then just what is the value of having all of those things anyway?
How noble would the thought of buying a warm turkey dinner for a homeless man on Christmas Eve become were you to recognize that in order to make such a meal possible, someone somewhere was given a badge and the authority to put a gun to your neighbor’s head and forcibly extract the money used to pay for the turkey. Sadly, this is just how our society has been organized.
Are you yourself willing to put the gun to your neighbor’s head? How about to your best friend, your Mother or Father, Brother or Sister, or your own Daughter or Son? Because that is the very essence of what is happening when we agree to allow the collective to dominate the individual.
The fact is, I can’t tell you exactly how all of society would function and how all of these various services and amenities we now rely on would be paid for in a voluntary society, which is to say, a society that is based on individual choice and freedom, rather than on the power of the collective. I’m not smart enough to entertain the entire mechanics of such a society with all its various, nearly 7 billion moving parts, as some omnipresent, omnipotent Engineer could oversee the design and blueprint of some invention, because the world is not my invention. I don’t know how to invent a better society based on exerting my will over another in order to force them to go along with what I feel might be the best way of doing things.
All that I do know is that I desire, very deeply, to live a peaceful life, free of violence, and free of control, whether that be a desire to control others, or to have them controlling me. No good can come of it.
Frankly I would not wish to drive on a road if I knew that you, my own Brother, did not have a choice whether to pay for it, but were compelled to do so against your will.
I would regret having to be treated in some hospital were I to know that you, one of my best friends, had not volunteered to contribute to its construction, but that you were forced to do so against your will.
I would not feel so good about feeding and clothing the homeless were I to find that the food was stolen from your own cupboard, or the clothes pilfered from your own closet, at gunpoint.
How can I be satisfied at funding the education of the next generation when I know that the money to pay for it was stolen? Further, what kind of lessons am I teaching by my own actions, when I give my consent to such a system that perpetuates the forcible collection of funds through coercion? (a.k.a. robbery)
You might be tempted to say that the very fact we continue to live here in this “country” implies our consent to such collective coercion. I would point you again to the soda analogy above. Do any of us really have a choice?
For sake of further illustration, imagine you were born into a household where the entire family is threatened with rape or else being beaten and locked in a closet for several years by the master of the house should you fail to pitch in and do your fair share of chores. If you don’t like it, you can leave, and go to live in a another house where the same rules will apply. Would you so easily excuse the rape and abuse, by saying, “Well, little Johnny should have cleaned the kitchen as he was told. He sure had it coming”.
I don’t know exactly how all of the goods and services we may require for society to function will be paid for, though I strongly suspect that a truly free market (unlike what we now have) would offer solutions. I do however know without a shadow of a doubt, that violently imposing the will of a collective to compel the individual to act against their will is wrong, and I simply cannot allow myself to live that way, no matter what the personal cost.
We talk about Peace on Earth, and Good Will Toward Men during this Christmas season, or for those of other faiths, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or whatever you might be celebrating this time of year, and peace IS worth celebrating. But please do not be under any delusions. We – meaning you and I – as individuals, cannot be peaceful so long as we condone and continue to sponsor and support the type of society that forcibly compels the individual toward some collective ideal, no matter how noble.
Violence is Violence. Force is force. It doesn’t matter what pretty ribbons and bows you wrap around it, in the form of elaborate and ornate words, arguments, ideals, or justifications. These are all merely window dressing to cover the fact that you actually condone, tolerate, and even participate in violence to get what you want, to the extent that you favor the idea that the best way of organizing society is under collective rule.
If you see this, clearly – as sparkling and beautiful as the cut of a fine diamond – and resolve, fully, to stop tolerating the filthy coal of the collective stocking, then maybe we really can find Peace on Earth.
Commit to making peace a reality, as much as possible, in the interactions of your everyday life, with those around you, and it is no longer something far away that you wish for. Peace exists when you reject violence, without motive. That means, not rejecting violence simply because it serves some end, whether political, ideological, charitable, or otherwise. I don’t reject violence in order to build a better mousetrap, as they say. I don’t reject using violence because it will get me something bigger, better, or more efficiently than I could have otherwise by the use of it.
In fact, non-violence may perhaps even be less efficient and less expedient, but so what? Who ever said that life was going to be easy? Our lives are already full of difficulties. Would you rather have an easier, more expedient, more comfortable life, if it means condoning violence against your fellow man?
I am clear in what I want, not because it gets me anything in particular, but because I simply want to live an uncompromising life, grounded in genuine freedom, and personal responsibility, and to do that does not require that I force others to do anything.
If you are committed to peace, then there is no compromising, because to compromise to some end – for the sake of building roads, supporting the poor, playing god, etc – means you are willing to accept dominating others to obtain that end. It really is that simple.