Category Archives: Freedom

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The wisdom in this essay is life changing.

Some of you know it intimately. Some of you read it once and forgot it. Some of you were forced to read it in school,  just skimmed it, and it didn’t sink in. And some of you have never read it (tragic). So I have condensed this essay into what I believe are his most poignant entries, in the hope that you will read it right now. It is one of the most powerful personal development essays ever written.

While it is well over one hundred years old, you will find Emerson’s insight and wisdom timeless. It is uncanny how closely his message relates to current culture and events.

Change yourself and change the world.

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson (condensed)

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men- that is genius.

…always the inmost becomes the outmost…

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within… he dismisses without notice his own thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty… tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

We but half express ourselves, and we are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

Trust thyself… let us advance and advance on Chaos and the Dark.

Do not think the youth has no force because he cannot speak to you and me… it is that very lump of bashfulness and phlegm which for weeks has done nothing but eat when you were by, that now rolls out these words like bell-strokes… he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary.

An immortal youth…would utter opinions on all passing affairs which… would sink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.

The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of you own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.

I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.

I ought to go upright and speak the rude truth in all ways.

Your goodness must have some edge to it – else it is none.

Do not tell me, as a good man did today, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations.

My life is not an apology, but a life.

I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think.

You will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it.

The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible society, vote with a great party either for the Government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers – under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.

Nature is not slow to equip us in the prison uniform of the party to which we adhere.

For non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.

Why drag about this monstrous corpse of your memory.

Live ever in a new day. Trust your emotion.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do… if you would be a man, speak what you think today in words as hard as cannon balls, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it may contradict everything you said today.

Misunderstood! It is a right fool’s word. Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythogras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

No man can violate his nature.

Let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect of retrospect.

We pass for what we are. Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions and do not see that virtue and vice emit a breath every moment.

You genuine action will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly, will justify you now. Greatness appears to the future.

Do right now… the force of character in cumulative.

I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency.

Let us bow and apologize never more. A great man is coming to eat at my house. I do not wish to please him: I wish that he should wish to please me. I will stand here for humanity, and though I would make it kind, I would make it true. Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor moving wherever moves a man; that a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the center of things. Where he is, there is nature.

Let a man then know his worth.

That source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For, the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them, and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. We first share the life by which things exist, and afterwards see them as appearances in nature, and forget that we have shared their cause. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom, and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams.

Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed.

If I see a trait, my children will see it after me, and in course of time, all mankind, — although it may chance that no one has seen it before me. For my perception of it is as much a fact as the sun.

It must be that when God speaketh he should communicate, not one thing, but all things.

Whenever a mind is simple, and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away, — means, teachers, texts, temple
s
fall.

In the universal miracle, petty and particular miracles disappear.

Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fullness and completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes, but the soul is light; where it is, is day; where it was, is night.

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are.

But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak.

When a man lives with God, his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook and the rustle of the corn.

All that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition.

Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes; for that for ever degrades the past, turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to a shame, confounds the saint with the rogue.

To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies, because it works and is. Who has more obedience than I masters me.

But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other men.

Why should we assume the faults of our friend, or wife, or father, or child, because they sit around our hearth, or are said to have the same blood? All men have my blood, and I have all men’s.

The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.

I obey no law less than the eternal law.

I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints.

It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth.

You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last.

I cannot sell my liberty and my power.

All persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth.

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. We want men and women who shall renovate life and our social state, but we see that most natures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force, and do lean and beg day and night continually.

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

With the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear.

It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views.

As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg.

Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to be repaired.

The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide… our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

My giant goes with me wherever I go.

Traveling is a fool’s paradise.

The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate; and what is imitation but the traveling of the mind?

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation.

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington.

The great man imitates in the original crisis when he performs a great act, I will tell him who else than himself can teach him. Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.

All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves.

Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual changes; it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is christianized, it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amelioration. For every thing that is given, something is taken.

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle.

In Christendom where is the Christian?

Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not. The same particle does not rise from the valley to the ridge. Its unity is only phenomenal. The persons who make up a nation to-day, next year die, and their experience with them.

And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.

Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long…they have come to esteem…civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.

But that which a man is does always by necessity acquire, and what the man acquires is living property, which does not wait the beck of rulers, or mobs, or revolutions, or fire, or storm, or bankruptcies, but perpetually renews itself wherever the man breathes. “Thy lot or portion of life,” said the Caliph Ali, “is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it.”

Our dependence on these

foreign goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers.

He who knows that power is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head.

So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it.

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

What is a Waste of Time?

I was digging through some boxes of old stuff, and I noticed something fascinating… Something that provoked a question about life that I’ve never asked before.

I stumbled upon my old report cards. After each subject was a space for a short comment. Every report card from 2nd thru 12th grade had two words describing my performance – WASTES TIME.

So I guess my teachers thought I wasted a lot of time. Looking back I suppose they were right – for me school was a waste of time.

But then I thought… Maybe I’m wrong… Maybe they were wrong too… I’ve never thought it through… I’ve never asked myself the question…

What exactly is a waste of time?

I’ve heard people say video games are a waste of time. I disagree. Video games can be the best of times.

A woman told me that she didn’t want to go to the lake with her boyfriend anymore because it was a waste of time. All he did was sit at the end of the dock with his cousin lighting bottle rockets and drinking beer. It sounds fun to me. I could spend a weekend that way.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always thought sleeping was a waste of time – a third of your life doing nothing.

My mother told me, that when I was a kid, I thought eating was a waste of time.

My two-year-old thinks going potty is a waste of time.

Some people say working hard and losing is a waste of time. Funny, I’ve learned more losing than I’ve ever learned winning.

The establishment said voting for Jesse Ventura was a waste of time because he couldn’t win. In retrospect, maybe it was a waste of time because he did win. But there is a lot to learn from his wasted time in office.

The hyper-scheduled nature of today’s world seems like a waste of time to me. I avoid scheduling my life as much as possible. When my calendar is full it seems like I have no time.

For the last month I have been trying to schedule two hours of unstructured play for my son and his best friend from school and we still haven’t found a time that works. The realization that we can’t find two hours for our 5-year-olds to play together without scheduling it several months in advance saddens me.

Which got me thinking… maybe all the time we spend trying to get everything done is the real waste of time, unless what we really enjoy is getting things done.

Do you ever stop and think… Why am I doing all this stuff?

Do you ever feel like your sole purpose in life is crossing things off lists and maintaining your calendar?

Maybe if you aren’t enjoying yourself, all your time is wasted. All that time we spend bored, frightened, angry, in a hurry, or unhappy, isn’t that the real waste of time?

For me, the time I value, is the time I have free after everything is done. The time I can spend reading, writing, playing games, walking in the woods, lighting a campfire, canoeing, or conversing with interesting people, all with carefree spontaneity.

Wasted time is relative, isn’t it?

Maybe that’s why my teachers all said I wasted time, because if I spent my time doing what I thought was valuable, I wasn’t doing what they thought was valuable. So I wasn’t really wasting anyone’s time, they just thought I was, because they didn’t take the time to understand what I valued.

Tell me what you think? I’d like to know.

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Something Big is Happening

As many of you know, I used to be active in the Republican Party but when they talked about small government and liberty, their actions told a different story. Today, Republican leaders have grown the American government to an unprecedented size and are stripping us of our civil liberties at a frightening pace. While they still talk about small limited government, there isn’t a sliver of evidence that the current Republican leadership has any intention of reducing the size of government. I gave up on them and vowed to never support another small government phony.

But I still cared deeply about personal freedom. I cared about the future of America and the world. The political animal inside of me didn’t die. So I looked for a new political home. I knew there were hundreds of thousands maybe even millions of others just like me. Most of us stayed home on election day 2006 and the Democrats took back the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. The change of congressional power made little difference. After the 2006 election, congressional approval reached an all-time low of 14%

Until very recently, I planned to sit out 2008 as well.

Several months ago, I first heard about this long shot running for President, Ron Paul. But I didn’t think much of him. I’ve heard too many hollow promises before.

  • Then I heard his principled positions during the debates.
  • Then I heard he raised 5 million dollars in the 3rd quarter.
  • Then I heard he has refused his congressional pension plan on principle. Refusing one of most generous pension plans in the world, worth millions.
  • Then I learned that over the past 30 years he has voted for human freedom and liberty, never flip-flopping.
  • Then I heard lobbyists don’t even bother knocking on his door, because they know he isn’t for sale. 
  • Then I heard he is the top choice of US Military personnel. The troops have raised more money for him than any other candidate.

But I was still on the fence.

Then, last week, as Christine and I were watching Ron Paul on YouTube, I said to her, “This guy is the perfect candidate. I’ve never seen a guy this good. But I don’t want to get excited. He can’t win.”

She looked at me with the look. A look that says, quit talking like a fool – I thought you were smarter than that. And then she said, “Why not? Get excited. What an opportunity. Finally a guy we can vote for.” 

So with that kick in the ass, I jumped off the apathy fence and landed in Ron Paul Country.

The next day I went to Ronpaul2008.com and donated $100.00.

Two days later, I called Marianne Stebbins, his Minnesota campaign chair and volunteered to be a precinct captain.

A few days later I went to the Ron Paul Campaign headquarters and got a few bumper stickers and a lawn sign. That’s where I bumped into a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter. He noticed that I was an outsider, that I had just stopped in off the street with my family and asked for campaign material. When he asked me why I was interested in Ron Paul I said, “For me it’s simple, he is the only honest ethical man running for president. Not only that, I like most of his ideas. Did you know George W Bush has outspent LBJ? Hillary won’t be any better. If you asked me three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be standing here saying this, but it’s true, Ron Paul has cured my apathy. For me Ron Paul is the only candidate worth voting for.”

The day before, at work, I walked back to the shipping dock to talk to the guys about Ron Paul. When I mentioned him, they already knew about him. They agreed that he had a great message, but everyone said, “He can’t win.”

Thinking about that, I paused a minute, and said this, “If we keep telling each other this, we’ll never elect a decent candidate. If we don’t believe an honest man can win, someone with good ideas, we’ll never get an intelligent honest president. We’ll keep getting the same corrupt power hungry clones. We have to believe we deserve better than Bush, Giuliani, Romney, and Hillary Clinton. Do you like any of these candidates? I can’t believe anybody likes these guys. But for some reason we believe they are the only ones who can win. But it isn’t true. We get to decide who wins, not the media. Ron Paul is the best candidate for president I have seen in my lifetime. This is the guy we’ve been looking for. Don’t let the opportunity slip away because you don’t believe he can win. He can win, but it is up to us to believe it. The pundits said Jesse Ventura couldn’t win and he did win. It was guys like you that elected him. Ron Paul is ten times the man Jesse Ventura is. Don’t let this opportunity slip away.”

I don’t know if my little speech changed any minds. These guys are seriously jaded. And you know what? I don’t blame them.

Jesse Ventura was a major disappointment, but he showed us what was possible if you can turn out the young, the disaffected, and the apathetic.

A guy at work who has never voted in his life is on fire for Ron Paul. If the 30-40% of Americans who do not vote, voted, it would turn the political world on its head.

I have a brother in northern Minnesota who I would describe as liberal (in the American sense of the word). He’s into organic farming, alternative medicine, eastern philosophy, anti-corporatism, and a myriad of environmental and health related issues. When I talked to his wife this weekend (he was in the middle of BF North Dakota helping to ease a housing shortage) she said my brother had been researching Dr. Paul and he didn’t care if Dr. Paul was a Republican, he was seriously considering supporting him because something has to be done, the government has gotten completely out of control, and they’ve got to start listening to us. If my brother is supporting him, something big is happening.

So right now I’m telling everyone about a grass roots effort to get people to give Ron Paul a $100.00 donation on November 5th 2007. The goal is to get 100,000 people to donate $100.00 at ronpaul2008.com on November 5th. The result will be 10 million dollars in a single day, which would be an unprecedented event in the history of political fund raising. If we pull this off, the mainstream media could no longer ignore us. The best way to send a message right now is to vote with your dollars. Christine and I will donate $100.00 each on November 5thYou can register at this website to pledge your support for this event. But don’t feel you must register to participate. I haven’t registered, and I know a dozen people who have not registered that will be participating. The important thing to remember is to give what you can on the 5th of November. I will post a reminder on 11-5-07.

Dr. Paul will be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight 10-30-07. It is a great opportunity to see him.

I want my regular readers to know th
at
this blog will not become a “Ron Paul site.” But I may post occasional stories about my involvement in his campaign.

This is life. It’s happening right now. Don’t miss anything, click and subscribe.

What is the Montessori Method?

As many of you know, I am not a fan of the public school system, so my children are attending a small private Montessori school. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but now that my oldest son has been in Montessori school for 3 years, I may become a Montessori evangelist. I have seen kids who do not test as “Gifted and Talented” but perform at the mid-college level across all subjects by 12 years old – too many for it to be a coincidence. What is even more amazing is that these schools seem to produce an uncanny number of professional athletes and entrepreneurs as well. Kids are capable of far more than we expect from them and they are happier when we allow them to learn and grow unimpeded. I highly recommend you watch this story if you are interested in non-traditional educational choice. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Montessori is not a religion
  • It’s for all children – not just gifted or special needs children
  • The whole key to it is the children are in charge of their own process. The adults have to inspire them, guide them, but get out of the way
  • They are free to choose which activities to pursue and to determine how long they wish to pursue them. The adults in the room simply offer ‘demonstrations’ aimed at spurring the child’s interest
  • Montessori is about real work
  • To see that goodness in the joy in physical work and the joy in nature
  • They are not taught to regard teachers as ultimate authority figures and Montessori kids feel free to be critical
  • Montessori’s vision was really world peace

I look forward to the day when non-government educational choice is available to all children. The answer to our problems is not more government, the answer is more freedom.

A Message to Baby Boomers and Generation X

When I hear people my age (35+) rip the younger generation I usually keep my mouth shut. But I have something I need to say, so this is my public response to the people who think there is something wrong with young people today.

Let me tell you what I think about young people:

The kids coming of age right now are the greatest generation, and we don’t give them the respect and freedom we were given and it is shameful.

When we were young, our elders trusted us to drink at 18. In contrast, today, because of our own insecurities and fears, we send our 18-year-olds off to the deserts of the Middle East to be dismembered or killed and when they are lucky enough to return alive we throw them in jail for drinking underage. We have dozens of laws and regulations which apply only to those under 21. Laws that do not apply to us and never did, even when we were 18.

It is a testimony to their maturity and character that they treat us with the respect they do. The Baby Boomers rioted in the streets over this type of blatant prejudice.

Some have labeled today’s generation the entitlement generation.

When I hear you complain about the salaries they demand… I think… I wish I had expected more when I was young. Besides, have you seen the price of a home today? You want to sell your homes for a 300% profit, but you won’t pay young families enough to afford them, and then you cry about the housing bubble. Were you stoned in econ 101?

It’s time young people understand the value they provide. Who told them that the best way to earn money was to buy an expensive education? We did. And now they have high expectations and we criticize them?

I hear complaints that the younger generation isn’t loyal. Good. Why should they be loyal? They watched as corporations fired their ‘loyal’ parents and grandparents by the thousands in the 80s and 90s. Loyal to who? And for what? These kids aren’t stupid. They can learn from history.

I’m grateful so many young people – some just out of high school, others just a year or so out of college are thinking, growing, and changing the world, making it better for everyone, while building value for themselves and everyone else.

The Millennial Generation stands in sharp contrast to the last two generations.

We (the GenX and the Boomer generations) squandered the opportunities we had when we were young. Many of us acted like rich unhappy brats burning through mommy and daddy’s money at the amusement park and our excesses and stupidity led to the authoritarian nanny state we have today. Young people are the ones who are going to dismantle it. We won’t, because we don’t know how to live without mommy and daddy (Big Fat Government) protecting us and fixing everything we fail to take responsibility for.

When we cry about how we must protect children from the evils of drugs and crime, we project our fear of our own past onto a younger generation, a fear that they might be as stupid and irresponsible as we were, so we created a police state to crack down on rebellious youths, when we needed to crack down on ourselves.

I am from the older half of GenX (born in the 60s) and I have four older brothers in the boomer generation. My brothers grew up in a medium sized (pop 25,000) Midwest town and all graduated in the 1970s.

After watching Dazed and Confused, I asked my brother, “Was high school like that in the 1970s?”

He said, “No, I was a freak, and that movie didn’t scratch the surface. You saw the good kids in that movie – the jocks. I recall one morning in 1977 when a student brought two sheets (200 doses) of acid to school and sold them all before homeroom. That day was fuckin’ crazy.”

That was just one day, at one school in the 1970s, and it was happening from coast to coast. Cut to today – do you believe there are days when 200 kids are running around a medium sized Midwestern high school hallucinating on LSD? I don’t think so. If they are, I’d be damn surprised. Today, most of them are smarter than that.

Mike Males gives us the facts in his NYT column:

What experts label “adolescent risk taking” is really baby boomer risk taking. It’s true that 30 years ago, the riskiest age group for violent death was 15 to 24. But those same boomers continue to suffer high rates of addiction and other ills throughout middle age, while later generations of teenagers are better behaved. Today, the age group most at risk for violent death is 40 to 49, including illegal-drug death rates five times higher than for teenagers.

When I mention that you refuse to let your kids ride their bikes to the park, you say, “Things are different today. There are more crazies out there.” Yep, and the crazies are us. Middle-aged people are so riddled with anxiety we are eating Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac like Copenhagen at a rodeo. We are afraid of everything, and most of it is delusional. Some of us are screaming, ‘the Muslims are coming, the Muslims are coming’, others see pedophiles on every park bench, and the rest of us are running around like Chicken Little proclaiming, ‘the sky is falling.”

TV News and Talk Radio is creating your paranoid distorted view of reality. Turn it off.

If we’d open our eyes, we’d see that everything is getting better and safer – even our kids. Violent crime rates are less than half of what they were when we grew up and we have just raised the most educated generation in history.

When you write stories about how young people have a sense of entitlement, I want to shout – WHERE DO YOU THINK THEY GOT IT? We are the ones that think we are entitled to everything. Who invented the concept of the McMansion? I bet he wasn’t 20.

The kids aren’t greedy; we are. And to the extent they are greedy, they learned it from us. If you think kids today have a sense of entitlement, wait until the boomers are fully retired, then you’ll hear the collective whining of 30 million adult children who failed to save for retirement. After all, who ran up 10 trillion dollars in debt living beyond their means?

The next time you hear an adult complaining about how they don’t have enough money for this or that and how life just isn’t fair and how the government needs to do more, remember the last time you saw a child throwing a temper tantrum at the supermarket because his mommy won’t buy him a candy bar and you’ll know what you are listening to – the collective tantrums of us the most spoiled generations in history. I pray the Millennials shake their collective finger at us and say, “you are going to have to learn to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

I know some of you believe we will continue to slip into a dystopian police state because people can’t be trusted. I don’t share your bleak vision. I have faith that future generations will learn to take responsibility for themselves and others without delegating it to an army of tyrants with guns and cages.

In fact, I can’t imagine any other possibility and there is evidence that suggests our future is bright.

What do you want to evolve into? People who are ethical because you understand the self-destructive nature of corruption? People who understand cheating is cheating yourself? People who are good because you know it leads to good things for everyone? People who understand that peace and prosperity go hand in hand?

Pollyannaish? Maybe…

But contrary to popular opinion, humanity is becoming healthier, wealthier, stronger, smarter, kinder, and more ethical with each passing generation. Our shrinking world is making us better – our technology is making us smarter, and our young people are leading the way.

Neil Howe and William Strauss say the Millennial generation is in line to be the next “hero” generation.

They will live up to the expectation.

So listen to them, trust them, and get out of their way. They are creating a better future for all of us.

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Thoreau on the Neccessity of Selling Your Work

I’ve been listening to a downloaded copy of Thoreau’s Walden during my commute and this story stuck. If you can see past the 1840s cultural insensitivity, the story asks a powerful question.

Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood. “Do you wish to buy any baskets?” he asked. “No, we do not want any,” was the reply. “What!” exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, “do you mean to starve us?” Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off — that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed — he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man’s to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other’s while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one’s while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them. The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?

So I have to ask… how does one study to avoid the necessity of selling baskets? What do you think? What did Thoreau mean?

Happy Independence Day!

Tomorrow is Independence Day here in the U.S. It is a tradition to light fireworks, but in many states fireworks are now illegal. They are going the way of cigarettes in a bowling alley. An American staple now considered too dangerous for civil society.

I love fireworks. I love big ones, small ones, legal ones, illegal ones. I love ‘em all. I loved blowing the hell out of things with M-80s when I was kid – too bad those suckers are still illegal. I’ll be lighting fireworks tomorrow night and so will most of my neighbors. I can’t think of anything more ironic than a law against fireworks on Independence Day.

Peter Hartlaub writes a funny piece about Fireworks for the San Francisco Chronicle.

So here in the states – have a happy and free Independence Day everyone!

And if you’re going to shoot fireworks – have fun and don’t get caught.

What Do You Want, More or Less Freedom?

When we debate taxation, there are questions I never hear asked… and today I will ask them.

Warren Buffet points out an injustice in our tax law that allows him to pay as much as 22% less in federal income taxes than the middle class. He pays 17.7% while some of his employees pay 39.7%.

Obviously unfair, right? It should be fixed, right? So what is the solution?

Warren Buffet wants taxes raised on the rich and a Senate committee agrees.

So here are my questions:

  • Why not reduce the middle class tax rate instead?
  • Why does every proposal to create fairness and equality require that we crack down on those that have most freedom?
  • Why doesn’t Warren propose that the middle class only pay 17.7%?
  • How do you benefit if someone else has less and the government has more?
  • Why give the government more money? Do you think they are responsible with the trillions they already have?

It reminds me of a child tattletale saying, “How come Joey gets to do that?” and the teacher says, “Oh I didn’t notice, we’ll have to make a rule against that. Joey stop it.”

The tattletale feels smug, Joey lost his freedom, and neither is better off. They are now equally miserable. Not my kind of fairness… I like solutions that result in more freedom, not less.

What Can We Learn from the Paris Hilton Fiasco?

As the mainstream media fuels class envy and schadenfreude in the proletariat over Miss Hilton’s hysterics, I have yet to hear anyone point out what a foolish waste jail sentences are for petty crime. They do little to ‘correct’ people, do little to protect the public safety, are expensive, inefficient, and unnecessary due to technological advances.

Can’t judges be creative? Wouldn’t it make more sense to make Paris shovel shit at the police horse stables? Maybe she could do something useful like give old men sponge baths at a local nursing home. Serving 45 days in an overcrowded LA county jail for driving without a license clearly limits space needed for dangerous criminals.

How wasteful to fill our jails with petty criminals, when we can easily put them on house arrest using an ankle bracelet GPS.

The reverend Al Sharpton, who made it a racial issue, asks that Miss Hilton be treated the same way poor minorities are treated when they are sentenced for petty crimes. But, instead shouldn’t he be asking that poor minorities be treated like Miss Hilton? Instead of asking the authorities to bring the hammer down on her, shouldn’t he be asking our leaders to quit hammering poor young people for petty offenses? How does a Billionaire’s presence in the LA County pokey benefit the millions of poor people rotting in jail cells across our nation?

If this situation causes us to question why we keep throwing young people into these hellholes for minor rebellion, then it does serve a purpose, but if few ask that question, it serves no purpose other than to strengthen the police state.

Demanding fairness in sentencing rarely results in improvements for the poor. Such demands have resulted in mandatory minimums, sending our prison population to record levels.

In a 1990 landmark case in Minnesota, Judge Pamela Alexander (Word File) found that mandatory sentences for possession of crack cocaine were three times as harsh for 1/3 as much powdered cocaine. Since 90% of defendants for crack cocaine possession were black and 90% of defendants for powder cocaine possession were white, she found the sentencing guideline racist. I agree with Judge Pamela Alexander. But, how did the legislature remedy this injustice? Did they reduce the sentence for crack cocaine? No, they increased the sentence for powdered cocaine sending our prison population soaring. Did the poor benefit? No. Her victory did nothing to reduce the numbers of minority offenders sentenced to prison.

So what is my point?

Instead of taking glee in Paris Hilton’s misery, shouldn’t we use this as an example of why we should end this stupidity for everyone – rich and poor… and why we should ask for reduced sentences for all non-violent crimes – for all people – regardless of race or economic class. This – “Ha, good, the rich tramp deserves it. Lock her up” – thinking is how we got to this point – a point where we have millions of people behind bars.

Not only is the war on drugs and the war on terror erasing our civil liberties, there is also a war on young people, and Paris Hilton is simply the latest casualty. The propaganda machine just couldn’t resist.

If You Love America – Question Its Institutions

A recent reader comment provided an opportunity to share a few thoughts that have been bouncing around my head:

If you hate America and everything it stands for, shown by half your blogs, why don’t you just move to another country? It’s that freaking simple. I despise nothing more than people who complain about everything in America, yet refuse to do anything about it but complain on a blog. – Alex

Alex, I love America and that is why I question our leaders, institutions, and policies, because I believe in constant and never-ending improvement. America is far from perfect.

In regards to doing something… blogging, writing, questioning, and provoking thought is doing something. Change happens one person at a time. If you have an unpopular opinion, it is a good sign you are thinking for yourself and expressing that opinion is the epitome of what America stands for (well… should stand for).

I am assuming you will delete this comment as soon as you find it, but that’s fine with me. I just want to get my message across to you: If you don’t like America, that’s fine. But how about instead of bitching about it, just leave. That’s easy enough, isn’t it? Just leave. – Alex

I never delete comments because a commenter disagrees. Check out the atheists blasting me for this post. I only delete comments that are offensive or threatening.

Do I point out flaws? Sure, that’s how you improve something, be it a product, service, a system, or ourselves. For example, I am grateful to work for the company I work for, but I constantly look for opportunities to improve the company. In order to improve we must identify opportunities for improvement, which manifest themselves as problems. Free and open criticism is critical to healthy growth. In America, most of our problems are not due to hyper-criticism but due to myopia. If we stop questioning authority, we stop improving. America’s founders created this country by questioning and rebelling against authority.

Can you please explain to me how schools teach us to think destructive thoughts? I’m currently in school, and that is most definitely not the case. – Alex

Schools teach us to fear authority, which leads to authoritarian mindsets, loss of personal resposibility, and loss of self-control.

Mass compulsory schooling instills group think, cliquing, blind obedience, racism, and the emotional destruction of those that don’t or won’t fit in. If you want to understand what our school system teaches, read the Seven Lesson School Teacher and if that piques your interest read the Underground History of American Education.

Billionaires like Bill Gates are trying reform education by calling for stricter standardized curriculum, longer schooldays, longer school years, and merit pay for teachers. But this is just more “one-size-fits-all” thinking. Instead, we need the freedom to choose our own curriculum, the length of our school day, the length of our school year, and the teachers we want teaching our children. We don’t need dictates from Bill Gates or anyone else via government proxy.

In regards to Mr. Gates’ ideas…Why did we decide to emulate the Japanese model of education instead of the Swedish model? Why can’t we be free to choose? Why all or nothing?

So basically, because you were a failure in school as a teenager your (sic) blaming the whole public school system? You blame the public school system because you were a burned-out druggie and your wife had no friends? It’s not the schools responsibility to get you friends, I’m sorry. – Alex

Alex, I’m sorry to tell you that our stories are mild. For some students the results are far worse. And yes, I do think the institution is to blame. These problems are non-existent in homeschooled teenagers.

The problem with mass compulsory schooling is not the students, parents, administration, or teachers. The problem is the institution itself – it drives people crazy. Mass government mandated institutionalization always leads to abuse. Some people believe that we can just tweak a rule, increase funding, or change the standards and make the existing system work. I used to be one of those people, but today I don’t believe we can reform it. We must revolutionize it. And the best way to revolutionize education is to drop out of the existing system and create a new one. That’s what I have chosen to do. (I want to be very clear here… I am not advocating that kids drop out of school. I am advocating that their parents pull them out of government schools and in the process revolutionize education.)

I know dozens of people that were bright, happy, inquisitive children full of potential and were emotionally, physically, and mentally destroyed by mass schooling and they’ve spent decades rebuilding themselves. I’m one of them.

There are powerful people, who believe that success in school should be required for success in life, so they deny poor students opportunities. This exclusion is simple prejudice and like all prejudice, it damages everyone. But what is even more destructive is the millions of young people that believe (the lie) that they are doomed to “shit jobs” because school wasn’t a good fit for them.

Alex, it saddens me to see such a young man adopt the “love it or leave it” mind set that was so prominent in older authoritarians during the 1960s. But, regardless, I wish you the best in all that you do and I hope you realize your dreams.

On a positive note… many young people visit this site and are doing well in government school, but they see how the institution damages many of their fellow students. This comment from Kristin reminded me why I need to keep blogging.

I want to say thank you.

As a public high school student (soon to be a public high school graduate), I was first drawn to your post on America’s school system. Even though I am (apparently) one of those who excel in such a setting, everything you said is so true that I have passed many of your posts on my friends who have been encouraged by your words.

I am a regular reader even though this is the first time I have commented. You blog about both the way I live my life and the way I wish to live my life. I am strengthened and inspired by your knowledge and insight.

I know that my peers and I are disillusioned about the state of our country and hope that we can be the generation that changes things. We are sick of hearing from our parents and “authority figures” that we are being too idealistic when we express a desire for change and fuller lives. And we are tired of being told that we are “the most depraved generation to date” while nobody mentions our potential to be the most expressive generation or the most influential.

I know some very talented and motivated people with the ability and drive to change this country and this world. And my peers and I as a whole are disgusted with this country and lack the blind patriotism that has been the downfall of so many empires throughout history.

Thank you for being someone who is willing to write about the things nobody else will admit. And thank you for having more faith in my generation than the entire sum of our parents and teachers.

Kristin

Krisitn,

Thank you for the comment. I can’t express in words how good your comment made me feel. To have faith in young people is to have faith in our future, so I believe it would be foolish to have anything but faith in you. You will create the future no matter what you believe, so why not believe you can create the greatest future possible.