“A man's natural rights are his own, against the whole world; and any infringement of them is equally a crime … whether committed by one man, calling himself a robber, (or by any other name indicating his true character,) or by millions, calling themselves a government.” - Lysander Spooner
On the one hand, it is inspiring to see such words of wisdom. On the other hand, if you consider the fact that those particular words of wisdom were said over 130 years ago, it can also be pretty discouraging to see how few people understand such basic truths, even today.
The concepts of non-aggression and self-ownership, even if described a bit differently and labeled differently, have been around for centuries. However, they have never been embraced by more than a tiny percentage of the population. And that makes it understandable for some voluntaryists today to imagine that the cause is hopeless, that people will never learn, that a tiny minority of the people will keep preaching peaceful coexistence, while the rest will advocate, and create, never-ending authoritarian violence. In practical terms, what good are words of wisdom and sound moral principles, if hardly anyone pays any attention to them?
If I may be so bold, I will tell you why the philosophy of voluntaryism (regardless of the name used to describe it) has been preached by a few for so long, while remaining unknown to most of the world: because all those great minds who so eloquently studied, pondered, refined and expressed the philosophical concepts … were remarkably bad at putting the message into a form that the “common man” would understand and embrace.
Specifically, despite all the eloquent and profound pontificating by individualist anarchist types over the years, few if any bothered to understand human psychology well enough to break through the familiar authoritarian paradigms of the well-trained subjects who surrounded them. Practically speaking, even the most insightful and correct message isn’t worth much when that message is hurled at a population that is, in one sense, not ready for it, and even psychologically incapable of hearing it.
(No, they’re not really swine, nor should you view them that way, but I couldn’t resist including this image anyway.)
Most or all of the voluntaryists I know—myself included—have had the infuriating experience of trying to calmly and reasonably speak to their statist friends and family members about the idea of a stateless society, only to have those otherwise rational and educated people seem to suddenly transform into irrational, emotional imbeciles. Suddenly the most self-evident moral principles, and the most basic lines of reasoning, seem to completely escape supposedly intelligent people.
And then, understandably, a lot of voluntaryists declare the endeavor to be hopeless, asserting that it’s impossible to get through to most people, and that no amount of evidence and logic will change their minds. In one sense, that is true: mere evidence and logic alone are rarely enough to change a person’s most fundamental paradigms. However, that does not mean that trying is hopeless. It means that people need to start trying using something more than just evidence and logic.
Having been an anarchist for over twenty years now, I’ve accidentally learned a lot about human psychology. More specifically, having talked to literally thousands of statists, I’ve had a chance to observe and learn a lot about how the human mind deals with cognitive dissonance, the weird, counter-productive ways in which the supposedly rational mind of man, when faced with a new and uncomfortable idea, can suddenly degrade into a blob of emotional, irrational mush.
More importantly, I have learned ways to get around that. No, they don’t always work on everyone, but they do work a lot more often, on a lot more people, than just flinging intellectual and philosophical diatribes at them.
To get to the point here, starting in May I will be putting on two-day seminars, titled “Candles in the Dark,” which are designed to help people who are already anarchists to become far more effective at communicating the concepts of self-ownership, non-aggression and voluntaryism to their friends, co-workers, family members, and so on.
For all those frustrated anarchists tempted to give up because you just can’t get through to most people, don’t. The problem is probably not that your explanations aren’t good enough. The problem is also not that other people don’t have the mental capacity to understand what you are saying. The problem is that there are huge psychological obstacles in their brains which keep them from being able to consider—or even being able to hear—what you’re saying. The good news is, there are ways get past that. The bad news is, waxing philosophical at them until you’re blue in the face is unlikely to do it.
Incidentally, the tricks and tactics I cover in the seminar have almost nothing in common with what I do when I am arguing with some random statist on Facebook, where I often don’t bother to be patient, or particularly polite. In fact, hardly anyone has seen me actually using the methods taught in “Candles in the Dark,” precisely because one important aspect to the approach is to not put unnecessary pressure on the other person by doing it in front of an audience.
I will, as time goes on, post more articles and videos about specific aspects of the methods I use, but for now, to learn more about “Candles in the Dark,” watch this:
The first two seminars are happening in Phoenix, Arizona (May 6th & 7th) and in Redlands, California (May 13th and 14th). Other dates and locations will be added as scheduling and demand permit. (In June I will probably do seminars in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and in late August one in Denver.) To purchase tickets, visit http://www.larkenrose.com/store/seminars-events.html (To pay by card on that site, choose the “PayPal” option, which later on will let you use a card even if you don’t have a PayPal account.)
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