Category Archives: hope

Lamentation For A Dream

“My hope (is) that we have not labored in vain, and that our experiment will still prove that men can be governed by reason.”
Thomas Jefferson to George Mason, 1791

It seems The Great Experiment has failed.

Two-plus centuries ago, the thing of greatest importance in the lives of most of the people that populated the Thirteen Colonies was their freedom. Freedom from the tyranny of the King, his taxes, and his church. Not a government sponsored retirement plan, not a government subsidized medical system, not government supported arts programs. They just wanted to be left alone. Even now there are those living in America who still long for the very same thing. Sadly, it appears that this longing shall never have reason to abate.

The founding fathers of this nation had as their goal the establishment of a republic characterized by limited (which is to say, minimal) government and maximum personal responsibility and liberty. The founders felt that the maximum amount of government should be the minimum amount required to perform only those tasks called for and authorized by the Constitution. These men took a very different view from today’s politicians regarding the scope and function of government. Over time the concepts and institutions imagined by those great men of vision have been corrupted and bastardized almost beyond recognition. Even the most liberal politician of the late 18th century would be shocked at the nanny-state that has taken hold in this country. What began as a nation of law has transmogrified into just another fiefdom of the mob, a land where elected despots mainline the nectar of personal power and worship at the altar of reelection. Power and position are maintained and the peasantry soothed by the indiscriminate opening of the public coffers to any who will trade their vote for a few dollars worth of consideration. The spirit of revolutionary independence that characterized the establishment of this nation is evident no more.

“The generation which commences a revolution rarely completes it. Habituated from their infancy to passive submission of body and mind to their kings and priests, they are not qualified when called on to think and provide for themselves; and their inexperience, their ignorance and bigotry make them instruments often, in the hands of the Bonapartes and Iturbides, to defeat their own rights and purposes.”
Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1823

The people of this nation will make halfhearted protestations affirming their love of freedom yet, each time the polling places are opened, most will dutifully enthrone (either through their action or inaction) the ones least likely to champion a vibrant and enduring liberty. Though the democratically elected lords and the obeisant masses will both offer arguments to the contrary, the United States of America has become little more than a neo-feudalistic society. The electorate labors obediently for their masters, hands outstretched in expectation of the largess their overseers have promised. And with each generation that passes through those government indoctrination centers that are public schools, yet another layer of habituation is instilled to insure the “passive submission of body and mind to their kings and priests.”

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
Thomas Jefferson, 1779

A benign tyranny truly has emerged in this country, the Tyranny of Indifference. The prevailing view is that the system is what it is and little can be done to change it. Those in control certainly have no reason to refute this belief, for indifference is the greatest ally of the power monger. Personal liberty and personal responsibility are mutually inclusive. One cannot exist in the absence of the other. Likewise, it should be known that indifference and liberty are mutually exclusive. Freedom must be in receipt of the constant stewardship of those who declare themselves to be free. As a garden is tilled and tended, so must the fields of freedom be nurtured and weeded of any growing thing that would overtake and suffocate the fruits of liberty. Be warned: as surely as day follows night, a benign tyranny will inevitably become a tyranny of violent oppression. When such a tyranny takes root there comes a point where the recourse of the ballot box is no longer an option. The only way to be rid of such a tyranny is to rip out its roots forcibly through acts of willful rebellion.

“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787

Freedom cannot survive where freedom is not wanted. It may be that most of the citizens of this nation truly have no desire for anything so demanding as an abiding liberty. Being free requires an effort greater than most are willing to exert. The few remaining souls who view personal sovereignty as the only acceptable course have a limited number of options available to them if they wish to continue living in America. The first is to live “under the radar,” shunning all but the most unavoidable contact with The System in an effort to outrun (that is, expire before the arrival of) the coming oppressive Tyranny. The second would be to attempt to win the hearts and minds of the indifferent majority to the cause of freedom. (A challenge worthy of Sisyphus if ever there was one.) The third and final option is the instigation of a revolution by force, a futile course of action doomed to summary failure. The overwhelming might of the Tyranny allied with the indifference of the masses condemns a Second Revolution to an end most wretched.

The most prudent course of action for those whose bones ache for liberty may well be the abandonment of the very laboratory where the Experiment failed. Unfortunately, if America is not free, the remainder of the world is even less so. Perhaps necessity may cause members of some future generation to go so far as to colonize the ocean floor in an effort to realize the dream of independence that has so far eluded humanity’s grasp. Wherever lovers of liberty may congregate there will forever be a need for constant vigilance. Freedom is fragile and will always require that its beneficiaries stand at the ready to rise to its defense against the minions of the kings and priests.

“Men can only be governed by reason if those men are reasonable.”
Billy Red Horse, 2003

©Billy Red Horse

THE BUTTON

No one of sound mind can with a straight face dispute the fact that the times in which we presently find ourSelves living are nothing if not remarkable.  In recent years all of the difficulties, conflicts, and disagreements of the past have taken on a new immediacy and increasingly frenetic tenor.  Differences in political and philosophical ideologies have been amplified and multiplied, and “coming to blows” has become much more than just a colorful saying.

In a world where battle lines have been drawn and “us-versus-them” is the order of the day, it is beguiling to think of a scenario where animosity has somehow been sidelined and strife permanently transcended.

Everyone has a position, everyone holds an opinion.  Just imagine, though, of how peaceful and harmonious things might be if only we all could agree.  If only there were some way to engender such a change immediately, without harm, and without resistance…

I have for several years given much consideration to a button.  The imaginary button of which I speak has a single function: to change the world’s mind.  Though the mechanics of this change are unimportant, the results would be far-reaching and absolute: whoever encounters the button and chooses to push it will instantaneously and irreversibly transform every single member of every society on the planet into a traveler of like mind, like attitudes, like persuasions, like philosophies, like outlooks.  This miraculous change would occur without any violence or harm wrought upon anyone.  The world and the button-pusher are in total accord.

If offered the opportunity to push such a button, to have every other person on this Earth agree with me, I would refuse.

Though the factional enmity I presently observe saddens me, despite the persistent violence of word and of deed, regardless of my mistrust for long-established institutions, and the machinations of unseen powers and principalities, I still would not push the button.  I simply could not do it.  I hold the position that the forceful imposition of my will on another, no matter how painless or even pleasant such a conversion might be for them, would still amount to an implicit act of coercion.  I would not wish to be converted by another.  I can only consider others through the same lens.  My teachers and their teachers before them have held as sacrosanct and unassailable the Self and the free will present in every Human born.  This respect for the Choice of others is no less sacred to me.

Though the button could reasonably be regarded an elegant solution to a perennial problem, I would judge such a solution to be at least as corrupted as the havoc it could in a single moment replace.

Not surprisingly, I know several people personally who would without consideration or even a moment’s hesitation press the button if given the opportunity.  They would do so from the perspective of it eliminating conflict and being for the greater good.  And, to my way of thinking, they could not be more wrong.

For me, the only viable and acceptable remedy is found in civilized discourse, rational Self-interest, critical thinking, unflinching Self-honesty, and mutual respect for the agency of others.

We don’t need a button.  We just need to employ those tools which we already have.

©Billy Red Horse

Estate Sale

You are going to die.

After you pass, your family and, perhaps, some close friends, will be tasked with the responsibility of distributing the earthly possessions you have left behind. Some things may be retained by the aforementioned family and friends, some may be given away to others, some sold, some donated to charity, and some will very likely end up in the local landfill. As one who has been called upon to disperse the belongings of a departed family member I recognize the burden that such a responsibility can bring.

I recently found mySelf thinking about my own “estate” and what I will leave behind once I return to The Great Round. Though I have absolutely no intention of leaving this Magical world anyTime soon, I recognize that my departure will come soon enough and, when it does, I don’t want to leave an undue mess that someone else will have to clean up.

So I decided to have an estate sale.

Now, the sale of which is speak is more metaphorical than it is literal. The act of releasing my Life’s accumulated impedimenta has been an ongoing process for the past several years. Even so, I still have more stuff in my world than I wish to maintain or that I wish to obligate others to administer once I’m gone. Progress in the reduction of my material excess has been ongoing and shall continue for the foreseeable future.

(Lest anyone mistake me for a recent convert to minimalist, anti-materialist, or an outright ascetic approach to Life, nothing could be further from the truth. It is simply that part of my continuing practice of personal refinement has been to jettison that which no longer serves or brings me Joy while keeping only those things which delight and enchant. This goes for the immaterial as well as the material. Read on…)

It has taken a diligent effort on my part to limit and then reduce the accretion which for decades has been emblematic of my younger Self. Clutter (in all its forms) has proven to be one of the biggest distractions and Energy drains of my adult Life.

I don’t think most people realize just how oppressive clutter can be, whether that clutter be tangible or intangible. Clutter is magnetic, it has a gravitational pull all its own; the more there is, the more it attracts. And a cluttered mind can hold far more odds and ends than a cluttered closet or garage ever could.

So, dear reader, perhaps you will consider joining me by holding your own estate sale? Lighten your load, clean your slate, get rid of those things you no longer need or want or that are nothing more than an energetic anchor around your neck. Having a Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual estate sale while you are still alive (and, perhaps, still young) can also make for a much more enjoyable Life in the long run.

©Billy Red Horse

AN APOLOGY FOR THE OLD WAYS

“The good old days.”

This phrase has been known to send eyes rolling and elicit sighs of quiet exasperation for decades.  Are the “good old days” really all they are cracked up to be?  In my estimation, maybe.

Probably, even.

When I allude to the good old days, what I speak of is not based on a nostalgia for the world in which I grew up.  Trust me, the ‘80s, ‘70s, and even ‘60s of my own youth were really not all that worthy of being pined for again.  No, what I am speaking of are the Times before I was even born.  I remember seeing the photographs in history books.  I remember as a child hearing stories from those older than me who spoke of the much simpler days of an earlier era: the ‘50s, ‘40s, and even earlier.  As an adult I have often watched movies from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s, seeing a world in many ways markedly different from today.  (Be advised: I labor under no delusion that the silver screen representation of any given moment in Time is ever a complete or even remotely accurate depiction; such representations do, however, leave clues.)  Those bygone eras had a certain innocence and character which I find most appealing.

Though they are but evanescent memories from my past, I want to say some of the Old Ones of my youth were 80 and 90 years of age and, thus, had personal recollections of Life as far back as the late 1800s.  Times then were different and, in many ways, better.

Manners, decorum, accountability, dignity, and resilience seemed to be far more in evidence and in vogue.  The importance of the family structure was still recognized and fostered, and hard work was seen as both a responsibility and a reward.  In short, values were valued.  Yet even more than these things, there was something which was a defining characteristic of those bygone days: an unflagging sense of optimism and genuine hope for the future.

Despite two world wars and a massive long-term economic depression, there seemed to be a pervasive expectation that the bad was going to eventually become good and the good would only get better.  I know I haven’t observed such an expectant and genuine positivity in the world around me in decades.  This is what has been missing for so long and what we must reclaim if we are to extract ourSelves from the current myriad of predicaments which we have created.

It could be argued that our grandfathers and great-grandmothers were, in their youth, simply naive and ignorant.  I would argue pointedly to the contrary; I say it is WE who are betrayed by our naiveté.  Our ancestors understood and accepted things which are perilously close to being discarded absolutely and lost in perpetuity by we who live today.

Present-day society has an unfortunate tendency to wait for an outside influence to “fix stuff” and set things right.  Instead of looking to politicians or some other messianic enterprise to put conditions in order, it is well within our capacity to cast an investigative glance rearwards and rediscover what it is we have lost that can make the Present the “good old days” once again.

I will close this short apology by stating that I am not a Luddite.  I have no desire to be without climate controlled buildings any more than I wish automobiles, computers, telephones, or air travel to vanish.  I don’t at all support a homogeneous culture nor do I advocate for a compelled monolithic form of religious expression.  I say we must cast off the Life-negating aspects of culture, regardless of their vintage, and nurture the Life-affirming aspects to give rise to something truly better.

An admirable goal of a transcendent humanity is to seek to continually refine and positively develop the Self (and consequently the community) while cleaving to the traditions and conventions which have been Time-tested and shown demonstrably effectual.  A forward looking optimism should never go out of style.

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*I will assume that readers of this blog are possessed of an above average intelligence and a commensurate ability to discern intent; even so, considering the present zeitgeist of pervasive social outrage and engineered melodrama, I will state explicitly the following:  I do not for one moment suggest that Jim Crow laws, unsanitary living conditions, monopolistic robber barons, or any of the unpleasant human relational dynamics of Times past should in any way be applauded or pursued as worthy of reclamation.

That this disclaimer needed to be included is a sad commentary on our present Times and an ironic reinforcement of the general thesis of this essay.

©Billy Red Horse