10 January 2010

The Lies We Live With - Independence

I contend that it is impossible to live an absolutely honest life. We all live with lies (and by this I mean the simplest definition of a lie: "an inaccurate or false statement," whether it is intentional or not). This could be the result of any number of things - indoctrination, propaganda, self-defense, who knows. One of the lies I lived with for a long time was related to my indoctrination into the modern liberal mindset, a process I had very little choice in.

But I've lived with a variety of other lies. Human memory is faulty, and so we may come to believe things about our past that are untrue. During my exile in Utah, only after deep reflection and a painful confrontation with my past, did I learn that I had convinced myself of an outright falsehood which had fundamentally altered the way I approached relating to other people. How or why this happened, I cannot say for sure.

This is why my ideal is to strive for ever more honesty; we can never be perfectly honest, I think, but we can try.

In what is the first of an intended series of posts, I want to take a closer look at the lie of "independence" in the West, particularly among modern liberal (and by this I mean the type discussed in my link above) thinkers. We are all raised to value our independence and we fancy ourselves independent thinkers, workers, citizens, etc. Most people's first taste of "independence" is when they get their first car at the age of 16 (anecdote: I've always relied on mass transit). Independence is valued in our society and enshrined as a sort of virtue.

Only an extremely small minority of us are independent, however. In fact, most of us have crippling dependencies on "the system" and on society at large. If, overnight, the entire *American infrastructure were to be swept under a rug (the roads, the system of distribution for foodstuffs and water, just to name a few), we would find that most people would quickly die in short order. As a culture, we fancy ourselves as industrious and deserving of our place in the world. When one talks about their hard-won job or hard-earned achievements, they always talk in terms of their struggles inside the system, spending hours and hours studying at the universities or working long nights or whatever the case may be. Their analysis completely ignores the fact that they had a system to work within at all.

For example, I am absolutely positive that there are people who have been born in less advantaged places in the world who were either equal to me in capacity, or superior. However, I am just as certain that they died well before they reached the age of 21. Why? They lost the "genetic lottery," and that's it. They had the poor misfortune of being born into a terrible part of the world that does not have a grand infrastructure like the United States*. If they did survive, it is because they learned how to be truly independent - how to grow their own food, build their own home, and eek out their own living.

So, while we fancy ourselves independent, we can think all sorts of absurdities. I was recently talking to someone who expressed that she could never imagine herself "shackled to a man" in a marriage, how this would be absolutely catastrophic to her "independence." She did not think it was fair game or even relevant for me to point out that she was absolutely taking for granted her day to day dependence upon the social system that has been set up for her sustenance. She does not want to be "dependent" upon one man (a husband), when in reality, she is dependent upon countless men (and some women) who pay taxes and work for the state to build and maintain the institutions she uses to survive.

This thinking is poisonous. We devalue community and cooperation in favor of "independence," but yet again, we're not even talking about "independence." True independence would be off-the-grid living, growing your own crops and perhaps tending to your own herds for sustenance. Such living is often ridiculed as backwards and "crazy." So when people talk about how they're very "independent," what they're probably talking about is how they're very ignorant and very irresponsible. They feel no responsibility to society and see no reason why they should contribute back, and often pursue purely luxurious endeavors - things like art. (Art is great, and I am a fan of it. But it contributes nothing to our survival.)

Yet another example, methinks, of a thought-terminating cliché or doublespeak. I would love to see all those enlightened, "open-minded" college students (in whom these attitudes seem to be very prevalent) have to do things like build their own schools, pave their own roads, provide for their own defense, make their own budgets, grow their own food, and on and on... They might finally learn what being "independent" is really all about.

*I mention the US specifically, but these arguments could apply to any civilization. If you do not grow your own food and provide for your own basic sustenance and survival needs (to include defense from hostile aggressors - be they bandits or be they invaders), you are not independent, and in fact you are dependent upon the system to provide a method for you to acquire the things you need to survive. In case you're wondering, I'm entirely dependent. There's nothing inherently "wrong" with being dependent, but there is something wrong with being ignorant about it.

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