by Jerome Grapel…
Although I’ve written before about the “libertarian” concept, a recent discussion I had with a number of such adepts has propelled me into a need to respond more formally. Let’s begin with my theory as to how this trend found its traction on the American socio-political landscape.
One of the few people working in our country’s legislative body who I have a genuine respect for is a black congressman from Georgia named John Lewis. We have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, where thousands of civil rights marchers peacefully crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma, Alabama were brutally attacked by stereotypical white southern policemen. John Lewis was there that day, right in the thick of it all, a young man clamoring for nothing more than to be treated like a human being. As a result of such an outlandish request, he was treated like a stubborn pack animal and had his head split open by a racist billy club. John Lewis didn’t just talk the talk — he gave his blood in an all or nothing effort to be treated like a human being.
Whenever an oppressed or aggrieved group strives to overcome such treatment, it is the aggrieved group itself that must provide the impetus for change. The life of John Lewis — a man who had to stoically receive the physical beating he knew his cause required of him on that day 50 years ago — is living proof as to the Afro-American’s perseverance in this struggle. But sometimes that is not enough. Eventually, some form of “Officialdom” must help to get things over the finish line
OK, so what does this have to do with libertarians?
The undisputed patriarch and icon of the libertarian movement is one Ron Paul, an ex-congressman from rural Texas who served forever in that capacity, not to mention his perennial runs for the presidency. When John Lewis was busy getting his skull fractured on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Paul was a young doctor in his native land, a geographic location not known for its enlightened spirit. I’m not sure how much of the structural apparatus of the Jim Crow south was still functioning in Ron Paul’s district in those days, but I can say, with some degree of certainty, that the Jim Crow attitude was still abundantly in evidence. When the Federal Government began to insert itself into the civil rights movement, the bug began to crawl up the ass of people like Ron Paul. When the government began interpreting the Constitution in a way that said you must serve all reasonable people in your private businesses, that you have to hire any person qualified for a job, that you have to let everyone go to school in the same public schools, that you have to start treating someone like John Lewis as the same species as you — well — my educated guess tells me that was the genesis of the libertarian movement.
Obviously, we’ve all come a long way in 50 years and I’m not suggesting the contemporary libertarian political genre is of a racist nature. But there is enough written evidence around to suggest Ron Paul’s earliest and most fervent devotees were prototypical Jim Crow racists and it is not unreasonable to believe a lot of that is still going around in the libertarian environment. For those of you who are not racists but have fallen for this line of thinking, I’d ask you to mull that over. Your movement found its germination in an archaic, mistaken world view, not in a yearning for liberty or freedom. I remind the reader that Ron Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has received the mantel of libertarian leadership from his father, recently voiced his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, stating the “market” could handle any racism in commerce, that people would shun racist hotels and restaurants. After more than 6 years of watching the belligerence and hateful division caused by Barack Obama’s black ass presidency, I’d say it is just the opposite.
I always find discussion with libertarians to be an awkward exercise. They don’t seem to live in the real world. They seem to live in some kind of bubble of abstract notions — freedom, liberty, badda-boom. I remember an anecdote from the era when colonialism was ending in Africa. When the date announced for a certain place’s independence arrived (I think it was what we used to call the Belgian Congo), the natives began lining the railroad tracks waiting for it to be delivered. I get a similar feeling from libertarians with their unctuous devotion to freedom and liberty, as if they were commodities you could pick off shelves and throw in a shopping cart. They make arguments that are difficult to respond to, not for their wisdom, but because they lack any nexus to reality. It’s like discussing last year’s World Series with someone who says, “The Royals lost because their uniforms are blue”. Like huh? When a libertarian rejects a cooperative universal health care system because it destroys their “freedom”, one can only respond with the same dumbfounded stupor. It’s like, please, will you go ask any Canadian or Englishman or Frenchman if they feel “oppressed”, or if they find their “freedom” being taken from them when they use their national health services? Quite the contrary, I can’t think of anything more LIBERATING than to know you have access to professional medical attention from the day you enter the light to the day you return to the darkness.
Perhaps the most sacred concept in the bubble of libertarian abstractions is the holy cult of the — drum roll please — INDIVIDUAL. They worship this ambiguous idea in much the same way a Devil Worshiper might prostrate himself before a Satanic Deity. They find mysterious forces everywhere denying them access to their true inner self, as if a zoning law or EPA regulation were severing them from the brilliant “individual” they are, as if the government was keeping them from finding a cure for cancer or creating a new school of artistic creation.
OK, you want to talk about the “individual”? Let’s talk.
Human beings are some of the most social animals the world has ever known. We seek each others company, approval and inclusion to an almost neurotic extent. We hang out in packs, groups, crowds, mobs, cities and urban conglomerations of massive density. We seek out collective identities and want to be associated with them. We are herd animals not solitary predators. We are wildebeests and impalas, not panthers or coyotes. Much more often than not, we want to conform, to be part of the group, to take our fulfillment from the security the group provides. We even invent artificial venues to appease this yearning. Go to any Major League baseball game on a warm Friday or Saturday night. You’ll see 30, 40 thousand wildebeests all covered in the same color clothing, wearing the same home team caps and paraphernalia, worshipping the local home run hitter hero with a communal devotion that is almost spiritual. Even my generation, the counter culture rebels who questioned everything, who tried to break cleanly with the past, who shot the bird, naively, immaturely, at the heritage passed down to us — even us, hippies and freaks, sure, we rebelled, but we did so in packs, as a tribe, as an army. Take a look back on the footage from Woodstock or Altamonte. The sub-cultural style or “look” is so uniform it would be difficult to recognize a runaway son or daughter in such a monotonous plain of humanity.
Yes, each individual is unique, just like every impala is unique. But we human beings generally seek the warmth of the herd more than our individuality.
If you are a libertarian getting angry reading this, perhaps I can make you angrier by saying this: your precious individualism already exists in you as it should exist and whatever the government does or does not do has little bearing on it. In fact, you have it ass backwards: if you want that freedom and liberty you so covet for the individual, you must begin by constructing a healthy societal foundation for it to grow in. Individual freedom is an outcast in a society that does not provide the basics of good nutrition, decent housing, adequate clothing and proper education to as much of its constituency as it can. In a world filled with 7 billion people; with nations of hundreds of millions of inhabitants; on a globe whose technological complexity is so inter-related and integrated, the creation of a healthy societal foundation cannot be accomplished without an important organizational apparatus, something far beyond what just the “market place” can provide.
In the end, the libertarian idea is an illusion. It is vapor. It offers nothing. It creates nothing. It destroys, takes away, says “no” to everything. The only thing it would accomplish is a vicious Darwinian struggle that human intelligence has been trying to harness and control for countless millennia. It would negate just why it is we’ve so triumphed as a species. It is the perfect example of “be careful for what you wish for”.