Are People Just Stupid?
There is one thought that has occurred to every libertarian at one time or another:
Are people just, like, stupid?
It’s a fair question. The news is stuffed full of government failures. No one likes paying taxes. Everyone knows that politicians are corrupt. Everyone is sentimental about the death of this monstrous Pope – the doddering bigot who covered up pedophiles and condemned homosexuality and birth control. (A good friend of mine, when asked what he thought of the Pope’s death, replied: “It’s a good start!”) The great mystery is: why on earth are people so blind to the tyrannies that rule them?
Another way of asking this is:
If we’re so right, why do so few people agree with us?
My wife and I have come up with two solutions. Mine first, since hers is better.
In the turn of the last century in China, girls of a certain class went through a tortuous process known as ‘foot binding’. Through years of excruciating manipulations, their toes were curled inward, towards the balls of their feet, so that in the end they could barely walk. This was done because men apparently liked women with little feet. (Naturally, it was the result of a lack of free markets – women could not earn their own way, so they were utterly dependent on the whims of men.)
Let’s suppose that you were a little Chinese girl at the time, and for some reason, you escaped this brutal practice. You can walk easily. But all the women around you are hobbled, and can hardly get around. Is this really such an incomprehensible situation? Are you the fittest, most athletic woman around? Of course – but only because your feet were never bound!
It is exactly the same with libertarians. For some reason – the subject of another article, surely! – we escaped the general ‘mind-binding’ inflicted by church doctrine, State education and cultural bigotry. (Just as a hint, for the most part it seems to do with having unconvincing authority figures early in life.) The natural intelligence that is the birthright of every child flowered in us – and makes us now tower over the general herd, just as a free-footed Chinese girl sped in circles around her groaning and crippled companions. It is not our intelligence that makes us so much smarter, but the general crippling of others.
So people cannot understand freedom because their minds have been crippled through religion, dogmatic cultures and State schools. That is my explanation. My wife’s is, I think, much more complete, since it incorporates an elegant solution that I need a entire separate article to articulate!
For my wife, everything comes down to the family. People can quite easily understand freedom, but the social cost for them to do so would be far too great, so they scorn it and pretend ignorance. As she puts it, if people grasped freedom, what would happen to their relationships? They’d have to break with their families, end their marriages – quit their jobs perhaps. Everything would have to change!
Thus it’s not that people are stupid – they just can’t handle the effects of letting even a hint of real freedom into their lives. If they have children, they’d also have to take an honest look at their own parenting. And at their own parents of course.
But so what? What’s the problem with shaking things up? Why is it so difficult for people to break out of unhealthy or unproductive relationships?
The answer is, in my view, because mental health has always been defined in social terms – a combination of sustained relationships and productive work. In other words, a popular Auschwitz guard with a long marriage is the very definition of mental health. Moral considerations do not form the basis of mental heath – a compliant Nazi is considered more ‘healthy’ than an outcast one. This form of ‘social ethics’ is largely due to the Jewish influence over psychology. It would be hard for a Jew to say that individual morality is more important than social acceptance, since to be ‘Jewish’ is to automatically place the authority of the group over the conscience of the individual – just as Christians, socialists, Muslims and soldiers do.
This problem of ‘social approval’ is a cancer right at the root of modern psychology. ‘Solitariness’ is always considered sick. Therapists generally consider that a patient who is terminating a multitude of long-term relationships is acting in an impulsive and self-destructive manner. In particular, breaking off relationships with family members is considered only a last resort, usually reserved for physically abusive parents or spouses. Everything else is supposed to be ‘worked out.’
Of course, quite the opposite is true. Of all the relationships in your life, your relationship with your parents and siblings is by far the most likely to be completely screwed up. Not only that, but you also have absolutely no power to improve these relationships.
Harsh? Not at all. Merely logical.
When raising children, parents have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Why should children obey them? Because parents are right? Hell no – ask parents why they hold their beliefs, they don’t have a clue. How could they? The last competent philosopher was probably John Locke, over three hundred years ago. The general social stream of ideas is just muck and confusion, designed by evil people to baffle and paralyze any good souls that accidentally emerge from the sick swamps of modern thought.
Average parents can no more reinvent morality from scratch than they can build a Space Shuttle in their backyards. Still, they have to get their children to obey them – how do they do it?
Oh, the usual suspects. Guilt, shame, withdrawal, criticism, bribery, bullying, manipulation – the usual crap that has passed for parenting throughout history. Guilt, shame and bullying always rush to fill the void when logical morality loses favour, because children must be taught, and if no carrots are to be found, sticks will always just have to do.
So face it: your parents were bullies, or weak curriers of favour, or manipulative emotional infants themselves. You have no respect for them, for respect requires courage, and courage requires logical morality. You do not love them, since love demands virtue, and manipulating children into blind obedience is not at all virtuous. There are only a few possible responses to modern parents:
– Empty conformity
These are usually mixed into an over-stimulating frappe of conflicting emotions, leaving family gatherings fraught with tension, alienation, dissociation and emptiness.
You are told to repair things with your parents, but that is an impossible task – a complete waste of time that will also make you crazy. Since they hurt you when you were young, you cannot fix the relationship. To make the point with an extreme example, if you are raped by a man, you cannot cure him of his desire to rape. Maybe someone else can, but you cannot. Since your parents bullied or bribed you into blind obedience, you cannot help them become better people. Maybe someone else can. A therapist perhaps. But not you. You have no hope, since their guilt about how they treated you will always muck up any attempt at honest communication.
And really, it is impossible to forgive someone who has bullied a child. Forgiveness is for repairable events, like being distracted or breaking a vase. A bad childhood cannot be repaired or returned intact. Where restitution is impossible, forgiveness is impossible. Don’t even try.
Does this sound too radical? Do you think it extreme for me to say that almost all parents are horribly bad? Perhaps it is. However, if you look at the state of the world – the general blindness and the slow death of our liberties – the challenge you take on by disagreeing with me is this: if it’s not the parents, what is it?
Either the world is not sick, or parents are. Because, as my wife says, it all starts with the family. If you want to perform the greatest service for political liberty, all you have to do is turf all of your unsatisfying relationships. Parents, siblings, spouse, it doesn’t matter. If you can do that, you can speak honestly about freedom.
If you can’t, well, then you have no right to complain about the government. You can’t ask people to give up their illusions about remote political tyrannies if you can’t escape your own domestic tyrants.
Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (www.freedomainradio.com), the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a “Top 10” Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.