The first pillar of The Path is Peace. If you are an agorist, anarchist, or voluntaryist, you accept this as the core principle. I will talk more on that principle later, but today I am in such a mood that I want to talk about a pillar that is often left out of the conversation. It has been ascribed as one of the cardinal virtues of western civilization and is supposed to be one of the core principles of the Christian faith that so many people profess. If Christians were true to this virtue, no Christian could logically be a supporter of a state monopoly of government.
I’m talking about the virtue of Humility.
The days and months after I abandoned my faith in the state, my first impulse was to fight back. When one realizes that the state is the enemy of society and not its benefactor, the old fight or flight mechanism kick in. Anxiety set in for me as I began to see that the threat of violence is at the core of nearly every relationship we have with society. One can’t even hold a job without filling out numerous forms, proving your identity, having permission to work from the state, and choosing how you prefer to be robbed by the IRS. Purchasing the things one needs to survive has a mountain of violent threats against producers and sellers if they don’t obey the maze of rules and restrictions foisted upon them. From being required to pay sales tax, to the requirement to have ‘permission’ to produce or sell, it all rests upon the threat that the state will hurt people who don’t comply.
I felt overwhelmed with sadness, anger, and fear. I wanted to ‘do something’ about it, but I didn’t know what. When Joe Stack flew his plane into that IRS building, I cheered him at first. Here was a man who had acted it seemed, who tried to ‘do something’ about the villains and thieves of the Infernal Robbery Service.
But what did Joe Stack really accomplish? Two people are now dead, his name and reputation ruined, and his family terrorized and dishonored. Did his action cause any state supremacist to say ‘Ah Ha! The state is evil! Now I know thanks to Joe Stack!’? No. The supremacists saw what he did and said ‘See, that’s why we need a state to protect us’. His actions only made their faith in the moral and useful supremacy of the state even more zealous. He failed to change anyone’s mind. He failed because he acted in anger.
If I may modify what a wise man (man?) once said
Fear is the path to the state. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
At the heart of the state as an idea, lies fear. Talk to any statist and you will see that nearly all of their arguments in favor of a state are based upon fear. “We need a government to protect us from criminals. We need a government to provide healthcare to those who can’t afford it. We need a government to educate the children. We need a government to defend the country from invasion.”
Fear of people murdering, raping, and stealing. Fear of people being helpless and sick without anyone willing to help them. Fear of children growing up illiterate and without hope of a good life. Fear of a bunch of strange people coming to dominate and enslave.
Fear is the life of the state.
So why Humility? Humility is the only way to defeat our fear, and the fears of others. We cannot uproot the state in the minds of the masses if they are afraid of us, our ideas, and our solutions. If they see us as something to be feared, we only strengthen their faith in the myth of state protection. We can no longer feed their fears if we hope to have a peaceful society.
But what is Humility, in essence? In the Christian tradition it is called Temperance. It is the practice of restraining our impulses, appetites, and desires. It is the ideal that a person subordinates their instincts to reason. It is the personal acknowledgement that it is not possible to make other people do as one desires in order to achieve happiness for all. It is submission to the idea that other people must lead their own lives. It is giving up the desire to control other people.
Humility is the antithesis of the state. The State is the acme of Pride, Humility’s opposite.
Certainly, when I say Humility, I do not mean humiliation. Humility can only come from one who has self-worth. In order to be humble, one must honestly evaluate the range and limits of their talents, abilities, and authority and respect those natural boundaries. To go beyond is seeking unnatural supremacy.
Many will criticize Humility for being self-sacrificing. To them I say it is no more self-sacrificing than giving the store clerk your money in exchange for a gallon of milk. It is a trade, an exchange. We are giving people actions, deeds, words, and a social atmosphere that they desire, in order to receive trust, respect, and openness from them. View it as a fair trade. We become people they want to be around, and they give us an open mind and an ear.
In the Christian world, Humility requires submission to God as the moral authority of human affairs. Since I am an atheist, I do not accept moral authority from an invisible, magical being that won’t come have a chat with me face to face. However, In the domain of agorism, submission isn’t to God, but rather to the idea that it is impossible to make choices for other people. Certainly people can act to restrict a person’s ability to act on a choice through manipulating the physical environment, but it is impossible for another to decide what a person must think. The Non-Aggression Principle is the conclusion of this axiom, as threating violence is the attempt to make people act on a choice they have not made.
If we submit to the reality that choices can only be made by an individual, and act accordingly respectful of what people decide to do with their lives, bodies, and possessions, then we implicitly embrace the virtue of Humility. It is not selfishness and greed that drives us as we are often accused, but a universal respect for the boundaries of everyone’s individual domains.
So, if one accepts Humility as a virtue, how should one act? Returning to the idea that the state and fear go hand in hand, we must abandon fear.
Fear is a natural response to dangerous situations. If we had to consciously think about dangerous situations, people simply would not survive. It is automatic and instinctual. Humility, with regards to social fears, allows us to overcome the impulse to be afraid. This takes practice and requires an event of nearly religious emotive power; Forgiveness.
Once a person becomes aware of all the dangers that the state presents in our daily lives, a great deal of anxiety, fear, and dread can take hold. Many times, the response to this anxiety is to las out in anger, rage, hatred, or passive-aggression. Over time, this behavior can build into a mountain of stress and really start to wear a person down. Forgiveness is the act of letting go of all that emotional baggage. Forgiveness is all about social debt. We feel that the state owes us a great deal for the trauma it inflicts, and this feeling of being ‘owed’ dominates our perspective and drives self destructive behavior. Let it go.
I finally achieved peace when I forgave my tormenters. When I realized that they were just like I had been, terrorized into believing that people are bad and must be threatened to achieve virtue, I began to have Compassion for them. True, they are violent, but they are helpless to combat their own fear. They are violent because they cannot overcome their fear with reason. We can help them, and Humility shows us how.
1. Forgive yourself and those people in y our life who have inflicted trauma upon you. As Stefan Molyneux rightly advises, we have to start addressing our own interpersonal relationships and either repair them, or abandon them. Doing this will help us to build our sense of self-worth and value as a human being. To be respectful of ourself and others is critical for exhibiting Humility.
2. Practice Random Acts of Kindness (RAK). Whether it be as simple as holding a door for someone, or letting someone cut ahead of us in a traffic jam, do things every day to strengthen your Humility muscles. Be nice to the policeman, even though he is a thug and villain. A great example of this is what Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men do in Keene, NH. They walk around town looking for cars with expired parking meters and drop some more coin into the meters to help the motorists and to deprive the state of fines. We need to do more of these types of activities because people appreciate kindness.
3. Don’t practice Civil Disobedience out of anger or resentment. If you are going to break the law, do so helping people. Don’t do it for purely selfish or moral reasons. I ran across a Civil Disobedience event in the city of Orlando over at cdEvolution.org where a rule prevented people from mass feeding within a 2 mile radius of the city. A bunch of activists got together and fed over 100 people. The masses respond to our positions positively when they see we are suffering under the boot of the state to help our fellow man, and not so positevely when they see us acting like hooligans. We must protect our image and our brand. Applying civil disobedience affectively is where I’m going to have the biggest disagreement with my fellow anarchists, and I will address this in greater detail at some point in the future.
4. Be quiet. Don’t proselytize. Don’t use words that only an anarchist can understand in its full dept. Don’t use words like ‘coercion, state, non-aggression’ as people aren’t familiar with these terms and their meanings. Use simpler words like ‘hurt, harm, attack, nation, government’. Ask questions certainly, but don’t offer your own views without being asked in kind. Don’t argue with people. If they come to you trying to convert you to their ideology, listen politely, ask questions, and show respect. If you do this, they may be curious as to what you believe and they may ask. It is better to be the quiet, kind, polite, courteous person who never raises their voice and treats people the same, than to be the person who is always arguing, ranting, and spouting off ideology. Be the honey, not the vinegar.
5. Only pick battles you can win. If you get caught driving too fast, don’t cause a scene as nobody will feel any sympathy for you except fellow liberty activists who are already convinced. Pay the fine and keep your mouth shut. Swallow your Pride. As anarchists, I believe Pride to be our greatest enemy. It is a remnant of statism that drives us to act out our disgust for our arch nemesis in self destructive ways. Don’t be too proud to pay a tax, get a license, do what the cop tells you as fighting those battles will probably be wasted effort. This isn’t selling out, its living to fight another day. If you get thrown into jail because you backtalked the judge, you’ll look foolish and the people we need to reach won’t respect you. Being in jail is an opportunity cost. We need to stay out of jail so that we can mingle with people and display our virtue. Pick battles you can win by putting the state in a moral corner where the only acceptable outcome for them is to back down. I plan on talking a lot more about this in the future.
There are many more ways to practice Humility, but those are enough to get started. When people see you as someone they can respect and have a relationship with, your views will instantly gain a lot more credibility. Looking back, I’ve ruined so many opportunities with people during my conversions by arguing, getting upset, spouting off, and not living my life in a respectful manner. The people I have been able to listen to my views have been the ones who thought well of me. People don’t respond to logic, but they do respond to virtue.
Lastly, Humility will make you feel good about yourself. This is as much about becoming a better human being as it is about winning an ideological war. Who wants anarchy if its full of passive-aggressive social misfits?
Be the light that illuminates the Path for all to see.