Tag Archives: individualism

You Didn’t Build That: A Parenting Experiment

This past week, while vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains, I discovered a unique opportunity to teach my two children something when they least expected it. It all began on the third day of our trip, when rain forced us to spend the morning inside our beautiful cabin.

My son (6) had spent two hours making exactly 26 beautifully-designed weapons with his K’nex toys. There were elaborate crossbows with multi-pronged arrows, daggers, and an assortment of Chinese star type gadgets. He called me back to show off his arsenal, and I responded with a now-famous Obama line. “You didn’t build that,” I said. “Somebody else made that happen.” Even though I was smiling, he was NOT amused. He rolled his eyes and quickly pushed me out of the room.

I chuckled at myself, but as I went on to plan our day of indoor activities, I devised a plan to conduct a little experiment. Inspired by the Olympics, which we had been watching in between our adventures into nature, my daughter (10) recommended we have our own cabin version of the Olympics. So we made gold, silver, and bronze medals out of art paper. We decided we would compete for these medals by playing a series of games. Each game would yield a point for the winner. The first to three points would win Gold.

We played Monopoly first. My son, being a natural risk-taker, quickly bought up property and put houses on nearly everything he owned. My daughter was not far behind him. When they got low on money and began mortgaging their properties, I made a sign that said “Underwater Mortgages” and put it on the board next to their mortgaged title deeds. Soon after, I made another sign that said “This house has been seized under Eminent Domain” and began taking the houses away.

I didn’t discriminate; in an effort to avoid too much scrutiny, I “seized” my own property, too. I was not the banker, so they questioned my authority to do this. They fussed, pouted, whined, and shouted, “What are you doing, Mommy?!” When I refused to explain in an acceptable way, my daughter threatened to quit. She continued to play, but shed many tears after losing. My son went on to win the game, incidentally bankrupting both my daughter and me with exorbitantly high rent on the same piece of property.

Next, we played UNO. We’ve played this game no less than 200 times, and everyone knows the rules well. However, every time my daughter or I played a Draw Two card to my son, I made him draw four. Girls only had to draw two. He kept saying, “That is not fair!” and finally had enough and said, “You’re giving her a break just because she’s a girl.” Bingo. Nevertheless, with this gender advantage, my daughter quickly won the game.

We played a slew of games during our Cabin Olympics: Yahtzee, Pictionary, BananaGrams, and Clue. We even counted a swim race at the pool as one of our “events.” With each game came some slant that was meant to trigger in them the idea that something they earned was being taken from them without their consent. I loved that each little wrong I did to them made them mad. I did notice, however, that over time, they began to expect something to dampen their success, and their outrage diminished somewhat over the duration of the experiment. They became a bit numb to it all. If I were going to drive the message home, I would have to step up my game.

The next day, we tallied up the points, and it was time to award medals. We erected a makeshift podium out of couch cushions (mountain cabins have a lot of pull-out couches, so it turns out there are plenty of cushions). My daughter had earned Gold; I had earned Silver; and my son had earned Bronze. However, as Commissioner of the Games, I decided we would all get Gold medals. Here was the justification I shared with my daughter, who was the rightful and single owner of the Gold medal: “Your brother never wins anything, and if he doesn’t get Gold, there will surely be a fight. Plus, I don’t look good in silver.” I tried to keep it very simple.

I just knew my daughter would have a fit. But she had earned that gold medal fair and square. And how could I let him get the same medal as me anyway, when I earned more points than he did? Was I crazy? Why was I playing games so wrong all of the sudden?

My son had no objection to the change in rules, and neither did I. After all, Gold was a step up for both of us. The penalty affected only the minority (the single winner of the games), and her voice wasn’t strong enough to influence the rest of us that the new rule was unfair. She was depending on me, her representative, to do what was right for her, to stand back while she reaped the reward of her hard work, that which she had earned honestly.

Instead, I had done something extremely self-serving, something intended to appease the majority. I had abused my position of authority. I could see I was at risk of losing her trust, and the trust my children have in me is sacred, so I knew the experiment had to end there. I came clean with all that I had done to wrong them, and we had some very interesting conversations about the real definition of “fair.”

By the end of the week-long trip, having unknowingly experienced Obama policy in action – and having watched literally two dozen anti-Obama campaign ads during the Olympics primetime events – they were fairly schooled in the ideas of Capitalism and Socialism, Individualism and Collectivism. When I asked them what they thought about all my new rules in the games, I expected variations of “They were horrible!” But what I didn’t expect was for my six year old to say, “Mommy, when did you start acting like Obama?” I couldn’t help but smile at the connection he had made.

I think my kids’ future social studies teachers will be impressed with their understanding of the concepts of individual achievement and the role government plays in either supporting or hindering that success. Admittedly, I had a lot of fun conducting this little experiment, but it turned out to effectively illustrate a great lesson in American ideals. Mission accomplished.

Altruism versus the Individual in Public Education

The long wait for summer is almost over as school years are beginning to wind down. And that of course means graduations- a celebration of scholastic success and new beginnings, a time when young people begin to discover themselves and start the attainment of their dreams. But amidst the proms, barbeques and recognition of achievement, is there something darker? Could it be that the public educators are using the opportunity to implant a dark seed in the minds of graduates to undermine personal achievement? An idea that the investments made in them are not truly for the sake of their individual success?

It was with horror that I sat through my local high school’s graduation and senior awards ceremony and noted the subtle emphasis placed not on personal achievement, but altruisim. Senior project awards were given out based on the project’s altruistic efforts. Speakers praised the hard work of the graduates as being for the good of the collective student body. With alarming frequency, altruism is spoken of in glowing societal terms. And if someone, say a trusting and impressionable young high school graduate, does not know what altruism is, they would probably accept its goodness without question.

But what is altruism really? It is inherently statist- individuals are taught they have no worth in themselves. In fact, as an individual, they are a burden to the collective. They drain the collective’s resources and weaken it with their selfish needs and interests. The only value they have to society is through charity to other unfortunates, charity that comes to their own personal detriment.

In its true context, altruism is not desirable. It is extremely detrimental to the power of the individual, which this country was built on. Controversial though it may be, the question must be asked- is public education purposely undermining the self-worth of our young people? And for what reason? The fact that the public education system is teaching our students, the future of this country, that they have no self worth, is disturbing indeed.

 

 

What the Left Hates Above All Else

What the left hates above all else is a person with dignity and self-respect. This may seem like a counter-intuitive or unfair statement.  But the argument for this claim turns on reason, and the proper employment of language.

In the leftist’s view, all those who do not share his grand vision believes himself to be “above” society. Those who stand outside his group, and desire not to be a part of it, is condemned by the leftist as someone who feels himself to be “above” it.

This petty, juvenile contempt translates into a hatred of “hierarchy,” or “patriarchy”; and thus, intentionally or unintentionally, of order in society. It must be pointed out that a modicum of order is necessary for true freedom.

True freedom means an individual decides what to do with his life; this is in fundamental opposition to the totalitarian leftist’s plans for that individual.  A person is just a means to an end for the leftist, and has no inherent value in and of himself.

The great majority’s rational rejection of the left’s unhinged views has only served to radicalize the left, which subsequently translated its views into esoteric doctrines and oblique programs to subvert the will of its popular opposition.  Due to being historically outnumbered, the left has been driven to infiltrate “the system,” sloughing off all morality of the formerly “bourgeois” system, such as honesty, decency, and forgiveness in the process. The leftist has become the master of patron-client organization building, rewarding those who are “down for the cause,” while punishing those who remain oblivious or unsympathetic to the leftist’s inhumane agenda.

The leftist who reads this entry will immediately dismiss it, unable to separate his self-image from his position vis-a-vis objective reality. Dismissing logic, reason, and anyone who does not share his view, the leftist insulates himself from reality, both economically and socially, while surrounding himself with like-minded individuals who share his contempt for outsiders. The left’s sequestering into monastical environments promotes an “us-them” mentality, very similar to the kind found in cults.

This is not how a leftist would communicate his irrational hatred of an independent person to himself, however; for his lexicon has been shaped by the left’s philosophical forbears to cast all such personal characteristics mentioned above in terms of “selfishness,” “egotism,” “narcissism,” “greed,” or even pure “hate.”

As such, one needs to explain why the leftist is “inhumane.” The leftist pretends to care about “humanity,” without really caring about individuals. This fundamental contradiction is a grave one, for it leads the leftist to sacrifice actual living, breathing human beings for his abstract causes. The foundation of his worldview is seriously, irreconcilably flawed; and this is a deadly mistake in judgment on the leftist’s part.

Anyone who believes in something, and stands for something, is the greatest threat to the left. From the leftist’s point of view, anyone with a solidified moral code is by nature a “fanatic,” or even “fascist” in mentality.

But the leftist does not realize that the code of individualism is itself a barrier to fanaticism (one can witness the tidiness and orderliness of tea party rallies, in comparison to the usual mob mentality of the left, for example). In contrast, the leftist’s opposition to entrenched morality and order leads him to seek fatal societal breakdown, resulting not in liberation or a superior order, but rather the powerlessness of members of society to defend themselves from power-hungry rulers.

A woman or a black or any individual with her own mind, her own sense of benign morality, and who exercises judgment, infuriates the left because she is beyond its powers. She is unable to be easily manipulated. She is not readily subject to being reinvented in the left’s imaginary ideal. In the leftist’s eyes, these stubborn qualities alone makes her intrinsically “hateful,” “racist,” “bigoted,” “fanatical,” “uncaring,” and “uncompassionate.”

For the left, the agenda trumps all. Actual living, breathing individuals who refuse to accompany them into demonstrable political madness be damned.

The Perils of Democracy

In America, it is nearly a ubiquitous truism that ours is a democratic nation. In popular imagination, all virtues spring forth from the fountainhead of democracy, and all vices consist of its aristocratic or reactionary opposition. Yet we were blessed with the founders’ vision to anticipate the instability and capriciousness of mob-majority rule, and our Constitution was imbued with individual rights, sanctioned by no less than the Almighty itself.

The terms democracy, freedom, and liberty are retained in our popular vernacular without meaningful engagement of the historical circumstances that gave rise to them in the culture. The intellectual doctrines of the progenitors of these terms, Locke, Paine, Madison, and Jefferson, among others, are obliterated in the people’s education, while their persons are held aloft as exemplary and heroic. Even as their names are occasionally invoked for the expediency of politicians, these great thinkers’ innovations and exhortations have tended to become progressively inaccessible to most citizens.

Over time, such conceptual errors as the conflation of majoritarian fiat and individual liberty, surely propagated by the enemies of freedom, prove fatal. We are at pains to point out that the American revolution, which was not simply a revolt against the tax-slavery of Britain, but rather an unprecedented revolution of philosophical bearings away from collectivist tyranny, turned out as it did almost precisely because it was not the French Revolution. In France, democratic fervor soaked the decrepit land in blood, providing fertile soil for the regrowth of an authoritarian form of governance. Sprung forth from the chaotic masses was the spirit of nationalism, which renounced the emancipatory powers of self-rule, and instead crowned an emperor.

Thus, in revolutionary France, unbridled passion led the unthinking mob to dethrone a monarchical despot, only to cede all power to a nationalistic dictator. At least the monarchy had the wisdom of studied self-preservation on its side; the new regime, self-confident and poised to sweep up the continent, embarked on a heady crusade to remake the ancien regimes of Europe in its own image.

The impending disaster of the Napoleonic Wars foreshadows the experience of twentieth century Germany, whose National Socialist movement was nearly as romantic and just as collectivist; but the latter departed from the French by implementing “scientific” methods of manipulating and controlling society. We are loathe to point out that the great dictator was democratically elected. The formula strikes the modern-day American as hauntingly familiar.

From the great upheavals of the modern era, we may trace a thin pencil line back to the Fourth Crusades, whose impulsive sacking of Constantinople removed a Christian bastion stemming the rising tide of the Musselman. Therefrom we may leap back to the doomed Sicilian expedition of the Athenians, a hasty gambit that was pitched to the war-weary citizens by demagogues in the language of greed and glory. The dispassionate historian Thucydides displays the Athenian ploy’s divergence from reality as a retreat into sheer hubris.

The common theme of these historical events is that there is no “wisdom of the people,” as a populist politician of late would have us believe. The desire to promote “the common good,” as the current opposition party has enshrined in its latest pledge to the American people, is as vacuous and venal as the politicians themselves choose it to be, and is merely an homage to the democratic status quo.

With each passing generation, we depart from the exceptionalism that is the hallmark of the American tradition, the individual and his capability of transforming the world through humility, hard work, and rational self-interest. America’s reverence for the individual is what made it a shining beacon to the world, driving millions to come to this nation’s shores. Today, the individual is culturally and politically absent, brushed away from the history books, and disappearing into competing democratic mobs.

As Alexis de Tocqueville put it in his prescient introduction to Democracy in America:

The poor man retains the prejudices of his forefathers without their faith, and their ignorance without their virtues; he has adopted the doctrine of self-interest as the rule of his actions without understanding the science that puts it to use; and his selfishness is no less blind than was formerly his devotion to others.

Self-interest devoid of rationality is anathema to civil society; and it is no surprise that the deposed oligarchs of the ancien regime would eventually seek vengeance upon the wayward children of the European and American revolutions by retaining the politically useful aspects of their historical movements, while stripping them of their redeeming cores.

In Europe, the supposedly ineluctable drive for equality gave way to uncritical reception of the primitive ideology of socialism. The irony of socialism is that it does not lead to the promised utopia of perfect equality, but rather to a state of severe impoverishment of the preponderance of the people, led by the naturally self-interested oligarchs who impose a socially ossified system.

The genius of the American revolution is that its core tenet of liberty nurtures men who learn to rule themselves. A hardy, self-directed people, innocently propelled to meet their own needs, provides the general equality conducive to what Aristotle considered the best society, the one directed by a vibrant middle class.

America’s impending reversal from individual rights and resultant self-reliance to a political system of paternalism and patronage will foist conditions on the nation that will appear in many respects like pre-revolutionary France. The hard left has deliberately fostered revolutionary conditions in this nation and has sought to implement social upheaval that will engulf the American people and lead to the return of the state. The imagined revolution will feature the reaction of the increasingly mislabeled “conservatives,” who now find themselves in the awkward position of radicals, strangers in a strange land.

Should the dreaded hour arrive when we are forced to choose, when our nation reaches some unforeseen but steadily approaching breaking point, will we choose the “democratic” revolution of France or the individualist revolution of our forefathers? Our country’s clamoring for “democracy” will presage socialism, the chosen model of the beneficiaries of the welfare state, as well as the preferred ideology of elites who seek to return man to a neofeudal order animated by the secularized religion of altruism. If we persist in our ignorance of the perils of democracy, we will undoubtedly choose in error, and become prey to the hubris that precedes all calamitous falls.