While visiting my sister this past Christmas, I found plenty of time to catch up on reading. At the risk of sounding like the most boring reader you have ever heard about, I confess that my reading included The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc Copyright 1912 and G. K. Chesterton’s The Outline of Sanity.
At that time I planned to write a series of opinion pieces expressing my views about where we are headed as a society. However, by the time I returned home from this vacation, it was beginning to dawn on me that I had written about these very themes some fifteen years ago in the novel Echo’s Voice. My Christmas reading merely helped me to better shape the society described in that novel. The original novel seemed like an outline of what I wished to write now.
What can I say? Wiring a novel, particularly spending time with these characters, is a lot more fun that writing opinion pieces.
In the future world that I imagine in Echo’s Voice, centralization has practically destroyed innovation. Current political debates about big government being the problem or big corporations being the problem miss the point in my opinion. Centralization in both business and government destroy the possibility of the no-name inventor to invent. Excessive government regulations make it difficult for the family farmer or family business to function. Government and the too-big-to-fail type corporations have practically merged into something that is not exactly Socialism or Capitalism, but with the potential to evolve into something far more dangerous to those who value liberty.
As Beloc wrote a century ago:
“The most sincere and single-minded of Collectivists cannot but note that the practical effect of their propaganda is not an approach towards the Collectivist State at all, but towards something very different. It is becoming more and more evident that with every new reform and those reforms commonly promoted by particular Socialists, and in a puzzled way blessed by Socialists in general another state emerges more and more clearly. It is becoming increasingly certain that the attempted transformation of Capitalism into Collectivism is resulting not in Collectivism at all, but in some third thing which the Collectivist never dreamt of, or the Capitalist either; and that third thing is the Servile State: a State, that is, in which the mass of men shall be constrained by law to labour to the profit of a minority, but, as the price of such constraint, shall enjoy a security which the old Capitalism did not give them.”
As G. K. Chesterton wrote, The solution to centralization is decentralization. In other words, before it is too late we must strive to find ways to give as many people as possible the ability to control their own means of making a living. This can only happen if we really do believe in private property. I do not believe a move away centralization toward more family farms and businesses will happen with the passage of any law or regulation. No matter what the stated purpose of laws being passed today, they always seem to favor increased governmental bureaucracy and increased control by a few corporations. I believe that any move toward decentralization must come from us, the people, who make a conscious choice to purchase from small, locally-owned businesses, and to buy locally-grown produce whenever possible. I do not believe that change can come from one massive law or action. I believe it will require millions of small, seemingly insignificant actions by the people who still value liberty.
As Hilaire Belloc wrote in The Servile State
” . . . If we do not restore the Institution of Property we cannot escape restoring the Institution of Slavery; there is no third course.”
No matter your political beliefs, it is worth pondering how much liberty you are willing to sacrifice in the name of security.
“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
― Thomas Jefferson
When I say security, I mean such things as job security and life’s basics: food, housing and medical care in addition to safety. I wonder how many people would sign a life-contract today, becoming the possession of the government or a corporation, if that contract guaranteed all the basics of life for the entirety of life.
Imagine if the following option were offered to every citizen: You may have forty acres of land to farm or to start a business, or you must sign a contract binding you for life to the government or an approved corporation.
How many people would sign that contract? I don’t know if it would be the majority of people, but I bet the number would be impressive. Now consider current trends in society. Is the number of citizens who would sign this life-contract likely to increase after a decade? Two decades?
The six episodes of Echo’s Voice make for a fast-paced, entertaining read—I hope. Although a pre-release of the first episode Choose is currently available for Kindle (99 cents; free with Amazon prime) we plan to release the six episodes in weekly installments beginning in June; with the final released coming July 4.
This past weekend was exhausting. I worked all day Friday to prepare for the book sale at our church’s fall festival, and then spent all Saturday working the sale. Sunday I was up early to prepare to teach Sunday school. The weather was perfect so I walked to church in time for the early service.
Don took me to lunch after that, and then I needed to run a few errands before coming home to rest. Believe me, I was more than ready for my Sunday afternoon nap.
Anyway, I didn’t feel like making several stops, but really needed to pick up a few groceries and also a couple of items for this week’s gardening. We went into Wal-Mart to do it all in one quick stop.
As I walked toward the gardening section I suddenly felt a wave of dizziness. I slipped, falling right smack on to my already-injured knee.
I will spare you the bloody details, except to say there was a surprising amount of blood. Immediately, I was surrounded by store management types.
Of course I understand that Wal-Mart, being the mega-company they are, is concerned about lawsuits. I sensed there concern was mostly about handling a potential problem. As best I could, still feeling unsteady, I assured them that it was merely a scraped knee. It was no big deal.
“It must have been your shoes,” one woman said.
What? Here I was doing my unsteady best to tell them it was no one’s fault, and they want to somehow make it my fault? I had, in fact, walked two miles in those shoes that morning, walked up and down stairs.
“No. I was tired. I had a dizzy spell. It is only a scraped knee. No one is to blame.”
Well, they insisted on taking my information, so they could call the next day to see how I was doing. I asked Don to take care of that and went on to the gardening section to complete my shopping.
Next day Wal-Mart’s claim department called.
Once more I explained that I was dizzy and slipped, re-injuring my knee. No one was to blame.
“Then, can we close out this claim?” she asks.
“What claim? As far as I am concerned there is no claim to close out. No one was at fault.”
How have we reached the point where someone must always be at fault? In every transaction there must be a loser and a winner, a right and a wrong. What are we doing to ourselves? Sometimes things just happen.
What bothered me most about this incident is the way I was treated with suspicion as soon as I slipped. Whatever happened had to be made my fault. Otherwise, I might claim that it was their fault. This is where we are at in this society. Someone must always be in the wrong.
I rather think we are all in the wrong. We are in the wrong for building a society where we live in perpetual fear of one another.
Occasionally, we absolutely must refuse to play the blame game.
The other day I got to thinking that this series of opinion pieces probably appears rather unrelated and disorganized. What is the single thought that ties them together?
We are Equally Human.
We may segregate ourselves in any number of ways. We may allow our minds to become persuaded that this person is our superior, or that person is inferior. We may become obsessed with the viewpoint of one individual to the point that we think those who don’t get it must be inferior. Then it becomes Us vs Them.
Those seeking greater power and influence frequently divide Us from Them. The Us are the ones who get it, whatever IT may be. The Them are the ones who are too uninformed or stupid to get it. This is nothing more than a marketing ploy to build a loyal following/repeat business/power. And this is true in the world of politics, religion, entertainment, consumer products or wherever else greater influence is sought.
The danger arises when we think that any difference in preference makes one a superior or inferior human. It does not. There are individuals that I do not care to be around, but they are no less human. There are individuals whose talents I admire, but it would be dangerous to think that talent or ability creates a superior human.
No matter how we divide and separate, we are equally human. No one, no matter our degree of admiration, is more human. No one, no matter how much we pity ore revile, is less human. Jesus showed us this truth in numerous ways.
Go back and read 1 Samuel: Chapter 8.
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba.
But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.
And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”
Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king.
He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.
Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.
When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD.
The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Everyone go back to his town.”
When we place one human above us, we cannot help but put other humans beneath us. Justice is perverted and our capacity for compassion is diminished.
…So much more to say. This could be a long series.
Before I go any further in this discussion about how we relate to one another, a word about emotional moochers.
As I’ve said in the past, we need to quit looking at others as inferior or superior, and realize that all of us are simply human. It is my contention that compassion is distorted with subjective judgment when we view others as inferior or superior. But that is a discussion for another day.
Right now I need to say a word about emotional moochers.
We usually think of moochers as people who take advantage of our kindness to take and take and take. Maybe the person is a relative with a drug or alcohol addiction. The person persuades you that ONLY YOU can help. The next thing you know, your jewelry box and wallet are empty. As this goes on you realize you’re not helping the person, but enabling a life-threatening addiction.
And yet there is another type of moocher, the emotional moocher.
The relationship with the emotional moocher begins much the same way. A sad story; only you can help. Then, in a very brief time, the tone changes. The person lashes out. You don’t understand… If you really understood you would… You realize this is not good and you try to back away. But the emotional moocher plays on your sympathies again.
If you don’t walk away, you soon find yourself in a vicious cycle of emotional abuse.
Let us be very clear about this: As long as the moocher has someone to feed off emotionally, that person is unlikely to change. We can and should pray for the person, but we should also take care not to place ourselves in the position of emotional punching bag.
Tragically many people, especially women, think they can change the emotional moocher if only they love them enough. But you don’t change an addict by constantly feeding the addiction. Sometimes it is pride that says only I can help, when it may very well be that I, by feeding the emotional moocher, am the one person who cannot help. I, thinking that only I can help, am only making the situation much worse. Maybe the single best way we help is by walking away.
I remember an interesting discussion about airplanes and oxygen masks. If the flight attendant tells everyone to put on their oxygen mask, do you put yours on first, or assist the helpless person sitting next to you? Compassion may tell us to help the weaker person first. But in doing that, we may run out of oxygen before we can help either one of us.
Sometimes we help others best by caring for ourselves first.
This concept was brought home to me a couple of Sundays ago. We were visiting a church where several members of the congregation have HIV.
As we went up to take communion a gentleman holding an ornate bottle offered hand sanitizer. I assumed this was concern about the flu, and immediately realized this was about protecting the people in the congregation with compromised ammine systems. By protecting my own hands, I could best protect those I came into contact with.
By protecting our own minds form emotional batterers, we are in a better position to help others.
I have wanted to review this book for months but find it nearly impossible to organize my thoughts into a coherent review. Don’t get me wrong. I love this book and wholeheartedly applaud Andrew Marin’s bridge-building work between Christian and gay communities.
I first became aware of the book from a review at Internetmonk.com. After reading Love Is An Orientation I immediately bought five additional copies to give away. So, you see, while I struggle to write a review it has nothing to do with the content.
My problem, I find it difficult to write about this topic without my own emotions churning out of control.
I can’t discuss this book without my thoughts turning to a young family friend who practically lived at out house his senior year of high school. I didn’t know what was going on in his family, and didn’t pry. His only comment was that our house was quiet.
Years later this young man and his roommates were moving to a new apartment. I was helping them get the old place cleaned out. While the others took a load of furniture to the new apartment, he and I stayed behind to clean out the refrigerator. In the stillness of that empty apartment he told me everything. At 16 his parents found out that he was gay. They thought they could beat him into going straight.
He told me the whole story and the pain in my heart was unbearable. The next day, back home, I spent the entire day crying. How could parents do this to their own! Why?
Before that day, I would have said this really wasn’t my issue. After that day, after I cried until my eyes ached, I really didn’t have a choice. This cruelty must stop. We are also culpable by our silence. Do you know what compassion is, the compassion that Christ taught? It begins by looking at people as HUMAN! None of us are merely our sexuality.
Too often we look for one identifiable trait to label each person we encounter: The fat girl. The computer geek. The drunk. The great singer. The girl with a criminal record. The woman with the funny accent. That guy obsessed with politics. The boy with the really cool car. The annoying Christian. The man in the wheelchair. The gay guy. Once labeled it becomes so easy to file away in mental boxes marked Good and Bad or Desirable and Undesirable. Now, no longer diverse individuals with successes and failures, a past a future, emotions, aspirations, impulses and fragilities, we needn’t consider how much we may have in common. Once condemned or elevated by our labels, we may trample underfoot or place high up on pedestals. The labels make them, thems – maybe worse than us or better than us, but no way could they be us. And this, my friends, leaves no room for compassion.
Just as I suspected, I veered pretty far from the book I intended to review. But since some of you have also read Andrew Marin’s book, perhaps you will have more to say.
This is a close as I can get to a review:
If you are a parent and your son or daughter have just come out to you, or if you are a pastor and a member of your congregation wants to talk about same-sex attractions. If you are a teacher, friend, sibling, co-worker, neighbor, I beg you to read this book before you walk away and slam the door on this treasured individual.