OPINION — One of my favorite proverbial “hats” I choose to wear is that of co-host of the Society and the State podcast alongside Connor Boyack.
In an episode that will be published later this week, Connor and I take the time to explore the question “What kind of advice would you give to your younger self?”
Beyond the obligatory regrets about things like not purchasing Apple stock or buying into Bitcoin sooner, there are valuable insights that can only be gained through life experience.
This discussion quickly became one of the most productive exercises in contemplation I’ve done in some time. Both of us agreed that many of the assumptions with which we entered adulthood have failed to survive the test of time.
A common thread that appeared throughout a majority of our answers was the importance of accepting responsibility for our own lives as early as possible. This should be self-evident, but a disappointing number of people seem to have acquired a long-term habit of avoiding accountability as a way of avoiding punishment.
This attitude seems particularly prevalent among the political classes who are seldom held liable for causing the kind of harm that would land the rest of us in prison. It’s another reason why putting our trust in politics to solve our problems has become the epitome of wishful thinking.
Kent McManigal is definitely on the right path when he asks:
Don’t people realize that getting to the top of the political heap takes a certain kind of person, and it’s not a particularly good kind?
Why do people choose to abdicate personal responsibility to their political role models? Many have simply allowed themselves to be persuaded that they aren’t good enough to run their own lives.
If we’re serious about becoming problem solvers in the truest sense, we have to be willing to acknowledge that expecting someone else to ride to our rescue is irrational, at best.
It’s not that meaningful relationships and partnerships can’t help us create the social capital necessary to solve serious challenges; it’s that relatively few people are willing to trust themselves to make the hard decisions and to commit to living their lives with honor and character no matter what others around them are doing.
It’s simply easier for them to go with the flow and to do as others tell them to do.
Part of this attitude is the product of being raised in a society where it’s considered extremely impolite to point out that most laws amount to some form of “Do what we say or we’ll hurt you.” We are expected to set aside our intellect and our ethics and to be deferential to those who would send others to molest us at gunpoint.
Even if a particular law violates our lives, liberty or property, we’re still expected to obey “or else.” The systems that seek to rule us do not take kindly to those who might question or reject their rules.
This is why they train us from childhood to defer to those in authority to tell us what to do rather than assuming greater personal responsibility.
Typically, anyone pointing out the nature of what’s taking place can expect supporters of the status quo to nitpick about whether or not the gun in the face must be literal for this observation to be true. Skyler J. Collins expertly deconstructs this objection by critically analyzing why people obey even unwise and unjust laws.
The ongoing threat of a gun to the face is why laws are obeyed as a matter of law. If people calling themselves “government” were not willing to enforce their laws at gunpoint, their laws would deteriorate (as many specific laws do). Anybody seemingly obeying them at this point are not doing so to avoid a gun in the face. They are doing so for some other self-interested reason.
The fact that so many mindlessly go along, allowing themselves to be bullied, too afraid to ask honest questions of those who are coercing them, is shocking.
Even those whose consciences are still intact tend to avoid standing up for what they know to be right lest they be singled out and punished for making waves.
As Kent MacManigal explains, these concerns are not entirely misplaced:
Silence in the face of those “laws” – and the people who support them – is socially acceptable (but kind of wishy-washy and cowardly). You’ll never be widely well-thought of by standing up for what’s right when wrongness has so many fans.
Authentic solutions are best implemented at the individual, rather than the societal, level. The single greatest hurdle to overcome in becoming an effective problem-solver is to stop waiting for someone else to ride to our rescue.
The sooner we recognize our learned helplessness, the more quickly we can discard it and begin to rescue ourselves.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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