Saturday, June 12, 2010

The BELL: A Practical Philosophy For Abiding Liberty

Consider humanity in the context of its history.  Consider the utterly consistent uniformity and predictability of the patterns of political thinking and action - of those universal cycles of decay following what is usually a period of relative prosperity and peace - what we often call a "golden age".  Every formal empire, every state has fallen; not a one has lasted.  Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, Egypt, Athens, Rome, the dynasties of China, and so forth have all come to ignominious ends.  These results, more commonly than not, have followed more from the progression of these predictable patterns in human thought and behavior than from external threats.  In most cases we are able to discern a very clear pattern of degenerative change in the minds, and hence the acts, of both the governed and the governors such that a nation's fall into self-annihilation becomes a readily predictable event.

It is the change of mind that makes this fall not only possible, but inevitable, for any given mode of living cannot be sustained if the baseline standards for that mode are not maintained.  Those standards exist in but one place: mind.  They exist within us, but unlike books, we are ephemeral beings whose accumulated knowledge of lifetimes vanishes unless it is passed on to subsequent generations through training and education, which in turn is often affected through various traditions.  This is one of the reasons we have books, yet those physical repositories are not sufficient for the preservation of standards of thought and behavior that preserve one's way of life.  The correlative factors of attitude and practice (habit) are equally essential and serve as mutually reinforcing elements with education and training.  Each supports the others.

Though many people possess an inborn sense of liberty, without explicit training in that mindset and what the concept means in a broad and complete fashion, it becomes a long shot that any given individual will cultivate an ability to articulate and assert that sense into a practically applicable  and sustainable way of life.  It  is even less likely that a group of such individuals will come to such realizations and capabilities, and it is furthest from likelihood that a nation will do so, as history bears out in a sickeningly endless litany of failed states wherein human misery and death have been the rule and where peace and prosperity have been the rarest of exceptions.

We see that training is one of the keys to an explicit knowledge of liberty, which is most likely to lead to an attitudinal bent and the corresponding will toward the same.  The problem here is not the establishment of such training, for that is an academic exercise.  Rather, it is one of the maintenance of that habit and the will to perpetuate the drive to liberty for all people such that it spans the generations unabated, and in fact takes on ever stronger cementation within the nation's fabric through the minds and daily deeds of each subsequent generation regardless of the material conditions in which they find themselves, whether in wealth or poverty, ease or hardship, for they are morally wealthy, healthy, and strong in any event.

It is that failure to maintain such a drive that has resulted in the obliteration of empire upon empire, state upon state.  This becomes the inevitable conclusion when the waning of that drive is coupled with the inversely proportional strength of the drive and ability of certain groups of individuals to band together and declare themselves masters over the rest, after which their greed for booty and the mad lust for control drives them to plunder and murder their way through the ages for as long as they are able.

Humanity's problem, then, with respect to the long term maintenance of personal liberty and thereby the free and prosperous nation, is summarized in the question of how does one best ensure that successive generations will know what we know and live what we live at the most basic levels far into the future - that they will know of, understand, and choose liberty over slavery in a dance of perpetual and deliberate choice through time?  The only solution that seems viable is the approach employed by the abidingly successful religions, for they appear to be the singular sort of cultural institution that has been successful in spanning generations.  There is, however, the question of choosing the set of beliefs and this very problem has been a root cause of, or at least served as the justification for, waging war since time immemorial.

A possible answer to this dilemma of need versus too many and often violently conflicting and seemingly arbitrary choices of belief is the adoption of a universal secular "religion" (acutally quasi-religion) we shall call the "Bell".  Bells have a long history as clarions of good and welcomed tidings, as well as the sentinel's alert to danger.  It is therefore fitting that we tie the concepts, practices, and habits of individual freedom and rights to this icon of all that is good and worthy of our value.  Such a "religion" would stand apart from theologies in that it is not a religion at all in the traditional sense, but more a mindset that enjoins, encourages, and guides us in treating and applying the principles and issues of personal liberty in a manner analogously to that of the world's abiding religions.  It departs from traditional religion in that all of its tenets and practices derive through reason rather than being arbitrarily posited as articles of faith.  These tenets would axiomatically and apodictically follow from the acceptance of the single baseline premise that all human beings are created as equals.  If one accepts this as true, then the whole of the body of moral law that follows from it does so in a most self-evident and irrefutable manner.  This corpus of axiomatic principles constitutes the philosophical nucleus of The Bell and forms the foundational basis from which the practical elements of this belief system  derive.

An advantage of this approach is that the Bell need not conflict in any way whatsoever with standing religious traditions as the latter are based in articles of personal faith and the former in unbreakable reason.  The only circumstance wherein conflict may arise is when some given tenet of a theology implies or even explicitly demands the initiation of force against people in order to impose some condition upon them against their assent, an intolerable and unallowable act according to the precepts of the Bell.  One example of this might be a belief in "compulsory charity" (clearly an oxymoron, but some folks will not let that get in the way of fine tyranny) wherein it is assumed that force may be justifiably employed to compel someone to "give" to some other, ostensibly "more needy", party.  Humanity already has far too much of this going on, so the adoption of a universal secular quai-religion such as the Bell could only serve to improve this circumstance.

On the other side of that coin, adoption of the Bell may be attractive to many people of the various faiths because the more universally accepted and practiced it is, the stronger are the assurances that individuals and communities will be free to observe their respective faiths without interference.

The Bell may be said to be the universally applicable and secularly derived practical religion of Liberty, and in this sense it is a true religion in that it is based on the faith in the truth of reason and the freedom that derives from it.  It is the most fundamental set of beliefs we may adopt because it provides the basis for the possibility of the practice of other systems of belief without the need to murder each other to prove points or to usurp.  It sweeps away all monopolies of belief and with them the ready ability to justify the initiation of force against peaceable and rightfully acting citizens because the population at large will be sufficiently imbued with an attitude of absolute and unbending intolerance of anyone attempting to interfere with the rightful actions of others by virtue of the proper knowledge of our rights and the single basic obligation we each hold to each other: respecting the sovereignty of every man.

Imagine a nation where those who attempt to so much as hint of trespassing upon the rights of men are met with broad, vigorous, and unequivocal condemnation.  Imagine people who respond with irresistable material  non-equivocation against a usurper such that others with similar notions, no matter how vauge or well intended, are given endless pause to reconsider the prudence of their thoughts.  The concepts and principles comprising the Bell  would serve as the primary foundational standard by which all human interaction would be based.  Any act not in accord with those principles fails to meet the broad and lenient standard and is therefore prohibited in accordance with the pricniples in question and the dictates that derive from them.  The Bell forms the absolute moral basis for determining the legitimacy of human behavior.  They are few, simple, and universally derived through pure reason and based on the single premise that all men are created as equals.

In a future post, the structure and elements of the Bell shall be derived and from that beginning we will work our way through the chain of higher-level derivations to what hopefully will prove to be a complete and correct body of principle upon which humanity may base and judge their lives as well as those of others.

Until then, please accept my best wishes.