Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 546, November 29, 2009

"How times change."

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Neither Machiavelli Nor a Sandwich
by Chris Claypoole

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

I was catching up on a Web comic I enjoy called Vexxar ( Vexxar is an alien of an aggressive species whose misadventures with other species (including the Hu-Mons) and his ship's AIs are quite funny. The current theme is his idea to create a "let's you and him fight" scenario between his own species (which hates him) and another aggressive species, with the hoped-for outcome being that he can exist in peace without constant running and/or hiding. In trying to explain this to a crab-like alien that had become an unwanted part of his ship's company, he ran into the problem of trying to explain the current situation. The crab-like being is a prey species. Run and/or hide are its only responses, and if those don't work, the usual outcome is ingestion by a predator. After another of Vexxar's attempts to explain his plan, the ship's computer tells Vexxar, "He's a prey species. You've just quoted Machiavelli to a sandwich." (If you wish to get the gist of this, start here and end here)

I have often noticed that, when trying to explain the concepts of libertarianism, taking responsibility for your own actions and defense (the opposites of "blame other for everything" and victim disarmament), and so on, I often get blank stares. Or the verbal equivalent thereof, which is some variation on "You can't mean that!" or "That's just wrong!" without any cogent or coherent rebuttal. I'm pretty sure most of you reading this will have had similar experiences. I often had to remind myself that it was not just stupidity (well, not always), as some of these people were demonstrably intelligent and successful (though those are not entirely congruent sets). Sometimes, it was just an entirely different viewpoint, a radically different set of assumptions about how the world works, or that my fellow Marylanders have a higher percentage of Eloi characteristics than states in which concealed carry is more widespread.

Now, I'm not usually into pop psychology, but the quote from Vexxar has me thinking. I know I'm not an alpha male (far from it), but I've always been on the ornery, don't care what the crowd is doing side. (I am a self-described atheist and anarcho-capitalist.) I'm not a follower. I will take wisdom, and even guidance from those I figure I can learn from, but I have no desire to follow them, on Twitter or otherwise. But I know lots of people who either follow one particular person or group, or flit from one of those to another as their attention is caught by a new "leader".

Could it be that some humans are not mere pack-members, but prey creatures? Yes, I know this is an over-simplification of things, but I wonder if this general concept might explain why some people act and react the way they do. (Again, my experience is admittedly narrowed by the fact that the bulk of people I have met were raised in Maryland, or have lived here for much of their lives. But, often, extreme cases can make for useful studies by exaggerating a trend to the point where it can be studied.) Some folks I know seem to be thankful whenever they are not screwed too badly by the government, their boss, their family, or whatever. Rather than be upset enough to try to figure out a way to improve their situation, they try to figure out ways to hide better; to be less obtrusive, to become less of a "target" for what they perceive as someone out to get them. (Yes, sometimes there are people out to get you. Hiding only works for so long, and throwing others to the wolves only sets a bad example vis a vis your ass for the ones still left in the sleigh.)

As a career salesman, one skill that is very necessary for success is called "qualifying" a prospect, or figuring out if someone is a prospect or a suspect. In sales, you ask questions to determine if he has sufficient funds, has a potential need in his own mind for the product or service, and if he is the decision-maker. (There are others, but these are the main ones, in reference to this discussion.) So, in regard to people I talk to about freedom topics, if I want to have a chance of getting through (as opposed to just having fun shooting fish in a barrel), I should try to find out if this person has the mindset to embrace freedom and the personal responsibility that comes with it. Many don't. They like to be told what to do, what to think, what to buy, what to watch, who to vote for, etc. It's so much easier than thinking about all those hard decisions.

After a little thought about what questions to ask to qualify someone as a libertarian prospect, and I'm sure some of you will come up with others, some quite a bit better, I cannot come up with any better than asking how he/she feels about the freedom to carry a firearm, concealed or not. If you get push-back on this issue, you either have a prey individual, or a wolf who doesn't want his prey to be armed. Either way, you are probably wasting your time trying to get this person to think like a free person. So, unless you just want to tie the guy in verbal knots (their world-view almost always has internal inconsistencies that can be exploited for one's entertainment, or they can be exposed as a wannabe overlord), move on. The sheep not only cannot, they are afraid to embrace the concept of freedom and responsibility; the wolves only desire their own freedom of action, without the responsibility of consequences. (Those are for the "little people". Ask any politician, like Nancy Pelosi or Ted Stevens.) I choose to be neither Machiavelli nor a sandwich.


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