The problem is that most humans are not
intellectually superior or morally superior
to others. Most humans are—sing it with me—
average. That’s why we call it average.
“We” and “Most People”
by Jim Davidson
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Laurie says, “We have to get a show put together for a
“What you mean, we?” the Clone replies sullenly.
—What You Mean We, Laurie Anderson, 1986 short film
There are certain words that seem to cause confusion, and I wanted to take a few minutes to go over these short words that seem not to bring as much clarity as their brevity might make one wish. The first word is “we.”
We comes in a great deal whenever people talk about their nation-state, or their community, or their home, or their family, or their ethnic grouping, or their religious persuasion, or the sports team they support, or some other context indicating a group. We can be meant fairly innocently to recognise that there are several parties involved, that they all have their roles to play, and that their efforts are in synch.
Unfortunately, it is very often the case that people assume the participation of others who have not agreed, and, when anyone voices objection, there are lots of hand waving and meaningless excuses given, often followed by ad hominem commentary. Recently it came to my attention that I've “too often” mentioned that I'm not part of the “we” someone has cast forth onto Twitter, and I'm told that I must restrain myself from inserting my view that I'm not included. Since most people don't go far enough, I make it a point of going too far, and so I actually do not give a flying flip whether anyone else likes my expressions. Twitter has “a mute this person” and a “mute this thread of conversation” set of tools, and anyone pretending to have liberty-related views who isn't capable of making use of those tools gets absolutely zero sympathy from me. My good friend DJ12Gauge on Twitter offers $GFY for those who are unable to comprehend.
You may think of yourself as a member of a nation-state. I do not think I am part of that nation-state, whichever one it is. I have not consented to be governed. I have not consented to be part of the policy apparatus. So when you say “we should stop bombing civilians in Syria” I'm very agreeable to the bombing being stopped, but as I am not bombing civilians anywhere, I refuse to accept the pronoun. Y'all should stop.
But, as things often are, it is rather worse than all that. Except for the president, a few dozen key policy advisors, a few majorly influential senators, and some very senior members of key house committees, along with the heads of military and espionage agencies, NONE OF YOU HAVE ANY SAY. So when you say “we should” your opinion was not solicited by those who make those choices, they do not care, at all, what you think, and they absolutely will not do what you want, no matter how much you generate attention on the popularity of your view.
The men and women in positions of power over these policies profit enormously from wars, make great sums of money by ordering death and destruction, never, ever pay any consequences for these choices, do not care at all about the suffering they cause, and will not listen no matter what is said. Moreover, none of them expect to face difficulty in suborning the election processes to stay in office as long as they wish.
So, it really isn't “we” for those of you who are of the opinion that you are “Americans” because you actually have no say, at all, in the policies of the USA government, you never, ever have, and you never will. If you were willing to be honest with yourself, you'd say, “They should stop bombing Syria.” And maybe, given recent news reports from potentially trustworthy sources, you might say, “I agree with the policy to end American involvement in Syria lately put forward by president Trump although I understand I have no say in the matter.” Needless to say, many Americans are not honest about these things.
The analogy to sporting events is actually quite compelling. The audience has no say in what choices the coaches and players take. They have absolutely no say in how the game proceeds. But they have loud voices, and they can cheer, and so they often talk about how “we really made a great play during the last game period,” or “we really won a great victory today” when, in fact, all they did was pay for a ticket and watch, or turn on a television and watch. No amount of deliberately spilling drinks on a fan for the other team is going to make one whit of difference in the outcome of the game, but Sharks hockey fans are going to pour drinks on fans of the other team any time they can, and there is nothing you can do about it, except stay away from the Sharks, avoid their fans, and watch them lose before the playoffs from a safe remove.
Finally, there is a declension of the word “we” that I feel must be mentioned. It was first brought to my attention in late 1989 by my good friend David Mayer. David noted that some members of the Houston Space Society would use what he called “the self-excluding we.” That particular conjugation meant that a discussion of prospective actions would include the phrase “we should” meaning that everyone else active in the group should, and the speaker should not be expected to be directly involved. I've seen it again and again in groups, and it is tiresome. We, especially in this particular context, is a slippery term.
In my writing, I try very hard not to say “most Americans” or “most people” or “most readers” or in any way characterise a majority. There are cases where I've failed, and I do not claim to be perfect. But I do believe it worth paying attention to this matter.
You have not met most people, and neither have I. Every once in a while I meet someone who reads The Libertarian Enterprise, or who has read one or more of my essays. Fairly often that person wants to berate me for pursuing agorism or free market activities rather than their favourite political candidacies, or wishes to silence my dissent on matters like whether voting is ever going to fix anything, or whether the ills we suffer due to the excesses of politics may ever be even slightly ameliorated by the application of yet more politics.
The problem with the phrase “most people” is that there is a supposition that “most people are like the people I've encountered” and that's really mistaken. I would venture to say that most people are never encountered by you, for reasons of geography, demographics, interests, and ability to intersect in any way with you. Even staggeringly popular personalities with tens of millions of fans do not have a majority of the American people behind them.
In 2016, the most popular candidate in terms of votes as counted (none of us can say how many of those votes were actually cast) was $hillary Clinton (the dollar sign makes an S sound, so it sounds like “shillary”) who garnered or was awarded 66 million votes. The other fellow, Donald Trump, was provided 63 million votes by the vote counters. At the time, the census bureau seems to have believed there were 330 million Americans.
I actually have long doubted that a government which has never balanced its checkbook can do anything as clever as count to 330 million. Moreover, they are clearly motivated to lie about the number of registered voters (several thousand, one source told me 12,000, registered voters in Cook County, Illinois, are over 100 years old and very reliably vote straight ticket Democrat every election), the number of constituents, the number of patients, and other numbers that represent what is supposedly the “purpose” of the government agency involved. But, let's do some mathematics, even with this dubious number.
From 330 million we take away 66 million and get 264 million. Now we also take away 63 million and we get 201 million. So we have the fact that most people did not vote in November 2016.
An objection is often raised that the 75 million or so persons under 18 are not allowed to vote. Does that matter to you? Their voices are ignored in the election, but their voices matter to me. I take them seriously. After all, the world that you and the other voters arrange to have screwed up by one political party or another, if voting were actually going to influence the policy outcomes for the war profiteers, is the same world those children are going to live in as they get older. Why don't they have any say?
Young people are taxed. Children who have an allowance and spend money at a store on a toy or book or candy often pay sales taxes. The price of those things includes other taxes. Children who are 16 or older can make contracts in many states, therefore work at jobs, therefore have their pay reduced by the theft of income tax “withholding” and federal, state, city, and county payroll taxes. Does taxation without representation really represent as empty a saying as it seems, or do you think children who have jobs might be given the pretence of a voice in the policies that undermine their world, too?
I have no interest in voting, myself, so I have no dog in this fight. But you might want to figure out exactly how much of a hypocrite you wish to be, while pretending that the vote you cast is actually counted, and pretending that the opinions you express matter, at all, to the policy makers who profit from the policies they implement while ignoring your views.
Nevertheless, if you hang around with Democrats you'll hear their confirmation bias. “Most people” support the policies they see as good. If you hang around with Republicans you'll hear their confirmation bias. If you can stand watching an average of seven men leering at each one woman at a Libertarian event, you'll hear their confirmation bias, too. “Most people” think thus, “most people” would never do that sort of thing, “most people” are just like the speaker. To which I say “shenanigans.”
You've never met most people. The best you can say is, “Many people I encounter ...” if you were wanting to be honest. I'm willing to allow you to demonstrate your desire to be honest.
The simple truth is “we” are an illusion. “You and I” do not exist, except temporarily, by mutual consent, as far as we choose to go.
The important truth is “we” do not matter to those who force their policies to be implemented, who profit from wars, who slaughter children, rape children, enslave children, torture children, consume adrenochrome and other enzymes from children, and otherwise act in terribly disgusting, evil, and horrid ways.
The illusion of democracy and the illusion of a republic is all you've had, since at least 1789. If the violent suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion did not sufficently convince you of the unimportance of the taxpaying public to the policy machinations of those in power, the War of Secession, or the Spanish American war, or the fact that 3 senators passed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, or the wars of the 20th Century, or the current policies of the nationalist government ought to show you the truth of things. If you aren't willing to look, that's foolish. Twenty years ago I might have thought it somewhat adorable, cute, amusing. But there's really no way to see your unwillingness to look at the truth as charming in any way.
The good news is that a majority has never been important to change. Many, many changes happen because some entrepreneur, some person in business, chooses to make something happen, finds the resources to make it work, promotes it until he or she profits, and keeps on changing things. Many changes happen because a small minority is keen to set brushfires in the minds of others. Many changes happen because people get fed up with the parasites feeding on them, and take action to end those situations.
So, be of good cheer. You don't need me to be a part of “we” and you don't have any idea of what “most people” are going to think, say, or do. And you need neither “we” nor “most” to get quite a lot done.
Prepare for the collapse of systems that are not resilient. Develop new systems that are resilient. Keep your friends close and be ever watchful of your enemies. Live long, prosper, do good works, and give nothing to evil, but proceed ever more audaciously against it.
Jim Davidson is vision director for HoustonSpaceSociety.net and founder of Individual Sovereign University and the Resilient Ways Foundation. He is currently chief financial officer for a start-up social networking and talent agency company and chief executive officer for a self-storage structure start-up. Please don't send him PayPal he won't accept their terms.
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