My Old Life

Visiting DC last month was a bit of an emotional rollar coaster for me. As much as I hated living in that town, my time there was very influential on my life. It was there that I had my first professional job and built a community around a cause I believed in. Many of my fellow freedom fighters are stronger than I am, they were able to push through the tough years in DC and even come to enjoy that terrible swamptown.

I feel like I betrayed them. I took the easy way out. I threw in the towel and rode off into the sunset instead of fighting the beast from the inside.

I don’t regret it, but I sometimes wonder “what if”.

If I had stayed in DC I would probably be a relatively successful mid-level non-profit employee. Maybe I’d work for CKI or IHS, or maybe I would have gone back to school. I’m not sure I’d be married or not… none of my relationships in DC were terribly serious at the time except one, and I think that would have burnt out. I was mostly a Hank Reardon for a community of Dagny’s waiting for their John Galts. I don’t have a problem with my role, I knew I couldn’t have provided what most people in that city look for in a partner. But who knows, maybe I would have become Galt for one of them.

Some people say that it isn’t wise to wonder “what if”. I kindly disagree. I think it is unwise to dwell on “what if” because, to paraphrase Aslan, “we can never know what could have been”. I think reflecting on our choices and running the other scenarios through our heads can be valuable. It can be inspiring to feel like you could have thrived in a variety of scenarios, there is no set path and we should strive to make every path a wonderful one. Future decisions become less scary if we know that we will be alright, regardless of what choice we make.

I’m glad I visited DC. I saw some people that I love and were able to reconnect with them on a level that is difficult without being together physically. It was good to see how successful they are in their lives, and know that I could have had that life if I wanted it. I was also able to meet some kindred spirits for the first time in real life, people who I feel a strong connection to and hope to have in my life for a long time. It gives me hope to know that there are lights fighting the heart of darkness, even if I am no longer on the front lines with them.

I hate DC… but I’ll probably be back soon.

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From Waving Flags to Burning Them

**This is the first post in a multi-part series about what and why I identify or believe certain things. Ideally I will get one or two up per week.**

 

I guess the best place to start is my move away from Republican conservatism. It isn’t the most exciting thing to me at this point but it was the first domino to fall in my life. Libertarianism was my flirtation with the unknown, my pursuit of answers to questions that I had no answers to, it was a search for truth when one of the foundations of my youth showed cracks and began to crumble. After politics I began to question everything else, nothing was forbidden. Religion, sexuality, lifestyles, etc. were all open to analysis, dissection, and destruction if warranted. And really, I have George W. Bush to thank for it all.

September 11, 2001 affected us all in one way or another. For me, it lead to war. I walked into a recruiters office the morning of 9/11, the second tower had been hit but had not fallen yet. The initial hypothesis that the crash was an accident soon was overshadowed by reports of “terrorism”, a word that up until that point was something that brought to mind deserts far away from the safety of the US. The recruiters assured me this would not be war, I think they thought the idea of combat would scare me off, but I was there because I wanted to fight. I knew I was smart, school was easy for me, but I didn’t know if I had balls. I also thought war was something that the US needed, I grew up hearing about how united the country during the Cold War, we were a nation that needed an enemy or we would turn on ourselves. Better to face a backwards and inhumane “other” then be at each other’s throats. Besides, the casualties would be strangers to us. People that didn’t have the blessing of Christ on their holy nation.

With nervousness and excitement I went through Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training to be an Infantry Paratrooper. Despite my high test scores I opted for the Infantry. The training was easy, it was obviously a mind game more than anything. The Drills weren’t going to hurt us or anything, screaming eventually ends and you can only do so many push-ups before your body gives out. Yep, it sucked but it wasn’t difficult. The body molds quickly and the Infantry training was mostly memorization and becoming comfortable in the woods and/or with a firearm in your hand. Any attempt at molding me into a drone or brain-washing wasn’t really effective, partly thanks to one of my Drills who took me and another guy aside regularly to encourage us to think for ourselves and read books (books were technically contraband).

I arrived at my unit and we quickly deployed to Afghanistan. We hopped around from fire base to fire base conducting searches, setting up ambushes, and basically doing the things infantrymen do. It was really days of boredom broken up by minutes of excitement and it all is kind of a blur. While we were in Kandahar a change occurred that woke me out of the drone like slumber I had entered during the deployment, we declared war on Iraq.

Even at that time I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why that happened. Accusations of WMD’s and moral arguments for rescuing the Iraqi people from a dictator didn’t really make sense. The world was filled with WMD’s and dictators, surely there was bigger and more dangerous foes out there if the US was going to use that as a standard for intervention. As it would turn out I would end up in Iraq less than a year later.

I did what was asked on my Iraqi deployment but the seed was planted for me to question the motives and authority of the government, as well as the moral superiority of the GOP. It was enough to eliminate any prospect of re-enlisting (though I did do one year as a National Guardsman in South Carolina). I had to find another political option but wasn’t ready to even consider the Democratic Party, I was still too religious and they were all baby-killing atheist traitors.

This exploration was going on during my first year in college and I was taking a basic Political Science course. My professor said there were four basic political party philosophies: Liberals believed you should be free in the bedroom but not the boardroom, Republicans believed you should be free in the boardroom but not the bedroom, Libertarians believed that you should be free in both the boardroom and the bedroom, and Statists believed that you should not be free in either. Libertarians seemed the most in line with my current thoughts. He also mentioned that Reason Magazine was the official magazine of the Libertarian Party (I don’t think that is actually true) so I picked up a copy at Barnes & Noble, liked it, and eventually subscribed.

There were three things that Reason brought to my attention but I can’t really remember the order. First, they did a run-down of all the politicians running for President in 2008 and mentioned that in a good world Ron Paul would win. Second, they had some sort of memoir for Milton Friedman, this was my introduction to economics and I purchased “Capitalism and Freedom” because of the article. Third, they had an article about why you should be allowed to sell your own organs, this article shifted my entire way of thinking about self-ownership and the proper role of government, it was the beginning of me thinking like a libertarian.

The next few years involved jumping in head first. I volunteered for Ron Paul’s campaign and I devoured any piece of economic or libertarian political literature I could find. Milton Friedman, Hayek, Ayn Rand, David Friedman, and eventually Rothbard. By time I reached my junior year of college all it took was reading David Friedman’s “The Machinery of Freedom” and an IHS seminar and I was a full blown anarchist. My anarchy was grounded almost primarily in economics and the endless pursuit of efficiency though, I had little love or time for morality.

As I graduated college and entered the workforce in DC my hatred for the state grew but an emptiness was inside me. I needed something positive, some love, art, happiness, and community to add light to the darkness. Working for SFL helped a lot, I was able to converse with a variety of people and travel the country, and they sent me to Porcfest. Porcfest was my first opportunity to see some anarchy in action, the small voluntary community operated as much as possible without a state and served as some inspiration. I was skeptical of it growing beyond a small community in a short period of time though, it seemed that just because something works on a small tribe-level that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work on a city or state level. What good is being morally or philosophically “right” if it had no practical application in human affairs? Was anarchy nothing more than an interesting ivory-tower thought experiment? At the time I wasn’t sure, then came Burning Man.

For unrelated reasons I found myself in the basic dust of the Nevada desert under the hot August sun. Around me ran debauchery and love in every creative form. Humans exploring art, community, and many illegal substances seemed to interact like a designed and living organism, but there really was no designer. The infrastructure provided by the organizers was minimal, basically just some street signs and porta-potties, but you could find volunteers providing medical care, Rangers to provide help, bars to get boozes, massage parlors, live music, tea, art performances, classes being put on by college professors, food, and basically anything you would expect from a 70,000 person city like Black Rock City.

Part temporary intentional community and part everything else, Burning Man provided me with another example of how anarchy might play out if adopted on a larger scale. Certainly there were problems, particularly the economics of a gift economy that seems like it could collapse if it lasted more than a week in such a resource deprived environment. How long can “gifting” last when people had to drive hours to bring in more food, water, and supplies to repair structures? Still, here was anarchy with the capitalism or consumerism. While the economics seemed unsustainable the experience opened the doors to the community and love that anarchy can provide. This was a community of people who wanted no state enforcement of building codes, drug laws, or health codes, but having a reputation for being a dick, speeding more than 5mph and kicking up dust, or mooching off the community could lead you to being an outcast. That rarely happened though because everyone involved wanted it to work, by travelling from far and wide to the Playa they explicitly agreed to the principles of Burning Man.

A life changing week in the dust shifted what I believed was possible in this world, and shifted my means of accomplishing change. Before I didn’t think political action was effective but I saw no alternative. After Burning Man I saw politics as not only as ineffective but a waste of my time and energy. Surely, I would be happier and more effective if I lived the life I wanted instead of voting to get someone in office who might give me permission to be happy and free. I decided to just do what made me happy and abide by my own moral code, “don’t harm”.

Opening the door to new experiences and actively pursuing those experiences means I crossed paths with people unlike me. It was like a fog had lifted over my perception, I began to recognize the struggles faced by minorities and those whose cultures have faced generations of systematic oppression. I began to see that the government is not the only oppressor, and for some people the state can rightly be called a savior and protector. Before I had only seen libertarians and anarchists who fought solely the state. In fact, many people seemed to argue that libertarianism ONLY speaks about a person’s relationship with the government, that the philosophy of liberty has nothing to say about racism or misogyny.

If that is the case then libertarianism is doomed just from a practical standpoint. Progressives and Conservatives provide a complete world view, they not only say the proper role of government but they try to explore the best way to live. People are not going to jump behind a philosophy that remains neutral on a significant part of the human experience. A lot of people like to argue that we are somehow living during the end of liberty, that the state is so massive and powerful that every resource must be mobilized to fight it. I just don’t see that as accurate.

We are living in the freest time in human history. Things are better now than they have ever been. Sure, there are problems, and maybe the US is not holding the torch of freedom high anymore, but things are still on a good path. Even “tyrannical” programs like the NSA are facing greater scrutiny and the country seems weary of foreign entanglements. Not to mention the vast expansion of liberty as the dominoes of prohibition fall at the same time as marriage equality continues to spread. You can’t say that we are living in the worst time for freedom when people have more bodily autonomy and to associate than ever.

But, I don’t think libertarianism is limited to the individual’s relationship with the state. I think embracing liberty as an economic principle, moral guidance, and simply because it provides the best life for the most number of people can provide support in dealing with non-government issues as well. The purist form of liberty is anarchy, it is the rejection of man’s dominion over another, no “ifs, ands, or buts”. It is to say that we are responsible for our own actions and reject the use of coercion. And I believe it should be pursued as much as possible. We all will slip and fall, we are humans after-all, but freedom is something worth pursuing for practical and philosophical reasons. It makes life better for others and, for me at least, the exercise of liberty makes one healthier and happier. 

How the hell are you happy?

Twice in the last two days I’ve been asked how it is that I’m so happy. My response was a little bit simplistic but basically true for me, I said that I’m happy because I “moved out of DC, use ecstasy, ignore the state, and get laid”. I’m not recommending those steps for anyone else to be happy but the basic concept has worked well for me.

Moved out of DC: When I lived in Washington DC I was unhappy. I didn’t like the city at all. I had some good friends there but the weather, culture, and environment was awful. Washington DC is a city where dreams go to die and good intentions get infected with an incurable strain of syphilis that spreads throughout a community causing insanity and eventually death. It is a place whose culture is filled with power-hungry, narcissistic, future asshats who care only about what you can do for them. Also, the humidity and heat during the summer makes the crowded, sweaty, stinky metro rides feel more like a form of torture than a modern form of transportation. Basically, my happiness is do in part to taking steps to get out of an environment I hate and move to a place where I feel more comfortable.

Use ecstasy: While I am very open about my use of MDMA as a medicine, a relationship aid, and just for fun that is not really what this is about. Part of my happiness comes from having hobbies and interests that take my mind of the negative shit in the world. Riding my bicycle along the beach, reading books, going to raves, writing, and just diving into “Firefly” on Netflix are all ways to escape for a while, which we all need. Mental escape is necessary and healthy to remain sane in a world that the media, religion, and the government says are going to hell.

Ignore the state: Yes, the government sucks. It is a tyrannical leech that pretends to be for the “will of the people” but is really for “the profit of those in power and their friends”. The federal government continues to oppress minorities through the War on Drugs, bomb the shit out of people just because they live in another country, and spy on all citizens because we are all potential terrorists in their eyes. Governments have always done that… it is what they do, their existence is based on the use of violence against innocent people and they don’t know how to do anything else. In addition, there really isn’t a lot any of us can do about it as individuals. You can certainly protest when needed, donate to non-profits, share stories, and raise hell but I believe the best thing we can all do is mostly ignore the state and try to be happy. If there is a victimless crime that you disagree with and infringing on your rights, just fucking ignore it smartly. And remember, we live in an amazing time. We have the most powerful companies working to cure death. We have satellites, telescopes, and space probes finding out new crazy awesome things about our galaxy daily. New research is finding cures for a number of diseases. It is seriously the best time to be alive but you wouldn’t know that if you only pay attention to government.

Get laid: Sex is awesome and I’m happy when I get some (I wish this piercing would heal already so that I could get some more often…), but this is really about relationships and community. Find people who are happy and be around them. I have a community of Burners here who share the Burning Man principles and take care of each other. Communities can be based around religion, sports, hobbies, exercise, etc. but they are necessary in my mind to be happy. I wouldn’t base it around politics much anymore, though I met some fucking awesome people through the libertarian movement, but to each their own. And I find it valuable to do things with a community that moves beyond how you originally met. Do you do yoga and enjoy the people there? Then invite them to go camping and share your love of the outdoors. People working together, loving together, and sharing experiences is a source of great happiness for me. In fact, now that I think about it, this may be the most important step.

So, as we drift into another beautiful weekend I hope you all have a happy time. I know I plan on filling my few days off of work with the beauty of southern California, ecstasy, anarchy, and banging.

Armed March in DC

As some may know there is an armed protest planned in Washington DC for the 4th of July. Adam Kokesh, a former RT tv show host and military veteran, plans on leading 2000+ people from Virginia (where open carry of loaded weapons is legal without a permit) across a bridge into Washington DC (where I’m pretty sure thinking about any item powered by gunpowder is illegal). This has put me in a position I am not really used to, my view is apparently moderate.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe we have the right to own any tool we want as long as we don’t harm others and I believe we have the right to self-defense. I own a gun (and she is beautiful) and have broken many gun laws in the past and I think the case for civilian ownership of firearms is strong from a philosophical and practical standpoint. Philosophically, we should not be discriminated against based on other peoples actions, which means I should be able to own a gun, tank, or whatever if I own it peacefully. I should not have my rights restricted based on what people like me have done in the past and I should not have my rights restricted based on what harm I have the potential of doing. Basically, the law should not discriminate and we should all be innocent until proven guilty.

From a practical standpoint I think when people say “but what about nuclear weapons” they are being intellectually dishonest and have divorced themselves from reality. If Iran can’t get a functioning nuclear weapon I am not concerned about my neighbor getting one. Also, I think that the government is here to serve the people and part of the balance of power is allowing citizens the ability to physically protect themselves from tyranny. If history tells us anything it is that every government eventually oppresses their own people or is invaded and overthrown… in either case, a well-armed populace will help secure the life and liberty of everyone. The United States of America is no different, there will come a day when this empire will become a police state or weaken so much that an aggressor will take over (I think the former is most likely).

So, I support private ownership of weapons but I think Adam Kokesh’s move is fucking stupid. This is not 1776 where marching against some red-coats will motivate a few people get involved and King George won’t know it is happening for a few weeks or months. If they march on DC and shots are exchanged (it really doesn’t matter who fires first) it will be used as an excuse to strip more rights from individuals, expand a “gun free zone” based on mileage instead of state borders around the capital, and the protesters will lose. And the public will support every one of these measures.

I have to wonder what Kokesh is trying to accomplish. This is tactically foolish and makes all libertarians look like gun-nuts. The current strategy of using the judicial and legislative system to re-secure our rights to own a weapon has been incredibly successful. There are more “will issue” states for concealed weapons permits, the Castle Doctrine is spreading, the Brady Gun Ban expired with little real opposition and the Supreme Court has defined the 2nd Amendment as an individual right in “DC v Heller” and “McDonald v Chicago”… it has been a good couple decades for gun rights and there is no real opposition to it. There has not been blood in the street, in fact, quite the opposite is true. So, what is Kokesh trying to do? Is this a power trip or some sort of ego-trip? He has been accused of worse though I really don’t know, I’ve never met the guy.

But, I think Skeptical Libertarian has it right:
“70% chance the protesters will meet in Virginia, try to walk over the bridge, get stopped by DC police, turn around, march around Arlington and call it a symbolic victory.
20% chance most of them turn around and a couple get arrested. 10% chance someone does something stupid and they die in a hail of gunfire.”

I certainly hope they are right, bloodshed over a relatively non-issue (regardless of the right-wing screeching about Obama trying to take our guns) would be a tragedy for all involved.

Light in the Darkness


ISFLC-20121
This last weekend I had the pleasure of working with Students For Liberty at the 6th Annual Students For Liberty Conference. Prior to moving to Los Angeles the liberty movement was the defining issue of my life for four years or so, including living in DC for three years and working full time for SFL for two. While the principles of liberty and the social benefits of them are still at the core of my philosophy it is not nearly as visible in my day-to-day life. Due to this removal from liberty activism I came to the conference with a perspective that was unique for me.

First off, the ISFLC provided an opportunity for me to see how I am perceived by others. I probably met over 100 people at the conference who I had only interacted with online and I found my online presence is similar to how I want to be perceived. I am pretty universally known as the guy who unapologetically loves Ke$ha, who not only believes drugs should be legal but encourages their use to expand the human experience, and someone who tries to break down the misconceptions about sex and relationships by living the philosophy. The private discussions I had with people at this conversation has really reinforced in my mind that I made the right decisions shifting away from policy and towards social pressure that punishes consenting adults who do not conform to “traditional” male/female monogamy roles.

Secondly, it was incredibly inspiring. I’ve seen this annual conference grow from 300 people floating around a couple of college rooms to 1500 participants taking up two conference floors of the Grand Hyatt, two tapings of the Stossel Show, and a conference hall filled with dozens of partner organizations. While the quantity of participants seems to increase exponentially the quality and diversity increases also. What is often stereotyped as a middle-class white male American view on individuality, freedom, and personal responsibility is starting to bloom with people of all colors, classes, genders, and creeds. I have been to conventions for Campus Progress and College Republicans and I have never seen so many people fly from around the world at their own expense to discuss ideas, tactics, and just celebrate human potential for peace. With this growth comes increased media attention, though the media still tends to falsley classify libertarians as part of “the right” libertarians continue to emphasize our unique philosophy that provides a consistency that is unparalleled in modern politics.

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