Time to Talk or Fish?
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” — Buckminster Fuller
The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. — Matthew 13:33
An ancient Tennessee story tells of a renowned fisherman. Whenever he went fishing, his catch filled the boat. A notorious loner, he always refused to take anybody fishing with him.
At last a friend nagged at him so long that he relented and took him fishing. The famous fisherman piloted the boat out to a secluded bay in the lake, reached down into a box at his feet, and pulled out a stick of dynamite and some matches, and began stuffing fuse into a blasting cap.
His friend was horrified because he knew that dynamite fishing, though highly efficient, was also highly illegal. In shocked disbelief he said, “You’re not gonna light that dynamite and throw it in the water, are you?”
His friend looked back at him calmly and asked, “Did you come to talk, or fish?”
It’s high time everyone decides whether he came to talk or fish. Talkers are cheap, thinkers abound, and philosophers are a dime a gross, but doers are exceedingly rare, and only doers get things done.
Everything I’ve learned in life I’ve learned from watching my wife or my children. Well, not everything, but most of the big things. Most of all I have learned from her faith, freedom, and self-confidence.
FREEDOM ISN’T FREE
Sure, every American claims to be free, but that’s just talk. You think you are free, free of all the brainwashing you took in public school, free not to jump when that bell rings, free of all the fervently held but false beliefs of the people and time around you?
If you do, just wait until you land in a medical situation. You’ll turn idolator faster than a Fiji Islander and bow down and obey that medical doctor faster than a New Guinea native worships a witch doctor. (We give a like credulity to any authority “credentialed” by the Establishment, whether by a university degree, a license, or a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize. We trust the credentials more than our own judgment or our own eyes. Think of the public’s adoration of Alan Greenspan.)
I have actually witnessed my wife, before and after heart surgery, look several doctors in the eye and say, “I’m not going to do that." Instead of the lightning strike or earthquake erasing Susan, they changed tack and looked for another treatment. Yes, it’s true, Susan will say no even to a doctor. A doctor friend of mine says that doctors are the most powerful people in the world because when they tell you to take off your pants, you’ll do it at once. Who else has that power?
Susan was free enough, and had enough confidence in the truth and her own judgment, that she was able to say the very first word that guarantees freedom: “NO!”
If you can’t say no, you aren’t free.
Now I am not encouraging you to ignore or disobey your doctor, unless you question whether his counsel is correct. In Susan’s case, she was absolutely right. They put her on metropolol to slow her racing heart, but it made her feel that she was mired down in swamp mud waist deep, so she couldn’t take it, regardless what any doctor believed and recommended. The authorities would have to find another way.
Same thing with Coumadin for thinning blood. Coumadin is a very effective blood thinner (for folks whom clots might kill) but it is also very dangerous—it is rat poison. It exterminates rats by thinning their blood until they bleed to death.
Coumadin must be managed by frequent blood sampling, a torturous experience for someone like Susan with rolling veins. (I’ve seen her give a phlebotomist three and only three chances, and walk out when she couldn’t hit her vein.) The easiest thing for doctors to prescribe is Coumadin, although many alternative and natural options exist that work without the dangers. Susan said, “I’ll put up with Coumadin a little while, but I’m getting off of it.” And she did, and they dealt with it.
If you misinterpret this as an attack on physicians, you miss the point. All Americans are the unquestioning brainwashed slaves of all authority, anybody in a white coat. After all, since before kindergarten that they must kowtow to every authority, from their first authority, the great looming kindergarten teacher who scared them to death. A white coat or badge must be obeyed, or . . . or what?
What if they’re wrong?
Nearly 40 years ago I read Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgrim. It reported a study done at Yale to measure how willing Americans were to obey authority. Volunteers were told they were participating in an experiment about pain’s influence on learning. Set down in front of a machine with a dial and a gauge, they looked through a window into another room at a subject attached to the machine by wires. The volunteers were told that the machine they were controlling administered an electric shock to the “subject,” who in fact was an actor. When the subject failed to answer questions correctly, they administered an electric shock to prod his memorizing.
Almost all the Americans tested would keep on twisting that knob, even pushing the needle into the red danger zone over the screams and protests of the actor, as long as the white-coated person standing next to them ordered them to continue. As I remember, the only ones who refused and walked out were Europeans.
I AM NOT THE REVOLUTION
Before y’all run off thinking I am just another aging hippy raging against all authority, think again. Mankind needs the order that comes from hierarchy and authority. God ordained that order—and authority—in all of creation for our safety and happiness. A child that defies his father’s authority runs the risk of death, and so every time we question authority, we ought first to draw in our breath and make certain our course is correct.
Then along came the French Revolution, which did not merely question some authority, but demonized all authority. No kings, no nobles, no elders, no church, no parents—all authority must be swept away and “freedom” brought to birth. All authority is evil, except ours, except the state’s, except the people’s will or more precisely, the will of those who control the people.
To the Revolutionary hatred of authority add extreme individualism in America. Society has no authority, and must give place everywhere and always to the individual, whatever his whim. The one triumphs over the many.
WHAT IS LIBERTY?
Here reality wreaks its ironic vengeance: “Obedience to the law is liberty.” Ordered authority does not stand in the way of our freedom, it indispensably enables it. Without obedience and law, we face only tyranny and slavery.
All too well I remember this lesson taught me by Providence! At the very beginning of my 19 year fight with governments state and federal, I was on my way to file my first pleadings in chancery court at Marion, Arkansas. I parked my car and got out to walk into the Crittenden County Courthouse. Emblazoned across the frieze above the columns were these words, “Obedience to the law is liberty.” I would spend the next, oh, eighteen or nineteen years of my life studying that lesson.
Here lies what we all miss, and so we are all slaves: “Obedience to the law is liberty.” Most Americans confuse license with freedom, but the man who has no self-control, who cannot control his lust, his hunger, his thirst, his envy, his anger, his despair, his impatience, his ambition—this man is a slave. His spiritual slavery will inevitably give birth to other modes of slavery. He will be ruled by tyrants.
Our rulers well understand that, so they offer us the appearance of freedom without any substance, the freedom that enslaves. Americans are free to commit sodomy, adultery, legal drug addiction (by authority of prescription only, well within government control), to watch pornography on TV, movie, and video, to drink anything anywhere any time, to be charged usury as steep as the usurer desires, to buy all the lottery tickets they want, indeed, to fornicate loudly and nakedly in the street in crowds if they like, but all that only more firmly binds the chains of their slavery. Masters encourage license because makes the slaves easier to control.
WHERE IS YOUR FREEDOM?
Do you have any substantive freedom? Can you get in your car and travel anywhere without your papers? Can you open a business without government permission? Can you own property, free and clear in fee simple, or must you pay an overlord or be dispossessed? Can you choose the medical treatment you want, or will the government arrest the practitioner if he strays from accepted medical orthodoxy? Even if the medical treatment in question works, will government still prosecute your practitioner? If you make $100, can you keep it—all?
Does the policeman really have power to stop you any time? Do you really have to let him search your car? Do you have to give him your social security number? Tell him where you are going? Does the law make you give him fingerprints? Let him enter your house upon his mere say-so? Can they really arrest you whenever they want? What authorizes them to search your body at airports?
Can you cut hair without a license? Can you plumb a sink, or install a ceiling fan without a license? Can you sell raw milk? Can you beg on the street? Can you build a hospital or medical clinic wherever you want? Can you make a labor contract between you and anyone, where you two alone determine the conditions? Can you build a house—or a shed—without permissions from multiple authorities?
What is a “license”? If a license grants “permission to do what is otherwise illegal,” what makes it illegal? How did all these acts become illegal? How were they placed outside the pale of everyday freedom shared by every man?
Oh, some things remain that we are free to do, and many more if we are willing to let the state peer over our shoulder and interfere, but not many, and they grow fewer by the day.
CONFESSION BEGINS HEALING
As Buckminster Fuller says in the quotation beginning this article, you never change things by fighting the existing reality, you have to build a new model that makes the existing one obsolete. All the same, you won’t change anything at all until you admit that the reality is reality. Healing begins with a confession that you are sick, powerless, and need healing. If you never admit you are sick, if you still keep clinging to the notion you can somehow get around the reality, you’ll just get sicker and die.
LAND OF THE FREE?
So let’s face the one reality most Americans refuse to confess: America is not the land of the free. Not only does very little freedom—freedom of movement, freedom of action, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom to think outside the Matrix—exist, some large number of Americans do not want to be free because freedom brings responsibility for themselves.
This fact was recently re-emphasized in my friend’s experience dealing with a trade group. They needed a piece of legislation passed, one that would remove state interference and substantially enhance (triple or quadruple) their revenue. They had a very shot at passing it, they needed only to organize themselves a tiny bit, put the interests of all above all, and expend a tiny bit of effort—no money!—to pass the bill. They refused. One suggested they all kick in $10,000 apiece and hire a lobbyist, even though they didn’t need one with the bill nearly passed. They were ready to hire a mercenary to fight for them, but clean refused to fight for themselves.
Experience hath taught me one thing: slaves who will not fight and risk everything for their own freedom, cannot be helped. Don’t waste your time. Fight alone, but not with them, Not only will they not fight, in the end they will stab you in the back to curry favor with their masters.
A similar weakness infects much of the Tea Party movement. They say they want “freedom,” but they also want their government checks. Freedom, but not responsibility. Freedom, but with old age medical care and disability. Freedom, but with unemployment insurance. Freedom to fight foreign wars, but with VA benefits.
The Occupy movement wants freedom, too: freedom to get a state-subsidized education and freedom to be guaranteed a job after they graduate. And make it a good-paying job. From pictures I’ve seen, some of them also want the freedom to defecate in public.
Other people still believe that at least you can get a fair hearing in a court. In reality, the rule of law is dead in America. To sue for justice—criminal or civil—is to pour your heart and your money down a bottomless rat hole. They pick judges for complaisance, not character, and contracts are written only to afford excuses not to keep one’s word.
Still others believe in “the System.” The System, they say, is basically sound. Even though the System is doing its best to destroy them and all they hold dear, they rush out to participate in presidential politics, because Mitt “Mr. Excruciatingly Boring” Romney from the Soviet Republic of Massachussets or Newt “I Am For Sale” Gingrich or Rick “The Utterly Forgettable” Santorum will somehow save them. In the last cycle lots of them took the bait and voted for Obama’s “change,” which in the end changed into more of the same, only worse. Presidential politics—national politics—is a red herring to keep the hoi polloi believing their vote counts and “the System works.” It doesn’t. It hasn’t since Grover Cleveland was president. Make that James Buchanan.
HOME OF THE PROSPEROUS?
Finally, most folks believe in the System’s ability to provide for them economically. Yes, thing are bad, but at least I have my retirement, my IRA, my 401(k), and if all else fails, Social Security and Medicare.
What’s wrong with that notion? Simply that the System is precisely most broken economically. The whole mechanism of fiat money and prosperity-through-debt-and-government-spending has reached the point where it can no longer sustain itself. The tapeworm now threatens to kill the host, and soon.
I write all this without anger or sadness or self-righteousness. Would I get angry, or sad, or self-righteous at a ball-peen hammer that hit me in the head? Nope, that’s simply reality, merely the way things are. I just try not to hit myself in the head with that hammer, and won’t waste time cussing at the hammer.
So our personal healing begins with this confession: economic and personal liberty and security have died at the hand of the Nanny state. Government and big business have become one vast criminal enterprise with a single purpose, to harvest all of you. To strip the last bit of value out of you. To squeeze, Turnip, the last drop of blood out of you. The people in power hate you and what you stand for, and they want to reduce your numbers by 90% for a world more easily controlled. That’s what “birth control” and “population control” are all about,” a demonic hatred of humanity, and not delivering poor oppressed women from the slavery of childbearing and children.
‘TAINT ALL THAT BAD
All the above may sound awful, but ‘tain’t all that bad. Confessing that we are dangerously ill means we are ready to take some medicine and get well. We are ready to stop talking and pretending and posturing and start doing.
Truth is, the breakdown of American culture and economy offers us a great opportunity. When everybody else in the room has a Moral Quotient (MQ) of 35, it’s not hard to shine even if you are only barely above average.
The reason is plain: some things never change, but are grounded beyond time and space in eternal law. Honesty has no “sell by” date. Neither does integrity, or competence, or courage. God’s finger ineffaceably carved these divine laws into reality at creation. They never shall be broken.
‘Tain’t all that bad. Over and over entire civilizations have broken down and collapsed, but out of the compost sprang up something new and better.
We have the opportunity of the ages, to build a sound and just and stable and prosperous world. A chance like that doesn’t come along every century.
GOD IS NOT THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
A long time ago I realized that one thing hindering me was how I thought about God. I was looking at God as I did at the Department of the Army while I was their captive. You could count it: just about the time you got nested into a place and got to know the people and your way around—I won’t say it ever rose to the level of enjoyment, but at least it wasn’t daily torture—somehow the Department of the Army found out and dropped an anvil on your head—put you on a levy to Vietnam or sent you to work in the motor pool in Antarctica. It struck me that I was getting in the habit of thinking that way about God, as if he were sitting in the clouds just waiting until I got comfortable to drop an anvil on my head.
Nothing could be further from the truth. God stacks the cards in his children’s favor.
I know a lot of people who have grasped the dreadful condition of society, government, morals, and economy, and concluded no hope remains. Destruction looms over us, they say, so you might as well hunker down and wait for the volcano to explode and carry you away in a tidal wave of hot magma.
Gently, gently, I whisper in their ear: What about God? Where is faith?
WHERE IS FAITH?
Here again, Susan has taught me much of what I know. If I told you she had the faith of a little child, you would not understand perhaps that simultaneously means the faith of a granite mountain, rock hard and immoveable. Her faith tells her that she is God’s beloved child, so she never doubts it, never re-visits that question, never queries and whines at God about what he is doing. Her faith tells her that God is working out all his perfect will, and the outcome will be better—for her personally—than anything we can think or ask or imagine. (She would probably deny faith this mighty, but that’s my observation and I’m sticking to it. What happens inside her mind I don’t know.)
More than that, Susan’s faith grasps—and acts on—the fact that God stacks the cards in his children’s favor. God himself favors our undertakings, he doesn’t fight them. He sees to it that we pass the test. God himself plants and waters and feeds and then harvests, through us, his children. That is the only reason we can hope and work.
On the other hand, my faith is (as they like to say) a little more “complex.” In fact, Peter and Thomas and I have more in common in the faith department than Susan and I. I fall into doubt. I doubt myself, and then I doubt God. I come near despair. My confidence in God tires out. My bad memory forgets what God promises, and what he has already performed in my sight. I overlook God’s power, his good will toward his children, and his all-commanding, all-completing power. I look at the wicked prospering and his lies and fraud and murder making him fatter and richer, and I ask—along with the psalmist, to ease my blame a tiny bit—“Does God see? Does God really know? Does God care?” Maybe only one little lie might get us by, and then we can go back to telling the truth, later, when we’re safe.
About that time God’s love and mercy pulls me up short, and my thankful ears hear this:
Then thought I to understand this; but it was too hard for me,
Until I went into the sanctuary of God: then understood I the end of these men;
Namely, how thou dost set them in slippery places, and castest them down, and destroyest them.
O how suddenly do they consume, perish, and come to a fearful end!
Yea, even like as a dream when one awaketh; so shalt thou make their image to vanish out of the city.
Thus my heart was grieved, and it went even through my reins.
So foolish was I, and ignorant, even as it were a beast before thee.
Nevertheless, I am alway by thee; for thou hast holden me by my right hand.
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and after that receive me with glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee.
Watching Susan, I have learned that this faith gives birth to self-confidence: trusting not in yourself, but in God and therefore trusting he will give you whatever you need to do any job. You in the presence of that reality, looking through and past the seen to the unseen.
FAITH AND VISION
Lately I have been taught again that to accomplish anything, you must have a vision and communicate that vision to others, rather than blaming them for what you have not enabled them to see.
Many were the reasons that moved us out into the country, including simply the desire to live there, but what charmed me most, what pulled me forward and kept me going through every disaster was the vision of a Christian community. A place where people lived together in harmony and peace, loving and helping each other, not a commune but a community centered around and founded on Christ’s Church, living for him.
I admit, I was not sure what that would look like. “Hope that is seen is not hope.” I could not see the faces of all who would be there. I could not see the buildings or houses, but I could see the outline, a vision of the unseen (indistinct as it was) that kept drawing me forward, a vision I knew we would all reach if we just kept moving, because God himself must carry us there.
Now, I see the place. Now I see those faces around me. Now I see that sanctuary, now I see that community working like leaven in our surroundings. Now I see it, and I know that greater things still remain, although we cannot see them yet.
Underlying this vision is the faith that everything depends on God, and that God can do exceeding, abundantly above all that we can think or ask, and that God is not constrained to save by many or by few, and that his eyes roam to and fro through the whole earth to show himself strong for those whose heart is wholly his.
But faith has to open your eyes.
And faith is not folly. The substance of faith is not to ignore all the facts and charge ahead, but to rely on God to give you wisdom to use those facts. And it would be a terrible error always to identify our hope with God’s intent. Faith and hope in God does not guarantee success, but even when God gives us failure, trusting him we know that failure does us more good than success in our misplaced hope.
BUT HOW IS RE-BUILDING POSSIBLE?
Back to Buckminster Fuller’s words, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”
That is how re-building is possible, and the only way that human beings and lives and prosperity and civilization are going to be re-built. We have to build a new model that makes the old model obsolete. A new economy, side by side with the old, that will replace the old when it finally dies.
WITH THE RULE OF LAW DEAD, COUNT ON PEOPLE
But what can you count when the rule of law has disappeared? What can you do when the government changes the rules constantly and without warning? How can you build and do business in a world where no one keeps his word?
The rule of law never guaranteed anything without first ruling in hearts. The rule of law has stopped working in America because it has faded in American hearts.
That’s why you have to count on people. Find those hearts. When Catherine Fitts talked to me about serving her investment clients in gold and silver, I was a little baffled. Why me? I wasn’t big, I wasn’t famous. Sometime during those discussions she said something like this, “When the rule of law disappears, you have to be able to count on people. You have to do business with people who you can trust your life to. It’s too dangerous to work with anyone else.”
I don’t claim to be that good, but Catherine wasn’t flattering me anyway. The federal government attacked her like they attacked me, over a matter of principle. When your life is on the line day by day over long years—when you could save yourself or even others by throwing away your integrity but your heart and your faith won’t let you, you learn whom to trust. And if you can’t trust them with your life, if you can’t trust them to die before they would betray your trust, you can’t trust them.
And no court of law or lawyer or bailiff or judge can put that rule in them. It has to be written on their hearts. If it is, no lawyer or bailiff or judge or government agent can erase it.
So you have to give up on the old safety nets—like the rule of law—that backstopped risks in the old reality, and count on people.
FIND THOSE PEOPLE
You have to find those people who want what you want, who have a glimpse of the unseen you see, who are sick of the obsolete model and want a new one. Don’t think for a moment they have all disappeared, because I talk to them every day. There are thousands, no, millions of them with both competence and integrity, and not only are you looking for them, they are also looking for you.
But how will you find them? One valuable story Harry Browne told in How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World concerned a Vancouver woman with curly hair. Y’all will remember that the universal fashion back in the late 1960s was absolutely stringy straight hair.
At a party Browne met this woman with a beautiful head of curly hair, and when he complimented her on it, she rebuffed the compliments, observing that curly hair was out of fashion.
Browne countered. Don’t you know that not everybody likes that fashion? Say 20% of the men in Vancouver love curly hair. Since every other woman has straight hair, that gives you an unbeatable edge with 20% of men.
In other words, to attract the people you want, be what you are. Conduct yourself with competence and integrity, and the folks who are looking for that will be see and be attracted and find you. Better yet, it will drive the others away.
WHAT TO TAKE HOME
What do you need to take home from this article for your own life?
Be honest with yourself. The old model is crumbling around you, and it can’t be fixed. It’s likely that the promises that model made to you, prosperity, stability, retirement, won’t be kept. You are on your own to provide for yourself.
All things work together. Patches won’t fix anything. We can’t just fix the monetary system alone. Returning to the gold standard or even the silver and gold standard alone won’t work. The monetary system is only one part of a political, monetary, financial, moral, and social system. Install a new transmission in that old heap and you’ll only shake the wheels off first time you drive it. You have to think in the whole and of the whole. Every change here makes a change there.
Your life all works together. You can’t merely snatch some investment profits and safety out of a system flying apart, and expect to retreat to safety. If the house falls down, you are in it. In the crassest terms, helping others helps you. In moral terms, you owe a duty to help your neighbor.
You can’t fix it by yourself. An economy is not an economy of one; that’s a soliloquy. You’ll have to do business with other people, and first you’ll have to find them. You’ll have to search out those people to do business with. You’ll have to re-order your own business, and you’ll have to look for entrepreneurs in your local community and invest in them, advise them, guide them. You’ll have to do business in your own local community.
Hope is unseen, but you have to see it. I know my vision, but my vision doesn’t dictate yours. I can’t tell you in advance what opportunities for investment and rebuilding exist around, because your vision is unique to your place and your talents and desires. The great vision we share, however, shows us the same peace and plenty and justice that God wills for all men.
You can’t fix it by yourself. You can hope and believe and work all you want, but without God’s blessing you will simply leave a bigger mess behind than the one we are already in. Working in our own power, we simply work ourselves into the ground.
It’s tough to describe the difference between working in our own power and working in God’s power, because on the outside they look the same. But something is different when the whole load of making things succeeds falls on us. Neither our shoulders nor our hearts carry a burden that weighty. Our eyes cannot watch and wake that long, and we become bitter and cheerless and suspicious. Working in God’s power, in the hope of his help, we are lighthearted and cheerful, because he is carrying the burden and we know he most surely will take it to the end of the road.
Originally published March 2012