“In the beginning of change, the Patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a Patriot.”
That quote comes from a friend of mine and it’s something I’ve been contemplating in some detail because it fits much of the wave of animosity that has been thrown in the direction of the Tea Party and accurately describes the elusive quality of true patriotism versus popular patriotism. Another friend of mine, Matt Clark is onto the same “elusive” threat that is perculating in our current social order. Matt addressed some of that elusive quality in a broadcast done shortly after an interview with me over Labor Day weekend.
After a recent school board meeting one of the board members, whom I have grown to enjoy speaking with, even if I don’t agree with everything they do, accurately answered for me when another person standing nearby asked me “So are you with the Tea Party? Are you a leader or something of that group?” The school board member looked at the woman and said, “I think Rich is doing his own thing. I don’t think he’s with any group. He speaks for No Lakota Levy, and at times he does for the Tea Party, but I think Rich is on his own crusade, his own personal war.”
I looked at the school board member and wondered if it was a derogatory “shot” at me, or just a general comment, and I determined that there was sincerity in the statement so it was the later assessment. So I added, “Not everyone wishes to go as far down the rabbit-hole as I am.” I then addressed the original speaker. “I believe that for an idea to be authentic, then you must remove the politics, the ‘group oriented’ portions of the argument before the truth can be seen, and once seen, that truth can then be brought to the larger organization. Those who chose to stay within the safety of the confines of a group will not explore the parts of a problem which reside outside the group. Regarding many of the problems of our day, the source of the trouble resides outside the many social groups, so to fix them one must leave the group.” I received the usual empty nod feigning understanding, which I let go because I’m used to that. The conversation was a polite one, and it simply isn’t possible to educate people in one sitting. They have to want to understand and many people just don’t want to.
When people ask me about my daughters the first question is, “What sports did they play when they were in school? Are they in any sororities now?” Often in those moments I have to deal with the conversation in the same way I did with the board member and their friend, knowing that many of the things I may say will come as a shock to them, so I generally find that I must explain it like I’m teaching someone a concept they are just now learning. “No, I encouraged my kids to stay out of organized sports.” “No, I would consider their membership into a sorority as a slap in the face to everything I ever taught them.”
“WHAT!” “WHY!” “OH MY, That’s so anti-social!” They don’t say those things of course, but you can see the words scrolling across their eyes.
My wife and I were going to dinner the other night at one of our favorite restaurants, we were on our motorcycle and we pulled up behind a mini-van stopped at a traffic light which had three stickers on the back window. The first sticker said, “FOP member,” the second “WCBO West Chester Baseball Organization,” and third was a “Masonry” sticker.
“Boy that guy is really, ‘connected’” I told my wife. “Look how proud he is of it.”
And here is the fundamental difference between me and that guy. He would look at a guy like me and say, “That guy is an anti-social, isolationist. He’s a stone thrower.” And I look at a guy like that and say, there is a coward, a person who is hiding from his personal demons by participating in group oriented behavior. Groups are to the adult what bedding covers are to a small child. The child believes that the covers will provide protection from the monsters which reside in a bedroom closet. And the adult believes that memberships will provide security to the harsh realities of daily living.
In the “patriotic movement” of the last couple of years, suddenly being a patriot has become fashionable, like wearing a popular name brand item of clothing that will come in and out of fashion. The same people, who scamper to the store to buy the latest brand of Under Armor, or Nike tennis shoe, are now joining the Tea Party because it’s become fashionable to do so. And that makes me happy to suddenly have all these new people who are interested in the things that I have always been interested in. However, I keep my distance, because I know that many of those people are only committed to the cause so long as it’s comfortable.
The reason that progressives are attacking the Tea Party the way they are is to let those people know that if they do not toe-the-line, then they will be cut-off from the established society. As I watched the Presidents speech on Thursday September 8, 2011 I was keener on observing John Boehner during the speech then the president himself. Boehner is wavering in his position. He only understands politics as usual, and the political community is threatening to cut him off if he follows the Tea Party, and Boehner likes to have a sense of “belonging.” So the threat is very real to him. His face told the whole story, and I can see that he is willing to “buckle.” The President and the rest of the progressives are about to win him over. (Check out Boehner in this clip. Does that look like someone who is willing to fight on our behalf.)
This is the essence behind “country club” memberships, political parties, sport organizations, motorcycle clubs, fraternities; all those groups exist for networking, as a hedge against the troubles of living. And in politics, even if it’s on the other party side, it is essentially a culture that provides safety to the individual, in group behavior.
Most of the Tea Party people I know are just nice people who are learning about their nation’s history. Once they learn that history, they will tend to vote differently. But I don’t see many people among them who are truly willing to “fight” the system itself, because they want the security of the “system,” flaws and all.”
In my life, I let very few people close to me. I have a lot of “friends” people whom I like and they like me. But I let very few people close to me except those who wish to exist without the security blanket of “belonging” to others in the form of a group. As I’ve taught my kids, “don’t be a follower, be a leader. Make your own path through the forest where no path exists. If you take the paved roads of life you will have an easier time, but you will not learn anything unique. You will see nothing that everyone else who has taken that same road has seen already, so your life may be mildly enjoyable, safe, but you will always have a feeling of yearning for the mysteries that reside far away from the paved roads of life. It is better to get ‘cut-up’ by thorn bushes and branches as we carve our own path in life. There will be dangerous animals and snakes that hide in the tall grass that are scary, there will be thousands and thousands of dangers that reside away from the safe paths in life, but the treasures of life are always where people do not go, for the act of discovery is in this constant push into the unknown. So if you want to play sports, play it. But avoid the mentality of the group who stays on those “paved roads” of life. Because they will not discover anything unique and they will be controlled throughout their lives by the orientation of the road. That means that the architects of their lives are those who built the road in the first place, which means that their lives are not authentic to their own experience.”
And that comes back to Twain. He knew as many intelligent people have discovered over time that the visionary, the patriot, the scientist who brings forth a new idea, that are ridiculed by the groups who wish to protect themselves, just a child pulls up a blanket to hide their faces from the monsters in a closet, that new “dynamic” ideas are a threat to the foundations of any group, even a simple sports organization. Because groups are built upon static patterns and the “leaders” in every group wish to remain “leaders.” So they will always attack a “dynamic” in order to preserve the “static.”
All advancement of the human race come from “the dynamic” so I see very little use from participating in the “static” except to be “friendly” with my fellow community members, because the way I see it both sides of the philosophical position need each other. But the true patriot will find the road a lonely one, so looking to your neighbor for reassurance is wrong, because it will never come.
As the real patriot explores the world away from those “paved” roads and discovers all the treasures that are hidden from the rest of the world, the patriot will soon find upon returning to the safety of civilization that there will be no shortage of “patriots” who wish to suddenly be affiliated with the patriot, and they will seek to make “patriotism” a new group in which to belong. This is the success of Glenn Beck and the rise of the Tea Party. Beck found a philosophical treasure and shared it with people at 5 pm on The Fox News Network and people clamored to that new-found truth, which was always there, but it just wasn’t lying along side the path society was on. (By the way, good luck on GBTV. I hope you blow the networks out of the water, an actual broadcast from off the path, what a concept!)
What I could have told the school board member and their friend was that I’m on an eternal “treasure hunt” always looking for new ideas from which to bring back to the safety of society. But I personally have no interest in safety, or blankets to hide my eyes from worldly dangers. Instead, I along with my daughters and every member of my family who has listened to me walk to the point wherever it is most dangerous, because it is there that the worlds treasures hide from those on the paved roads built by social groups. So it’s not that the groups of humanity aren’t nice, or the people in them aren’t just. They just aren’t looking for the same thing in life that I am. On those paved roads, I get bored quick because there is nothing there worth seeing if my aim is uniqueness.
It is in all this explanation which reveals the genius of Mark Twain’s statement and provides a key to understanding why those other patriots out there, those who wish to be truly so, feel so alone and hated. It’s Ok, the hate tells you that you are doing the correct thing, for if everyone loves what you are doing, then you are on the wrong path. The louder and more violent the hate, the closer you are to a discovery of something that has always been hidden to the eyes of everyone else, that which is buried in plain sight but far away from the paths built by human groups to protect their fixed perceptions of existence.
The anger thrown in the direction of the patriot and innovator is of two sources. First it is the leader of a group who wishes to maintain the static patterns which empowers them, so they attack any threat to their power. That much is obvious. But the second is much deeper, and psychological, it is a genuine jealousy that the attackers lack the courage to forge their own path and seek to hide that fear from themselves, so they lash out at those with the courage to live on their own terms. The root of the anger is more about what they know about themselves, and less about you, the patriot. For in that role, the patriot is but a mirror of what the attacker wishes in the depths of their souls to be, which left unfulfilled become the monsters of nightmares, where not even the sheets of a bed can protect from as sleep ceases to be a safe-haven from the realities of living. Life on the safe path after all has its cost. It may save the physical body from harm, but the mind rots during the journey.
For the answer to everything as to why labor unions fail, check out this link: