We’re cruising down life’s highway and we find ourselves backed up in traffic by a colossal wreck. Glass and metal and blood and guts are strewn everywhere. Some survivors scream for help, while others lie bleeding out, pierced by steering wheels and shards of glass.
But never fear! First responders are already on the scene. The experts will soon handle the ghastly situation.
Except that the “experts” on this particular highway of life are standing there screeching at each other about their Twitter messages, tax returns, fat-shaming, mutual degrees of personal and financial corruption, and whether or not they enabled “bimbo eruptions.”
Other “experts” are off to the side debating about whether the best way to handle the wreck is by lowering interest rates for car makers and other favored financial interests. A separate group of experts nods their heads sagely while assuring each other that the bleeding victims will be best helped by 60% increases in their health insurance rates and a doubling of deductibles. While still others are waving their arms in histrionic debate about whether automobile manufacture discriminates against the differently gendered or cry that the sight of blood requires immediate creation of a “safe space,” not for the victims, but for them. When nearby motorists rush in to try to help the accident victims, they’re driven off by yet another band of first responders, who Tase them, beat them within an inch of their lives, accuse them of being anti-expert, and threaten to shoot them if they don’t instantly obey all orders, any orders, however meaningless, arbitrary, or just-plain wrong.
Meanwhile, the victims all die (or if they’re lucky, are left to recover on their own). The traffic backup grows ever longer. The drivers and passengers increasingly boil with rage, frustration — and sheer disbelief at what’s going on.
Thus our condition in this crazy moment of 2016.
But look. Right there there’s a grassy strip along the highway. It looks rough. But it’s drivable. And nobody’s using it. The other motorists are all still sitting there, watching the wreck and the shrieking “experts” (or the endless string of tail pipes and rear windows ahead of them), knowing they can’t do anything except hope those first responders will ultimately “do something.” They slam their car horns, get out to crane ahead to see what they can see, shout at each other, maybe even get into fist fights. But they accept that they’re stuck in the situation until somebody in authority does something about it.
But you? You look around, pull off onto that grassy verge, and creep away from the hopeless scene.
Gradually, a few others get the idea and begin following along the bumpy path.
If the events from the Crash of Ought-Eight to the Insane Election of 2016 have served any purpose it’s been to show a lot of ordinary people that their well-being — if they’re to have any well-being at all — is in their own hands. From other events (Katrina in ’05, Sandy in ’12, and the Louisiana bayous of 2016, for instance), they’ve learned similar lessons. Not only are they on their own, but “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” are the last words anybody wants to hear.
Crazy as this time is, is there any better moment to create freedom? Practical freedom. Forget trying to beat philosophy into the heads of the doubtful and unwilling. Our neighbors are ready, whether they like it or not, whether they understand it or not, to practice freedom.
And we are in an ideal position to help them get started down that bumpy, less-traveled path. Which will make us all more free.
So herewith are 10 powerful ways to act locally for freedom.
1. Don’t think exclusively in terms of the shit hitting the fan. Borrow a term from elsewhere in the political spectrum and think sustainability. This avoids one big problem and creates an even bigger opportunity. The problem to avoid is: What happens when the S either doesn’t HTF or hits it more slowly than people expect? They get bored and skeptical and they drift off. The opportunity is to create new habits that can carry into the future, wherever the future leads.
2. Find a circle of influence. This might (or might not) be your immediate neighbors or family members. It could also be your co-workers, customers, fellow parishioners, or members of a club. It could be participants in makers fairs, county fairs, ham radio groups, or other do-ers. (It’s probably not among the yammerers who’ve been meeting and whining at the local cafe for the last 20 years.)
3. Ask questions. There is nothing better than a Socratic for encouraging others to re-frame the issues and shift the emphasis from “let the authorities handle it” or “there’s nothing anybody can do” to “what can I personally do about it?”
4. Join. Volunteer. Teach. Opportunities are everywhere. Gun club. Book club. Library, Community preparedness trainings. Scout groups. Even some “unlikely” places can centers for connecting and building a freedomista community. For instance, I’m thinking of one church in our area that’s become a hotbed of preppers, and even the local animal-rescue group now has a disaster preparedness plan for the animals in their care. While I absolutely don’t suggest co-opting existing groups and trying to turn them to your purposes (that’s just annoying), these are opportunities to network and help take already-thinking individuals in these groups to the next step.
5. DO — and involve others in your doing. Organize a group buy of bulk foods or CSA boxes. Invite people to the range. Offer things you’ve built or made; good people who are able will offer their own in return. If you learn of an event you want to attend, pull together a carpool. I strongly suggest that these remain informal efforts — just neighbors and friends doing things with neighbors and friends. There’s no need for organizations, hierarchies, formal leaders, titles, regular meetings, mission statements, or written plans. In fact, such things hinder freedom. Stay loose.
6. Enable others — You ain’t the boss. You may end up being the initiator of many actions, but your goal should always be to encourage and enable others to do for themselves. Don’t expect absolute unity. Don’t expect every person to become either a leader or a follower. Give people room to go their own way, to be allies. To simply be good neighbors and friends.
7. Remember that people are motivated by self-interest. There are already growing nationwide interests in local agriculture, homeschooling, emergency preparedness, and shooting sports. Build on such things — and other things you learn by listening to the people you’re dealing with.
8. Set up alternative systems. Again, take the focus off opposing government or trying to turn government to some desired purpose. Go around government to get things done. Think: barter, “hours” systems, neighborhood schools, neighborhood child care, food co-ops, the modern equivalent of barnraisings, neighborhood watch groups, informal versions of Uber for your small town or just within your group, hauling and transport, co-op machine shops, etc. Go in together and buy a quality 3D printer and various materials to feed it. Amazing what people can make these days.
9. Selectively involve (or not) people within local government. Generally it’s wise to avoid any government involvement, even the most local sort. Governments operate by forcing people to do things and punishing people if they don’t do what government wants. They gain power by fostering a “we’ll fix that for you” illusion. That’s the last mentality you want! OTOH, while most local governments are as corrupt as most non-local governments (if not moreso), selected individuals — very carefully selected individuals — within local governments may be wizards at making connections and knowing who can get needed things done.
10. Give yourself a break. This is all hard work. And ironically, the more you encourage people to do for themselves, the more likely it is that you’ll be besieged with requests for assistance and advice. You’ll be asked to brainstorm ideas that strike you as either dumb or simply old, tired, and done to death. You’ll be asked, heaven forbid, to lead, even as you try to encourage self-leadership. You’ll be considered the “expert” even as you emphasize that we are all the best experts in our own lives. Or you will see others try to proclaim themselves as leaders of what’s meant to be a leaderless effort, organizers of what’s best left unorganized. These would-be leader-types will, likely as not, be completely self-serving and destructive to real freedom. This can be frustrating as hell. It can make you want to quit. Instead of quitting, demand some quiet time for yourself. Step back momentarily. Renew your creativity, your energy, your purpose, and your hopes. Renew your best self. You’ll need it to go on. We are all in this for the long haul, and we’re in it together, like it or not.