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Weekend freedom question: Getting to truth

When we were kids, the adults around us often told us things they implied were both true and very, very important. Sometimes those adults were right.

Other times, we eventually learned that certain “truths” were neither true nor important. In retrospect we realized somebody was telling us those things solely to compel obedience (“This will go on your Permanent Record!”) or mold us to social norms (“You have to go along to get along.”)

Question of the day: What are some of the “truths” from you childhood that turned out either not to be true or not to be important in your life?


  1. Ken Hagler
    Ken Hagler May 4, 2013 9:57 am

    1. You have to get good grades starting from elementary school to get into college.
    2. If you don’t get a college degree you’ll never amount to anything/be stuck digging ditches/be a total failure in some other way.

  2. jed
    jed May 4, 2013 10:32 am


    Other than that, nothing really specific comes to mind, just the general environmental deal of being a good citizen, paying your taxes etc. Of course, back then, for the typical urban household, there wasn’t any perception that government, as awhole, was evil.

  3. NorthIdaho
    NorthIdaho May 4, 2013 10:35 am

    You need to work very hard to earn and maintain a good credit rating.

  4. anonymou
    anonymou May 4, 2013 10:39 am

    Since communism/socialism is immoral and wrong and un-workable, capitalism is therefore moral and correct and workable.

    Having seen the libertarian/Ayn Randian ideal of pure unregulated capitalism in the real world, I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemies.

  5. tired dog
    tired dog May 4, 2013 11:08 am

    Back then there was no permanent record card, and we kind of knew that. But now there is, and multitudes of officious pukes are adding to it, but we can never know what’s on it.

  6. Claire
    Claire May 4, 2013 11:17 am

    anonymou — Please say where you saw pure, unregulated capitalism operating in the real world. I’d love at least to have a look just once in my life.

  7. jack veggie
    jack veggie May 4, 2013 11:25 am

    yep please show me where a free market existed in the US after 1791. My socialist educators failed to point it out.

  8. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth May 4, 2013 11:30 am

    Wow, what a sadly enormous question.

    I’d certainly list “Mr. Policeman Is Your Friend” at or near the top of the list of specifics; as fuzzier generalities go, I’d have to list the lockstep interpretation of presented history throughout schooling. The amazing way that no matter what happened in any part of the world at any time, it was always a shining example of what makes ‘Murrica so dang exceptional.

    Claire, your question also immediately brought a Butler Shaffer article to mind. It’s here, and I think the whole thing is very much relevant here. Here’s a teaser:


    This war against learning infects virtually all areas of childhood activity. Even play is being taken away from children. I have long been a critic of adult-organized, adult-run, adult-coached, sports for children. Play is an important activity of childhood, and yet most adults think it appropriate for them to usurp and manage this otherwise spontaneous and autonomous activity. I was fortunate enough to have grown up before the days in which “little league” baseball, football, soccer, basketball, etc., took over children’s parks and playgrounds.

    Like the government school system, adult-run sports use children for adult purposes — however well-intended those purposes might be — to which the children are expected to be subservient. The official motto of Little League Baseball is “Character, Courage, Loyalty.” Is play now intended as a means for reinforcing the pledge of allegiance upon the minds of children? Is this why uniforms are consistently adorned with American flags? In my youth, we played our games purely for the fun of it. None of us thought that, when we gathered for a game on Saturday morning, we were making a political commitment.

    Nor did we play in order to satisfy any expectations of our parents. Indeed, our parents would not have dreamed of invading our playtime by showing up for our games and, had they done so, we would have been humiliated. We played for our mutual enjoyment and, in the course of doing so, we learned the subtle arts of negotiation that make civil society possible. We organized our own teams, scheduled our own games with other teams, and even hired impartial umpires (i.e., older kids) for the “important” games. If such an umpire was not available, we were honest enough to acknowledge “balls” or “strikes” or “outs” with one another knowing that, if we did not, the game would quickly end. How well we did this may have contributed to the development of our “character,” but only as an unintended consequence of what we were doing, not as a purpose.

    Jean Piaget and others have written of both the nature and importance of children’s self-directed play. You may recall from your own childhood — assuming you grew up without adults dominating your every activity and defining your experiences for you — how the games you played with others were conducted on quite informal, ad hoc rules upon which you agreed. Learning how to adapt — spontaneously and autonomously — to the inconstant conditions of the world, provides us with a far more reliable basis for our behavior than do institutional mandates, crafted and enforced upon young minds by updated versions of the Code of Hammurabi.


    Do consider checking out the whole thing–and for anyone who doesn’t already know about Shaffer, this article is entirely representative of his work. 🙂

  9. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember May 4, 2013 11:49 am

    Presented as if it led to certain death:

    “Would you jump off a cliff if everyone else did too?”

    Now, now I know there’s instances where others call out from the bottom, or climb back up for a second round, and say, “It was fun!”.

  10. Shel
    Shel May 4, 2013 12:00 pm

    Beyond the fact of having given both parents more credit than they merited, I would have to say it’s the intentions of our government. Not that there weren’t bad things going on then, it just seems now the scale is different and is especially directed at us. As Roger noted above, there are a lot of people who are very seriously concerned. This level of concern would have been unthinkable, I believe, even a couple of years into BHO’s first term. It isn’t that he wouldn’t have done bad things, it looked much less likely then that he could get away with them.

    Certainly the immediate reaction after the Boston Bombing was a totalitarian response, which they no doubt justify as having been viewed at the time as a terrorist act. Then, in another definition of convenience, the surviving Tsarnaev brother will be tried as a common criminal, effectively cutting off the flow of information, which could have been leading anywhere and

    Regarding unrealistic truths or unrealistic expectations, that great sage Merle Haggard was able to express those realities both in a humorous way in “Rainbow Stew” and in a serious vein in “Are the Good Times Really Over” but he also had a potentially viable short term solution in “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” Actually, that may not be all that bad an idea.

  11. Jim B.
    Jim B. May 4, 2013 12:08 pm

    Not when I was a child, but when I started working full time after a couple of months. That I “needed” to get a credit card and start working on building “up” my credit rating. I can categorically say all this credit building is for the birds, and I wouldn’t wish it on them. As far as I can see it, the only reason to really build your credit is to be able to buy a home with conventional loans. A pox on all of them.

    There’s a reason our spiritual ancestors hated banks.

  12. Pat
    Pat May 4, 2013 1:08 pm

    THE BIG ONE: having Faith – in religion, in social mores, in parents’ and teachers’ authority, in governmental laws, in “conventional wisdom”. Don’t question, don’t challenge, don’t rock the boat.

    When I came to realize (at various ages in my life, beginning about six) that each of these “faiths” was self-serving and hypocritical in its own way, I had to back up, take a deep breath, and start looking for my own “isms”.

    But isn’t that what life is all about?

  13. LarryA
    LarryA May 4, 2013 1:17 pm

    [Please say where you saw pure, unregulated capitalism operating in the real world.]

    Kids trading baseball cards/marbles/comic books/etc, in the 1950s-60s. (Before they were “valuable” in the adult world.)

  14. LarryA
    LarryA May 4, 2013 1:34 pm

    Male version: “When you grow up, go to college, and get a good job you’ll always have a secretary, and will never need to know how to type.”
    Female version: “You need to learn to type.”

    “If you are loyal to the company, the company will be loyal to you.”

    “If the Russians attack we’ll go out into the corridor and sit with our backs to the wall and our heads between our knees.”

    “Father knows best.”

  15. Joel
    Joel May 4, 2013 2:20 pm

    We are blessed to live in the land of the free, in which there are no political prisoners and you never have to fear officious strangers demanding your papers before you’re allowed to proceed on your business. There was also something in there about torture, but it’s too depressing to recall right now.

  16. Karen
    Karen May 4, 2013 2:25 pm

    “But Sweetheart, all girls want to get married and have babies.”
    “If you don’t stop doing that, your face will stick that way.”

  17. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal May 4, 2013 2:40 pm

    “Snakes/salamanders are poisonous!”
    As soon as I learned that this was a gross exaggeration and generalization it made me question everything else I was told as “The Truth”.
    What I really learned from that was to dig deeper: what they really meant was “If something scares me, then we think you should also be scared of it.”
    Once I figured that out it was easy to think for myself, find facts, and form my own opinions about things.

  18. Matt, another
    Matt, another May 4, 2013 4:01 pm

    The legal system is Just. I now know it is capricious, mean, and near sighted. It only exists to support the status Quo, government, and the hugely wealthy.

    Traffic laws keep us safe.

  19. Betsey
    Betsey May 4, 2013 4:15 pm

    Be a lady…keep your opinions to yourself…government is good…democrats are for the common man.
    good stuff: never expect anyone else to take care of you!

  20. JWG
    JWG May 4, 2013 5:34 pm

    I was a little anarchist from birth. Most people seem to go through a phase in which they trust that the adults know whats best. I did not. I noticed early on that the adults were full of crap. Here is a collection from various adults: Color inside the lines, you need to cooperate, you’ll put your eye out, snakes are invertebrates, if you get lost find a policeman, don’t play with matches, guns are evil, boys are bad, thuh bah-bul say-as(insert non-biblical made up crap here), you have to go to college, you have to work for somebody else, you can’t make your own computer, etc.

    Over and over I have heard people claim that a thing is impossible or that I cant do it, but I succeed anyway. I simply do as I have always done, assume that people are either fools or liars.

  21. Claire
    Claire May 4, 2013 5:36 pm

    LarryA — “Kids trading baseball cards/marbles/comic books/etc, in the 1950s-60s. (Before they were “valuable” in the adult world.)”

    Yeah. Good point. I suppose in the modern world the mysterious online drug market Silk Road is another example of a pure free market in action (except for the fact of being driven underground by governments).

    I don’t know where commentor Anonymou is coming from, but I’d agree with his/her position that “communism bad” doesn’t automatically equal “capitalism good.” I have my doubts about capitalism (among those doubts is that I’m not even sure what capitalism might be any more; it becomes so contorted and distorted in the shadow of government). But free markets? Those I’d love to see.

  22. EN
    EN May 4, 2013 6:00 pm

    I’m not sure what capitalism would be either, but that’s a great reason not to dismiss it since we’ve never seen it and at one time this country practiced it and got wealthy. Well, at least no one on this planet has seen… which tells us a lot about Anon.

    The problem with trying to institute Capitalism is it relies on small government. Small government died so long ago that no one alive today can possibly have seen it (Yes, if Anon has seen it I’m pretty sure he’s an alien). And big government and capitalism are nothing more than Fascism of the kind practiced by Obama and his minions… and that isn’t capitalism. You have to hand it to the left. They’ve crushed free enterprise, which is impoverishing the country, and they blame that on “unregulated capitalism”. It’s amusingly mind blowing that most Americans bite on that line, but they do.

    Could Anon come back and tell me about “Randian” ideals? I’m guessing he heard it mentioned at some Democratic party Bund rally to get out the internet troops with the intention of “subtly” discrediting her and make Obama’s destruction of what remains of the US economy seem reasonable. I also bet if you asked him he believes are current problems are caused by not enough government intrusion into our lives and his/her answer would be reeducation camps for Libertarian/Randian believers. OK, enough fun for one Saturday night.

  23. leonard
    leonard May 4, 2013 7:55 pm

    war and killing is noble and good if done for the land of the free and home of the brave.

  24. leonard
    leonard May 4, 2013 9:20 pm

    Lincoln and FDR were great presidents.

  25. Hanza
    Hanza May 4, 2013 9:54 pm

    I’m a male, and taking typing in high school turned out to be the most practical and useful subject I took during those 4 years.

    Regarding the “go along to get along” meme. That is very big in the military, and bucking it during my 20 year active duty Navy career (I’m a chief petty officer) caused me no end of difficulties.

  26. cctyker
    cctyker May 4, 2013 9:55 pm

    Claire, aren’t black markets free markets?

    No coercion, high bid wins, profits expected.

  27. furrydoc
    furrydoc May 4, 2013 10:03 pm

    Cheaters never prosper. I know plenty who have. Probably most of them politicians. It seems lately we live in a world of situational ethics. People are more concerned with doing what’s right now, than doing what’s right.

  28. LarryA
    LarryA May 4, 2013 10:04 pm

    The “no coercion” part of black markets pretty much goes away when contracts can’t be legally enforced.

  29. cctyker
    cctyker May 4, 2013 10:29 pm

    Claire, aren’t black markets free markets?

    No coercion, high bid wins, profits sought.

  30. A.G.
    A.G. May 4, 2013 11:57 pm

    …What I really learned from that was to dig deeper: what they really meant was “If something scares me, then we think you should also be scared of it.”
    -From Kent M, (above)

    That’s good stuff right there.

  31. M
    M May 5, 2013 4:59 am

    “You can do, or be, anything you want to be when you grow up.”

    Millions grew up to learn the caveat that goes with that

    “As long as it is what society says you should be/do.”

    – Sadly many of us are now just working on giving our Children a chance to grow up in this crazy mixed up world.

  32. Badjoe
    Badjoe May 5, 2013 6:12 am

    God loves us (US) best.

  33. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 5, 2013 7:41 am

    I’ll second Kent, Kevin and several other posts above. One that I remember (from teachers and other adults, not my mother) – and is with us today, is the idea that you always must “start where they are” when telling the truth/trying to help people understand truth. We were taught that it is never good to be confrontational, and that the greatest success was with incrementalism, “baby steps.”

    I’ve found that to be mostly BS. If they understand the most basic premise… self ownership and non-aggression, everything else can be added easily. If that is not understood or accepted… then anything else you say or write is a total waste of time on that person.

  34. LarryA
    LarryA May 5, 2013 1:26 pm

    [ People are more concerned with doing what’s right now, than doing what’s right.]

    IMHO the main problem is that too many people are concerned with doing what’s legal. If your philosophy is “If it’s ‘wrong’ then there ought to be a law to protect you from it” the result becomes, “If it isn’t illegal, it must be okay.”

    Aldo Leopold – “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching-even when doing the wrong thing is legal.” One of the main reasons I enjoy teaching Hunter Education.

  35. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember May 5, 2013 6:17 pm

    cctyker, if black markets are free markets, then why do we call them black markets, and not free markets?

    Goberment provides a floor on prices, restricts entry and creates monopolies in the drug trade, it does not seem like a free market, but many say it is.

    IMO, baseball card trading stopped being a free market in the 1970’s when edumacators and their minions began to crack down on the practice, banning it on buses, in classes and in-between where they tried to control things. At least, that’s how I see it. It then became a black market?

    Garage sales (in select areas where permits aren’t required?) seem to come pretty close to being a free market activity.?

    Or how about this take:

    “The bottom line is that what’s fair or unfair is an elusive concept and the same applies to trade. Last summer, I purchased a 2010 LS 460 Lexus, through a U.S. intermediary, from a Japanese producer for $70,000. Here’s my question to you: Was that a fair or unfair trade? I was free to keep my $70,000 or purchase the car. The Japanese producer was free to keep his Lexus or sell me the car. As it turned out, I gave up my $70,000 and took possession of the car, and the Japanese producer gave up possession of the car and took possession of my money. The exchange occurred because I saw myself as being better off and so did the Japanese producer. I think it was both free and fair trade, and I’d like an American mercantilist to explain to me how it wasn’t.” …

    Free or Fair? by Walter E. Williams

  36. Coyote Vs ACME
    Coyote Vs ACME May 5, 2013 6:47 pm

    Stop that, or you will go blind.

    I remember when law enforcement was the title “peace officers” and hearing from my parents to go to one if things went wrong (lost, problems, etc.) and it was true then. So for the time it was true but it has morphed over the years to a bullies club and law enforcement is all most of them are about.

  37. Mark Call
    Mark Call May 5, 2013 11:44 pm

    Modern “Christianity” teaches that “the Law has been done away with”, and says the law has been “nailed to the cross.” Both are lies, because it turns out that the very same Messiah that they claim to acknowledge as “Savior” says He didn’t come to change even the smallest part of ’em — so long as “heaven and earth” still exist.

    No WONDER so many of us left that 501c(3)-licensed, Clergy-Response-Team-approved “church” as the hypocrites they were!

    And if that church teaches that God Himself can’t keep His Word, and His “Law” which He says is “forever” — then why, oh, why would we think a mere Constitution and Bill of Rights penned by mere men would fare any better!

    This nation was founded on the unanimous Declaration of certain Truths they held to be “self-evident.” Basic to these were the concept of “God-given Rights”…and the fact that the very purpose of government was “to secure these Rights”…

    If He doesn’t exist…or can’t keep His Word anyway, we’re in a “heap of trouble”. (And – no doubt about that, regardless!) And now that the “Department of Defense [sic]” has decreed that those who acknowledge Him risk court martial (at least they don’t have to worry about the oath they took BEFORE Him) — the self-evident contradictions just plain boggle the mind. (I couldn’t help but think about Gen. George Patton’s fabled “fair weather” prayer before the entire 3rd Army prior to the Battle of the Bulge. I guess they’d call him a ‘proselytizer’ now, in addition to whatever else followed…)

  38. ILTim
    ILTim May 6, 2013 7:11 am

    The (perceived) pitfalls of capitalism seem to mostly stem from the immoral actions of the powerful and well connected. For example, a mining company which is the only employer in a remote city with deceptive and abusive labor practices, taking advantage of its strong hold over relatively captive employees. Or companies banding together to drive out competition, to establish favoritism in government, or otherwise use their influence in a corrupt way.

    Or a deceptive and abusive government taking advantage of its stranglehold on people via rising debt and falling asset prices, combined with a wilting labor market. Damn, there’s that bad mood again. Off to the asylum for me.

  39. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed May 6, 2013 9:00 am

    I think I almost always knew that Mr Policeman was not my friend….but here are three of the biggest lies I had to unlearn from childhood:

    1. America is the best, most moral country on the planet
    2. Abraham Lincoln was the greatest president, and a great man
    3. The Civil War was fought to end slavery.

  40. Philalethes
    Philalethes May 7, 2013 7:19 pm

    When I was a young fella (early adolescence, I think) a phrase used to run through my mind: “It’s all lies… It’s all lies…” I was being the smart young cynic (with plenty of reason in my own life), but as I grew older, I found it was true.

    They sent military recruiters to our PE classes in high school, and, resenting being a captive audience, I stuck up my hand and asked about the suicide rate in the Navy—which got me kicked out of PE, and I had to kiss ass to get back in or I wouldn’t have graduated (it was required in those days, and partially militarized by sadistic instructors).

    In the early 60s I knew the Vietnam War was a lie; I had to learn about it because they wanted to draft me for it (I ended up going to Canada). I worked briefly on Wall Street, where it occurred to me that all those people were simply too rich to be honest.

    Thru the 60s I was a science-fiction fan, hippie, draft-dodger, thumb-power wanderer, dealer in “exotic herbs & pharmaceuticals” in the Haight/Ashbury; during the 70s I was a Zen Buddhist, and began to learn that yes, in fact, it is all lies, or rather, One Big Lie.

    Zen Master Ruiyan called out to himself every day: “Master!”
    And answered himself: “Yes, sir!”
    “Be wide awake!”
    “Yes, sir!”
    “Henceforward, never be deceived by others!”
    “No, I won’t!”

    In the 80s I met Irwin Schiff and Tupper Saussy and heard about Ron Paul (who remains the only “politician” I’ve ever given money to), and began a 20-year process of learning the details of all the lies I’d been told all my life about matters of the world: politics, history, economics, etc. The process continues, though I’m not so excited about it all as I used to be. What can you expect? It was all a Lie from the beginning, including the “self” I’m so very attached to.

    As the Diamond Sutra (a major Buddhist scripture, and the oldest printed book: China, 868) says:

    As stars, a fault of vision, as a lamp,
    A mock show, dew drops, or a bubble,
    A dream, a lightning flash, or cloud,
    So should one view what is conditioned.

    Or Nisargadatta Maharaj: “Just remember, nothing perceivable is real.”

    Well, that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

  41. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember May 8, 2013 11:01 pm

    Philalethes, cool comment. Way cool.
    Very respectable.
    Perhaps the best life-tale I’ve ever heard from the 60’s generation out side of the movies.
    …For whatever that’s worth.

    Yes, “The process continues, though I’m not so excited about it all as I used to be.”

  42. winston
    winston May 10, 2013 6:00 am

    If you don’t get good grades you’re screwed for life. And after that, if you don’t go to college you’ll never get a “real job” (And of course all the BS about what a “real job” consists of. Real world skills need not apply.) But definitely go to college because if you just try real hard, you can be an astronaut or the next president.

    Also I’ve noticed that pretty much anything with a racial theme that my generation has been taught (that is, force fed) from day one is so totally full of shit that it’s insufferable. Without coming across as too red-white-and-black here; long ago I grew completely tired of being brainwashed to think that some communist “civil rights leaders” from the 60s are some of the most important figures in world history whereas the people who actually made history are ‘a bunch of dead white guys that don’t matter anymore’, that some mediocre poem written by a black woman is superior to Shakespeare, that the Confederate states were some sort of rouge fascist nation full of atrocities while up north everyone of all colors got to frolic in the flowers together, and why curious kids are told in every history class from 4th grade onwards ‘nobody has any earthly idea’ what Hitler’s problem with the jews was (I’m pretty sure the guy wrote a whole f**king book about it. But I’m not a teacher…)

    Surprisingly, I didn’t grow up to wear white sheets or dumb looking third reich costumes. But damn if school and the media didn’t ruin the whole “fighting against racism” scene for me as well…

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