Our weak era says it’s a good idea to leave a bad marriage. The truth is any two mature adults who want to get along, can get along, and have a healthy, happy, functioning marriage. Rather than being justification for leaving, it’s more likely that a bad marriage is a sign of a need for greater commitment to the marriage.
Our weak era says it’s a good idea to leave a bad town and try the next one.
The truth is, if you wouldn’t go to finance committee meetings in the old town and attend the council meetings, and if you didn’t have lunch from time-to-time with the mayor, or your alderman, and didn’t make your opinion known to them in ways that they could listen to and perhaps even be swayed by, then you are probably part of why the place you live in is rubbish, and you’ll be equally responsible in the next place when it turns to rubbish.
Involved, informed, present, and vocal is what is needed of you if you are going to shape the world around you, because otherwise you leave a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Do you go to school board meetings? Do the board members know you and know what you expect of them? Do you even know who the people are on the board who decide if cultural Marxism or the Bible, anti-Westernism or Socrates will be taught to your child or grandchildren or neighbors children? Because if you don’t, you are part of the problem.
Having such decision makers and non-governmental leaders in the community know who you are by first and last name is a good indicator that you are staying involved, informed, present, and vocal. Certainly, there are plenty of people who are known by first and last name who aren’t involved, informed, present, and vocal. They are reliable flies on the wall who add little. I don’t advocate for that. You have a life. You have better things to do than attend every meeting, but you can still be involved, informed, present, and vocal in your community. If you show up to meetings once in a while and raise a fuss once in a while, you’ve done 80% of the work.
That doesn’t mean you win every battle. It doesn’t mean things always go your way. It means you show up for the fights that you value most, and you make your presence felt as a wise and concerned voice. Those who don’t show up for the fight are guaranteed to never win any fights.
The Niemollerian Buffer
Do you wear your face mask, or do you refuse to and go so far as to keep a wide Niemollerian buffer around you?
A Niemollerian buffer is named for Martin Niemoller, author of the poem “First they came for the socialists…,” a poem about the importance of defending the rights of others.
A Niemollerian buffer is created when you protect the rights of others. A nice benefit of doing so is that if you successfully defend the rights of others, not only do you get great practice defending yourself if it ever comes down to that, but more importantly if you successfully defend the rights of others, you are unlikely to ever need to worry about defending yourself.
Defending yourself is a far more unpleasant hotseat to be on. A Niemollerian buffer is one way to keep wide boundaries around yourself: protecting the liberties of others.
Instead of wearing a mask, do you go so far as lecturing managers, saying how dare they force their employees to wear masks?
Do you comment to decision makers that the filthy things everyone must wear on their faces help to spread disease, and ask them to be more thoughtful and less threatening about protecting their employees?
Do you contact service providers and tell them their contractor is not permitted on your property masked, because you don’t want to take on the added fainting liabilities that this will create?
Do you wear a mask or do you keep your most frequented business owners on guard and unlikely to ever challenge you on mask wearing by keeping the debate focussed elsewhere?
There’s plenty of creative ways to form a Niemollerian buffer around yourself, as long as you can stay focused on the fact that you aren’t willing to live life on the defensive. You will live life playing offense. You will live life advancing the line. You will live life charging ahead toward the inevitable, incredibly future of freedom and prosperity you imagine for yourself and everyone around you.
It’s not important just to be involved, it’s not important just to live a good free and maskless life, it’s important to be vocal about the rights of others, to stay on the offensive about the rights of all, and to go above and beyond in shaping the space around you according to your values.
Cut And Run
We live in the era of cut and run.
Cut and run isn’t a strategy, it’s the last option, after all other options have been exhausted.
I’ve spent most of 2020 helping people avoid face mask mandates and confronting them, not obediently giving into them. Those mandates, along with the requisite mindlessness and fear, haven’t magically gone away. Nor have they been removed by our beneficent overlords. They must be taken down one person at a time, no matter what our overlords say.
A Good Selfishness That Needs Acknowledging
But it’s also time to do more. It’s time to stand up for the rights of others, not out of kindness either, but out of selfishness. Protect them and you protect yourself. It’s time to be active in the community and vocal, not out of generosity, but out of selfishness. Let your values be heard, that they may be one step closer to being how your local community is run.
The Niemollerian buffer acknowledges that one aspect of protecting another is protecting oneself. It’s a benefit of promoting greater liberty. And it’s honest.
Those who contribute in their community for the amorphous benefit of an amorphous other, so often end up burnt out by it and bitter. There are plenty of individualists who have this “for the greater good” mindset. This is problematic though for all involved and creates needless friction.
If you don’t look to specific individuals and ask them what they want and instead expect them to derive value from the thing that you want to do to benefit the world, it’s not fair to expect that your work will ever be well-received by specific individuals who never asked you for this “favor” and had no input in any of it.
Your Sacrifice Isn’t Valuable To Others Merely Because It’s Painful To You
Countless times I have heard people with generally sound ideas about human freedom, who have the greatest intention, and greatest level of accomplishment bemoaning that no one realizes how much good that person has done for the world.
Yes, perhaps the activist sacrificed so much in life. And if I were a disciple of the economics Karl Marx or Adam Smith, I might say that means it is valuable. Being a student of reality though, I am left with the observation that the sacrifice isn’t valuable because it felt like a sacrifice, but is valuable because it is valued by another consenting individual.
Being More Responsible, Being More Honest, And Not Obsessing About How Much You Sacrificed For Another
A much better outcome is achieved by you being honest with yourself and recognizing that protecting the rights of others is what a mature person does to set a wide boundary around himself, which protects his self-interest and protects his family and tribe. If you are a grown and fully functioning adult, it’s part of your role in society to protect yourself and one way is by protecting others. I would expect no less. He who does less is not doing the bare minimum to protect himself.
It would be silly to say “I brush my teeth for the good of society,” “I pay my bills for the good of society,” “I work a job for the good of society.” Of course there may be external benefits provided to others, but you have selfish reasons you do those things too, reasons likely to be far more motivating than the perceived benefit to society.
As crazy as those statements are, when it involves protecting one’s own rights, it is so easy to get away with saying “I attend city council meetings for the good of society.” That motivation needs examining. Being involved and formative in one’s environment are merely things responsible people do. They have significant personal benefit to the person acting. No one owes you for any tangential benefit they may derive from it.
The absence of pecuniary remuneration isn’t the issue either. What if someone claimed they built a happy marriage without acknowledging that the greatest beneficiary in it was likely themselves? The giving builds you. The sharing builds you. The relationship builds you. Done right, the conflict may even build you. There’s hardly a more edifying relationship possible than a good marriage that one invests fully in. It would be preposterous to claim that your sacrifice was selfless. It would be insulting in fact. For whatever reason, however, we allow a truth-cloaking miasma to exist around the dedication of time in other non-pecuniary activities.
Doing good doesn’t have to be an altruistic gift. Sometimes it’s totally selfish. It’s good to be as honest with yourself as possible about that.
Protect other individuals in a way that they can find valuable, protect other individuals in a way that you can derive value, but don’t protect an amorphous group and pretend that someone then owes you repayment or recognition. Focus on the individual, yourself or others, and have the hard conversations with individuals about what a successful outcome looks like to provide value for yourself or another, or both.
Untold fatigue, anger, and resentment exists among those who won’t see others as individuals in this regard and who do not behave accordingly.
Commit. Double Down
Commit. Double down. Protect others. Be the leader in your circle. Be the leader in your community. You can do it to be generous to others, but there is no guarantee anyone wants that generosity from you. Do it for yourself. Do it because it is protective of your own liberty.
Do it because you don’t want to live through the pain of not doing it, nor do you want to then live through the pain of spending years in penance, as Martin Niemoller did, speaking to audiences about how badly he screwed up for not doing that: “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
The world changes one person at a time. You can send ripples through your world by the behavior you model and your willingness to defend your values in every exchange that takes place in your presence.
Don’t be so quick to run away. Commit. And commit to living life on the offensive, moving yourself, and everyone blessed enough to be around you, toward a more free and prosperous existence.
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