Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Matter of Allegiance

And Why One Might Wisely Withhold It

by Fred Reed

I wish to propose a salubrious anarchy, a deliberate renunciation of fealty to country, society, and government, an assertion of independence from folly and moral decay. Permit me to offer a taxing political idea: When a society ceases to be worthy of support, it is reasonable to withdraw support. The time, I submit, has come.
Here I do not mean to urge crime or counsel treason, but to suggest quiet renunciation of the national disaster. Ask yourself how much of American life pleases you. The schools are run by fools to manufacture fools, government grows more intrusive by the day, and culture is determined by the triple cloacae of New York, Hollywood, and Washington. Freedom withers, not only in the ominous encroachment of police powers, but in the loss of control over schools, church, hiring, daily life. We are no longer our own. The United States is not the country we are told it is, and not the country it was.
How to escape? The beginning, and the most difficult, is a moral distancing. Those who care must disentangle themselves from the cobweb loyalties and factitious duties with which we have been unconsciously encumbered. From childhood we learn patriotism, that one must vote, that if our way is not perfect it is at least best, that we must support anything however bad because were were born in a particular place. Why?
Let me suggest that one owes loyalty to one's family and friends, to common decency, and to nothing else. Render under Caesar what you must, keep what you can, and swear allegiance to nothing. Here I do not mean just the government, but the zeitgeist, the miasmic fetor of trashy culture, the desperate consumerism, the entire psychic odor of a society in decomposition.
Begin with things so fundamental as seldom to be reflected upon. For example, do not imagine that you are under an obligation to marry, or to have children, or to raise them as the government requires. Procreate if you choose, but only if you genuinely want to procreate. It is not your job to perpetuate a civilization that is daily less deserving of perpetuation.
But: never let the government have your children. Once they are had, your responsibility is to them. Teach them at home. Better yet, go abroad. Other countries do not force you to pay for an academically retrograde moral cesspool and then to drown your children in it. You might be astonished to know Argentina, for example.
Ask not what you can do for your country, but what it can do for you—you ought to get some of your taxes back.
Do not tie yourself to…anything. The price of freedom is poverty: freedom grows as your needs diminish. Less apothegmatically, if you believe that you need a vast house in a prestigious suburb, then you will need a lucrative job to pay for it. Having tied your psychic contentment to such an abode you will also believe that you need impressive cars and will therefore be tied to a retirement system and, bingo, the door of the trap falls. This, we are told, is the American Dream. I fear it has become so.
I lived years ago in a second-hand house trailer in the woods. I do not know what it cost, or would cost today, but perhaps fifteen thousand dollars. It was perfectly comfortable, warm in winter, air-conditioned in summer. Mornings were blessedly quiet unless you regard birdsong as noise. A brick barbecue provided a place to produce ribs and drink bourbon and water. A couple of companionable dogs rounded out the ensemble. They had the run of the trailer, as was right.
Now, living in a trailer is to the consumerist sensibility simply too degrading and so…I mean, my god, how could you face the neighbors? (There weren’t any.) But aside from damage to a servile dependent vanity, what is the drawback? A couple of hundred dollars buys a remarkably good stereo, music is free, libraries are good, and I for one am more comfortable in jeans and tee shirt than in Calvin and Klein trappings.
When your expenses are few, your susceptibility to economic serfdom is small. You do not need to work miserably in a pointless job for a boss you would gleefully strangle. Yes, you need money. The first principle is never to work in a job that you cannot afford to quit. This means avoiding any job with a retirement, of which you will become a prisoner. The second principle is to work at something portable that you can do independently and, preferably, without capital. Retirement? Save.
Dentistry pays well but requires pricey equipment, and it is not easy to build a clientele. An automotive mechanic is always in demand and the employer will usually provide the tools. Writing is a serviceable gig and can be done from anywhere. Many varieties of technicians readily find jobs. Remember that white-collar work, aside from tending strongly to entangle you, gets boring. Get a commercial-diving ticket, take a serious course in the repair of marine diesels, and spend your life in the Pacific.
Here again the obstacles are fear, inertia, and vanity. If you come from a family on the suburban-death track, the thought of being a mere mechanic or dive-shop owner or what have you may be disturbing. "Don’t I need a college degree to hold my head up?" Look at the universities, at what they have become, and ask the question again. (Anyway, respectable in whose eyes? Your own are the only ones that count.)
Finally, work the system. The government, if you let it, will take roughly half of your income, give much of it to useless bureaucrats, much to various forms of welfare, use much to bomb countries you may have no desire to bomb, and much to force upon you services, such as horrible schools, that you do not want. The central question regarding government is whether you can take more from it than it takes from you. It is much better to receive than to give. Live cheap, work only as much as you like, enjoy life, and keep your taxes down.
You will still read of the rot and running sores of a declining culture, but it will bother you less. These things are your problem only to the extent that you feel yourself to be part of the society that produces them. Don’t fight the government, as it will win. Don’t try to reform society, because you can’t. Laugh at it. Live well. Read much.

May 31, 2005

2 comments:

Emily said...

Do you get what I'm for than...?
This is how I see life....
I needed the governments help, because I could not do it on my own- but I am trying to do it myself. I'm not being greedy or undeserving....I don't NEED much- Food, shelter, a vehicle to get to my job. I wish some stranger didn't have to watch my kid- but, that's the way it is, and I've accepted that. (Kay is wonderful anyways) The schools do suck- because most of the teachers don't enjoy their job, and 3 year old are threatening to "kick thier mother fucking asses". Who wants to willingly send their kid into that environment? I want to be able to do it on my own. Who wants to leech offf the government forever?? Losers right? But- I do not want to work for some mind numbing asshole who is just making money off me, while he pays me crap wages. What's the point of making alot of money if you are miserable all the time? But also I don't want to be scraping by on food stamps and goverment assistance either. That is a stressful life as well. I need to find a happy, comfortable medium. (I do like my current job- but it's not enough as of now....)
I want to learn. Learn for myself, the real life skills you need to live/survive. I think that's way I have this burning desire to farm, but obviously its a tough life. I don't know, I guess It will all come together eventually.....I hope. Sorry for the rant.

Cyndi said...

What mother doesn't want to stay home with their kids and only work when it's her own choice?
But that's a reality for only a very small number of women, women who obviously made very different choices than you or I did.

I had to put both my kids in daycare just a few weeks after they were born and work jobs I didn't care for-- hated even, attending school and studying and making whatever money I could... and it's just a reality of the life I've chosen. I would love to have no financial worries, love to have summers off when my kids do, not have to listen to them complain about going to daycare, but I don't, and I never will.. and neither do any of the other women I know.
The luxury of certain comfortable choices has passed us by; I did what I had to do to survive, I do it each and every day:
Now you need to do the same... get an education, realize that this is who you are and this is what you have to do, this is what you *chose*... the moment you decided to have a child, your life stopped being about *you* and what *you* need to feel fulfilled. 99.9% of your life now about what you HAVE TO DO do to make Michael secure in the world and providing him with what he needs: a home, food, a shelter, by whatever respectable means you can. You chose a difficult path, so you have to be even wiser and stronger than most women... but also realize that you have opportunities and blessings that many other women in your situation don't have:
A family who is willing to help you, a secure and affordable place to live, access to education, transportation, a computer, etc and etc.
Make the most of these opportunities, use them to create more opportunities for yourself, and be grateful for them.