States and Religions – Scar Tissues From Our Childhood

posted by Nima

March 16, 2010 · Posted in Philosophy 

People’s perception of government and religion is quite an interesting phenomenon.

Not so much with the younger generation (and by young I mean the young at heart, meaning those who are curious, open-minded, self-searching, truth-seeking, and still capable of rational thinking), but definitely with those whose minds have stopped accepting new or alien ideas and whose only aim it is to jam every concept and observation into their immutable and eternal mental box.

The scar tissue of an abusive childhood remains so long as one does not confront it openly and honestly. All of us have been subject to moral corruption at one point or another in our childhood. Bullying parents, teachers, and priests are those who lay the groundwork and fertilize the soil for obedient and irrational adults in the future.

To most of us, the fact that those who preached to us when we were young were morally corrupt individuals of the first order, is probably one of the scariest and most challenging things to admit. The more emotionally offended and upset one gets when confronted with such ideas, the more likely it is that he is suffering from this scar tissue. But from this unfortunately follows that those who have been most brutally corrupted, are actually least likely to confront their past!

This is why, when people exalt the imaginary concepts of the state and of God, all they really seek is justification for the irrationality and mental or even physical abuses experienced in their childhoods.

For if the state’s brutal depredations of mass murder and mass-theft are justified, then surely the moments when your mommy snapped and hit her completely powerless little one, or when daddy took your favorite toys away from you, were all comparatively minor and necessary means to getting you back in line … right?

If the faith in an all-knowing yet all-powerful, non-material yet conscious, living yet never born or ceasing, murderous yet virtuous, and thus completely contradictory and unproven entity is rational, moral and beyond questioning, then surely the moments when your parents told you to “Shut up!”, “You do what I say, not what you think is right!”, “Don’t ask!”, “Don’t think!”, and the like, were just consistent applications of the superiority of faith over logic and empirical evidence … right?

There is no better way to break the development of a curious and reasoning spirit!

Thus, when you outline to such scarred people the rather simple truths as to what it is that people who call themselves “The State” actually do day in day out, that they obtain their resources from people by shooting them if they resist the collection thereof, you will always confront immediate denial and aggressive rejection and complete ridicule of the idea. This is as sure as night follows day.

When you press people who suffer from religiousness on very simple logical and empirical inconsistencies and shortcomings about their belief in God and other superstitions, you can expect very similar reactions.

(To be sure: I am not saying this to offend people. Quite the opposite! I fully appreciate and understand that it is asking a lot of somebody to give up concepts that have served as the foundation of one’s entire world view. In fact, I am not sure there is a harder thing one could ask of somebody!!)

But it is impossible to evade simple truths. People will bombard you with everything conceivable to try and bend reality and justify the unjustifiable, reason through the unreasonable. They will come up with ten different tangents, all with the objective to get off the topic at hand as quickly as possible.

Why is that? Because they are in their subconscious not talking about “The State”, or “God”. They are talking about their childhood, their family and other authority figures who have molded and whipped their minds into obedience and conformity.

To them, it is not about discovering the truth. Their entire quest for supposed understanding, philosophical thoughts, and political positions is centered around the justification of the injustice and the reasoning for the un-reason that they suffered in their upbringing and their education.

Keep this in mind when talking to the majority of people around you. They will rarely ever be open to dealing with serious questions in a logical and consistent manner until they have dealt with and found closure about the injustice and irrationality that has dominated their own upbringing.

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9 Responses to “States and Religions – Scar Tissues From Our Childhood”

  1. AHBritton on March 17th, 2010 2:55 pm

    I can’t help but think that this blog is in some way a response to the discussion we’ve been having. I apologize if this is not true and betraying any vanity :)

    If I am at all close in this assumption, I think you might have made a misdiagnosis, created a concept of me that does not match the empirical evidence.

    I think everyone for sure has certain preconceptions, it is somewhat unavoidable. When entering into a debate you must posit positive propositions (wow, a lot of P’s). I, however, do not think I am very close minded and am far from meeting the description of the “scarred child” unwilling to face the truth.

    Approximately a year and a half ago I started a blog which I maintained only briefly. On it I would talk about anarchism, expressing my ideas and working through my thought processes. I would post videos by Murray Rothbard and others talking about anarcho-capitalism. In fact for probably at least 3-4 years of my life (if not more, I can’t say I am big on “declaring” my self as something that often) I considered myself an anarchist of one kind or another. I even thought, how could someone not be an anarchist? To be against anarchism you have to be FOR coercion, that doesn’t make sense, does it?

    I participated in actions. Worked with loose organizations of people participating in my local CopWatch. A wonderful organization, I must add, which should be expanded into most communities. In case you don’t know, CopWatch is involved in watching police and providing a third party to witness and put pressure on police and hopefully alter their actions and diminish the coercion to what extent possible through the law. We also distributed literature informing people of their rights and the best way to deal with police.

    So I have witnessed first hand coercion of the state from a variety of perspectives. I am very aware and not blind to the brutality of the state. I have also involved myself with various anti-statist groups associated with operating as much outside the organization of state apparatus as possible and setting up Temporary Autonomous Zones and such.

    In fact I have lived the majority of my life against the state (either in actions or in ideology) when I think about it. I have pretty much never been PRO-state.

    As far as religion, I was never raised in one and have identified as atheist my entire life. I am currently reading the entire bible, am in the middle and have yet to find it very persuasive to say the least :) As far as my actual childhood and parents. They were rather main stream statist liberal Democrats. Rather early I separated from that type of dogmatic partisanship. I can’t say my childhood was perfect, I also can’t say it was scarring. I probably experienced more scarring from my own childhood thoughts and fears than any outside influence.

    I do not come by my opinions, or even start debates (I often ague multiple sides and enjoy playing devil’s advocate from time to time) based on “immediate denial” and “aggressive rejection” and “complete ridicule” of ideas.

    I come by my opinions and arguments from having come from the perspective of many of those same ideas. From having often explored most of those ideas for myself. I try my best to debate honestly and openly and except defeat when I am out argued (although I think this part can be the hardest for anyone including me)

    I hope this illuminates somewhat my thought processes, from what perspective I come, and any misperceptions you might have had of me.

  2. Nima on March 17th, 2010 6:54 pm

    Thanks for the background info. Yes, I have heard of Copwatch, it’s a great idea, kind of like ratemycop.com which pissed off police departments across the country. :)

    In your childhood, did authority figures, such as parents or teachers make fun of or somewhat reject your independent views, did you encounter problems holding atheist ideas?

  3. AHBritton on March 19th, 2010 1:51 am

    Um, yes and no. I have never been too concerned with what authority figures thought of me. I don’t know if any of them were terribly aware of my atheism. Didn’t exactly come up from what I can remember. Very few of my teachers were outwardly religious, other than a biology teacher I had who played tapes arguing against evolution and the like for our class. Most students that I knew didn’t like him either… so.

    Like I said I was not too concerned with authority figures, especially once I reached high school. Prior to that I was what you’d call a good student I guess. Rather independent. I had friends but not that many good friends really. Kids made fun of me for pacing around and other idiosyncrasies. In middle school I gradually became disillusioned with school and gradually started “rebelling” in little ways.

    It might also help to know that while I don’t shy away from expressing my views when appropriate, I am not the most confrontational person and consider myself to be somewhat situationally sensitive. I will dialogue and engage people if I feel they might be responsive but tend to shy away from open confrontation as some kind of bullying tactic or even under the assumption that I can change someone’s mind through brute force. I try to pick my battles carefully. Granted this ends up meaning that maybe on occasion I do not engage someone in a situation that might be productive, other times it is probably helpful.

    In occasional anti-war protests I have been in I have tried to engage the “pro” war protesters on occasion. Usually the older ones that seem less intimidating :)

    Part of the reason why I have shied away from anarchism recently is two-fold. First I have grown skeptical of the non-coercive utopia for which anarchism strives. Not only out of practicality, but also out of plausibility. I don’t think such a thing really exists as lovely as it might sound. Even on a farm a farm hand can be coerced by his employer without need for government. Despite the fact that he is not government regulated and many of his associates carry guns, a mob boss is still able to coerce his underlings. Coercion seems an unfortunate fact of life, and not necessarily pure evil. Second, I have developed more pragmatism, attempting to fight battles that I think are the most expedient.

    I am still open to debate about these and many other thing though, and look forward to talking to you further.

  4. Nima on March 19th, 2010 10:19 am

    I think your point about anarchism is an important, valid, and excellent one.

    To me, the best place to start thinking through this issue of coercion is really to begin with yourself. How much coercion did you use today to get things done? How did you get your clothes, your food, etc. ?

    Then you can take it one step further.

    How much coercion did your friends around you use in their day to day lives? And their friends?

    How about people around you who are the staunchest defenders of government? Do they frequently coerce people into submission to get things done?

    In my case at least, all these questions are kind of obvious. 99.9% of what I myself and all the people I know do day in day out requires absolutely no aggression whatsoever.

    Coercion is a fact of life, but that doesn’t mean we should condone or even institutionalize it. It also doesn’t mean that coercion is needed to get things done. Empirical evidence, to me, pretty much proves the opposite, and that is taking aside all the moral and effectual arguments I have advanced for voluntaryism.

    This is a nice videocast (or car-cast :) ) on this topic: http://www.youtube.com/stefbot#p/search/5/9Sa-q_bJxNw

    UPDATE: Actually that link was incorrect, but a nice discussion nonetheless. This is the one I was referring to actually: http://www.youtube.com/stefbot#p/search/5/AidXSubb-2U

  5. AHBritton on March 20th, 2010 6:30 pm

    I think the concept of coercion is a complicated one. First, and what you seem to have focused on, is personal disposition. How inclined is one as an individual to coerce someone else. A side topic that is somewhat related is what one considers coercion. Is physical force the only form of coercion? It seems the most effective, but hardly uniquely coercive. For instance if you are in a very privileged and high paying position, a position that might be difficult if not impossible to achieve elsewhere, can your boss use that as coercion? If they threaten to fire you if you don’t have sex with them, is that coercion, or just a question of trade offs? No one is holding a gun to your head after all and you are free to quit and leave at any time.

    For easiness of discourse I will stick to more physical forms of coercion. Even though I do not have a coercive disposition I also have very little coercive ability. I do not own a gun, or anything much past a pocket knife that I would be able to use for physical coercion. I could attempt to rob someone with it, but would probably be taking quite a risk considering the knife’s size :)

    If I was incredibly wealthy I would possess much more coercive ability. I could theoretically hire someone to threaten others with physical violence, etc. I also have a greater ability to purchase weapons for myself and others. Notice this is regardless of (probably even hampered by) the existence of a central government. Simply the possession of great wealth provides me with much greater coercive ability.

    Finally there is leverage. Having a position of prestige or influence over others, not necessarily monetarily. For instance if I have no great wealth but say possess a position of great influence within some kind of corporate or communal structure, I can theoretically wield that influence over others, even to the point of being able to threaten violence. This is often the type of coercive ability politicians and police can use to influence, regardless of its legality, but by no means should be considered unique to governments.

    Granted governments wield especially strong forms of such coercive abilities by virtue of the area of control usually involved, the strength and number of their military/police force, and the general support among the populace (or at least acceptance) and sense of legitimacy that they normally experience. They also possess the ability to prevent the coercion of others. Microsoft is relatively powerless to create a paramilitary group (at least within the United States) to coerce people physically themselves.

    Other than magnitude I see little difference between governmental coercion and non-governmental coercion. Granted if I am a subject of a loose tribe headed by a warlord in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, I have much less freedom in some ways, but do to the limited scope of influence the warlord has, I have a greater ability to escape.

    I see no reason why in the absence of a government or even large coercive military, warlord, or mob-like structure I would still not face a decent into such coercion by virtue of the wealthier and more influential members of society being able to slowly construct such physically coercive institutions.

    Another way to put it is that there will ALWAYS be people who wish to exert coercion. The only thing stopping them is the ABILITY to coerce and I see no reason to believe that a voluntarist society will be able to prevent someone with the will to coerce from gaining the ability to coerce.

    At least in a somewhat democratic society no single individual has completely control over the admittedly massive infrastructure of coercion and those that do wield the majority of this power do so only temporarily and (at least somewhat) at the will of the majority of the coerced. Now I readily admit it is not perfect, that it can always be improved, that it can always disintegrate into greater tyranny… but so can a lack of government. In fact it seems that when governments are overthrown, or in a state of flux that that is when it is MOST likely to descend into dictatorship and massacres.

    Just some thoughts.

  6. Nima on March 20th, 2010 8:34 pm

    I think we both agree that there is enormous temptation in the capability to exercise the use of coercion. The key is to achieve a balance of powers. A society where one group of people is allowed to shoot you if you disagree with them and exercise of disagreement is the precise opposite of a balance of power. It is the tyranny that we will always inevitably descend into if we accept the notion that a group of people should be granted the supreme right to shoot you if you disagree with them. It’s really that simple.

    I think you are getting hung up on terminology in your comment above. You are saying “Other than magnitude I see little difference between governmental coercion and non-governmental coercion”. You are absolutely right: There is, morally and praxeologically, no difference at all between “governmental” and “non-governmental” coercion.

    There is only coercion or non-coercion. Those people who happen to be called government just happen to be shooting a lot more people than those who call themselves the mafia, gangs or warlords.

    But help me out here: What is in your view the solution to the evils of mass murder and mass theft in this world?

  7. AHBritton on March 26th, 2010 6:48 am

    That is a good question, and one for which I don’t know if I will ever have a great answer. All I hope is that I, over time, get somewhat closer to a good answer and never become satisfied with the answers I get. I do have a great respect and reverence for emergent order, decentralized planning, and free association. I also realize that the order that emerges can sometimes be counter productive and dangerous. Yeast is an amazing little factory and product of evolution. This doesn’t keep yeast from destroying itself by the very alcohol it produces when in a closed system.

    As for mass murder, I think individuals should do whatever they reasonably think they can to prevent it. I know this is not as easy as it sounds. I worry that as long as a vast majority of the United States, or even the majority of world powers, support these actions that they will not change. I am supportive of the idea of putting “your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the all the apparatus” and making it stop, but even this I worry might be ineffective.

    Although the anti-war movement in recent history has been (somewhat) quicker to respond and quicker to denounce (at least to some extent), there is definitely nothing of the sort of revulsion as took place with organizations like the Weatherman. Despite their literal willingness to do almost anything, it seems like it might have had little effect on the direction of the war. Massive distaste and dissatisfaction with war efforts is what seems to turn the tide, whether in Vietnam, Iraq, and (hopefully) Afghanistan. What will make large portions of the populace feel that revulsion BEFORE 8 years of war? That is one of the most important, if not the most important, questions out there. If you have a good answer I would love to here it. Hoping and working for the elimination of the state is one option, in my mind not the most expedient, effective, or necessarily beneficial, but I could be wrong.

    I am aware of the arguments that a state apparatus has been necessary to create the atomic bomb and mobilize massive killing operations. Whether having a non-monopolistic society with competing systems of force would result in less violence and death is a complex and interesting one. States going through civil wars or with unstable governments often tern their genocide internally, those states that are strong and relatively stable tend to focus that genocide outward… not a great set of options.

    Some states, such as Switzerland most famously, have managed to remain relatively separate from wars and genocides. As far as large wealthy states they do seem to be in the minority.

    In a world that already HAS atomic weapons, I am curious what you think would happen to them and be their nature in an anarchistic society? If someone has a powerful atomic weapon, doesn’t that weapon represent a certain monopolistic power, or at least singularly threatening, access to force? This does not seem to me to be alleviated by more people having atomic weapons. Sure mutually assured destruction no doubt provides the vast majority with the incentive not to use one, but if someone has a death wish it only takes one or two nukes to create the most destructive single event in human history.

    As far as mass theft, it mostly depends on what you are talking about. If you are referring to taxation, as I said before you can move to a country such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Singapore, Burma, Macau. They all have very low taxation rates and government spending is very small. As you said before, why should you have to move to escape taxation, etc? That’s like the mob!

    Well, I don’t know why in an anarchist world you would be able to live wherever you wanted without consequence. If you want to live where it is sunny and humid, you move to Florida, if you want to live where there are low taxes move to Bahrain. In an anarcho-capitalist world (correct me if I’m wrong) no one guarantees that you get to live wherever you want without paying for it. Like I said before, if you want to live in a house that is part of a particular homeowner’s association, you are going to have to pay what everyone else does. If you don’t like it, you can move to someplace else more palatable.

    If you are referring to corporate theft… well that is something on which I don’t wish to comment, as my knowledge and thoughts on the subject are not necessarily well-founded enough or thought-out enough to make me comfortable presenting them.

    If you are referring to some other form of mass theft that I am not thinking of, let me know.

  8. Nima on March 27th, 2010 6:13 am

    I don’t think I disagree with many things of what you said above.

    Just a few comments:

    I do think that mutually assured destruction is a great force for peace, simply based on historical evidence. No nuclear power has ever attacked another.

    Regarding mass theft, yes, I was referring to taxation. Regarding your statement: “I don’t know why in an anarchist world you would be able to live wherever you wanted without consequence.” – You absolutely can’t, and never did I say that you can. In fact every single thing you do has consequences. All I am saying is that people shouldn’t be allowed to initiate violence or threat thereof in order to take your property.

    To me, the answer to these problems lies in ourselves. We need to abdicate from the political process. Marching and demostrating and angrily waving signs, as tempting as it is, is and has always been a complete waste of time in the larger picture of things.

    The main purpose of what I do is happiness. You and I find happiness in seeking truth. We will most definitely not find happiness from shouting or marching or chaining yourself anywhere. We will also not find happiness from hurting our heads over all the political nonsense that the Krugmans, Bushes, or Obamas of this world are spouting day in day out. We will only become broken and deplorable little creatures that people will enjoy denouncing whenever they can.

    What I will say now are not really my own original ideas, they are Stefan Molyneux’ ideas, but I happen to agree wholeheartedly:

    True happiness and a better life comes from pursuing truth. To improve other people’s lives we need to spread the truth to people in our immediate environment, our friends and our family. Actively seek relationships with people who are as curious about truth as ourselves. If there are people in our life, be it friends or family, who staunchly cling on to the false, irrational and ultimately cruel and corrupt faith in governments and Gods, then we have two options: We can get them out of your life, or we can continue to associate with them.

    If we continue to associate them, that’s absolutely fine. But then we need not complain about the fact that the world is corrupt. If we can’t even get corrupt people out of our own lives where we don’t face major repercussions, then how can we expect people to sever from the state where billions and trillions of massive special interests are involved? How can we expect to change the largest, most armed, most powerful government in the whole world by checking some boxes on a ballot or by yelling and waving signs at them, if we can’t even disassociate from a few irrational bullies ourselves?

    That, to me, is the main task that lies before us. And it won’t take broad effect in 4 or 8 years, probably not even in our lifetime. But at least it will set us free in our personal lives immediately, and bring us a gigantic leap closer toward happiness and fulfillment. I for one find it much more exciting to be at the beginning of this movement than at the end of it.

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