Old-Thinker News | May 21, 2009
By Daniel Taylor
Amidst the tragic occurrences taking place during the economic and political turmoil of our present day, there are sources of inspiration to be found. They’re not found in the hollow rhetoric that we hear daily from our
national leaders calling for “change” and counterfeit government sponsored movements. Instead, look to your ancestry, the struggles they overcame, realize that we can make a difference, and re-discover what truly matters.
We face a time of great trial, but also a time of great opportunity in our personal lives and as a nation. Hard times present us with an opportunity for introspection, both individually and collectively. We have the opportunity to re-discover the America that our ancestors knew and work to bring it back. John Taylor Gatto, writing in his recently released book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, describes the character that attracted freedom-seeking people the world over to America. Gatto describes the original American dream, contrary to the modern concept,
“Colonial and early federal America held the idea of self-sufficiency as the very pinnacle of achievement. The ideal household aimed to produce its own food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, transportation, medical care, education, child care, and social security. A large fraction of the population never got there, but as a City on the Hill to strive for it was an ennobling vision which some families, especially on the frontier, succeeded in making happen. It was this idea of being personally empowered, in contrast to the servile states of Europe and Asia, which acted as a magnet for the world’s peoples – not the prospect of two cars, a house in the suburbs, and the latest computer junk.”
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) was a French Historian and political thinker. His seminal 1835 book, Democracy in America is an important book that can be used as a guide to measure change that has taken place since its writing. When reading through this book it is difficult not to see parallels between American society in the 1800’s and the America of today. However, there are glaring differences as well. The level of awareness among the general population of Constitutional law and civil liberties made a lasting impact on Tocqueville,
“Nothing makes me admire the common sense and practical intelligence of the Americans more than the way in which they avoid the countless difficulties arising from their federal constitution. Seldom have I met an ordinary American who could not distinguish with surprising ease between obligations stemming from laws passed by Congress and obligations originating in the laws of his state…”
Increasing federal government intervention in states affairs is re-kindling the independent spirit and vigor of early America. As of February, 20 states have introduced resolutions to re-affirm state sovereignty and rebuke over extension of federal government power. The truth is that we can make a difference. We’ve been conditioned to place our personal identity and power in our national leaders – and in turn personalizing any attacks placed upon them – but historically, it is the people that have the true power and moral authority. Too many of us have been conditioned to believe that ordinary people are secondary to the important people of society, taking a back seat as opposed to making history. Good people need to be engaged, because as Tocqueville observed even in early America, political careers did not (though there were and are exceptions) tend to attract distinguished men and women.
“While the natural instincts of democracy lead the people to banish distinguished men from power, an instinct no less powerful leads distinguished men to shun careers in politics, in which it is so very difficult to remain entirely true to oneself or to advance without self-abasement.”
In the words of Edmund Burke, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one…” If everyone bought into the idea that one person couldn’t effect change, there would be no history to speak of. The actions of individuals, whether good or bad, have steered the ebb and flow of history since the beginning of time. This present time is no different. Let’s not forget that our time on earth is finite, and that we all serve a purpose. We need to have respect for ourselves, an appreciation of what our ancestors fought for, and a realization that we too have a place in history, as our posterity does in the future. As Tocqueville found in his studies of human history and governance, rulers have always sought to repress the human spirit that threatens their domination. He writes,
“He [The sovereign] does not break men’s wills but softens, bends, and guides them. He seldom forces anyone to act but consistently opposes action. He does not destroy things but prevents them from coming into being. Rather than tyrannize, he inhibits, represses, saps, stifles, and stultifies, and in the end he reduces each nation to nothing but a flock of timid and industrious animals, with the government as its shepherd.”
Out of the hard times that we face, let this be a new time of engagement and re-discovery of history, freedom and individual power.