The Free Market is not Omnibenevolent

I know it’s considered heresy among libertarians and anarchists, but I feel it’s important to remind people that “The Free Market” isn’t always an acceptable answer. Says the anarcho-capitalist, right–what many would rightly call a “free market anarchist,” in fact, given  the history of the word “capitalism” and whether the market as advocated by anarcho-capitalists actually is “capitalism,” but it’s not important. I’ve written loads praising the free market, and now that we are seeing widespread cheering for the firing of white nationalists, I’m going to write something condemning the free market as the solution.

But let me explain, before you get all worked up and say that I’m abandoning the market now that it’s targeting Nazis, because, in fact, I’m not, and I’ve written this exact thing before targeting traditional values“” and other Nazi-style aphorisms. So, you see, rather than contradicting myself, I’m actually staying true to what I’ve said before, and am now applying the same logic and principles now that the shoe is on the other foot. In this article praising the virtues of personal relationships as the destroyers of bigotry (by all accounts, a positive thing), I said:

There are only three ways that liberty can work: homogeneity, diversity, and individualism.

I also said this on Facebook, drawing attention to the inherent absurdity of attempting to use homogeneity to achieve liberty–we would recognize this as a direct attack on paleo-libertarianism, a weird and twisted school of libertarian philosophy that, in essence, argues that liberty is only for white people:

Homogeneity is obviously broken as an idea–it’s simply impossible. There will always be differences between people, and those differences will always be highlighted. Hitler wanted to basically produce an all-white society, and what happened? The differences among white people were immediately targeted as points of divide: those with blond hair and blue eyes were considered superior to someone who had brown hair and brown eyes. By definition, a society can never be truly homogeneous. Even if Hitler had succeeded in eliminating everyone but white people with blond hair and blue eyes, the divisiveness wouldn’t have ended; instead, it would have become “tall people are superior to short people” or something else. I’d venture the statement that the more homogeneous a society is, the more petty are its points of division.

The idea that any group of people can be truly homogeneous is laughable. If that divisive mentality is there, then it is there regardless of the characteristics of the people in the group. With the divisive mentality in place, paleo-libertarians, the alt-right, and Neo-Nazis think that all non-white people are the problem. Let’s presume for a moment that they somehow manage to get rid of all the non-white, non-straight, non-cisgender people. Do they suddenly stop hating people? No. They merely redirect their hatred to some other minority. Redheads become the target of their hatred, or people who are under 5 feet, 6 inches tall, because the core of their hatred–that there are differences within their group that cannot be tolerated–remains. As long as that idea remains, they will identify any and every difference and pinpoint it as the problem, and will continue on until only one person remains standing and everyone else is dead.

The point I’ve been driving at since I began thinking and writing about this subject a month or so ago is that neither homogeneity nor heterogeneity can deliver on the free market promises of “ultimate equality,” despite its ups and downs. The market, as any market advocate will tell you, swings like a pendulum, and it isn’t always fair or just. It does, however, tend to come to a point of equilibrium, one that is based on the dominant positions and ideologies about what constitutes “justice” and “equality.” If a market comes to rest indefinitely* on inequality, then it is merely a reflection that the majority of people in that society do not value equality.

As written in Fight Club, “on a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everyone drops to zero.”

Just as that is true, so is it true that “on a long enough timeline, the values embraced by a free market are reflective of the people who support that market.” This is why it’s so damning to see that so much child and sweatshop labor continues to go into much of the gimmicky, cheap bullshit bought by people at Wal-Mart; that these things have not vanished in the last few decades since we learned of the child and sweatshop labor is a tacit endorsement of child and sweatshop labor. We know that Indonesian children are making our Nikes. We just don’t care. We know that diamonds are steeped in blood. We just don’t care. We know that the cobalt that goes into our phone and laptop batteries, and soon into our Tesla electric cars, is stepped in blood and horrific child labor. We just don’t care.

With this enormous preamble out of the way, let me get to the point.

People are cheering the firing of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I’m actually inclined to view this as a Pandora’s Box–one that we painstakingly managed to close in the 60s and 70s, and one that we should not, under any circumstances, open again. It was arduous, difficult, and unjust for black Americans, Asian Americans, women, homosexuals, transsexuals (ongoing), and all of these others to have to fight an uphill battle to take back their jobs, to not be fired for these things. Thirty years ago, we all (those of sound mind and reasonable ideas–I didn’t even exist then) condemned the idea of firing a man because he was a drag queen two Fridays out of the month, because he and his wife were swingers, because his wife was black, because he was living with his girlfriend and they weren’t married, or because he was gay. How far have we truly come, if we now revisit these ideas, but simply reverse the power structures so that, instead of the white supremacists firing the transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual for being a transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual, the transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual fires the white supremacist for being white supremacist?

I’d argue that we haven’t changed anything. We simply turned the table around.

It’s important to remember that swords like this cut both ways, which we should damned well know from the history of American injustices against black people, LGBT people, Hispanic people, women, Asians, and everyone else. We know how this shit feels when it’s done to us, and we know that it can be done to us. As it stands, “we” have the cultural power–there is no doubt of that. We are currently the ones holding the reins of power, freely able to bend society to our will in whatever ways we want, with very few exceptions. We will not always be the ones holding the power. Less than a century ago, we were not the ones holding the power.

It so perfectly mirrors the growth of the executive branch that it’s staggering. For years, Republicans gave their approval to the growth of the executive branch, apparently never considering the possibility that it could end up in the hands of someone they didn’t like. Then Democrats did the same. Now we have Trump in power, and people are like, “You know? Maybe we shouldn’t have created this power structure that is now ripe for abuse against us instead of in favor of whatever we happen to want at that particular moment.”

More bizarrely, we’ve already been through this. We’ve already been on the receiving end of discrimination, and it’s still the case that there are tons and tons of “non-protected groups” with whom we are allies to some extent, and who are free to be fired by their employees for upsetting someone’s personal moral sensibilities.

Drag queens aren’t protected.

Swingers aren’t protected.

Interracial couples aren’t protected.

Women who have had abortions aren’t protected.

Former partiers, musicians, rappers, and the like are not protected. In fact, we see this already with colleges and employers searching through people’s histories and firing them for getting a little too wild at a party 6 years before.

Polyamorous people aren’t protected.

In fact, if we look at things rationally and objectively, we’ll find that not a whole lot are protected from anti-discrimination laws. And while I don’t think we need anti-discrimination laws at all, and certainly not more of them, the overall sentiment appears to be that “It’s okay if we discriminate against them, because the law prevents them from doing the same to us,” and this simply isn’t true.

There is no protection for contractors, of course. You could wreck my entire life by finding out who my clients are and informing them that I’m transsexual. This was actually my biggest concern with forming the Libertarian Party in my county. Even if I was an employee, and not a contractor, there is still very little protection for transgender and transsexual people, legally or socially, and none at all in the state of Mississippi.

Do you think that the white supremacists and traditional valuists in positions of authority will not retaliate? Do you think that secret KKK member Bob Greenwich, head of the marketing department in some firm, won’t suddenly begin finding reasons to fire his black employees?

Unlike many people who seem to be talking these days, I reject both. I fully recognize the right of an employer to fire anyone that they want for any reason that they want. This does not mean, however, that having the right to do something makes it the right thing to do. I have the right to fire someone for being gay, for being a white supremacist, or for being lazy. But this doesn’t mean it’s right, just, or moral to fire someone for being gay, or for being a white supremacist. The only factors that should go into employment are the person’s capabilities to do that job. I said this exact thing two weeks ago when arguing against Trump’s proposed trans military ban, and people applauded. I say it now, and I’m called a Nazi sympathizer.

On July 27, I said this:

Banning trans people from a job is dumb.

As an employer, you shouldn’t be interested in what characteristics a person has; you should be interested in their ability and skills to do the job. If you hire them according to any other criteria, you won’t be hiring the best unless it’s by complete accident.

This applies to every job.

If you want the best military in the world, then you have to hire the people who are the best. If you hire the people who are second-best or third-best because they have whatever characteristics you prefer, then your military will be second-best, third-best, or worse.

People are looking at this thing all wrong. Perhaps, on average, the extra medical and psychological needs make trans people inferior to other potential employees. But then you have people like me, whose only “need” is to be left the hell alone by people with more free time than common sense. “Can this individual do the job? Is this individual the best person for the job?” The hardships and struggles of the collective are fictitious. We are dealing with individuals.

I don’t give a damn if I hire a guy who seduced his dog, if he’s the best damn tech in the area. The “best” are usually pretty quirky, to put it kindly.

No one disagreed. No one took issue with it. It was common sense, and I was obviously right. Earlier today, I said this:

People are cheering the firing of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I’m actually inclined to view this as a Pandora’s Box–one that we painstakingly managed to close in the 60s and 70s, and one that we should not, under any circumstances, open again. It was arduous, difficult, and unjust for black Americans, Asian Americans, women, homosexuals, transsexuals (ongoing), and all of these others to have to fight an uphill battle to take back their jobs, to not be fired for these things. Thirty years ago, we all (those of sound mind and reasonable ideas–I didn’t even exist then) condemned the idea of firing a man because he was a drag queen two Fridays out of the month, because he and his wife were swingers, because his wife was black, because he was living with his girlfriend and they weren’t married, or because he was gay. How far have we truly come, if we now revisit these ideas, but simply reverse the power structures so that, instead of the white supremacists firing the transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual for being a transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual, the transsexual black swinging Satanist homosexual fires the white supremacist for being white supremacist?

I’d argue that we haven’t changed anything. We simply turned the table around.

… which you’ll find written above. I do that often, where I write something in an article and preview it on Facebook. Anyway, I was immediately accused of being against freedom of association. That’s quite remarkable, considering that I have a long ass history of arguing in favor of freedom of association.

On an individual basis.

I wholly reject as immoral, reckless, stupid, and irresponsible the idea of disassociating from an entire group of people because of the actions of some, the words of some, ostensible similarities among its members, or whatever-fucking-else is proposed. If someone wants to fire the racist asshat Bob because he treats black customers like crap, I have absolutely no issue with that. But if someone wants to fire the racist asshat Bob because he’s a KKK member even though he’s never displayed any tendency for treating black customers differently, I have to take issue with that. Sure, they have the right to do it, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

And it’s really just a back-handed, passive aggressive forceful coercion, when it comes down to it, especially in these hypothetical numbers I gave above, where 99.99% discriminates against the 0.01%. As someone pointed out, “Then the 0.01% of people who are racists need to change their minds.” Yes, and that’s a moral hazard. “If the 0.01% don’t want to die, then they need to get on board with my ideas and stop disagreeing with me.” I’m not saying that it violates the NAP. Nor does it violate the NAP if 99.99% of people are cisgender and insist, “Then the 0.01% need to stop being transgender if they want to work.”

I’m kinda surprised that I’m saying this, but the NAP isn’t the ultimate standard on what is and isn’t moral. It’s only the standard of what must be tolerated and what must not be tolerated. It’s not a moral guide. It’s a minimal level of acceptable behavior guide. One’s morality is something for one to work out themselves, and I have many thoughts on morality–many of which would you would disagree with. I’m not saying that my moral proclamations that collectivist discrimination is morally wrong is objectively correct. I’m saying that it’s subjectively correct, and here I’ve outlined the subjective criteria for making that assertion.

It has also been stated that the 0.01% are more than welcome to form their own little society, despite that I’ve pointed out that, even in the United States, this would produce a society of only 30,000 people–nowhere near enough for a self-sufficient society in any modern terms. Besides which, the nature of leaving a society where food is bought from stores to form one where there are no stores from which to buy groceries, and where food would have to be raised and farmed, is effectively a death sentence without outside help–do we need to be reminded that the only reason the Puritan settlers survived the first winter in the New World was the benevolence of Native Americans? There’s a rather large gap there between “leaving society” and “growing one’s own food” that results in rather a lot of death.

Now I’ve got someone who says he’s closer to anarcho-communism than anarcho-capitalism suggesting market solutions, while I’m pointing out that a free market, in order to achieve liberty, requires either pure heterogeneity (practically impossible), pure homogeneity (theoretically impossible), or individualism. You know–the same thing I said a month ago, when another group–*cough* trans people *cough*–were being treated as a collective instead of as individuals with their own merits regardless of these characteristics and behaviors that had absolutely nothing to do with their ability to do a job and function within the confines of a free market.

And though I was right a month ago… Now, I’m wrong. In fact, one of the people who liked my status about this very subject when I wrote it about trans people in the military is not arguing with me, because I’ve had the audacity to say the same damned thing about individuals who, regardless of their ability to do the task they are required to do, are also white supremacists. And, in so doing, this person–who alleges to fall closer to AnComs than AnCaps–is suggesting market solutions.

I will be debating this person–presumably–on the 25th, where we will use Lincoln-Douglas format to discuss “The nature and scope of self-defense.” Honestly, I don’t think the debate is going to happen. I’ve not heard anything about it since I challenged and Matt accepted. This isn’t the way I do things, you know? I iron out the details beforehand, and I still don’t know the venue where we are having this debate. But, as soon as I have that info, I’ll share it.

I made that crappy thing. Someone is, again presumably, making a better one. Since they’re doing it for free out of kindness, I’m not badgering them about it, but it doesn’t seem to have been made, and that further makes me wonder whether this debate is actually going to happen.

* Markets never rest indefinitely, but that’s not the point.

Stop Virtue Signaling.

It’s been a weird few days.

The Neo-Nazis have done more to make fascists out of libertarians than Molyneaux, Cantwell, and all the Jared Howes of the world could ever have dreamed; in one single day, they managed to take countless people who otherwise advocate the NAP and turn them into irrational hawks screaming for bloodshed. As one of a relatively small group of people advocating calm, peace, and dialogue, I’ve found myself insulted more in the last five days by allies than I have been by enemies across two years of being trans in the south. People who have routinely disagreed with me amicably about the radical/pragmatic split suddenly resort to insulting me.

If there is any succinct and honest way to describe what’s going on, it would be this:

The word “Nazi” has #triggered lots and lots of people.

I was surprised, honestly, on Sunday night to have host of the show Thom Gray yelling at me, angry and hostile, because I had the audacity to ask what the Neo-Nazis had actually done. He was angry. He wasn’t interested in hearing anything that I said, because he instead wanted to shout over me. That brief segment of Libertarian Drama of the Week was basically a preview of everything that has been going on since–right now, it is simply about who shouts the most and who shouts the loudest.

And virtue signaling. Oh, by God, there is so much virtue signaling right now that I’ve not scrolled through my Facebook feed since Sunday morning. Every other post is an open admission that they want to inflict violence on people they disagree with, because they disagree with them, and because the point of disagreement is something that they consider really, really, really awful. Hey, I totally agree. White Nationalism is horrific and stupid, Nazism is horrific and stupid, and the alt-right’s ideology is stupid.

And the fact that I don’t let the presence of Neo-Nazis reduce me to a drooling mess shouting and carrying a pitchfork somehow makes me less moral than the people itching to take up arms. That has been what I’ve observed. Two distinct cliques have formed, divided entirely on this issue, and the allegations coming from the other side are constant and bizarre. Just a little while ago, Vermin Supreme posted in the Audacious Caucus’s Facebook page that if you say something negative about Antifa and you don’t also say something negative about the Neo-Nazis, then you’re going to be taken as a Nazi sympathizer.

What kind of divisive, Us and Them bullshit is this?

When I condemn the United States’ actions in the Middle East, does that suggest or imply that I’m an Isis sympathizer?

It’s a measure of the loss of perspective that has occurred because of That Word–that Word of Pure Evil. I reject all Us and Them bullshit, and this is merely a new form of that. Whether they intended to or not, Vermin Supreme and all the others who are saying such things are carving the world in two and asserting, “You either explicitly condemn them every chance that you get, or you’re with them.”

It is the purest form of virtue signaling, least of all because none of these people seem to be making trips to the southern states to “punch a Nazi.” That’s what makes it virtue signaling. Not even 1% of these people are doing anything to punch Nazis. I would be more inclined to take them seriously and treat them as ideological equals if they were doing that, but they’re not. They’re just virtue signaling about how they want to punch Nazis, and, in the process, throwing absolute vitriol at me because I’ve proposed an alternative solution to dealing with the rise of Neo-Nazism, and have actually taken steps to implement that alternative solution: I’ve reached out to The Non-Believer, Atheism is Unstoppable, Chris Cantwell, and Molyneaux. I want to talk to them. And if they reply, I’m going to reach out to people like Michael Moore and other leaders on the left, and try to organize a sit-down for people to talk about this shit before it gets out of hand.

That’s a lot better than punching people, if you ask me, and it’s several orders of magnitude better than endlessly spouting on Facebook about the desire to punch people with no effort or intention of actually doing so. Posting about wanting to punch Nazis isn’t the same as actually punching Nazis. And I wouldn’t even have a problem with the people posting about wanting to punch Nazis if they weren’t bending over backward to take everything I say out of context, to twist what I say into bizarre and nonsensical forms, to insult me, to berate me, and to treat me like I’m some kind of scum because I’m not willing to signal the virtue that they want me to signal.

If you want to signal virtue about how much you hate Nazis, fine. I hate them, too, and have written at length about what’s wrong with their ideology. But don’t you fucking dare look down your nose at me because you’ve confused your virtue signaling with actually doing something. Talking about your desire to punch them on Facebook and Twitter isn’t going to do anything to stop them. And, you know what? Going out and punching them isn’t going to do anything to stop them, either; it will just reinforce what they already believe. But whatever. Actually going out and attacking them is a different subject entirely.

When Thom yelled at me on The Call to Freedom, it was before and after he’d stated multiple times how badly he wanted to go to Charlottesville and kick in some skulls. Am I missing something? These people aren’t hard to find, especially in Tennessee and Mississippi. I’d bet that he lives within ten miles of at least fifteen of these people. See, the thing is… People who want to do something… do it. It’s sort of how “desire” works. And if someone doesn’t do something, it serves as ipso facto proof that they don’t want to do it.

What do they want? They want to talk about punching Nazis. They want to make sure everyone knows what their virtues are, and they want to look down with disdain at anyone who dares express virtues that, you know, are actually in-line with the Non-Aggression Principle.

I intended to talk once more about how violence and force are the mechanics of the state, and so anyone who attempts to use violence and force to achieve a political or social goal, even if that goal is “getting rid of the Neo-Nazis” is, by definition, attempting to be a state, an Army of One, a dictator, a tyrant who backs up their moral proclamations with guns and bloodshed. Because that’s true, too–it’s the definition of “the state” that libertarians have been using for a long time. It must be the definition, because a single bloodthirsty tyrant ruling over a small village and enforcing his decrees personally is still a state.

But instead, the virtue signaling… It’s well past the point of obnoxious.

You want to punch Nazis? Stop talking about it and go do it.

Otherwise, come down off your high horse and admit that you’re full of shit. And stop pretending like you’re morally superior because you’re too chicken shit to do it yourself and instead want to cheer on for other people while they fight your battles for you.

Demons, Demons Everywhere, and No Exorcist In Sight

“Nazi.”

The very word inspires fear and enmity from those who hear it, evoking emotional responses that leave rational discourse behind in ashes like those of the Reichstag Building. The “Nazi” is the Go To enemy for video games, movies, television shows, and literature, whenever an unambiguously evil enemy is needed, and no further justification for killing them or defeating them is necessary. They are Nazis, and so they deserve death. It’s that simple.

It would appear, based on widespread reactions from otherwise normal and rational people, that this mentality has carried over into the real world, and real people are reacting to the presence of Nazis in Charlottesville with the disgust and hatred typically reserved for cartoonishly evil supervillains, which is dismaying, because one look at any of the photos or videos circulating of these Nazis will reveal that they are just cartoonishly comical.

This is what happens when a word, a label, is demonized to this extent. Yesterday, I was repeatedly called a Nazi Sympathizer, and even blocked by one person in the liberty movement, for having the audacity to point out that it is required, if we are to have peace, to actually listen to these people and acknowledge their concerns. This is a foolish interpretation of my position—I’ve long been anti-authoritarian, and that will not change simply because many of my allies are demanding that I become authoritarian to forcefully stop the other authoritarians. And that is, in essence, what many libertarians are demanding.

After all, the libertarian idea is that the state is an institution of force and coercion, and they wish to use force and coercion to eliminate the Nazis, from suggestions of widespread murder of them to just beating them all unconscious. It is not in any way different from what the actual Nazis of Germany did to Jews—a comparison I made last night on The Call to Freedom—except that, as of right now, most of the anti-Nazis have not yet carried out their plans to round up and exterminate everyone who disagrees with them to that extent.

Co-host of the show Thom pointed out that the Nazis have chosen their ideology, while they targeted people who were born with a certain heritage. Ironic, isn’t it? Especially given that so many of these Nazis are flying Confederate Flags and throwing around that word “heritage” with reckless abandon. There is also the fact that Judaism is a religion, and that not all of the Jews killed by the Nazi Regime were Jews by heredity; some were converts to the religion, and were exterminated all the same.

It shows a remarkable disconnect, since the position is basically that the Neo-Nazis (the term I’m going to use to continue differentiating these people from, you know, actual Nazis who actually exterminated people) are basically told that they can have their heritage—as long as they aren’t proud of it, as long as they don’t expect any monuments to their heritage to remain standing, as long as they don’t try to protect it from being erased from history, as long as they don’t take pride in it, and as long as they roll over for the “progress” of society.

I spent most of Saturday sharing memes mocking these people. Because, absolutely, they are worthy of mockery. These poor, pathetic basement dwellers with pedo ‘staches and tiny dicks can’t get laid, and so they figured, “Well, fuck it. I guess I’ll become a Nazi.” They’re terrified of everything and everyone that isn’t exactly like them, and they’re so meek and afraid that they refuse to allow their cultural values to be stacked in fair competition against other cultural values—because they know they will lose, because they are losing. It wasn’t long ago that I wrote this critique of “traditional values,” and pointed out that the beauty of the United States is that we are a cultural buffet, where a person can take dishes from whatever culture they want, grabbing only the dishes they like and leaving the ones they don’t. The net result of this, over a period of time, is that the dishes that very few people like fade away, as we are seeing with homophobia, transphobia, and racism.

Racism is on the decline, of course, with even the KKK, despite its resurgence in the last few years, basically defunct, and the reason is simple: racism is stupid. A businessperson who refuses to hire anyone but white people will not hire the best except by sheer coincidence. It is entirely possible that the best person he could hire is a black man, but instead he would hire an inferior white man, and his business would suffer as a result. This is why diversity is a good thing, and why diversity quotas are a bad thing—merit should be the sole determining factor. Using skin color, gender, orientation, and other things as factors is fundamentally flawed, even if we have twisted it such that it’s a positive thing to have your black skin factored into the equation because the company will hire you to meet its quota. It’s bad for the company if you’re not the best person for the job, and this is what the “Google Memo” was all about: these other, unimportant considerations have supplanted merit, such that a woman who is less suitable for a position is more likely to be hired because of her sex than a man who is more suitable for the position. Just as it is not good or acceptable for a company to refuse to hire a person because she’s a woman, so is it not good or acceptable for a company to choose to hire a person because she’s a woman. This should not be a controversial statement.

Yet it is.

And so extensive is the demonization that pointing this out results in one being called anti-diversity, misogynistic, bigoted, and hateful.

And this is what so very many people are getting wrong about the current political climate.

I watched former vice presidential candidate, Muslim activist, libertarian activist, and all-around awesome guy Will Coley have his work repeatedly spit upon and rejected solely because he is white. I’ve seen people say to him, “No, you are not my brother. You are a white devil.”

Yet this vile vitriol is considered acceptable, and it is a sentiment that is echoed all over the United States. The Southern Baptist Convention can’t even come together and vote by an overwhelming majority to condemn racism without being called racists. That’s the position we’re in today, and nothing is going to change if we pretend like that isn’t true, or that it isn’t a problem. It is. In fact, it’s the root of what the Neo-Nazis complain about. As I said, the root of their grievances is legitimate. They have, in their desperation to wear the Victim Badge that everyone is welcome, taken those grievances and blown them to ridiculous degrees, but what American group has not done so? Hardly a week goes by that I don’t see a trans person crying foul because they couldn’t use the restroom of their choice, and they present this as though it’s just the height of discrimination, and as though it’s just one step removed from extermination of trans people. It’s hard to take these people seriously, and I don’t think they should be taken seriously. But, as with the Neo-Nazis, there is a legitimate core to the grievances expressed by these misguided trans people: there is resistance among institutional powers to restrict one’s gender identity and sexual identity to whatever it happened to be at the moment of birth.

During the course of discussions yesterday, someone assured me, “I’ve been observing these people before you even knew they existed!” The exclamation point, of course, was part of his emotional rant–a rant so emotionally charged that he ended up unfriending me, calling me “he/his” purposely and deliberately to try to elicit an emotional response from me, and finally blocked me when these efforts failed. The conversation was quite interesting, because I provided sources directly from these Neo-Nazis to back up what I was saying, and he repeatedly declined to do so, saying only “Stormfront!” and “Google it!”

It really shows a remarkably myopic viewpoint, though, to say something like that to me–the Anarchist Shemale, born and raised in rural Mississippi to fundamentalist Christians who are openly racist Trump supporters. My grandfather and uncle own a gun and confederacy store called “Confederate State Arms.” In fact, I’d speculate that some of the flags waved in Charlottesville were purchased from my grandfather and uncle. I was born to these people. I grew up around these people. When I was 11 or 12 years old, my family was training me to fight the Anti-Christ, and telling me things like, “When we’re patrolling, if you hear something, turn and shoot. Don’t hesitate, don’t call out. Turn and shoot.” We had actual compounds for when the Anti-Christ took over. It would be really hard for someone to be more exposed to these people than I have been.

I’ve written an entire book about the brainwashing and abuse these people inflicted upon me. They are solely the reason that it took me to my mid-20s to come to terms with being trans, even though, as early as three years old, I preferred wearing female clothes and preferred women. Don’t even get me started on the many, many ideological problems these people have, or the grotesque abuses of which they are capable. There is, naturally, no dispute: the majority of these Neo-Nazis are white southerners and cling to their Christianity-inspired “traditional values,” despite anything that Jesus actually said.

So during the course of saying all of this–I, the transsexual atheist anarchist with a long history of arguing against authoritarianism and identity politics–was told that I was a Nazi Sympathizer, virtue signaling to the alt-right, a boot-licker, and then, when those claims proved wildly inaccurate, I was told that I couldn’t possibly understand the people we’re talking about as well as Random Guy #13 who occasionally browsed Stormfront. After pointing out that I have been around these people literally my entire life, fully exposed to their ideology and reasoning, and firmly rejected their positions, and that these are the reasons (aside from being trans) that I lost my entire family and many of my friends, predictably the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” started getting thrown around.

Whatever it takes to discount what I’m saying, right?

Kangaroo done hung the juror with the guilty.

After spending Saturday laughing at and mocking these people, I spent yesterday attempting to build a bridge, because a bridge is necessary. We know how the alt-right and Neo-Nazis came into existence and prominence. They told us so. For years, they expressly stated their fears. They reluctantly accepted the social changes, but they routinely stated that the feared the changes would go too far. They reluctantly tolerated homosexual marriage, but stated the fear that churches would be forced to provide same sex marriage ceremonies. They stated they were worried that Christians would become oppressed by the state, forced to service people with whom they didn’t want to associate. They stated that they were worried that any random guy could claim to be trans in order to gain access to the women’s restroom. They stated that they were worried “LGBT Equality” would become “LET’S ALL RAVE NAKED IN THE STREETS AND BE DEGENERATES!” They stated that they were worried that Affirmative Action would become “Well, this person is a woman, and this person is a man, so… Hire the woman. Who cares that the man is more qualified?” and “Well, this person is Hispanic, and this person is white, so… Hire the Hispanic guy. Who cares that the white guy is more qualified?” They stated that they feared expressing their conservative positions would become demonized, and that their right to free speech would be trampled, that they would lose the right to say that they personally don’t approve of gay people–and they worried that they would lose the right to act in accordance with those beliefs. Because, whether we like it or not, the right to believe something necessarily includes the right to act in accordance with those beliefs.

Yes, Bob has the right to dislike homosexual people. He also has the right to act in accordance with that belief by refusing to associate with homosexual people. The two things are inextricably linked, because behavior, as we all know, is a function of beliefs and environment. A person’s behavior cannot be separated from their beliefs without threatening their right to belief.

Anyway, so that was what these people were saying in the mid-90s. Though they gritted their teeth and weren’t happy about it, they went along with it, for the most part, and didn’t do much to actively resist it, even here in the south. They did this because of their hope that it would be limited to tolerance, and “gritting one’s teeth and allowing the behavior in question” is literally what tolerance is. We’ve twisted it to mean “acceptance” these days, and have decided that Bob saying “I don’t like gay people” means that he is intolerant. However, he isn’t. In fact, “tolerance” strongly suggests disapproval. We don’t tolerate things that we like. We like them and embrace them. We tolerate things that we don’t particularly care for. I don’t enjoy having the cats sharpen their claws on the back of my furniture, but I tolerate it. It makes me grind my teeth, and it makes my skin crawl, but I tolerate it. When did we forget this? And why? Seeing “tolerance” twisted into “acceptance” put the writing on the wall–they were not going to be required to tolerate people whose behavior they didn’t approve of; they were going to be required to accept people whose behavior they didn’t approve of.

Meanwhile, the various identity politics groups allied together under the left’s banner repeatedly put on the Victim Badge, over any and every possible slight, no matter how trivial and inconsequential it was. This continues happening today. Trans people, of course, love crying about “oppression” and “discrimination” if they can’t use the restroom of their choice. In the grand scheme of things, that issue is wholly asinine, not to mention that it absolutely pales in comparison to the trans women who are placed in men’s prisons, where they are raped a reportedly 2,000 times in a handful of years. Additionally trans people pretend like they don’t have to tell romantic partners that they’re trans, and then they cry “I’m a victim!” when their romantic partner finds out and, quite understandably, rejects them. I know of one trans girl who purposely put herself in that position, where she was attacked, and used the excuse, “Why should I have to tell him I’m trans? It’s just normal to me, so I don’t think about it to tell people!”

Bullshit.

Let’s look at this from a related angle.

In essence, you’re a woman who can never give your partner children. Imagine a woman who is sterile going out on dates. How many dates are required before the woman confesses to the man that she is incapable of giving him children? I’d say “Before they had sex, at least.” Before there was too much emotional attachment, certainly. Because, for whatever weird reason, most people do want kids, and being unable to provide those is very often a deal-breaker. It is certainly the woman’s responsibility to tell the man that she cannot bear children, because there’s a very high chance that he will one day want children. As a trans person, she was incapable of providing children, and should have told him that. This would have led him to ask why, at which point the only acceptable answer would be the truth: “Because I’m trans.”

But despite all of this, she and others wear the Victim Badge. It’s not their fault that a man expects to take off a woman’s pants and find a vagina, not a penis. They’re the victim here, not the man who was deceived by omission of important details.

Then, of course, there was the disastrous attempt last year for people on Twitter to use the hashtag “Straight Pride.” Goodness, what a fiasco that was! The single most common response that anyone received for using that hashtag was “Die” and “Kill yourself.” What is the message here? “You’re allowed to be proud of your sexuality, unless you’re straight. Then fuck you.”

I recently saw a Tumblr post from someone who said something. One person replied, “Or, you know, straight people exist?” To this, someone else replied, “Ugh. Don’t remind me.”

Such hateful, divisive rhetoric. What did people expect?

You’re allowed to have LGBT Pride, Asian Pride, Hispanic Pride, Black Pride, Muslim Pride, and Female Pride. And asinine though all of these things are, and asinine though this response is, if you dare try to take pride when you’re not in one of these groups, you will be condemned as a bigot. People will gleefully tell you to kill yourself.

Now we see a good employee, and certainly a qualified employee, dismissed from Google because of his dissenting opinions. He went against the status quo, and the status quo is “LGBT Pride, Asian Pride, Hispanic Pride, Black Pride, Muslim Pride, and Female Pride are good. And it’s perfectly okay to hire a woman who isn’t qualified over a man who is, or a minority who isn’t qualified over a white who is.” That status quo is wrong and needs to be changed. We shouldn’t take pride in the fluke conditions of our births, and this is true whether one wants to take pride in being LGBT, being white, being 6 feet tall, being brunette, being black, being female, being male, or whatever.

That is egalitarianism: sexual orientation, race, and gender shouldn’t be determining factors in things. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated. He never said, “I dream of a world where black men are hired because they are black.” He explicitly and repeatedly said, “I dream of a world where a man is judged not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character.” And giving someone a job because of their skin color… is judging them by the color of their skin, even if you’re doing it to their advantage. Just as it was racist and messed up to give people jobs simply because they were white, because this actively harmed qualified people who weren’t white, so is it racist and messed up to give people jobs simply because they aren’t white, because this actively harms qualified people who are white. Skin color shouldn’t freaking matter to any of this. We should all be treated as individuals with our own merits, abilities, thoughts, and gifts, not as monolothic entities defined by arbitrary flukes of birth.

The alt-right saw this, too. They saw these changes. They saw how “skin color shouldn’t matter” became “this black person should be hired, because he’s black.” They saw how “gender shouldn’t matter” became “this person should be hired, because she’s a female.” All of this shit happened in plain sight for anyone with the intellectual honesty to look and see it.

Some small portion of them resisted, certainly, and clung to the past, to what they thought were the “glory days” of racism, sexism, and sexual orientationism. But these people were very small in number, and they continually waned over the last few decades. By and large, most of them came to tolerate the changes, even if they didn’t like it. But it doesn’t matter if they like it or not. That’s up for them to decide personally. It’s not up to us to tell them they have to like it, to make them like it. We can choose to disassociate from them if we don’t like the fact that they don’t like it, sure, but that’s not what we did. We went further than that, as they feared we would.

Their response to this has been to play the Identity Politics game themselves, and to clamor after the Victim Badge that everyone else is wearing. They want to be victims just like everyone else. They want to feel like martyrs, like they’re oppressed and treated like dirt because of relatively small and almost imperceptible slights. And, ironically, many on the left demand specific examples of this institutional assault on straight, white, normal, Christian men, which is an inevitable byproduct of shooting past equality and going straight to elevation of all non-straight, non-white, non-normal, non-Christian non-men, even though, if you ask them for specific examples of the “institutional racism” that they talk about, they scoff at the idea. Yet there they go, demanding that same thing of the right.

They were being called “Nazis” long before they really started looking and talking like Nazis. Do you remember when Hillary Clinton referred to Trump supporters as “a basket of deplorables?” Do you remember how they responded to that? They adopted the moniker proudly, getting it emblazoned on hats, and happily called themselves deplorable. Since they disagree with the left, there is no greater honor for them than being called “deplorable” by the left. That, to them, means they’re on the right track. “If you’re a degenerate, disgusting maggot and you call me deplorable, then I guess I’m on the right track!” was their take on it, and this is why they consciously took on the label.

But they weren’t just called “deplorable.” Goodness, no. Through the last two years, it’s been almost non-stop attacks from the left, with increasingly hyperbolic and vicious insults thrown at them. Racist, misogynists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, bigots, fascists, xenophobes, Nazis… Again, what did people expect to happen? We didn’t listen to their relatively benign and genuine concerns that they expressed meekly twenty years ago, when they said they feared it would become a celebration of degeneracy, anti-white racism, anti-male sexism, anti-Christian hatred, and so on. We laughed at them and mocked them, saying, “Yeah, equality only feels like oppression when you’re privileged. Hurr dee hurr dee hurr!”

Even today, the overwhelming majority of Americans insist that we haven’t even reached equality–and we haven’t, in many places, but this isn’t a dichotomy–in any meaningful sense, and that straight, white, Christian men still have so much privilege that no amount of wrongdoing done to them because they’re straight, white, Christian men could possibly matter. “Fuck them. They’re privileged. Who cares that he didn’t get the job because someone less qualified had a vagina? Who cares that he didn’t get the job because someone less qualified is black?*”

I’ve been through it–twice, in fact. I was the only white person in the Pizza Hut that I worked at, and I faced minor slights regularly. The most egregious example was when I worked 10a to 6p one day, and other drivers began showing up at 4:00. There hadn’t been a delivery the entire day. The girl who came in and started dispatching assigned deliveries back-to-back-to-back to the other drivers, even though I was first in the queue to do a delivery, since I’d been there 6 hours before anyone else, and yet they took several deliveries. I didn’t get a delivery until I brought it up to her and pointed out that I had been there all day and she gave the deliveries to people who were behind me in line. The distinction? The other two drivers was black, and so was she.

I went through it even moreso when I worked at Sam’s Town in the hotel housekeeping department, because I was literally the only white person in the entire department. There, the most egregious example came about one New Year’s Eve. Everyone had to work on New Year’s Eve, that was the policy for the first year. By the time the second one rolled around for my employment there, I was second in seniority, and business had slowed down considerably–people were actually going to be allowed off. So even though New Year’s Eve fell on my regular day off, I was told to come in and work, while one of the newer guys was given the day off, even though it was, for him, a regular work day. There were countless smaller examples, like how I was always given a secondary set of keys instead of one of the primary sets, even though I had seniority, and I was always the one sent to the backdock to unload the truck. Always. What’s particularly odd about that is that one needs the primary set of keys to get into the backdock. Their argument for having me unload the truck every day that I worked was that I had seniority, of course, but the backdock required the primary keys. But that “seniority argument” didn’t matter then, and I routinely had to call someone who had been there a full year less than I had to come and open the back dock for me. It’s insulting to be treated that way, and so I have the greatest sympathy for anyone who has experienced racism. But if you think the fact that I’m white and experienced racism somehow discounts it, then you are the problem here. You are the racist.

All of these things are real, and they actually happen. It doesn’t mean that anti-black racism has ceased to exist. Certainly, it still exists, and it needs to stop. How do we stop it? By treating people as individuals, and by not having skin color as a factor. That’s how we stop using skin color as a factor, which is the definition of racism.

Now I’ve been demonized for having the audacity to treat the Neo-Nazis as anything other than detestable scum who need to be shot and killed. I’ve committed the groupthink heresy of daring to admit that the core of what they’re saying is a valid point, and it’s their solution that is wrong. Many of them are simply idiots who are throwing out Nazi salutes and flying swastikas for the same reason they wore t-shirts that said “Deplorable,” and have no interest in killing anyone, forcing anyone to leave, or any of that other shit that the more extreme ones–who do exist–want. But we’re not talking about those extreme fools who have always been white supremacist idiots. We’re talking about the ones who begrudgingly accepted diversity in the 90s, and who have since warped into Neo-Nazis.

Those types can be talked back from the edge, and they should be talked back from the edge. We’re not going to achieve anything by continuing to push them, by continuing to insult them, and by escalating it into violence against them, because they will perceive it as a violent attack against straight, white, normal men. They will. If you attack them, you will reinforce their position. What are you going to do? Kill them all? Kill everyone who has even the smallest seed of these ideas in their heads? If you’re proposing that, then I would suggest that you are the actual Nazi here.

Stop demonizing them and listen to them. Go back to the source of their arguments, put aside the hyperbole, and put aside the emotions. It didn’t have to come to this. It did not have to come to Neo-Nazis marching in the streets. It came to that because no one listened back when they reluctantly went along with the social changes. Instead, they were mocked and derided, and slowly pushed into a corner. Now they’re in that corner, and they’re beginning to lash out, as cornered animals do, and as terrified people do. We will achieve nothing by pushing them further.

If we’re to resolve this situation peacefully, it’s going to take doing something that apparently few people are wiling to do: listen to them. Already, though, that’s nearly impossible, because of that word–that demonized word that invokes so much emotion that people instantly and vehemently reject the idea that they could have anything worthwhile to say. But we can’t forget the critically important fact that, ten years ago, very, very few of these people were Neo-Nazis. They were pushed to that, because they embraced Identity Politics and Victimization–the left’s tactics–to use against the left. This is, of course, wrong.

They can be shown that.

But to show them that, we have to drop our own Identity Politics and Victim Complexes. We have to start advocating actual equality, not this shit that people call “equality” but is actually just a reversal of the power structures. We have to start advocating that skin color, sex, orientation, and religion should not matter, not that “they should matter, as long as historically disenfranchised groups are benefited by it.”

It’s not an easy road ahead, and it may already be too late, considering that I can’t even say this without being accused of being a Neo-Nazi, or being a Nazi sympathizer, of being on their side, licking their boots, and so on. Because when you’ve demonized people to that point, you split the world into Us and Them. You dehumanize Them into a homogeneous blob of pure evil. This has been going on for a long time. Just last week, I read someone on Quora who said, “I can’t for the life of me figure out why these otherwise moral people can still support Trump…” I couldn’t help but wonder, “Did you consider asking them why they still support Trump?”

No, of course not. Because Trump supporters are pure evil, and nothing they say matters. We don’t want to hear what they have to say, because they’re pure evil.

I once pointed out to a girl that the confederate flag does not represent racism to the people who fly it. It really does just represent an anti-government heritage for them. She disagreed. I asked whether she had actually asked some of these people what it means to them. Naturally, she said she had not, and that she wasn’t going to.

It’s a widespread refusal to given any credence whatsoever to the other side. We’ve seen how refusing to acknowledge the validity of someone’s grievances results in escalation. It’s what caused 9/11. If we had listened to Al Queda and others who told us for years and years and years that their issue was that we wouldn’t leave them the hell alone, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. But instead, what happened? People booed Ron Paul when he got on-stage and pointed out that the United States was in the wrong.

“I’m in the wrong? INCONCEIVABLE! The people who are saying I’m wrong are evil and clearly in the wrong themselves!”

Refusal to listen.

We absolutely must start listening to the other side. And we must start now, before this shit escalates further.

* Obviously, qualifications are independent of skin color and sex. It’s sad that I have to say this, but a person is more or less qualified regardless of their skin color, and there are plenty of examples of women who are more qualified for jobs than men, and plenty of examples of black people who are more qualified for jobs than white people. This is a given, and there’s no reason I should have to say it to ward off cries of sexism and racism.

 

Timing is Everything — Media Manipulation Part 2

And the media clearly knows that.

Much of what I hear on Facebook these days–aside from North Korea bullshit–is stuff about families being broken up by Trump’s immigration policy, and his harsh deportations. Yet, in reality, Trump has deported fewer people than President Obama did. In both absolute numbers and averages, Obama deported more people than Trump. But because the media chose not to report on any of that, people now being exposed to it are under the impression that it’s a new thing, and that Trump/Republicans are to blame for this “uniquely” awful problem.

I just watched a popular libertarian page say that they wonder if Trump will claim responsibility for the famine that is going to be caused by the “entire fields being left to rot” because so many people have been deported that there’s no one to pick the crops. I’m not even kidding. Those are the headlines right now: “Entire Fields Left to Rot Because of Deportation of Illegal Immigrants.”

But that’s been the case for years. The corn field right across from me is going to rot again–an “entire field left to rot.” This happens all over the United States, because the government just pays people to plant the crop, and doesn’t really care if the crop is harvested or not. The media didn’t report on it, though. Now they have. The result? Predictably, everyone thinks this is a new thing, brought about by Trump “deporting so many people.”

Two absolute falsehoods. Old news, really. But because it’s only now being delivered, people are manipulated en masse into believing that Trump is responsible, and that his “singularly harsh deportation policy” is responsible.

It’s scary, really, that people are so easy to manipulate. Because, two years ago, fields not being picked wouldn’t have been newsworthy. It still isn’t, really, except that it can be used to promote an agenda.

I would have hoped, and expected, if I had the interest, knowledge, and awareness then, in the mid 90s that the upcoming age of social media would have prevented this sort of thing from happening. It doesn’t seem to have abated, though, because not many people are sharing these experiences, but I know from firsthand experiences, having friends all over the United States and having been across most of the United States, that “rotting fields” are not new, and neither are they caused by a lack of illegal immigrants to be paid under the table for picking the crops. It’s actually quite standard. In the eons of human history, it has never been especially common that an entire society’s fields would be successfully picked–anything from weather to war to earthquakes to wild animals could destroy a crop. Yet now it is Trump’s fault.

I talked yesterday about how the media and the state are able to determine what you and I discuss, and I want to point out that I’m not asserting the state and the media are colluding together to control the conversation. They don’t have to, because the media wants your attention. It doesn’t really matter why they want your attention. They do. To get your attention, they’re going to talk about things most likely to interest you, and those will be the sensationalized things. That lunatic who we have as Secretary of Defense saying that he’s willing to annihilate the North Korean people would qualify, of course.

Another way of manipulating people, though, is to just withhold information. It’s inevitable that information will be withheld, and this is just part of human nature. Right now, your senses are taking in far more information than your brain can process, so most of it gets discarded. This has, on many occasions, resulted in strange things happening. Perhaps the most common is “hitting one’s funny bone,” which occurs when one collides with something and has no expectation of it at all. Psychologists enjoy playing with these quirks of the human brain and nervous system, and there are even a few television shows that exploit it. In one, viewers are asked to count how many times a person wearing blue jumps rope. Viewers, focused on counting, didn’t notice the man walk by wearing a giant chicken costume, because their brain discarded that information.

The media functions the same way, especially in today’s hyper-connected society. I could, if I cared to, find out exactly what conditions are like on the ground in Portland, Oregon, right now. I could find out the weather, the local issues, and could probably peer inside of a local restaurant as though I was there. How many people each day post something on Twitter and hope that it goes viral? How many people have family members killed by cops and attempt to spread it on Facebook and Twitter each day (note: at least three, just in the United States)? Yet these stories rarely gain traction. Just this month, an estimated 30 people have been killed by police officers. How many of them have you heard about? Probably “none.”

This is because there’s just so much stuff happening that it can’t all be talked about. The bulk of it is discarded as uninteresting and not newsworthy. Three years ago, a few rotting fields of crops across the United States was discarded as uninteresting and not newsworthy. But now! Now that the media has spent months telling us the previously-neglected horror stories of families being broken up by deportation, there is yet another angle that can be worked to push that agenda: finally mention the fields that have been rotting for years, if not decades, and people will come to the conclusion that it’s a new phenomenon, simply because they hadn’t heard about it before.

It’s clever, on their part, because they can’t be criticized for choosing not to report on something before. Something has to be discarded, after all, just like police officers can’t chase after everyone speeding on the highway. They can only go after some of the people they see speeding, just like we can only process some of the information our brains receive. The problem with police officers it that they appear to have racist motivations when determining who to pursue and who to ignore, given that a disproportionate number of black Americans are harassed by police each day. The problem with the media is similar: they often choose what to report on and what to discard based on their own agenda.

That agenda is clearly to manipulate Americans into disliking Trump and, in particular, his immigration policy, despite the fact that the numbers don’t bear this out, which even left-wing news sources admit. They’re perfectly free to admit this without hurting their narrative, though, because these are cold, emotionless, facts-based stories of numbers. It’s the personal stories that matter. It’s their focus on Juan Hernandez being deported from his wife and kids after 19 years in the United States that grabs people’s attention and is embedded in their minds. Similarly, news stories that properly cite that more than half of people killed by police are white, and the other half are divided among black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, middle Eastern Americans, and other Americans, have no impact, because the focus on the personal stories of black Americans who are killed by police do far more to construct the narrative than any raw numbers will.

Throw them a personal story that tugs at their heart strings, and it really doesn’t matter how many facts you throw out afterward that refute that personal story as an anomaly, or the agenda behind that personal story as flawed and biased. Once set, the narrative is set, and facts don’t change our minds.

Do I like Trump? No. I can’t stand Trump. Don’t take any of this as a defense of that buffoon.

Take it instead as a warning about manipulation. We must always be on guard against manipulation, because they are always trying to manipulate us.

Conversation Control

To a certain extent, we’re all reactionaries, because we react to news as it happens to provide–ideally–insights and perspectives that other people may not have considered. I think that definition, though, is a bit too limited, because many of us are using reactionism as a way of being proactive, contradictory though that seems, because there are underlying ideas that are being spread by the reactive writings. At the same time, many of these “reactionaries” I’m talking about are doing work on the ground that is certainly proactive, aimed at creating the circumstances instead of reacting to changing circumstances. I’m pretty sure this paragraph could be deleted without changing what I’m about to say much, but I’m going to leave it in anyway, because it’s still true: we’re all reactionaries.

That said, there’s one area where are reactionism is hindering us, especially libertarians and anarchists.

If we are to be free, we must stop allowing the government and other institutional authorities to set the agenda, to set the tone of the conversation, and to set the topic of the conversation. Last week–if you can believe it was only a week ago–it was Trump’s tweet about banning transgender and transsexual people* from military service. This week, it’s North Korea and the prospect of nuclear war. It should be interesting to note that both issues received similar levels of reactions: many Facebook posts, articles, and tweets, very little real activism. In fact, it’s just a lot of reactionism. We’re letting the government and other institutions decide what we’re talking about. Instead of advocating libertarian principles, we set aside what we want to discuss so that we can jump on the bandwagon and join the conversation that the government wants us to have. Scratch all the tweets, articles, and Facebook posts about Trump’s proposed ban on transgender/transsexual soldiers, and pencil in statements about North Korea. It seems pretty likely that you’ll find the same people have produced both sets of reactive tweets, with very few exceptions, and that, perhaps, the transgender ban received more attention than the North Korea one. However, the North Korea thing is still young.

How can we ever talk about freedom and the value of liberty if we’re jumping at the state’s beck and call to discuss whatever random issue they have landed on when they spun the Wheel of Reactionary Division? If the government can control what we’re talking about so effectively, there is no reason that it should ever stop doing so, because doing so gives us the breadth that we need to discuss liberty, sound money, non-aggression, rights, peace, and love–and the government doesn’t want that, because liberty, sound money, non-aggression, rights, peace, and love are ideas that can destroy governments.

Imagine that you own a multi-billion dollar company, and you treat your employees like crap, because they can’t work anywhere else–you have a monopoly in the area. Some of these employees are trying very, very hard, however, to form a union that would give them the leverage needed to fight for better standards, if not eliminate the people at the top altogether. How would you handle this? Ignoring morality (since not many of us would be so callous in the first place), would you just sit there and watch them unionize and take some of the power away from you?

Of course not. And one of the most effective weapons at your disposal is Conversation Control. Create scapegoats. Blame a small segment of the workers for the plight that everyone faces. “I know it’s bad,” you might say, “and it’s those migrant workers who are responsible. Being from poor countries, they don’t care if they can’t each afford to pay a car and house note with their wages. So they’re working for less, which drives down everyone’s wages. They’re the ones responsible.” Suddenly the workers are no longer talking about unionizing, because they’ve been divided into two camps: those who defend the migrant workers, and those who fell for the scapegoating. The conversation is no longer about unionizing. It’s about a manufactured enemy.

When that enemy expires, randomly pick another one–bonus points if the new enemy has never been encountered by any worker, and demonstrably poses the workers no threat at all, such as Isis or North Korea. They’ll stop talking about the harm being done to them because you’ve presented them with some imagined harm that is multitudes worse than what they’re already facing. To prevent that from coming to fruition, they’ll stop their talk of unionizing in order to prevent those evil, distant devils from making their situation worse. Once that problem is dealt with, of course–presuming it’s not an indefinite and eternal problem, like “terrorism”–their situation will certainly have gotten worse, and, as an added bonus, they’ll accept the worsened conditions as normal, as “the price we pay for protection from those external enemies.”

We are being manipulated en masse, and it is apparently pretty easily done. The masses are marionettes being made to dance and neglecting the dance that we want and need to perform. This has to stop. We have to begin ignoring the government’s attempts to change the conversation. We have to talk about the things that we want to talk about, not simply react to whatever they want us to discuss. Otherwise, they will always set the agenda, and Liberty will never be on that agenda.

* As a transsexual person, I don’t particularly care for how “transsexual” is being pushed out of the conversation by the same people who enjoy pointing out that gender and sex aren’t the same thing; therefore, “transgender” and “transsexual” aren’t the same thing. For months now, I’ve watched my allies push me and my type out of the conversation because they mistakenly have decided, as I once did, that “transgender” is a more palatable version of “transsexual.”  But that’s incorrect.

By the way, I would ask that you consider sharing and contributing to former libertarian vice presidential candidate Will Coley’s attempt to open an interfaith religious center in western New Hampshire, which you can find by clicking that link. New Hampshire, of course, is the home of the Free State Project, and contains, currently, the highest number of Libertarian state legislators.

A Psychopath’s Responsibility

I’ve been asked repeatedly my thoughts on the girl who cajoled her boyfriend into killing himself, and I’ve been hesitant to really say much on the subject, but I’ve given the matter enough thought now. So strap in–we’re going to cover many different angles very quickly.

Prison?

Whether the girl is guilty of murder or not, prison is not the answer, because two wrongs don’t make a right. Whatever the girl may or may not be guilty of, prison is not the answer. So it goes without saying that, whatever my thoughts on what the girl did, I am not saying that she should be kidnapped and imprisoned against her will by the state.

With That Said…

I’m frankly stunned by the number of libertarians I’m seeing who express the sentiment that the girl bears absolutely no responsibility for the guy’s death, and, without being overly generalizing, I suspect that most of these people have never witnessed nor experienced psychological abuse. It should go without saying, though, that psychological abuse… is abuse. Not only is psychological abuse abuse, but it’s a critical tool in the psychopath’s toolbox, if not the most important tool at their disposal. It is, after all, psychological abuse that prevents men and women in violent relationships from leaving. It is what causes one to continually go back to the abuser, no matter how flagrant the abuses are. I’ve written about this before, having gone through it with a psychopath, and won’t spend a lot of time on it here.

I’ll say, however, that only someone who is ignorant of the damage that a psychopath can do to a person’s mind could allow someone to absolve psychopaths of the consequences of their psychological abuse. It is psychological abuse that causes teens to kill themselves. It is psychological abuse that causes transgender and gay teens to kill themselves. Psychological abuse, while not as obviously a violation of the NAP as punching someone yourself, clearly is a form of violence. I would argue that it’s a more horrific form of violence than physical abuse, because it is the psychological abuse that causes victims of violence to return to their abuser, and that causes kids in abusive homes to believe they are wicked and filled with demons, even if they have done nothing wrong, which may manifest in the person’s mind for decades to come, longer after the scars of any physical violence have healed.

It was long-term psychological abuse that caused me to be in the third grade and begging a devout Christian friend to stand before me and say, “Get thee behind me, Satan” to exorcise the demons from me–demons that I firmly believed possessed me because of the desires and needs that I had to repress. It was that same psychological abuse that caused me to be in my late 20s before I was able to come to terms with something that had been true at least since I was three years old and hiding my underwear so that I had an excuse to wear my sister’s. More than two decades of self-loathing, doubt, confusion, strife, and suicide attempts followed before I was able to come to terms with everything, and the psychological, religiously-motivated abuse is the reason why–a fact to which the scars on my wrists will testify.

I was in the fifth grade, I think, the first time I attempted to hang myself. Young and inexperienced, I used a braided leather belt. It snapped. For the next several years, I cut myself regularly. They were not suicide attempts by any means, but neither were they cries for attention; I did everything that I could to hide them. I wouldn’t be able to explain why I did it, but I did. My body is marked with scars from razor blades. My wrists, my upper arms, my chest, my legs… And, of course, there were the sincere attempts, the hospitalization in a behavioral ward, and all that fun stuff.

Testaments to the tremendous damage that extended psychological abuse can cause.

If you don’t think that the girl who texted her boyfriend and stayed on the phone with him as he cried out and choked to death bears any responsibility for that, then you don’t have any ground to stand on to lament what my father and grandmother did to me, because they are two manifestations of the same thing: psychological abuse.

The Psychopath’s Toolkit

The psychopath is an expert at manipulation. David Karesh, the Church of Scientology, and countless other cults around the world are experts at manipulation, but there are also those whose ambitions are smaller, and bloodlust more controlled. They seek out damaged people and then destroy them. They know exactly how to worm their way into your mind, and how to bend you to their will.

If you think you’re immune to it, you’re not.

The only thing a person can do to arm themselves against it is to gain knowledge in the psychopath’s tactics, to learn the manipulation techniques, to stay alert of them. However, in learning those techniques, a person will find out exactly how much damage a psychopath can do to a person’s mind, and I find it hard to believe, to be completely honest, that anyone aware of the manner in which a psychopath can manipulate a person’s mind and destroy their agency would go on to deny that the psychopath has responsibility for what this destroyed person does.

Where shall we draw the line?

Is it morally wrong to type out “kys” in World of Warcraft’s Trade Chat? Should a person be considered guilty of murder if, having typed that out to someone, that person then kills themselves?

Why do we have to draw a line?

“One size fits all” justice is fundamentally flawed, because the circumstances of actions matter, infinitely more than the actions themselves.

If I push someone down, and they break their arm, then I am guilty of assault.

However, if I push someone down and out of the way of an oncoming train, and they break their arm, then I am a hero.

What’s the difference? There isn’t one. In both scenarios, I pushed the person, they fell, and they broke their arm. The only thing that’s different are the circumstances. Since the circumstances are different, the hypothetical result if I had done nothing have changed. If I had done nothing in the first example, the person would have continued on through their day without a broken arm–a superior consequence than what came about when I pushed them. If I did nothing in the second example, though, the person would have died–an inferior consequence than what came about when I pushed them. We are comparing hypotheticals here, and we’re making our assessment of morality based around that. That is always how we assign our moral values.

The alternative, had this girl not taken her actions, are that the guy would still be alive. Because of her actions, he is dead.

I see no way of escaping the conclusion that she is responsible for that. We’re not talking about someone who opted not to run into a burning house to try to rescue someone else. We’re not talking about hateful children who laughed as they watched someone drowned, and who couldn’t have saved the drowning victim anyway*. We’re talking about a girl who explicitly told her psychologically vulnerable and long-term victim of psychological abuse boyfriend to get back in the vehicle and finish dying. I am stunned that so many people are arguing that she did nothing wrong simply because she didn’t physically hold the door shut.

Group Responsibility?

While discussing this with someone on Facebook, someone said that only the individual is responsible for their actions. I pointed out that, by this reasoning, Hitler was not responsible for the Holocaust, and Stalin was not responsible for the murder of twenty-five million Christian farmers. To my shock, she said that was correct–the individuals who carried out those orders were responsible.

I don’t deny that the individuals who committed the actions are responsible. I’ve pointed this out in the past. However, the person who gave the command is absolutely as responsible. That’s what it literally means to have authority, to have power over someone, to have the responsibility of making decisions for someone. The psychopath takes this power slowly and with systemic psychological abuse, but they take the power all the same. Even so, the brainwashing tactics of the military are shockingly similar to those used by psychopaths: destroy their individuality and make them dependent on the command structure. That’s at least as much the point of boot camp as is physical training. The stated purpose is to break people down as individuals and build them back up as a part of a machine. This is done through psychological abuse.

No one is saying “Group responsibility.”

I am saying that all individuals who play a role in making sure that an action is undertaken bear responsibility for that action being undertaken. Quite the opposite, I’m the one arguing for individual responsibility. I’m not absolved of responsibility if I order a friend to kill someone and that friend does it. “Woah! I didn’t kill that person!” I could argue, and these NAP-advocates, evidently (the ones with whom I’ve spoken directly) would agree. I didn’t kill that person.

Even though I’m literally the one who caused it to happen…

Yes, the soldier who drops the bomb bears responsibility for that. So does the commander who ordered the bomb to be dropped, though.

“They could just disobey orders” is an inadequate answer. And it’s true that, if everyone refused to obey orders, war would cease to exist. But who is advocating group responsibility now? For the individual, refusing to obey orders results in arrest, kidnapping, and imprisonment. Through coercive means, that individual has most, if not all, responsibility for the action waived, in the same way that we American citizens bear no responsibility for what the state does with our tax money because, through coercive means, we are forced to obey and pay taxes. You can’t have it both ways, where Americans aren’t to blame for how tax dollars are used because we could just choose to not pay taxes, but other individuals are to blame for the results of actions they take under duress.

To say that only the person who personally executes a given action is responsible for that action is short-sighted and extremely narrow. It is tunnel vision on the minutae of the action. There is a lot of cause and effect that goes into every single action that a person takes, and not all of that is the person’s fault–much of it is beyond that person’s control. To suggest that only the person who personally executes the action is responsible is to say that a man who wakes one day to find a gun to his head and someone telling him, “If you don’t find and kill one person right now, I will kill you,” is the only person responsible for the action he commits, and that the person who put the gun to his head and gave him that ultimatum bears no responsibility.

“He still made the choice, though… He could have chosen to just die. He didn’t. He chose to murder someone, so that’s on him!”

It’s such a narrow way of viewing… reality. Cause and effect. Actions and consequences. Responsibility.

Suicide Isn’t a Violation of the NAP

No, it isn’t, and a person of sound mind has every right to take their own life. I’ve argued before, and will again, that suicide is not indicative of mental illness. However, this guy in question was clearly mentally ill. He was clearly unstable and incapable of making the decision to kill himself. If he was capable of making that decision alone, he wouldn’t have gotten out of the vehicle, for fuck’s sake. That he did get out of the vehicle is ipso facto proof that he did not have the agency required to soundly make the decision to kill himself.

I think a lot of the people arguing that the girl didn’t do anything “that wrong” don’t know what the girl did. They seem to think she just sent a few text messages. If only that was the extent of what she did… But it isn’t. He got out of the vehicle and called her, and she told him to get back in and finish killing himself. Then she stayed on the phone with him while he cried out in agony and died, because she wanted to ensure that he did see it through. That’s a FAR cry from typing out “kys” in a chatroom.

Through the verbal persuasion that is the gift of the psychopath, she held him in that vehicle until he died.

You can’t possibly think that a guy who got out of a vehicle, having decided that he didn’t want to go through with killing himself, called his girlfriend, and then climbed back in and stayed on the phone with her while he died was “of sound mind” to be making decisions about whether he wanted to live or die. The girl was clearly a poison to him.

If someone called you and confessed that they had been about to kill themselves, but gotten out of the vehicle, would you, under any circumstances, tell them to get back in, and then stay with them on the phone while they died? Absolutely not. Every single one of us would say, “Where are you? I’m coming to get you. Stay on the phone with me while I drive to you. Don’t get back in the vehicle.”

Because we’re not psychopaths.

No, we shouldn’t let the state set precedents in its One Size Fits All legal system that would allow it to prosecute anyone who ever said “kill yourself” in a text message, phone call, or chat room. Yet there’s an enormous gap between these things and what this girl did. And just as we should not allow the state to set precedents like that, neither should we set the precedent that psychopaths are not responsible for the consequences of their psychological abuse because it technically doesn’t include physical assault.

But abuse is abuse.

The NAP does not specify that violence has to be physical.

* Those who are not trained divers or trained lifeguards should never attempt to rescue a drowning person. Cold though it is to say, attempting it will ensure only that two people die. Drowning people thrash wildly, panicking, and are extremely likely to knock you unconscious. If you do not have a lifejacket and a rope or boat, you should never attempt to rescue a drowning person yourself, unless you’ve explicitly been trained to be a fantastic swimmer. Not only that, but if you do manage to get behind the person without being knocked unconscious, do you know how heavy another human being is when you’re pulling them through water? The average person doesn’t have the stamina to swim a hundred yards alone, much less when dragging someone else through the water.

That Summer in Arkansas

This is an excerpt from my book Dancing in Hellfire , which is a true story of my life, basically. I am posting it here because I was about to say something derivative on Facebook, but I stopped because I realized that no one would know what the hell I was talking about.

Undoubtedly, the worst four to five months of my life, bar none. There is so much ground to cover here, and it’s highly unlikely that I will get the events in the correct order, but the chronology isn’t terribly important, for the most part. In my mind, it’s all blurred together, encapsulated by the words “That Summer in Arkansas.” There’s only one such summer that I could be referring to—that one between the second and third grade. A nightmare that didn’t seem like it was ever going to end.

It began as an ordinary visit. Mom came and got Britt and me, and this was probably the first time since Easter that we had seen or talked to her, since two visits within a few months was very high frequency for her. At some point over the weekend, she announced that she was not going to take us back, and that she was just going to keep us. Legally, she was more or less within her rights to do that: the agreement that my grandmother would keep us was a largely informal one, because the courts hadn’t settled the custody issue and didn’t seem about to settle it. Even though it had been nearly three years since the separation, the court was no nearer to settling things. In fact, the courts never did rule one way or another. What happened? How come none of the people who are paid to handle such matters was handling it? The divorce finalized, but the question of custody was never settled.

Mom was in full-blown denial about her situation, as would become evident very soon, but I didn’t realize it then—of course, I didn’t know it then. I was eight years old. It was true, though: we never had any money or food, our electricity was cut off due to non-payment several times, and even our water was cut off at one point. And she seriously thought that she could raise two kids in that environment. Plus, she was being beaten pretty much every weekend by that drunk man-child.

Second grade had passed without much of significance happening. We didn’t see mom every other weekend, of course, because she never had gas or a reliable vehicle since she always bought $600 cars. She was always having flats, or some other car trouble. We would receive a letter from her telling us to be by the phone on a certain day at a certain time, and we would sit eagerly by the phone all night. She never called. A week or two later, we would receive another letter that offered up some kind of excuse why she hadn’t been able to call, and she would throw out another day that she would call, or she would announce a day that she was going to get us. Then Britt and I would sit at the front door, hanging out on the garbage can, all damned Friday night, waiting eagerly to see headlights pull into the driveway.

They almost never did.

But she finally managed to get together the whopping ten dollars needed to cover the gas to make the hour-long trip, and decided early that summer that she wasn’t going to take us back.

It was then that we met David, another one of Everett’s four kids, much older than I was but also much younger than my brother. He was a decent enough guy, I suppose, except that he never did anything about Everett’s violence, either. In some ways, I can understand—I know firsthand how hard it can be to confront your father, and Everett was prone to violence. But no one ever confronted Everett about his violence, not even my own brother, which is one of the reasons I’ve never fully been able to forgive Eric.

Mom still lived at that house in Trumann next to the elderly couple, and Everett lived there too. It was an older house, but respectable enough, and had a dilapidated shed in the back that I liked to play in. Everett had a fascination with pocketknives, he gave me a few, and then he taught me how to throw them. I spent hours playing in the battered shed, flipping my knives and throwing them into the distant wall. At the age of eight, between the second and third grades. There were many occasions when I nearly stabbed myself.

As though there was something worse than nearly stabbing myself in the eye with a rebounding throwing knife (because mom or Everett had given me a set of throwing knives they found at a pawnshop), the shed was in poor condition anyway and not stable. The rafters were low enough that I could jump and grab hold of them. So I would—I’d jump and grab the rafters, climb onto them, swing around on them, flip upside down and hang precariously while I practiced throwing knives. It was wild, dangerous stuff that no one should have been doing, but certainly not a second grader, and my mom was well aware that I was doing it. But, in a strange way, she also trusted that I knew my abilities and limits, and that I wasn’t going to hurt myself.

And you know what? I never did hurt myself.

If all that wasn’t dangerous enough, Eric built a tree house for us in an enormous walnut tree in the backyard. Being a cool brother, of course, he built the tree house very high above the ground. No matter how high he’d built the house, though, I climbed up well past it and higher, swinging freely from one branch to the next, and I was higher even than the house’s ceiling when I did this stuff—a fall that would almost certainly have killed me. A fall that did happen that summer, but not to me.

I still loved playing Nintendo, and I did so regularly, but it would be unfair to say that I never did anything else. We lived only a few minutes from two parks, I frequently walked to both, and Britt often accompanied me. One of them was pretty boring, but the other had swings and other cool things—it was further away, though. Mom let us go to these places without supervision, of course, but I only bothered going to the distant one a few times.

I’ve often wondered, when looking back, whether my mom was trying to get my sister or me killed, because she did some reckless things when it came to parenting. I say that mom trusted in me and trusted that I knew my limitations, but that’s purely speculation on my part. Because the fact is that I was in the backyard, throwing knives and swinging from the rafters of a crumbling shed, and shifting wildly among the branches of a tree well above the tree house. Mom did, at one point, tell me to stop swinging from the limbs, but she made it clear that she was only telling me so because Everett’s younger son (who I haven’t mentioned yet) looked up to me and would copy me, and he was likely to get hurt. She didn’t say, “You might slip up, and we can’t afford a hospital visit.” She said, “Charlie will imitate you, and he will slip up.”

Mom’s car stopped working, as her vehicles often did, so we walked everywhere that we needed to go. Eventually, Everett’s parents let us borrow their two-seater bikes, but we didn’t have those for a while, and so we walked.

We went to the store one day, and Britt and I opted to stay and play outside while mom went in and did her shopping. After ten or fifteen minutes, she came back out and said that she had one more store to go to, told us which one it was, and Britt and I again decided we would just stay where we were. Mom left to walk to the other store, and I got bored a few minutes later, and then I went down the street to find mom. It wasn’t hard, and I quickly found her. After she finished her shopping, we came back outside and started heading back toward the initial store, the place where Britt and I had been playing.

And Britt was nowhere in sight.

“Where is your sister?” mom demanded as we rushed toward the store.

“I don’t know!” I cried, feeding off the panic and hostility in mom’s voice. “She was right there!”

As we jogged back, I shook my head, crying, and I mumbled, “I shouldn’t have left her alone…”

“No, you shouldn’t have!” mom snapped at me.

As we neared the store, though, we had a better view of its front, and it turned out that Britt was standing back in a corner, and we simply hadn’t been able to see her from the angle we were at. Years later, I realized what a horrendously foul response that was from my mother. “No, you shouldn’t have!” she said to me.

I was eight years old.

Assuming the worst, what in the hell would it have accomplished if I had stayed with Britt and someone kidnapped her? It would have meant only that Britt and I both were kidnapped. I was freaking eight years old, and Britt was the older one, at nine. I could have no more fought off someone than Britt could have. Still, “No, you shouldn’t have!” she hissed at her eight-year-old son who was already blaming himself.

“No, I shouldn’t have!” is what she should have said. She was the adult who left her eight and nine year old kids playing outside a store.

Britt’s birthday was horrible that year, and was probably still the worst birthday of her life. I’m not sure what caused things to go so badly, but they did. Britt and mom got into a fight—they were actually fighting quite often—and the most vicious one came near the end of That Summer, when mom threw a burning cigarette butt and hit Britt in the leg. I don’t think Britt ever forgave mom for that.

That was the year that Britt got the Polly Pocket toy that she had wanted for Easter, so I’m not sure what spurred the fight. I just remember that Britt cried a lot, and that I wanted her to be happy. But she wasn’t. And though I don’t recall ever seeing anything odd, there’s no telling how deep Everett’s abuses ran, and I certainly wouldn’t put any particular abuse beyond a monster like him. I don’t believe that’s the reason that Britt and mom fought so much, but I honestly have no idea why they did, and it’s clearly too painful of a subject for my sister for me to bring it up now.

I believe it was just that Britt was as miserable there as I was. The electricity was cut off a few times, but we weren’t allowed to run the air conditioners anyway. Arkansas summers are hot, but all we could do was open the windows and use box fans. That doesn’t help very much when the temperature is in the high nineties and the humidity isn’t far behind.

Then, of course, was the fact that mom got the hell beaten out of her regularly by a drunk piece of shit. And this is why I say that Eric would not have stood idly by if he had been forced to witness the abuse as Britt and I were—there’s only so many times that you can watch and hear your mother getting the shit beaten out of her before you’re ready to take matters into your own hands, regardless of your size and regardless of your age.

It was horrible.

You’ll forgive me for not going into elaborate descriptions of what it’s like to see and hear your mother being viciously beaten by an abusive alcoholic, but it’s every bit as awful as your imagination suggests, and so much worse when you’re witnessing it at eight and nine years old.

And one night I could no longer take it.

“[My name], don’t!” Britt whispered as I got up from the couch.

I don’t blame her. We were terrified when this abuse happened. We were too scared to move, too scared to speak, and even too scared to breathe loudly. If we had to go to the bathroom, then we held it. Mom was a lot bigger than us, and she couldn’t protect herself—how could she have protected us? Everett had already thrown a pair of scissors at one of us, so we had no idea if he would hit us. All we could do, at two in the morning, as their shadows danced on the floor, spilling in from the bedroom where they fought, listening to such sickening words as—

“Everett, I can’t breathe…”

–being choked out by our mother, was cower in fear and silence.

But I could cower no more. I had been pushed to the brink. I had seen this too many times; I had heard this too many times. This had been going on for too long, had been happening too often, and my mind snapped. For too long, I’d listened to my mother choking and rasping that she couldn’t breathe. For too long, I’d heard her being slammed into a wall, pushed through a window, punched in the stomach and face, jerked around and slapped. I knew only that I had to act, that something had to be done, and that I was going to do it because no one else was going to.

Someone had to put a stop to this, and there was no one stepping up to do it. And that meant it fell to me. It didn’t register to me that I was eight years old and about to step up to a grown man with a long history of violence. I didn’t care, because I was going to do what no one else was stepping up to do. It didn’t occur to me that I was eight years old, or that it wasn’t fair that I was way too young to be faced with the situation that I was faced with. Besides, no one ever said that life was fair.

No police were coming. My dad wasn’t coming. My brother wasn’t coming. My mom couldn’t handle it. And that meant it was on me, and only me.

I pulled two sharp knives from the kitchen drawer.

“Mom, I’ve got a knife!” I screamed.

Silence fell for a moment, and I was ignored as the horrific abuse continued. I immediately fell into tears, sobbing uncontrollably and whispering, “I’m sorry, mom. I’m sorry.”

I was sorry because I didn’t have it in me. I was sorry because I didn’t have the courage, the strength, or the age to do anything about it. I was sorry because I could do nothing to help her. I went back to the couch that was adjacent to the loveseat that my sister was sleeping on, and I continued crying until long after the violence stopped, because there was nothing else that I could do.

No one was coming, and I couldn’t stop it.

 

Hell Continues

Everett’s other two kids came that July to stay with us, and they were about mine and Britt’s ages, though Anne was slightly older than Britt was, and Charlie was slightly younger than I was. The first Power Rangers movie also hit the theaters, and I badly wanted to go. Mom suggested that I go around picking up cans so that I could earn the money, and I didn’t object at all to that. So that’s what I spent a lot of that summer doing: walking around with Charlie, picking up empty cans so that I could pay my way into the movie, because mom didn’t have the $5 to spare for the admission.

Charlie had some weird issues, though. Mom forced me to put up my Nintendo while he was there, and I was told that it was because he had a history of destroying them. He also burned down a house when he was much younger, by putting a sheet of paper onto a gas stove, or something like that. I never knew the details, but none of the adults ever disputed his claim about it, so it seems that it was true. And Charlie was, of course, proud that he’d burned a house down.

It simply made the summer worse than it already was. I didn’t spend all my time playing video games, obviously, but I did play them a lot, and then I suddenly wasn’t allowed to at all, for an entire month. One morning before Charlie woke up, mom let me connect and play it. I played Mega Man 4, one of my favorite games, but I was only allowed a few minutes before Charlie woke up. He walked through, rubbed his eyes, and mumbled, “There’s a Nintendo?” He kept walking to the kitchen, though. I furiously unhooked it and put it away, and we never discussed it again.

One day I was left home alone, and a man from the water department came by and did something outside. Keeping in mind that I was eight years old, I merely ensured that the door was locked and then watched him from the window. When mom returned, she learned that we didn’t have any water, and I told her about the man who came by.

“Why didn’t you stop him?” she yelled at me, as though her eight-year-old child was really supposed to have been able to handle a responsibility of that magnitude—or even understand something of that magnitude. I’m sure the city would also have been quite interested to learn that she had left an eight year old at home alone, and I sincerely doubt that I’d have been able to accomplish anything if I had talked to the man.

But, as usual, something had gone wrong, and I was just the convenient target to blame it on. Did she really expect her eight-year-old child to go and meet a stranger who had come into the yard? “Are one of your parents home?” the man would have immediately asked, a question that I would obviously have answered honestly. And this was a stranger to me. I had no understanding that this was a city or government employee—it was just some stranger, some strange, grown man in the yard. When I saw him, I verified that the door was locked; I definitely wasn’t about to open it.

Thank goodness, I had more sense than my mom did.

So there in the middle of June—because this actually happened before Charlie and Ashely arrived—we had no water at all. Each morning, Britt and I walked up the street to a nearby gas station, and filled up a five-gallon bucket with water from their faucet behind the building. We were only able to do this a few times, though, because the clerks found out and came out yelling at us, chasing us off, and telling us that we weren’t allowed to do that.

It goes without saying that it was awful, to not have water or air conditioning in the Arkansas summer, but it was even worse than that, because we never had anything to eat, either. Anne remarked once that I ate the equivalent of two biscuits a week, and she wasn’t wrong—I rarely ate anything. Because on top of having nothing to eat, my nerves were absolutely fried. I was always nauseated and on the edge of vomiting, and mom’s “solution” to this was to take me to the doctor for my “anxiety”—something that never happened anyway. Of course, the real solution would have been to get us out of that nightmare where we had no food, no water, and no cooling, and where my early morning wasn’t interrupted by the sounds of horrific violence.

Biscuits are also an apt comparison because I ate a lot of biscuits—there was never much else to eat, and biscuits were the primary staple. We would cook biscuits, then everyone would get two, and we’d dip them in this horrible concoction of peanut butter and maple syrup.

Then there was Treet Meat. It’s essentially a generic version of Spam, and it was the only meat that I ate through that summer. And, sadly, that name was also appropriate—it was a treat to have, because it was actual food. We didn’t even get it that often, because we couldn’t; we were poor as dirt. We didn’t even have water. Our food situation was no better. Throw on top of that the alcoholism and abuse, and it was an absolute nightmare, a true living hell. That, it seems, was what mom considered best for her kids, since she undoubtedly “only wanted what was best” for her kids.

And, unbelievably, it actually got worse.

Because as though all that wasn’t bad enough, the property owners tasked us with tearing down the shed, which we did. We then lit a bonfire with the wood from it in the backyard, and all that was fine. A few days later, however, we also lit a bonfire in the front yard. And from then on, we were under attack by fleas—fully under attack. Mom said that the fire in the backyard chased them into the front, and then the fire in the front yard chased them into the house. That seems likely, because we had a total infestation. Fleas were everywhere. No matter where we went or what we did, fleas where all over us, biting away.

Mom’s solution to this was some flea powder and anti-itch lotion, but that was woefully inadequate to deal with an infestation of that scale. Bug bombs wouldn’t have been enough. Only an exterminator would really have been sufficient, and it would likely have taken multiple visits from an exterminator.

The situation was beyond terrible, and it’s hard to imagine it being any worse and still leaving the victims alive and sane. How much more could my sanity have taken? How much more could my sister have taken? Hunger, thirst, miserable heat, domestic violence, and constantly being bitten by fleas. These are the reasons why it will always be “That Summer in Arkansas” to me, and why it will (hopefully) always be regarded as the worst summer of my life.

During the day, Charlie, David, and I went through the neighborhoods and picked up cans from the side of the road. That was probably the only bit of good parenting that my mother ever did—if I wanted to go to the movie, then I needed to earn the money. I would say that she might have been pushing it a bit, since I was only eight years old, but it’s also true that it was the only way I could have gone anyway.

Then the glorious day came that we called the person to come and buy the cans from me. It was a little over three dollars, and to my horror, he handed half of it to me, and the other half to Charlie. I threw a fit. And, looking back, I was right to throw a fit, because I was the one collecting the cans and had been from the beginning. I wasn’t being a brat when I said that Charlie didn’t help, because he really hadn’t—he simply came along because there was nothing else to do, and because that’s what I was going to do whether he came or not. I carried the garbage bags, I asked people for their cans, and I picked them up from the side of the road. Undoubtedly, Charlie picked up a few, but he wasn’t asked to, and he certainly hadn’t picked up half of them. I can understand, I guess, why the man presumed it was best to split the money between Charlie and me, but it still seems it would have been better for him to give it to my mother for her to handle. I worked all through that summer doing it, and three dollars was already not enough to go to the movie, but a dollar and fifty cents was nowhere near enough.

I was eventually given all the money—which, as I say, is good since I was the one doing it—but obviously still was not enough to pay for the movie. In another display of surprisingly good parenting, however, mom gave me the other two dollars that I needed, and I was able to buy the ticket and watch the movie. I didn’t get popcorn, a drink, or anything else; I just watched the movie, and it was great, because I’d spent the entire summer working to pay my way into it. I wasn’t entirely successful, but no one could say that I didn’t try.

One afternoon as we played in the tree… I don’t recall exactly what we were doing, but Charlie was swinging around in the branches as I did before my mom asked me to stop. And Charlie made a mistake. He fell almost in slow motion, and the three of us could only watch in shock as he fell, slamming into branches as he plummeted. We screamed as he screamed, and then there was a loud and sickening thud as he slammed against the ground.

Mom and Everett got him inside and called an ambulance. Charlie was able to move and able to stand, and the paramedics asked about taking him to the hospital to check if he had a concussion. To me, it seemed obvious. Dude fell out of a tree. His back was lacerated from the branches that had whipped against his flesh as he fell, and he had pounded against the ground. Why were people discussing whether to take him to the hospital? The ambulance was already there, after all—get the boy some medical attention.

But they didn’t. Because it would have been too expensive.

Charlie swooned at the door and nearly fainted, but caught himself on the jamb. Mom and Everett agreed to keep an eye on him for signs of a concussion, but he still didn’t go to the hospital, and none of us climbed the tree again.

Charlie proved more or less okay, though, and he and I stood in the front yard one day as I prepared to show the whole world once more what a jackass I was. A small, purple truck came through as I hoisted up a very tiny pebble—very tiny. Smaller than a piece of cat food, and very light—far too light to cause any damage. As the truck drove past, in full view of everyone and everything, I pulled back my arm and released, hitting the truck with that pebble.

Brakes screeched. Charlie and I bolted inside.

The man driving the truck, understandably pissed off, said that it was the short one who threw it, and that meant Charlie. Mom and Everett yelled for Charlie as the man left, evidently content to let them handle it, and I stayed hidden in the back, fully prepared to let Charlie take the fall for it. Because I was terrified, too. Charlie wouldn’t have that, though, which is good, and he told them that it was I. When asked directly, I did not deny it. There was a reason, after all, that I was hiding in the back.

That I was going to let Charlie take the blame just pissed Everett off more, but it’s not like there was ever much chance for that to happen. The dude mistakenly told them “the short one,” they called for Charlie, and Charlie told them it was me. But Everett was furious, and I suspect he had been waiting for such an opportunity all summer. He wanted to beat me.

Mom wouldn’t allow that, though, which is good. Because, honestly, if Everett had laid a hand on me, my dad would have killed him. As I said earlier, I never held the delusion that my dad was a superhero, as so many young kids do, but my dad wouldn’t have needed to be a superhero to take on Everett, or to kill him—and there is no doubt: my dad would have done both. Everett was the kind of man who hit women; the last thing he needed was to fight someone who was, at the very least, a real man. And my dad would have been so enraged that there probably wouldn’t have been a fight; he probably would have just shot the asshole.

Or stabbed him, as I had once been ready to do.

Mom took me into the bathroom, and I was crying hysterically, because I knew I’d done something wrong, and I didn’t typically do things like that. I really didn’t. I was just showing off in front of Charlie, and mom knew it, too. She also knew that there was no chance that I was going to do it again—it was all over my teary face. She had already promised Everett that she would whip me, though, and I’m sure that she intended to, until she got me in the bathroom with the doors shut.

Mom knew me better than that, though. She surely understood exactly why I had done it, and she and Everett were both aware that the thing I’d thrown was tiny—far too tiny to do any damage at all. And the guy checked his truck extensively, but there was no damage to it whatsoever. The tiny little pebble almost certainly hit one of his hubcaps, in fact, given the distance involved and the very low mass of the pebble. What I did was wrong, I knew that, and my mother knew that I knew that— and she knew that I had known it at the time that I threw it.

But there was also the fact that no damage was done, and that I undoubtedly would never have thrown something that would have broken a window or caused a dent. What I did simply caused a noise. There was no damage, and she knew that was not by accident. She made it clear to me that I wasn’t to do something like that again, but there was no chance that I was going to anyway, and she told me that Everett wanted to get at me.

In hindsight, I somewhat wish that he would have. Oh, sure, it would have hurt then, but when my dad found out, he would have beat the ever-loving hell out of Everett, and if there’s anyone who deserves to be beaten fifteen-sixteenths to death, it’s Everett Barber. And if Everett had ever laid a finger on me, my dad would have torn him to pieces. Everett did later say, “You’re lucky you ain’t my son, or that hide would be tanned and you would be able to talk for a week!”

Instead, mom spanked the toilet, and we both pretended that she’d spanked me. In fact, she lightly tapped me with the belt, but she grinned when she did it—that way we weren’t lying. That was the way that my mom and I handled things—she respected me, and I respected her. She didn’t have to roar and command me to stop swinging high in the tree; she asked me, explained her reasoning, and I respected her enough to obey. And she had been correct. Charlie had gotten hurt doing it, but it wasn’t because he wanted to do what I was doing.

Of course, Charlie didn’t believe that she’d spanked me, being a little snitch who was double-checking for Everett, and he asked me repeatedly. I consistently answered that she had, and she said the same. But she didn’t, because she was my mother, and she knew me better than that. I was no longer a rebellious kindergartener forced to adjust to a separation and trying to cling to the only normalcy that I had by eschewing school and staying with my mother. I was the kid who had just spent an entire summer collecting cans to pay his own way into a movie.

But no, Everett Barber. Violence is not the way that my mother communicated with me. Weak, ignorant people like you communicate with violence.

There is never a reason to spank a child. Talking to a child and reasoning with the child will earn the child’s respect, and will give the child a reason to respect and trust the adult as an authority figure. Resorting to violence will not earn the child’s respect; it will only earn the child’s fear. But I never again came close to throwing a rock or pebble at a vehicle, and violence wasn’t necessary to make that happen—simply talking to me was. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that an asshole like Everett immediately jumped to violence as the solution to misbehavior.

Everett was a violent asshole, and it’s proof that the universe doesn’t care, that he lives on while my mother has been dead for nearly two decades. This man directly responsible for untold amounts of pain and suffering, and who inflicted violence upon numerous people. Obviously, he doesn’t deserve to die by any means, and my mother was no saint, but, between the two, one of them deserves to be alive a lot more than the other.

Eric forgave Everett. I imagine that was easy, since Eric never witnessed the horrors that Britt and I did.

I nearly saw Everett again, that first weekend we spent with Eric after reconnecting with him, and I told Eric that it would be a very, very bad idea for Everett to come anywhere near me. Eric offered a weak excuse about how Everett is the grandfather of his son, and that they have to be civil, but I did not and do not care about that. This man relentlessly beat my mother in fits of alcohol-induced rage because he couldn’t face his own failures and inadequacies, and he never apologized to my sister or me. Eric said that Everett is clean now, and that he went through Alcoholics Anonymous. That may be, but he missed a step. He missed a few people that he was supposed to apologize to for some of his wrongdoings. My sister and I should have been pretty close to the top of the list.

With dysfunction of that scale, it certainly wasn’t only during the day that they fought. They fought almost constantly, and one of the many lessons I learned from mom is always have my car keys attached to a belt loop on my jeans. She did so, and it was extremely handy one day when they got into a fight. We planned to leave—probably to go to Aunt Diane’s—but she forgot something inside. By the time she turned around to go back in, Everett had already locked the door.

I will never forget that asshole’s stupid, childish grin as he parted the blinds and gave my mom the finger.

Britt and I stayed in the car for the next few hours as they fought inside, because there was no chance that we were going in there while that was happening. One walks on eggshells when there’s a lot of domestic violence, regardless of whom it is targeted at, because one is constantly afraid that something is going to set that violent son of a bitch off, and no one wants to be the person who causes it.

Charlie and Anne soon left with their mom to go back to Oklahoma, and that sucked, because I did enjoy hanging out with Charlie. I was happy to have my video games back, of course, but it wasn’t fun that a friend was leaving. I would never see him again, either—or Anne, for that matter.

It was soon time to register for school, and that was totally weird. I’d already changed schools several times. I started in South Pontotoc Elementary, but spent a few days in the city school—that was an awkward and unpleasant experience. I wasn’t there long enough to make friends, and the vibe in that school was strangely different from the county school. There was a lot of snobbery, and the playground sucked. Then I went to East Tate, and suddenly I was transferring to a school in Arkansas.

Dad and grandma came, to try to get us, before school started, and they weren’t trying to work within the legal system, mostly because we all knew by that point that the case was a total joke to the state. But mom was served with some kind of papers—it wasn’t a summon, and it seemed to be something that grandma paid a lawyer to write up and make it look official and scary. It was also filled with lies. For one, it asserted that we lived in a mobile home, that mom and Everett were doing crack and other things like that, none of which was true, but I understand in hindsight where they were coming from. But I refused to lose my mom again.

Dad promised us that he had gifts for us in the backseat of the car, and all that we had to do was climb in and get them. He held the door open, and it was all too easy for us to see that there was nothing in the backseat. The elderly couple next door knew enough of what was happening that they wanted to ensure things didn’t get out of control, so they came out and sat on their porch whenever dad was there and pulling his stunts. Britt and I weren’t stupid, though, and we told them that they could hand us the gifts, because we weren’t climbing in to get them.

They were trying to kidnap us, in effect, and I have to wonder what legal grounds they had to do so. What would have happened, if they had shoved us into the backseat and drove off? Someone would have called the police, and there would likely have been a roadblock—then what? Clearly, mom wasn’t in violation of any legal order, or they wouldn’t have had such a difficult time trying to go the legal route.

On one of these several “visits,” I stood near mom and Britt on the porch, as dad and grandma stood by their car at the road, shouting back and forth with mom because they had been firmly told to get off her property. “Does this look like a mobile home to you?” I shouted, because I was furious that they were again trying to take us away from our mom, and Britt evidently preferred to stay, too.

Life was borderline unbearable there in Arkansas, but it’s curious to think about what implications that would have had for me being transgender. I wouldn’t have had to struggle with it nearly as much, because my mom would have gladly accepted me. Everett would have gotten out of the picture at some point (he was removed from the picture later), and he would have certainly made it impossible for me to be transgender—more so than grandma and dad did, really. But Everett’s days with our mom were numbered, even if I didn’t know it then.

Mom is the only family member who I know wouldn’t have taken issue with it, because she was bisexual herself, and out of all the things I can question about my mother, I have never doubted that she loved me. Being transgender would have meant nothing to her, and she would have accepted and supported me. That she is not a part of my life is all the more tragic because of that: she is the only family member who would have accepted and supported me. Maybe back then, my sister would have as well, but with the way it went down, even my sister, with whom I went through all this bullshit, refused to accept my transgenderism.

In the grand scheme of things, though, it was certainly for the best that I did end up back with my grandmother, because I would have ended up dropping out as a teenager. I would never have been exposed to fantasy and would never have started writing; I probably would never have picked up a guitar and become an accomplished musician. My life has certainly not been great, but it would have been worse if mom had won that war.

“Dad, I hate you!” I shouted.

For just a brief moment, silence fell. Then my dad narrowed his eyes and pointed at my mother, and then he said in a low voice filled with icy anger, “Pat, if you ever tell him to say that again, I will kill you.”

So there, at the age of eight, I watched my dad threaten to kill my mother.

Obviously, they left quickly after that, because the elderly couple next door had certainly heard that little line, and it’s illegal to stand just on the edge of someone’s property, point at them, and threaten to kill them. For a while, I was in shock over that; it’s unusual to hear your dad threaten to kill your mom, and to mean it, and mom hadn’t told me to say anything. I spoke of my own accord, because I did hate him at that moment. He was once more a force of disruption, but also the only person who could save us—I just didn’t realize then how badly we needed to be saved.

And I was willing, I think, to endure all of those nightmarish things because they were the price of being there with my mother.

I didn’t understand mom’s laughter later that evening, when she bragged to Everett about what I had said. I was unable to understand that she liked how it hurt my dad to hear, and that she was happy that I stood against him—that I stood firmly with her. She didn’t tell me not to hate him, or even not to say it, as any good mother would have. She encouraged it, because she thought it was great.

For the first time, Britt and I suddenly went to different schools. We were two grades apart anyway, so it’s not like it made much of a difference, but… it did make a difference, and I didn’t like it. I don’t remember much about that school, except that people concluded that I was a talented artist, because I was able to draw something that was on the cover of a book. I did get into Gifted Art during the fourth grade, qualifying by drawing a boot. I have no idea why I made it in, because I saw the boots I drew years later, and they were awful.

They had GT at that school, which stood for Gifted and Talented, but only one person in our class was in it. Again, at East Tate I was allowed into TAGS halfway through the third grade (Talented and Gifted Students), but I was too depressed to have qualified for it there in Arkansas. I didn’t make any friends there. I didn’t want to make any friends there. The teachers would also frequently ask me what was wrong, too…

How was I supposed to answer that? Fucking everything was wrong. Between being hungry through the entire summer, sweating and burning up through the entire summer, not even having water through a substantial chunk of it, being blamed for my mom’s mistakes, watching and listening to my mom being beaten once every other week (on average), what in the hell wasn’t wrong? Oh, and I was having to lie to cover up for my mom, because she was shooting up—of course she was shooting up. Since everyone trusted me for some reason, she had me insist that it was for her headaches, when obviously it wasn’t.

“You know the shots I take for my headaches, right?” she asked me one morning.

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. She didn’t make it a habit of shooting up in front of me, and I didn’t recall then her ever doing so—not since Pontotoc, at least.

“Sure you do,” she cajoled. “The shots that I take for my headaches.”

“Oh,” I convinced myself. “Yeah.”

“You know they’re for my headaches, right?” she pressed, and I nodded. “Good. Everett might ask you, and just be sure to tell him that you know they’re for my headaches…”

“You’re going to have to participate,” the teachers told me. “You can’t just sit there and mope all the time,” they said.

Then there was walking to and from school every day, at a time when I constantly felt nauseated and was always on the verge of throwing up, because we didn’t have a car and because Everett’s parents were weird about their bikes. We were there for about four months, possibly five, and they were by leaps and bounds the worst four months of my life, and I’ve actually been homeless before. But nothing else I’ve experienced comes close to That Summer in Arkansas.

It was worse than ever one night—so bad that the elderly couple told mom that they would call the police if they heard it again. And, as usual, mom told them that it wouldn’t happen again, the same thing that she told Britt and me. Of course, this left my nerves more frazzled than ever, to the point that I wouldn’t even eat, and mom knew that she had to do something, and her solution was to take me to the doctor. Britt also needed to go to a dentist, so mom scheduled both things for the upcoming Thursday.

On that day, since we would be in the city, mom also planned to stop by and see an attorney who wanted a two thousand dollar retainer “to even look at the case.” Mom seemed to think that implied he was a terrific lawyer, and that may have been true, but she was never going to come up with that kind of money, and she must have known that, deep down inside. Just a few weeks prior, she’d received and unexpected check from the government, which she used to buy a $600 car that broke down almost immediately.

Britt and I were playing at the closest park when I looked across the street and saw, to my horror and dismay, dad standing and talking on the payphone while grandma stood beside him. Dad happened to see me, as well, and I told Britt that we had to go home, and that dad was there. We immediately ran home, since we weren’t far in the first place. We told mom what we’d seen, but she wasn’t overly worried about it.

A few minutes later, dad and grandma pulled in front of the house, but they were not alone. They had the police with them, and they had some legal document signed by a judge that gave grandma legal guardianship of us. They accomplished this through some creative distribution of money (bribes, one might say). Dad never denied this, and it’s certainly strange that they managed to get a judge to sign something so major without a hearing actually taking place. So someone’s pockets surely got a little heavier.

It was heartbreaking, and we were conflicted about it. This was our mother, and we loved her and didn’t want to leave her. But, at the same time, the situation was terrible, and no child should have been anywhere near that mess. Britt and mom fought nearly as often as did mom and Everett—I loved my sister and didn’t want her to be unhappy, and she wasn’t any happier than I was. And while I know now that it was for the best, that didn’t make it any easier then.

It all ended as suddenly and inexplicably as it began. Just as we didn’t expect mom to randomly declare that she was going to keep us, neither were we expecting dad and grandma to show up that day with the law on their side. The police oversaw everything as we packed our stuff, coldly standing by and grilling mom, as Britt, mom, and I cried and said our goodbyes, because there was no telling when we were going to see each other again. Mom’s visitation rights had been revoked, which meant that… legally, we weren’t allowed to see her anymore.

There was no turning around that time, though, even as we answered their questions honestly about what had been going on. Dad repeatedly said that we were going to simply forget what I said to him—as though we could do anything else, or as though punishing me for it had been a consideration. I’d just gone through hell for months with my sister. What could he possibly have done to punish me?

The Failure to Pair Workers With Work

According to the known liars in the Federal Government, the unemployment rate in the United States is a mere 4.3%. That number is obviously wrong, but it’s really not important. Any degree of unemployment is a bad thing, even if it’s only 1%, because that means one in every one hundred people cannot find a job in order to earn money.

Now, let me point out something that many people seem to have overlooked…

Ridiculous amounts of work are going undone in the United States. Bridges and road signs are covered in graffiti, streets are littered with trash and refuse; storefront windows are smudged with fingerprints and streaks of rain, buildings need to be repainted, countless yards need to be cut, and statues and monuments throughout the nation are covered in bird droppings and graffiti. If you simply begin looking for it, you will see thousands of things, just on your daily commute to work, that need to be done–things that could be done. Things that, you would think, someone would be willing to pay to have done.

And then there’s that number looking at us: 4.3%.

It’s not simply a matter of location, obviously. If only we could make the assertion that our unemployed people are nestled in the valleys of the Smokey Mountains, where there are no bridges to be cleaned of graffiti or monuments to be cleaned. Yet we know that isn’t the case. These unemployed people are scattered throughout the United States unevenly, just as are the tasks that need to be done. This sort of “undone work” exists in the city of Southaven, Mississippi, and, yet, there are unemployed people in the city of Southaven.

The question we have to ask is simple:

If there is work to be done, why isn’t it being done?

The answer is just as simple: the Minimum Wage.

I learned about the Balance of Power when I was a preteen, when I was required to cut the grass each week (in addition to household chores) to earn my $1.50/week allowance. My sister had similar household chores to complete, but didn’t have to cut the grass, and yet she earned exactly the same amount that I made. I pointed out that I had to spend one entire Saturday every two weeks cutting a rather large yard, while my sister didn’t, and I received basically no payment for it, and I argued that I should have been given a raise to my allowance.

“I’ll give you a raise when you start doing a better job of cutting the grass,” my grandmother replied.

I’m sure the problem is obvious. My grandmother could make me cut the grass; I had no real choice in the matter. I couldn’t simply say, “Well, then I’m not cutting the grass anymore.” Yet, she could say, “I’m not paying you anything. You’ll get out there and cut the grass, and that’s that.”

I was at her mercy regarding payment. She didn’t need to pay me, but I needed her to pay me.

The same thing is true in the United States today, especially in regard to Minimum Wage jobs. The individual worker is not needed by the employer, because there are ten others waiting in line if that particular worker proves to be a hassle. Just like my grandmother didn’t need to pay me, so does McDonald’s not need to pay Jim. If Jim demands a higher wage, they can simply fire him and hire from among the 4.3% of people who need that job in order to survive. As it was with my grandmother, the Balance of Power is tilted entirely toward the employer.

If there is one job and ten potential employees, then the workers compete with one another for the job. Think of it like an auction. Each worker offers up the most labor for the lowest cost to the employer, because all of the people bidding for the job need the job.

“I’ll do it for $9/hour plus health insurance,” says the first.

The second laughs. “I’ll do it for $8/hour. Forget the health insurance,” says the second.

The third laughs. “I’ll do it for $6/hour! Forget all the benefits!”

The Minimum Wage then prevents the first and second people–and the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and however many more there are–from proceeding to undercut the third guy. They can come forward and match his offer, but they cannot stack the odds in their favor by lowering the wage for which they will work. This is why Unions despise “scabs” so much. The second person might go away, grumbling, angry that he didn’t get the job, saying, “It’s not fair! He shouldn’t be able to undercut me like that! There ought to be a law!

That “law,” of course, is the Minimum Wage.

The other consideration to this is that the employer may have already decided that the task is not worth more than $7 an hour. By the employer’s calculations, it’s just not worth more than that to hire someone to keep their parking lot clean of litter and trash. So, unknown to him while he cries that the third person shouldn’t be able to undercut him, the second person had overbid anyway.

It’s similar to the television show The Price is Right. Overbidding in the show is an instant loss. If one says $550 for a washing machine that MSRPs for $349, the contestant cannot win that round, no matter what. This is also the case with demanding a wage that is higher than the employer is willing to pay: the worker cannot “win that round.” The worker cannot get that job. It’s instant disqualification. Though the employer, like on the show, has hidden the actual value of the job, the first two people have overbid and have disqualified themselves. This is why everyone cuts their eyes angrily at the person who bids $1–on the show, if everyone else overbids, that person is assured to win the round; that employee who bids the lowest intentionally is assured to get the job, if they are otherwise qualified–and, often, even if they are not.

What happens, though, when everyone is disqualified, because no one is able to bid below a certain amount, and the employer has already calculated to find out that the value of the job is lower than the “certain amount” they aren’t allowed to bid below? Everyone is disqualified. No one gets the job. The job goes undone.

Imagine the foolishness of having on the show The Price is Right the rule that “No one may bid under $100 for an item.” Now imagine the added folly of featuring a toaster that is valued at $40. What happens? Everyone overbids, because everyone must bid over $100. Yes, it’s a rather stupid state of affairs, isn’t it?

Yet the “toasters,” such as they are, exist. There are jobs–tens of thousands of them–that need to be done, but simply aren’t worth $7.25 an hour to the person who would pay to have them done. In our analogy, the toaster is on the show, and the toaster can’t be removed from the show. The circumstances we’ve created are idiotic. We see the toasters on the show, and we know they’re going to have to be bid on, we see the requirement that no one can bid below a certain amount, and we see that this means people are overbidding by default and can’t do anything about it. It’s truly idiotic.

Yet our stakes are so much higher in the real world than round after round of contestant overbidding on the toaster because they can’t bid below a certain amount. In the real world, we end up with unemployment. We end up with people being fired because the employer is unwilling and/or unable to pay someone $9 an hour to do some menial task. We watch a father of three panic over money because he can’t find a job–even McDonald’s continues to hire one teenager after the next, because there are more potential workers than there are jobs available, and the father of three inherently involves more hassle than hiring another pimply seventeen year old nerd.

Yet imagine the opposite! Just as there are, right now, more potential workers than there are jobs available*, so could there be more jobs available than there are potential workers. Look at what this does to the Balance of Power–instead of having a condescending interviewer ask, “What can you do for the company?” we have a grinning worker asking one interviewer after the next, “What do you have to offer me?”

Instead of the workers undercutting each other out of necessity, the employers undercut each other.

“I’ll give you $8.25 an hour,” says the first.

“They offered you $8.25/hour?” asks the second. “Ha. We’ll match that, and we’ll give you stock options.”

“Hm, those are pretty good offers,” says the third. “I tell you what. I’ll give you $10/hour, stock options, and a 3% 401K match.”

That world is possible. It’s a world that exists only when there are more jobs to be done than there are workers to do them. The Minimum Wage ensures that this world does not come to fruition; the Minimum Wage guarantees that workers compete with one another for a job, instead of employers competing with one another for workers. The Minimum Wage is at the heart of this issue. Just look around, at all the stuff that needs to be done–yet isn’t being done. And then look at the millions of Americans who are unemployed, and ask yourself, “Why can’t these unemployed people be hired to do this stuff that isn’t being done?”

The answer, of course, is “Because we made up the rule that contestants couldn’t bid below a certain amount.”

Because, for some weird ass reason, we thought that doing so would make the toaster more valuable.

* Note that, per the title, this isn’t strictly true–the jobs are available, but no one is allowed to hire anyone to do them because of the requirement that bids be a certain amount.

Thoughts on Trump’s Military Ban of Transgender/Transsexual People

To steal a line from Will Coley:

Oh no! Transgender and transsexual people are no longer allowed to murder brown people in foreign countries!

We should ban everyone from joining the military.

Meanwhile, transgender and transsexual people in prisons and jails continue to serve sentences in their birth sex’s cell block, where they are raped hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of times, and this grievous issue continues to go ignored, because the average trans person can’t pretend to be a victim of that. Instead, they’ll focus on the lesser issues of bathrooms and military service, because all they want is to cry about being a victim, and fighting for trans prisoners doesn’t allow them to pretend to be victims.

Socialism & Fascism

In a recent article, Robert Higgs made the argument that socialism is pretty much dead, and that fascism is instead the dominant economic policy on the globe. As far as I’m aware, this is my first exposure to Higgs, and I must confess: I’m not impressed.

First, it should be readily observable to all people that fascism and socialism are related, in the same sense that an orchestra maestro entails mastery of the musical pieces; fascism is the conductor’s mastery, and socialism is mastery of the song. It’s possible to be a master of the song without being a master conductor, but it’s not possible to be a master conductor without being a master of the song.

In classic logic terms, all bloops are bleeps, but not all bleeps are bloops.

This is because socialism is an economic policy, while fascism is what we would call governmental policy. It’s true that “fascism” is a notoriously difficult idea to pin down, and a lot of people mistakenly attribute “nationalism” as one of its primary tenets, but that’s a misattribution, a result of people focusing more on words than with the essence represented by those words. State supremacy is the hallmark of fascism. Through most of human history, this would have manifested as nationalism and the notion that the nation is the greatest; in more modern times, it manifests primarily as globalism, and the notion that a global government would be the greatest. However, regardless at what level the fascist pledges their allegiance (whether to the nation or to the globe), the primary hallmark is the same: the state that is in charge is supreme.

Everything within the state. Nothing outside the state, nothing beyond the state.

— Benito Mussolini

Socialism is an idea that prescribes state ownership of capital. To explain this, we must clarify the difference between capital and a consumption good. A consumption good is one that does not increase in value, one that, under normal conditions, only decreases in value (i.e., is “used up”). A consumption good is something that is used and ultimately discarded, and is not an investment. Televisions, cell phones, food, clothing, gasoline, and other similar items are consumption goods. Socialism absolutely allows for individuals within the socialist society to own consumption goods. Even the most diehard socialist isn’t going to advocate a system where Bob, having run out of toothpaste, can enter your apartment and help himself to yours. In the socialist apparatus, consumption goods regularly pass into ownership by consumers, where they are consumed, and the state merely creates, assigns, and hands out these consumption goods.

Capital, on the other hand, is held entirely by the state. Houses, land, vehicles, manufacturing plants, and similar items are the property of the state, and the state uses this capital to create the consumption goods and dole them out to the citizens. The state owns the toothpaste manufacturing plant and provides one tube a month to each citizen, in other words, and once that toothpaste is handed over, it’s generally considered that citizen’s toothpaste. The state doesn’t really care what happens to consumption goods, because they are consumption goods–even if Bob hoards all of his toothpaste and attempts to sell it on the black market, it’s just not going to give him enough capital to seriously challenge the state. Besides which, it has an expiration date–the day is coming that the toothpaste will be without any value at all.

When we discuss “private property” under the ideas of capitalism, we are not saying that individuals have the right to own consumption goods–this right is a given, and even the most adamant socialist isn’t likely to challenge it. Instead, we are saying that individuals have the right to own capital. Individuals have the right to purchase items that will generate a return on the investment, that will produce wealth. Under capitalism, an individual can purchase the glass, copper, gold, plastic, and whatever else is necessary in order to produce phones, which are then sold as consumption goods to other individuals for money, thereby creating a return on the investment. This model is obviously successful, and obviously creates a net benefit to society as a whole: some people get the phone, and one person is rewarded for their investment with more money.

But it’s not my intention here to point out that capitalism is better.

In fact, the requirement that individuals be allowed to own capital is in the name: capitalism. We could easily call socialism consumptionism, in fact, because it restricts the individual’s ownership of property solely to consumption items–to the phones produced, to the toothpaste, to the gasoline, to the food, and never to the facilities, rigs, or farms where these things are produced. Instead, everything of real value that can have labor added to it in order to increase that value belongs to the state.

Five hundred acorns are of very little value to me, after all. However, by adding my labor to them (by planting them, nourishing them, and watering them), I can turn them into 500 trees of considerable value. This is the essence of capitalism: taking a resource, investing in it, and seeing a return on those resources. In the socialist order, one would still be allowed to own acorns, in most cases, but the state would claim the trees as soon as they were grown, and would fine and arrest the person who planted them.

Socialism is state ownership and control of capital property.

Fascism is state control of pretty much everything, including capital property. The state cannot be supreme if it does not control the means of production (i.e., capital). This is why every fascist government that has risen has also been socialist, from Mussolini’s Italy to Hitler’s Germany to Kim Jong Un’s North Korea. In fact, North Korea is one of the few fascist nations in the world today, where the state openly controls everything from education programs to capital.

Similarly, we in the United States are much more fascist than we’d like to realize, and we’re entirely socialist. No American is allowed to own capital; the owners of all capital is ultimately the American Government. In a capitalist order, a person purchases a house and the land around it, and then it’s theirs–it belongs to them, and they can do whatever they want with it, because they are the owner. This is not the case in the United States. In the United States, the person has an enormous list of things they are not allowed to do with the property, must petition for the right to do countless things that they supposedly have the right to do, and then must pay rent each year to avoid having the property taken away from them. Paying property taxes to the government in order to avoid having the government take the property away is not in any sense different from paying a bank note to prevent the bank from taking the property away.

Why should the government get money from you each year, just because you own a house and the land around it? It’s not the government’s house or land, is it? By inserting themselves into this process, lining up outside of your property with guns and soldiers and demanding that you hand over money or they will forcibly remove you, the state has usurped your ownership of the home and made itself the owner. We can use all the doublethink and cognitive dissonance we like, but the fact remains that this affair is known as “renting,” and not “owning.”

This is similarly the case for whatever manufacturing facility you own. Not only are you required to pay duties on thins that you import, but you must pay the government a portion of your profits regularly, because, if you don’t, they will take the manufacturing facility away from you. And, of course, you can’t just build a manufacturing facility in your backyard; you must acquire permits, many of which are exorbitantly expensive, and rely on getting the government’s permission for you to use “your” property in the way that you want in the first place.

This cannot be considered “private property.”

It would be no different if I came by your manufacturing facility once a month with armed goons and demanded a cut of your profits for “protection,” and made it clear that, if you didn’t pay, you would have an “accident” that would end with one of my people being installed as the owner of the facility. This is what the state does now, today, in 2017 Common Era, in the United States. The idea that this arrangement constitutes “private property” is demonstrably false, and has been demonstrated as so.

If that was your house, you could burn it down. If that was your house, you could add a wing without getting permission from the government. If that was your house, you could install your own septic tank. If that was your house, you could dig an enormous hole and create a pond. If that was your house, you would not have to pay someone each year in order to prevent it from being taken away from you. Instead, it is the state who decides whether you can have permission to add a wing, it is the state who decides whether you may install a septic tank (“No, you cannot, but you can pay $1,200 to this guy who paid us $3,000 for his license to do it.”), and it is the state who ultimately owns the property, who must receive a payment from you regularly, on top of all these other considerations.

The thing about ownership is that it means I can do whatever I want with my property.

Compare the ownership of capital in the United States–as most obvious in regard to houses–to the ownership of consumption goods. I can do whatever I want with the Linksys WRT54GL that I’m looking at. I can write my name on it. I can install DDWRT firmware. I can put it on whatever subnet I want. I can take it outside and smash it to pieces. I can unload sixteen 12 gauge shotgun shells into it. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, and I don’t have to pay anyone each year for the “privilege” of owning it. It’s mine.

That difference is critical to understanding the current state of the world. Socialism is assuredly not on the decline; private ownership of capital is more regulated, controlled, restricted, and usurped than ever before. Socialism is more powerful today than it has ever been, and more dominant than ever. If we do not take back the right to own capital, free of government regulations, government mandates, and government threats of theft, then the problems we face can never be fixed.

And all of this is without even getting into Intellectual Property, eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, and the millions of regulations that bear down on us every single day. Anyone who looks at this state of affairs and calls it “private property” is severely confused. After all, both socialism and capitalism feature the ownership of consumption goods. As such, the ownership of consumption goods cannot be a deciding factor in whether a society is capitalist or socialist–as it is contained on both sides of the equation, it is reduced:

Private ownership of capital + private ownership of consumption goods = Capitalism

State ownership of capital + private ownership of consumption goods = Socialism

Anyone can see that “private ownership of consumption goods” has nothing to do with it, and must be subtracted from both. What we’re left with is that “private ownership of capital = capitalism” and “state ownership of capital = socialism.” Seeing as Fascism is state dominance over everything, from medicine to education to capital to consumption goods (because, for obvious reasons, if the state manufactures the only toothpaste in existence, then the state controls who has toothpaste and who doesn’t, as opposed to capitalism, where a person who has pissed off Colgate can still purchase Crest).

Fascism is also alive and well, although the state that people want to be supreme over everything has moved up one level, for the most part, to globalism instead of nationalism. This is why I once made the point that national fascism is easier to defeat than global fascism, while I explained my support for Brexit and America leaving NATO and the United Nations. Although viewed as contentious, that statement is actually an obvious extrapolation of how local governments are easier to influence than federal ones. It is much easier to get my city council to do what I want than it is to get the federal government to do what I want, and much easier to get the federal government to do what I want than it is to get the world government to do what I want. There is also the reality that world government soldiers from Uganda and New Guinea will face no real hardship oppressing people in California, while soldiers from California will face some internal difficulty oppressing people in Arkansas, and soldiers from Tate County, Mississippi will face considerable internal strife oppressing the people of Tate County. Local > distant, in every conceivable way.

However, that fascists today are roughly evenly split between nationalism and globalism is of no concern. They want state supremacy either way. The global fascists simply want to create a higher level of government to be supreme and enforce their desires. In that way, the globalist fascists are more fascist than the nationalist ones. And, yes, there is a strong correlation between those who want a powerful world government that can dictate national policies and those who openly desire socialism; yet, even among the national fascists, there is a strong tendency for the state to control different aspects of people’s lives (marriage, sexual identity, drugs, whatever). The globalist fascists simply want to create a Big Joker, because they don’t like how the nationalist fascists have the Little Joker.