Sunday, December 17, 2006

Department of Insecurity

"It's not my fault," he went on harshly. "I didn't do any of this. None of it. But I'm the cause. Even when I don't do anything. It's all being done because of me. So I won't have any choice. Just by being alive, I break everything I love." He scraped his fingers through the stubble of his beard; but his eyes continued staring at the waste of Andelain, haunted by it. "You'd think I wanted this to happen."

"No!" the First protested. "We hold no such conception. You must not doubt. It is doubt which weakens -- doubt which corrupts. Therefore is this Despiser powerful.
He does not doubt. While you are certain, there is hope." Her iron voice betrayed a note of fear. "This price will be exacted from him if you do not doubt!"

Covenant looked at her for a moment. Then he rose stiffly to his feet. His muscles and his heart were knotted so tightly that Linden could not read him.

"That's wrong." He spoke softly, in threat or appeal. "You need to doubt. Certainty is terrible. Let Foul have it. Doubt makes you human." His gaze shifted toward Linden. It reached out to her like flame or beggary, the culmination and defeat of all his power in the Banefire. "You need every doubt you can find. I want you to doubt. I'm hardly human anymore."

Stephen R. Donaldson, White Gold Wielder

I don't own a gun.

I'm a fan of the Bill of Rights. I'll always defend your right to possess one, and to use it in your own defense if necessary. I'm surprised that people aren't more alarmed by the prospect of a government that attempts to forcibly disarm its own citizens. I'm also surprised that the Democrats -- who claim to be the supporters of individual liberty -- are the ones most engaged in trying to repeal that right.

So, politically? Yeah. An unarmed populace is completely *dependent* upon the state. I get that. But that doesn't alter my great personal distaste for them. In fact, "distaste" is too mild a word -- I have an active *revulsion* for the fucking things. Why?

I can conjure up a few possible reasons. For one thing, my background in martial arts: a form whose sole function is to prepare you for the moment of confrontation with your own mortality. If I attempt to kill a man with my bare hands, that takes some goddamn *work* on my part. A gun is a tool designed with the sole function of making killing *easy*.

Of course, I recognize that fine ideals like that won't defend me from a bullet speeding toward my face at 3000 feet per second. And I recognize that that's groping after a rational explanation for an emotional state that is fundamentally irrational.

Because ultimately, it isn't violence I fear: it's *power*.


If I distrust power in others, then it's at least partly because I distrust it so deeply within myself. I'm all too aware of my own capacity for harm.

This, I think, is the area that differentiates me from so many other libertarian writers: that so many of them seem to be trying to re-invent themselves as the Randian "ideal man", preaching with the same brash self-assurance that -- forgive me -- characterized the socialists of many decades ago.

Well, I'm the first to admit that I've got more than my share of preachiness and self-righteous indignation. But though I'm a Libertarian, I'm no Objectivist. And maybe it's all of my clowning training, but that kind of assertiveness just doesn't come easily to me. I look in the mirror, and my reflection doesn't present an ideal *anything* -- I'm not physically imposing, I have no fashion sense -- I'm so hamstrung by my neuroses half the time it's a miracle I can even manage to leave my apartment. If libertarianism offers us the promise of the self-created man, the man who confidently seizes his destiny and conquers his opposition, well, I ain't it. If life is a circus, I'm not the ringmaster; I'm the guy scraping up the elephant shit after the audience goes home.

In fact, the only thing I'm confident of is my right to indecision. The ideal to which I've devoted my life is the pursuit of (t/T)ruth. Perhaps it's that spirit of inquiry that's led me to the libertarians -- because, in my view, they're the ones who are most likely to defend it.

Or, perhaps not. Or...well...maybe...hmm...

"INDECISION NOW!" isn't a battle cry that's going to rouse anybody's blood. But I sometimes wonder if it isn't the sanest one.


The quote at the beginning of this post comes from my favorite modern fantasy work, "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever." (Have I mentioned I'm kind of a geek?) It relies upon a fairly cliched fantasy setup -- unlikely hero is given a ring of unimaginable power to overthrow a dark lord, yadda yadda yadda -- with two twists: one, a compelling moral ambiguity; and two, the fact that the "hero" is writer who suffers from chronic illness, and consequently believes that his own capacity for creation will kill him. I'm reminded of one passage in particular:

"...innocence is a wonderful thing except for the fact that it's impotent. Guilt is power. All effective people are guilty because the use of power is guilt, and only guilty people can be effective. Effective for good, mind you. Only the damned can be saved."

Amen to that, brother.

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