Monday, August 31, 2009

A Different Perspective

On Facebook, people seem to while away quite a bit of time playing at quizzes. They have imaginitive titles such as What Dead White Girl Poet Are You? Or at least something like that. Which brings me to a Disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER: A Facebook friend has warned me that when you take those quizzes on Facebook you are giving away any personal information you have on the program. I am not, therefore, recommending that anyone actually take these quizzes. After all, some quiz-maker at Facebook might find out your religion. That would be far worse than the federal government knowing your genome and your retinal prints, and the fact that you saw a psychiatrist after that really bad breakup in high school. ;)

Anyway, this entry could be entitled something like What P-Word am I?
A few days rest and fielding comments on my last post brings me to one p-word. It is PERSPECTIVE. As I wrote at the end of that post:

My unique mind often causes me to see the glass as not only just half-full, but dusty and cracked as well. I must remind myself that things are likely not nearly as bad as I think they are.

That post was about how I responded badly to an unexpected situation--that of being misjudged by someone, or rather, since the person was basing her judgment on incomplete information, perhaps the word should be pre-judged. (But perhaps not since the PC lexicon would tell us that only disadvantaged minorities can actually experience prejudice). That the situation was unexpected by itself tells you a great deal about the extent of my Aspergian tendencies.

Two interesting things came out of that post. The first was that, although my purpose was simply to tell the story, and thus feel better, I got responses that suggested that I needed to take one or another kind of action in order to fix myself so that I can better conform to this collectivist society's narrowing definition of normal. The second was that, finally having owned my Aspie ways, I realized that I actually like the way I am, and that despite the problems it causes me, I would not have it any other way. I am stubbornly refusing to pretend to be normal. As I read some undoubtedly good and true advice from an undoubtedly concerned friend, I felt myself digging my heels into my Aspie turf and shouting: No! If that is normal, then I don't even want to be normal!

In fact, my reaction reminded me a great deal of the beginning of an essay by a good friend of mine, someone who has as much difficulty pretending to be normal as I do. (Although he shared it on a discussion board, we actually know each other personally, and he's another East Mountain type. Naturally). His essay is called: Don't Be Mad at Me Because I am Sovereign and he begins by saying:

"Don’t be mad at me because I am sovereign. I do not recognize your authority. Your attempt at authority over me is false. I do not recognize false authority. There is only one authority. That is the natural law of God. . .

Man did not create gravity. That is a natural law of God. If you choose not to recognize the natural authority of gravity as you fall from a high place, I suggest that you are missing something important. The flesh on our bodies is considered to be food to a great percentage of the life on this planet. That is the natural law of God. If you choose not to recognize the natural authority of a lion as it eats your flesh, I suggest that you are missing something important.

On the other hand, if you do chose to recognize the authority of another man or woman or group of men or women as they attempt to coerce you into the recognition of some non-natural law that they have fabricated, I suggest again, that you are missing something important.

If you are missing some of those important things, please don’t be mad at me about it! I am just a simple, sovereign man . . .

. . . Is it my problem or yours?

That answer is easy. If we come into conflict over your recognition of false authority, and my lack of recognition of it, the problem lies with you, not me. Don’t expect me to bend. However, you should expect a loss of trust, and potential inability to communicate effectively about meaningful tasks.

Many people believe that life operates as a democracy; that since I, as a minority in my recognition of these seemingly simple concepts, am therefore wrong. I do not accept that. That, in itself, is a belief in the false authority of the majority. Whereas, the natural law of God does not require belief; it just is."
(Raymond Powell, writing as The Rayzer at

I have already come to the conclusion that this narrowing of normal is a dangerous illusion that flies in the face of the natural law that requires "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful . . ." to work its evolutionary magic, as Charles Darwin wrote more than 150 years ago.

But Darwin lived in a different world; one still based on reason and individualism.Whereas this current narrow concept of normal as the be all and end all of life is a collectivist myth that will only make it easier for those who would rule over us to do so. It denies freedom of thought, freedom of action, and the freedom to learn and grow uniquely from the consequences of independent thought and action. It makes it difficult to develop and share new ideas, because "normal" means acceptance of the way things are without thought. Thus, the indoctrination of a narrow normal that has replaced education has taught people only to talk over and shout down, rather than listen and think.

This is not my problem.
My problem has been to refuse to recognize that my differently-wired brain does fit in that narrow range of normal.
Which P-word am I? I am not a Politician. Those social games played in that narrow range of what is normal and acceptable are boringly incomprehensible to me.

When I was in high school, the guidance counselor called me in to discuss my future. She asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Eyes on the floor, I asked her a question in return. "How," I asked, "Does a person become a philosopher?"

I think that was the only time I saw her speechless.
But my peers had already let me know that I was far from normal.

As I think about what P-word am I, I realize that the operative word in my question was not how; it was become.
I am still becoming that other P-word. Philosopher.

I like to think about things outside that narrow range of normal.
I suppose that will get me into more and more trouble as the collectivist dreams of the current crop of politicians narrow normal down until most of us will not be able think or breathe within it.

But that's not my problem. With the Rayzer, I say: Well, don't be mad at me because I'm sovereign.

And I have a new P-word: Perspective.
I need not worry about those who dismiss me or underestimate me or otherwise cannot hear what I have to say or listen long enough to find out who I am.
That's their problem.

I will go on living my life as a free human being. As a sovereign only over myself.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Life from the Outside: Reflecting on Aspie Tendencies

Today I got a message from Amazon in my e-mail, apprising me of a new book coming out in a few weeks. I get these messages all of the time, and sometimes I order one. This book is called Parallel Play: Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger's by Tim Page, and after reading John Elder Robinson's review of it (on the Amazon page linked above) I ordered it.

In part, Robinson said:

"Tim says he’s lived life as an outsider, and that’s exactly how I feel too. As a result, even though I’ve grown up to find commercial success, happiness often eludes me. Within minutes of meeting Tim, it was clear he felt the same. Neurotypical people try to welcome us into their world, but Asperger’s blinds us to the olive branches of friendship they proffer. They even shake the leaves in front of our faces, but we just gaze, impassive and oblivious. People assume we’ve rejected them, but in truth we want their friendship and acceptance with every fiber of our being. That’s the heartbreak of it." (From the review linked above).

That's the heartbreak of it.

As some of my readers know, I am raising a son with diagnosed AS.
AS is primarily genetic in origin, although there most likely are environmental triggers that influence the severity of the disorder and the particular symptoms manifested.
So the Boychick's AS had to come from somewhere, and although I believe his biological father also has AS, I have also come to understand that I manifest the characteristics also. I have taken Simon Baron-Cohen's AQ Test several times, and I have always scored above 32, and usually around 40 points. And although I have no formal diagnosis, I believe that if the diagnosis had existed when I was a child, I would have met the criteria.

Though as an adult I function reasonably well in some social situations, they take a lot of internal energy. I am well aware of my own internal awkwardness, and missed social cues. I spend many hours in bed at night reviewing the social gaffs of the day.

Last night was one of those nights. At a meeting of a 9-12 group I am part of, my intention was to ask for the group's support and involvment in the Continental Congress, because I want to go as a delegate. I have been working on this since March, but as soon as I brought it up to the group, one of the more dominant female members immediately decided that "we should send" one of the other members. She had it all planned out while I was still talking about the history of the Continental Congress of 1774 and how it relates to what we are doing.
I had not clearly communicated with the group, probably because for me, the whole history is more fascinating and I wanted to work up to what I was asking.

My immediate reaction was disappointment.
I've been working hard on this and I wanted the group's support.
I heard this more dominant woman saying "you should go, C." because C. could speak well and knew a lot.
And these things are true.

I thought of all my education, all my reading. All the ideas I would like to share. I thought of Thomas Jefferson*, who was also an awkward speaker, although he was a good writer. I, too, am a better writer than speaker.I thought of a lot of things, and my social awkwardness was that while I was trying to frame how to respond, I blurted out something just to keep myself in the conversation. Since my mind was elsewhere, I can't even remember the words I blurted out. But I did realize that it was the wrong thing to say.

*Jefferson is an example of a historical figure who demonstrated most of the symptoms of AS. Others who are thought to have had AS include Albert Einstein, Motzart, and the pianist Glenn Gould.

So, in my social blindness, I immediately started in to make it worse for myself. I said that well, maybe I was not going to be elected to go, but that I would happily go as somebody's assistant, just to be part of this great historical endevour. But I mentioned the name of a certain somebody who will most likely be elected.

This provoked two negative responses. The woman who had taken over the conversation said:
"I don't even know this __________." She seemed angry. (I thought, "Well, no. You haven't been involved in this, even though I have brought it up before.")

The other woman, the one who had been directed to go by the first, said something to the effect of:
"You mean we are just shills for the people who have already been determined to go?!" (I thought, "she didn't listen to what I said about the election.").

If only I had been allowed to tell it all my own way, without the interrogation or interruptions, she might have understood what I was trying to communicate about the upcoming election.

The group leader said nothing, though later he allowed as to how he would be happy to vote for me.

This is one illustration in the frustrations I encounter because I forget that I tend to think about communications as words that are put together in a particular order for a particular purpose; words that must be heard all the way through before one can get the sense of them. Words that have no particular meta-content. And I forget that, in the scheme of things, I have a uniquely wired mind.

I forget that neurotypicals (NTs), tend to see the same words as imminently interruptible, and full of emotional content and other (possible nefarious) implications that I am blind to, that I did not intend. They seldom listen to the whole communication before jumping in, and thus miss a great deal of my meaning. This is probably because I have the Aspie tendency to go on and on, and in every particular, in order to be most thorough about the details. I am fascinated by the parts, and in this way I get to the big picture,and it is all fleshed out. NTs skip the parts and jump right to the whole.

It is not that I cannot see the big picture, though. I can. I can see it in all of its detail, whole and complete; a picture in my mind. But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. And to translate that into words requires all of my attention. NTs often claim that we who think in pictures lack attention. They say we have ADD.

IMHO, it is they who lack attention. They jump too quickly, thus missing the richness of the picture altogether. It is they that have difficulty listening, becoming impatient after a few sentences. They have already jumped to what they think is the big picture the speaker is describing, and often miss what is really being said.

The neuroscience work I did this spring bears this out. There is a great deal of evidence from imaging studies combined with neurobehavioral tests, that those of us on the Autism Spectrum naturally and easily remember all of the details as we process auditory and visual information from "the bottom up" (actually, in the brain, it is from back to front). We can also remember the big picture once it is assembled in our minds. We can do top-down processing as well, although that is not our preference. And when we do it, we can still remember all of the details. But NTs cannot remember the details, and they get cluttered up with all the emotional reading into the message that they do. Thus, at least as it appears to me, they can't think through the whole idea.

It is like we live in two different worlds.
It is true that Aspies do not see the olive branches. But it is equally true that he NTs do not see the beauty of our minds. They are too impatient to be able to see it. They cannot see that the bush burns but is not consumed.
Think about it.
A person would have to stop and observe for some time to see the detail of nonconsumption.

When we do not come across immediately with what they want, they dismiss us.
Thus, the dominant female described above dismissed me, even though she knows nothing about the Continental Congress except what I described, and she does not know what I know about the Constitution, or what I know about the enlightenment philosophy upon which it is founded.

NTs seem to narrow normal down to match that incomplete big picture they construct immediately. Lacking the memory for the detail that Aspies and others with different minds retain in our peculiar way of processing, they often miss the infinite diversity in infinite combinations that is ever before them. NTs walk "sightless among miracles."

That's the heartbreak of it. That's every bit as much of the heartbreak as is our Aspie blindness to the olive branches the NTs extend. In some ways, I think, NTs are just as blind to us as we are to them. But since our diverse minds are invisible to them, Aspies are the ones that are labeled with a disorder, with being different. We are the ones "pretending to be normal."

As Robinson, himself an Aspergian, writes about Tim Page's encounter with the heartbreak:

"Tim’s story illustrates that reality with clear and moving prose. Even when he’s been with people, much of his life has been spent alone. He was always smart, but like me, I wonder what it’s been for. His book shows that genius has its benefits but it’s not a formula for happiness or even general life success. You’ll wonder if his extraordinary abilities are a cause or a result of his isolation. Or are they just more facets of a unique mind?"

NOTE: My unique mind often causes me to see the glass as not only just half-full, but dusty and cracked as well. I must remind myself that things are likely not nearly as bad as I think they are.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Rainbow Connection

Why are there so many songs about Rainbows,
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions,
They're only illusions,
And Rainbows have nothing to hide. . .
--The Rainbow Connection

The spot-soon becomes the monsoon again,
with a little help from El Nino . . .

. . . and a lemon-clouded sunrise to the east,

The air is full of misty

South Mountain magic . . .

. . . And they all come together,
to make the Sandia Mountain
Rainbow Connection . . .

. . .We walk in beauty,
and our pathway is marked
with the rainbow sign.

What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
What are we hoping to find?
Someday we'll find it,
The rainbow connection,
The lovers,
The dreamers,
and me . . .

Thank you, Kermit the Frog!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

R3volution: Outside the Town Hall Meeting

Yesterday was a busy day in the cause of Liberty.

In the morning I attended a meeting of a South Valley patriot group to drum up support for the Continental Congress and to publicize our Constitution Seminar. The meeting was interesting, and I believe successful. I also learned that a few sessions at Toastmasters would be good for me. Too many "ummms" and "ands", and I apparently violated a rule or two of political speaking that I did not know existed. Fortunately, Ken Cavanaugh, the Chair of the NM Libertarian Party was there to help me rescue the situation and coach me on them.

In the afternoon, the Engineering Geek and I attended Congressman Heinrich's (NM District 1) Townhall Meeting. We got there too late to get in, as we knew we would, but our plan was to work the line and the crowd, passing out literature about the Continental Congress, as well as for New Mexican's for Liberty, and the Libertarian party.

The people in line showed their divisions clearly, for the most part. Those opposed to Obamacare (about 20%, we estimated), were carrying handmade signs for the most part, whereas the people for HB 3200 were well organized, wearing white shirts sporting red, white and blue stickers that proclaimed "Health Care for America Now!", and carrying identical pre-printed signs. The stickers were to prove particularly effective after the people reached a checkpoint where they were divested of their signs, purses and umbrellas (the New Mexico sun was brutal yesterday), or else turned away.

All in all, given the red ACORN shirts, the union buttons, and the pre-printed signs, as opposed to homemade signs and a certain lonely defensiveness, it was easy to see who were the grassroots individuals and who the organized astroturfers were.

Aside: Early that morning, on my way to the South Valley meeting, I passed a Union hall in the University Heights neighborhood. There I saw a crowd of people on the front walk, white shirts being passed, and a bus being boarded. I have no proof of what it was about, but it looked like they were getting ready to go to the Town Hall.

In some parts of the line there was conversation between the pro and con groups. Some of was animated but friendly, but others were more heated and emotional. Given a nasty and angry encounter between the EG (who is not terribly tactful) and a very emotional woman from our synagogue, we huddled with Ken and a few other Libertarians, and decided right then and there to scan for those most open to our message, as we did not want trouble, and we did want to use our inadequate supply of literature effectively. Later we ran into some other New Mexicans for Liberty who had decided the same thing.

So the EG and I focused on those people who did not have stickers on, and who had signs opposing HB 3200 or promoted liberty or the Constitution. Some of these people had already had nasty encounters with the statists, and a few were very suspicious of us (the EG had a white shirt on as we didn't know that was a directive of the pro-government faction). The EG was passing out flyers that looked like a giant million dollar bill, so he began each encouter saying, "You look like you could use a million dollars!" This was an effective way to let the more defensive people know that we did not condemn them. I'd then chime in with, "Yeah, that and $2 bucks will buy you a regular coffee at Starbucks!"

During the time we worked the line (before they started letting people in), I had several less than pleasant encounters with pro-government organizers. Once they told me that I could not pass out literature. I pointed out that we were on public property and that I was asserting my first amendment rights. No official or law enforcement person was called to back up the assertion, so I ignored them. Next, a group of people handing out signs that said "Democracy Requires Civility" began to hassle me, saying, "Where were you when Bush was spending millions of dollars?" I disarmed them by asking if they had read Naomi Wolf and engaging them in a conversation about boisterous public protest. (Turns out they represented some group associated with the New Mexico film industry). I ended by taking their picture because, I said, I wanted to show on my blog the many groups present.

But the question they asked was repeated several times by others, and even less politely. Each time, I shut them up by answering that I was against the war as it was unconstitutional, as has been every war since WWII. I did not begin any discourse on why my opposition was different than theirs, instead I politely asked the most rude guy (and they were always big, loud, rude guys) "Sir. Excuse me, but I have a question for you. Should those citizens who are just finding their voices be barred from their first amendment rights because they found their voices later than you found yours?" That usually shut them up permanently. In one case I had to ask some guy where he was in the '80s and '90s when I was in the streets. IOW, don't try to teach your mother how to suck eggs.

(These guys are true astroturfers, all full of piss and vinegar, but fed ideas by others. Their slogans aren't actually logical arguments. Most of them are too young to have been in the streets during the Bush era, let alone before that, yet they believe that they own the idea of public protest because they learned it from the campaing of the Annointed One).

Once the line began moving inside, there was some commotion as the Heinrich staffers began telling people that they had to give up their signs, umbrellas, and, in one instance, a cane. I approached an older staffer about that one and pointed out how bad it looked. She agreed, introduced herself, and after intervening, we had a pleasant conversation about the East Mountains. I don't think that she ever knew that I dislike her boss. Intensely.

After the line moved inside, the EG and I crossed the street to where a mixed motly of protesters stood. Most were oppposed to Obamacare, and here we saw some more homemade signs.

Here, we encountered two men who own small businesses. One did not have a sign, but had come down to see what impact HB 3200 might have on his business. He has 14 employees in a small aerospace contracting business, he told us. He pays 100% of their insurance and benefits. He had read the bill carefully, he said, and was worried that if it passed he'd not only not be able to afford this, but would likely have to cut the number of employees.

The other man has a carefully researched sign, "Have you read all 1,017 pages?", with information that was footnoted. he had nine employees, he said. And if the bill passed, he would be so pressed by the new taxes on his business that he thought he would just have to shut it down. He also handed me a flyer he had printed up on resume paper. It called for "real free-market healthcare" that cuts costs by getting rid of government intervention and regulation, and in which real mal-practice was dealt with through the courts. I told him that his ideas were essentially libertarian. We talked for a while and he took my LPNM literature. He let me keep his flyer--he had only one left--on the promise that I would improve it and pass it on.

I then ran into another man who had no sign. It turned out he was a former CEO of University Hospital. (This checks out with the name he gave me). I asked him, since he was clearly well-informed, what ought to be done for healthcare in New Mexico. First, he pointed out that New Mexico has a very good system, Salud, that provides basic care for the uninsured. Then he told me that many of the uninsured (all pregnant women and children and many others)have access to that system, but they choose not to use it for their own reasons. He said he thought that keeping that state-run system would be more cost-effective (it is contracted through three different private insurers, and people on it have a choice), than a federal, single-payer system. He then rattled off a bunch of statistics for me, to show me that the number of uninsured in the US is greatly exagerated, and that including the number of voluntarily uninsured is only part of that inflation of numbers.

He then began telling me what the consequences of HB 3200 would be for New Mexicans. More people would go without care, he said, because "they are planning to completely take the system down," not reform it. The chaos, he said, would be unbelievable. He said bitterly that this president, who has no adminstrative experience at all, and knows nothing about medicine, is going to destroy health care in the US, and that poor states like New Mexico will suffer the most from his hubris. When I asked him why he was not in the Town Hall saying this, he laughed bitterly and said that he had said it policy meetings a great many times. "They don't want to hear me," he said. "And I don't want to waste my time." He's retired, now, he told me, and his experience with Medicare (he had to wait 6 months to see a dermitologist and is waiting now until November to get a carcinoma removed from his neck) makes him fear for what will happen under Obamacare.

My last encounter was most interesting. I stepped up to talk to a guy with a sign that said, "Atlas is Shrugging." When I allowed as to how much I liked his sign, he asked me if I had read the book. I told him I was raised on Ayn Rand. Then I saw the OCON lanyard around his neck and I began talking to him more deeply about Objectivism.

This man turned out to be Jim McCrory, a libertarian before being Objectivist, and founder of The Association for Objective Law.

One thing he knew that many Objectivists do not, is that Ayn Rand had a great deal of influence on the early Libertarian movement, and though (being a cranky Russian-Jewish grandmother type at the time) she repudiated the Libertarians, they never repudiated her. Libertarians are, well, too libertarian, to eject people, although being libertarian, they tend to disagree amongst themselves on a fairly regular basis.

I told Jim McCrory that I remembered, as a child, when all of that went down, and that I think Rand was right when she told the early Libertarians that they should not concentrate so heavily on national politics, because even if they got elected (the chances were vanishingly small) they'd be unlikely to accomplish anything because one had to change how people thought before any change in politics and government could be accomplished.

I mentioned to McCrory that I understood that Objectivists tend to shun libertarians, and following Rand's diatribes against them in her later years, make some pretty nasty (and often unfounded) smears against us.(These tend to be generalizations of the behavior or positions of individual libertarians to the whole group, and this tendency is an instance of sloppy thinking by Objectivists that is puzzlingly at odds with their usual clear thinking). I therefore told him I appreciated his willingness to talk to me, and we had a good conversation.

I told Jim that I have had some conversation on the internet with a few more adventurous Objectivists, but they usually stop commenting when they learn I am a libertarian.

Aside: For this reason, I think that the movement could well remain insular and closed, for if they will not even associate with somewhat like-minded people what chance have they to influence others whose thought is much further afield? Therefore, they are quite unlikely to change how people think, if this is indeed their goal.

Although there is much more to tell about this encounter with Jim McCrory, two good things came out of it. First, as we talked, several people approached to react to his sign. With one, we had an extensive conversation, and Jim's model of reasoned response to what were sometimes provacative statements was enlightening to me. I also asked the man a question to get him thinking about the buzz words he was using. All in all, though, I learned more watching Jim. There was another, shorter encounter that went the same way, and there was one person who was so unreasonable that Jim just smiled and said, "Yes. I think Ayn Rand was right." The guy went on, and Jim told me, "You just can't talk to some people." True enough.

The second good thing was that when we talked, he understood that I did know a bit about Objectivism and could speak intelligently about philosophy. And so he told me he was interested in conversing more with me, and he was positively excited that I appreciate the quality of The Objective Standard (TOS). We discussed Yaron Brook, as well, when the subject of religion came up during our discussion with the first questioner, and I mentioned that I was a Jew. In short, this man is not adverse to questions, and has offered to talk to me and the EG further.

I am so hungry for discussions with the magnitude of thought that Objectivists bring to any conversation! This is why I read TOS online, as well as the weekly Objectivist blog carnival.

I am very excited about all of this, but feeling a bit wary, too. Nevertheless, if, as Ma Ingalls used to say, we don't do anything new, we'd never do anything at all.

Overall, what I learned from the Town Hall is that the patriot movement needs to become more reasoned in our approach to discussion with opponents and bring a principled approach to it, and that we flat-out need to be more organized for these protests.

For me personally, though, the whole day yesterday was a great deal of fun. Though today I am physically recovering (who forgot the sunscreen??), I also have a great deal to think about.

Thinking about big ideas makes me happy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

R3volution at the Town Hall Meetings (Don't Stop Yelling)

On Saturday I mentioned that I am reading Naomi Wolf's Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. It is an interesting and frustrating experience. As I read through the middle of the book, I find myself in agreement with Wolf in many of her assertions, and with her core values, but at odds with her big picture. She does not clearly connect the increase in the size and power of the federal government with the decrease in the engagement of ordinary citizens with our government, and its increasing encroachment upon our ability to exercise the rights guaranteed us in the Bill of Rights. Thus she advocates direct democracy, whereas I want a return to federalism, in order to decrease the power of the federal government over our lives. I believe that direct democracy will only increase the erosion of our individual rights, for what is democracy except mob rule by the ballot box? I want to restore the Republic safeguarded to us by our founders; I do not believe that any majority can vote away the rights of individuals.

Nevertheless, one of the more exciting aspects of the middle of the book is that Wolf outlines core values and illustrates them with examples. I had cause to ponder one of them this morning, when I opened The Albuquerque Journal and read the Up-Front Headline:

"Health Care Debate Rx: Stop Yelling" (by Leslie Linthicum).

I have problems with this idea of opinion on the front page, but I am a stick-in-the-mud.
More to the point, Leslie is simply wrong about the yelling, as are all of those who are trying to shut down the real anger that citizens are feeling at their non-representing representatives. We have been shut out of the discussion for a long time, as those inside the beltway make decisions about what to do with OUR MONEY without reference to those who earned it and pay it out in taxes. This year, the average taxpayer worked until August 13 to pay the government. That means that the taxpayer works involuntarily for the government for more than half the year. There is going to come a point where it won't be worth it to work at all, and then what will the leeches in Washington do?

It is about the "yelling", though, that Linthicum is dead wrong. Citizens should be yelling, protesting and doing whatever it takes to get our supposed public servants to pay attention. In doing so, we are in the grand tradition that goes back to those first American Revolutionaries, and further, to England. Has Linthicum never watched a video of a meeting of the House of Commons? (And this one is rather tame. The parliamentarian hardly had to raise his voice to get order, for a little while).

In her book, Naomi Wolf points this out in her discussion of Core Value 2: We have a Duty to Rebel Continually Against Injustice and Oppression: Personal Risk in Defense of Liberty. Here she outlines the rude and disorderly protests of the colonists on their way to declaring independence, and she points out that the tradition continued after the revolution as well. About the Stamp Act Crisis and the Boston Tea Party she says:

"During the 1760's the colonists had engaged in dozens of mass protests and daring, even provocative crowd actions as part of the Stamp Act Crisis . . . crowds hung stamp distributors in effigy; staged mock funerals of stamp distributors; leveled to the ground the buildings that housed the stamps . . . and wreaked havoc in this way with the plans of the crown." (p. 106)

"The Boston Tea Party is usually taught to us as if it were an isolated incident--daring to be sure, but not part of years of a massive eruption of street protest exploding through the colonies . . .

. . . But in fact it was a culmination of dozens of outbursts, protests, and confrontational street theater that colonial people from all walks of life had learned to use as a powerful tool for speaking up against the oppression of the crown." (p.107)

Wolf then goes on to describe the stormy protests and debates over Jay's treaty with Britain in 1790, during which the people burned so many effigies of Secretary Jay, that he remarked that he could walk from one end of the colonies to another by their light alone. Eventually, the treaty was passed, but because of the protests, the debate was had in the full light of day, and the people's insistence that their voice be heard obviated any attempt at secret deals and kitchen cabinets.

Wolf's conclusions about rough, demanding and difficult protest are worth reading:

"These are the American people when they are in alignment with the ideal: while violence is never acceptable, Americans should and must be free to be angry, disruptive, outraged, loud, confrontational, and obnoxious in expressing their views--especially if their views are being trammeled or overridden in secret. [Like passing the stimulus in the middle of the night?]. They must be free to shout loud enough for their representatives to hear--and disruptive enough so that the president himself may fear public perception if the crisis they are provoking is not dealth with . . . If the people can't precipitate a crisis through protest, what voice do they actually have when their leaders make secret treaties, or wholly override their will, or act in ways entirely without consulting them? (p. 109; emphasis mine).

We've been good little do-be's for far too long.
It is past time to take back the First Amendment loudly, passionately, obstinately. We must reclaim the grand Patriot tradition.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Wildflowers


Time for more of the One Hundred Species Challenge. I really wonder how long this will take me!

42. Blazing Star: Mentzilia multiflora var. multiflora. This is in Loasa family, It is a desert plant, and likes sandy soil and loess.

43. Desert Heliotrope: Heliotropum curassavicum
This plant also likes salty soil, sands and fines.
It is part of the Borage family, and ranchers like
the family because most of the plants
are good for grazing.

44. Miner's Torch (Mullein): Verbascum thapsis. This plant
is mildly poisonous, but is used extensively in the herbal healing arts. It is found where soil has been disturbed, and the yellow flowers have a very sweet smell and attact bees and flies.

The late summer flowers are now blooming and I will have to see what I did not have here last year!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Place Where I am Standing (Beginning a Sabbatical)

"Summer's going fast, nights growing colder,
Children growing up, old friends growing older . . ."
-- N. Peart, Time Stand Still

The mornings are dawning cool and spectacular; moments of cloud, and soft sunrise, though the days are hot.

Time for school to start.
The Boychick started last Friday.
He returned to school filled with new purpose--he wants to study guitar in college.

But I realized something. I worked an intense summer job the summer of 2008.
And I worked the writing studio as well as coursework over the fall and the subsequent spring. And with no break at all, I worked an intense summer job that just finished. And it was a difficult year, a year of changes.

Further, this fall many things will happen. I will be in Illinois for two weeks this fall and for Thanksgiving. Then there's the Chem Geek Princess wedding in December.
Small. Just family. At their new home they bought this summer.
But I want to enjoy the planning. And the wedding.
I do not want papers and finals hanging over my head.

On Friday night, as we enjoyed a Shabbat sing with friends, the first full Shabbat and weekend in ten weeks for me, I thought about the Rush song, Time Stand Still.

"Freeze this moment a little bit longer . . ."

Of course I am powerless to do so. But the moment was so present to me and I to it. Relaxing. Singing with friends.

And in my head I heard the words of Jacob at Beth El: "Surely the presence of the Eternal is in this place, and I, I did not know it. This is the House of G-d and the Gate of Heaven."

For Jews, it is time, not space, that is holy. And I want this time. The Boychick will be driving next spring, and he will accelerate his journey out of our lives and into his own. And my firsborn, my baby, soon a wife!

So I decided to start the month of Elul by making arrangements to take a semester off. I need a Sabbatical.

I thought I would have second thoughts, but I do not.

As we walked the dogs the past few evenings, the sky has been perfectly clear. The remnants of the Perseids streak through the Milky Way, arching across the sky at zenith at midnight.

Ah, the beauty of it.

Time will not stand still for me. But I can take the time to stand still in this holy place as the nexxus points of my life, and the generational saeculum whirl and converge around me.

"Experience slips away. . ."

Picture credits: The first two pictures above are mine. The Perseid meteor against the Milky Way is by Mila, from Wikki Commons, shared under the GNU Free Copy License. (My view of our Galaxy these past evenings is more spectacular than any picture, but Mila's is close).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

R3volution: Never Let Down Our Will to Protect It

This weekend, in between having my first real Shabbat in 10 weeks and meetings to discuss aspects of the R3volution, I have been impatiently thumbing through Naomi Wolf's Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries and I watched Revolution with Al Pacino, the new DVD version of the 1985 movie.

I bought the book out of sheer depression on Election Day 2008. Although I was certain of the outcome, what depressed me was that the election was the epitome of a game, a show put on for the American people; a show whose outcome did not really matter, because either of the major party candidates were going to be taking us to same dismal place. I remember reading the introduction and then life, and university papers, took over, and the book remained on my shelf until one of our Shabbat guests casually mentioned it when we were discussing our own R3volution over tea and cherry pie.

The book is a disappointment because despite Wolf's promising premise that the people of the United States have the obligation to be rebels, ". . . to take the most serious possible steps and undergo the most serious kinds of personal risk in defense of this freedom that is your natural right", she does not wrestle very deeply with the ideas; where those rights come from and what they mean. Thus, she dismisses the Founders as dead white males (what could they possibly know of tyranny, she seems to ask), and she continually mistakes the Republic they founded as "democracy" where one's rights can be voted away by the tyranny of the majority. Nevertheless, her idea that every generation of us who have inherited the idea of liberty is obligated to rebel against the new tyranny of an out of control executive branch that had imposed upon us the Patriot Act with all the depredations of our rights in it, and an unconstitutional war in Iraq and Afganistan. (She clearly hated Bush II, but I wonder what she would think of the current administration, the one that has instructed its loyal minions to report on their "fishy" neighbors who oppose its plans? Does she see the continued destruction of our liberties, or is she partisan to her party, right or wrong? I hope that she is an equal-opportunity critic of tyranny whether it comes in Democrat or Republican form.)

The movie was far more satisfying. I had seen the VCR version some years ago, but this new version, with added narration, made what had been a beautiful film with a botched ending into a more comprehesible portrait of an illiterate fur trader who is caught up in the American Revolution. At the beginning of the movie, as he and his son bring their boat into New York, Tom Dobb (Al Pacino) muses:

"Revolution: A word spoke everywhere. It’s about the bringing down of a king and the noisy shouting, celebrating on the day my Ned and me come into New York. My boy asks what it ‘tis. I don’t know."

The boy Ned enlists in the fight, and his father goes, somewhat against his will, to protect the boy. However, he makes his son cut and run with him after the battle of Brooklyn Heights, determined to protect their lives, saying:

"I, being born of another place, sold and sent [into indentured servitude: EHL] to this land makes me only some little bit American. For I would as leaf be back in the natural land of my birth than caught in this butchery for a cause not mine. I’ll take freedom for Ned and me from this bloodshed now and here."

But gradually, through a series of events, we are shown the rigid class structure of the Brits, and the ways in which the colonists are seen as "Friday's Children", those who must work for a living, the fruits of their labor and their very persons confiscated for the folly of the landed gentry, and the momentary pleasure of the nobility. Coming back to New York to find work he notes:

"New York is not as we left it. It’s now a place of complete England with its ceremony and soldiers. Oh, but the throne itself fills every street and alley. They that were called the Continental Army, broken as a dry twig. . . "

There being no foxes for the pleasure of the British officers before battle, he and fellow worker from the rope factory are made to run before the hounds, tied to an effigy of George Washington.

"So strange and cruel a thing to die a hunter of animals for means to live and now the animal hunted. All for the foolish sport of kings. I am made prideless, crawling to survive for my Ned’s life. "

But the turning point comes after his son is impressed into the Redcoat Army to be a drummer boy, and refusing the advances of a lord who fancies little boys, is badly injured by a beating to his feet. Dobbs, a frontiersman, tracks and saves the boy, and when Huron scouts find them, they treat Ned's feet. As he is holding and rocking his son through the painful cauterization of his wounds, Tom Dobbs comforts him, saying:

"I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you. We’re gonna find us a place where there ain’t no one to bow down to. Where there ain’t no lord or lady better than you. Where you can say what you like and climb as high as you want. And there ain’t nobody gonna treat no one like a dog in the dirt. I look around me, Ned, and I see all kinds of people. Men, women. And they got families like mine. And we all stand together like brothers and sisters. And we make a place for ourselves. We’ll make a place where our babies can sleep safe through the night.”

“Are we there, Pa?”

“We’re almost there, son. You come through, Ned.”

Then, holding his son, he reflects:

"I spake words to Ned I did not know were in me. And now with them said, I am new. And there’s new purpose in this bloody and uneven fight. I can now see what parted Ned from me these many a month. He knew deep in him this land of his birth was home."

And thus Tom Dobbs joins himself to the cause of Liberty. He sees that it is his fight.

As I watched the transformation of this man, who at the end of the movie tells his son to tell his own children and his children's children "how we fought. And you tell them, Ned, how far we come," he says. I also thought about the idea that we, the children's children's children's children, have the obligation to continually join ourselves to that same cause of Liberty. To stand up anew against those in Congress who have forgotten that they are not our masters, but our servants. Those who mean to impose upon us a system of socialized medicine, one that they, who fancy themselves better than we, do not mean to impose upon themselves. And I think about our president, who continues to lie to us with impunity even as the last one did, twisting the truth* of what he previously said, in order to better ride the tide of politics, to win his own way, even if that win means bringing down the economy of the United States.

*First it was healthcare reform, now it's health insurance reform. First he said no middle class taxpayers making under $250,000 would pay a dime in new taxes, now he says that he doesn't mean that they should pay the whole burden. Etc. etc.

"So ends the American dream," says one of the foppish and bewigged foxhunters in the movie, as he lops the head off the effigy of George Washington. He wasn't counting on the endurance of patriots at Valley Forge. He wasn't counting on the British surrender at Yorktown, when the world was turned upside down.

Sons and Daughters of Liberty, flawed as her book might be, Naomi Wolf is right in this:

" . . . the Declaration's specific call to liberation from George III's tyranny is also a timeless contract that implicates each one of us, forever . . ." (p. 20).

So dies the American dream? By G-d, not while we live and breath, the fire of Liberty, ignited by those first American Revolutionaries, burning within us.

We see the Pols running scared from us. We know this by the plummeting approval rating for Congress and the Executive. We know this by the viciousness with which their press whores attack an ordinary housewife who dares stand up to a twice-turncoat politician from Pennsylvania for her termerity when she said:

"I don't believe that this is just about healthcare. It's not about TARP, it's not about left and right; this is about the systematic dismantling of this country . . ."

Now that we know this truth, we must stand together as brothers and sisters in Liberty, arm in arm, and say to these would-be lords and ladies, "You shall not pass these bills that put in place the structure of tyranny over us for your own momentary power and profit. It shall not stand."

For as the character Tom Dobbs watches the celebration in Philadelphia after the victory at Yorktown and the winning of a new country, the likes of which the world have never seen, he seems to speak directly across the generations to us, who claim its inheritance:

"My lost family comes back to me in all these I see before me. I feel Kaitlyn in the young ones on high released from all they suffered here. I see also in these shining faces the bright-eyed, tender and gentle face of Daisy McConnahay. Many from different lands be they exiled or fled from want of respect and free thought, now share a home where as one or all, they will have a voice that can be heard. No more to be divided into the lowly and privileged; but equal in chance and opportunity. And all the children of all the children to come will know this of this word: Revolution. And what it meant and never let down their will to protect it."

A fictional character comes back to admonish us that the dreams of those whose fought and died to secure Liberty to themselves and to us that we should never let down our will to protect it. In the words of the founders:

"[W]hen a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security." (Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, 1776).

Never let down your will to protect precious Liberty.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Gray Champion and Other Patriots

His voice is not one that should either be raised in prayer or in command of the battlefield, and yet the judgement he delivers against that snake, Arlen Specter, made even that corrupt politician blanch.

Here is the real voice of America.

It is time for those who work for us to listen to us.
Our nonrepresenting representatives have awakened a sleeping giant.
When they truly fear what we have to say, there will be Liberty.

Libertarian Ethics: Natural Law and Natural Rights

"If it is said that moral conduct is rational conduct,
what is meant is that it is conduct in accordance
with right reason, reason apprehending the objective good
for man and dictating the means to its attainment."
--F.C. Copleston, SJ: Aquinas (1955)

The principle of individual liberty was established during the Enlightenment by philsophers and was based on the concept of natural law. This concept of liberty is not commonly taught in government schools in a way that elucidates its philosophical origin and the importance thereof; rather liberty and the rights of man are taught as an interesting but somewhat quaint idea produced wholesale by those white men in whigs, the founders of the Republic. This is so because the educational philosophy of government schools is based on unreason; specifically upon the post-modern positivist idea that reality cannot be measured and that values are determined subjectively by each individual based on emotion rather than reason*.

*This is the philosophical legacy of David Hume.

Natural law, however, is based on the idea that a human being, like any other thing in the universe, has an identity that is differentiated from any other thing; that is that humans have a definible nature that differentiates them from anything else, and that human nature is measurable. Thus, for human beings, natural law is used to determine what ends are compatible with the facts of human existence and values are therefore objective. Or as William Blackstone described the natural law as:

" . . . demonstrating that this or that action tends to man's real happiness, and therefore very justly concluding that the performance of it is a part of the law of nature; or, on the other hand, that this or that action is destruction [sic] of man's real happiness, and therefore that the law of nature forbids it." Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, Vol. I, as cited in Brendan F. Brown (ed.), The Natural Law Reader, p. 106.

Although the Scholastics who developed the concept of natural law believed in a supernatural being, they nevertheless established the natural law upon human reason alone. Currently, therefore, the concept of natural law is opposed by many conservatives who argue that the origin of ethics must come from supernatural revelation (which takes them beyond human reach*); it is also opposed by skeptics who argue that ethics can only be ascertained by human beings subjectively, from emotion (which makes them relative).

*As a Jew, I am opposed to this view. the Rabbinic view is that the law "is not in heaven" based on the Torah portion Nitzavim, which says: "It is not in heaven that you should say who will go after it and bring it to us . . . nay, it is very near to you that you may do it." Thus the Rabbis set up a system whereby they could argue that precepts must be based on human nature and norms.

Because natural law can be determined by reason, it provides an objective standard by which traditional norms can be held accountable and found wanting should they violate basic human nature, thus making it possible for people to find their current legislation wanting. It thus provides a basis for the Rule of Law and the establishment of justice. (This ability to reject the status quo on the basis of natural law differentiates libertarian thinkers from many conservatives, who tend to argue that tradition is good because it is old. A tradition may be good or bad; if it is good, it is not because it is old, but because it is the fulfillment of what is good according to the essential nature of man).

During the Enlightenment, natural law was wedded to the concept of individualism by the English enlightenment philosophers, the greatest of whom was John Locke. From this individualist tradition, Locke developed the idea of the natural rights of man, and this idea was founding philosophy of the American Revolution. Locke based his idea of individual rights upon the foundation of human self-ownership. He wrote that:

"Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labour of his body and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then, that he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property."
John Locke, An Essay Concerning the True Origin, Extent and End of Civil Government, as cited in Murray N. Rothbard (1980) The Ethics of Liberty.

Essentially, if a person owns his own self, then no one else may own him, and thus he has a right to Liberty. To remove his life from him would be an ultimate theft of his own self, and thus he has a right to Life. Finally, as Locke stated, if he mixes his labour with things in nature, he has the right to keep and control them, the right to Property. These rights are endowed to human beings by virtue of their very nature and are therefore natural law. They are, as Jefferson wrote, "inalienable." They are not given by government, and government cannot take them away. Neither do they accrue to a collection of human beings as a group; rather they belong to each individual as an individual. Thus no group may lawfully (in the sense of the Rule of Law) or morally do anything that the individual does not have the right to do. No group may violate the rights of the individual simply because it is a group. (That is the essence of democracy, mob rule by the will of the majority, legislating away the natural rights of the individual).

These are the individual rights of each person, which are protected by the United States Constitution (currently being honored only in the breach). They are the rights to Life, Liberty and Property. Libertarian ethics begin with the acknowledgement of the natural rights of individual human beings.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fiery Libertarian Speech in Ohio

I am working on another installment on libertarian ethics, but it is not ready for prime-time just yet. Today I was working on some other things as well having to do with the Continental Congress, and also with the Constitution Class that I am organizing. It is a good, introductory course about the background concepts underlying the Constitution as well as the a good look at the Constitution itself.

Then there was some UNM business I had to transact, and tonight the Boychick has a Patrol Leader Meeting (very important) for his BSA troop.

But you are in luck, a master libertarian thinker and speaker gave a fiery speech at the Ohio Tea Party on 1 August. I bring you Judge Andrew Napolitano, courtesy of You Tube. Enjoy!

Friday, August 7, 2009

E-Mail to

Here is my letter to the White House, which can be reached at this address:

Long Live Lady Liberty!

To the Ministry of Truth:

Ever eager to help you in your great work of rooting out misinformation, I have been on the lookout for those radicals who by e-mail or on blogs or in casual conversation malign the One's Healthcare plan. Here is something from the print media, and although rather old, still of great concern.

"Amendment IX: The ennumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the People.

"Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.

"Amendment XIII: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jursidiction."

Since the Constitution clearly states that people retained unennumerated powers, and the power of the federal government is limited to ennumerated powers (all listed in the body of the Constitution), none of which include government sponsored health care; and since the people would be forced to work for the government for a substantial portion of their lives to pay for said healthcare initiative, the Constitution must be a subversive document of disinformation. This has been borne out by the fact that the federal government recently (in the MIAC Report) stated that people who discuss the Constitution are extremists. Since you have clearly not read the Constitution recently, I thought I would helpfully point this out for you, so that you can send the goons from SEIU and Acorn out to round up the heirs to Mr. Madison and Co.

Unfortunately, your thugs will have quite a job ahead of them as they will have to put every high school history book down the memory hole, along with all those pesky pocket Constitutions passed out by the Heritage Foundation (who have also spoken out against healthcare).

Oh, and I included a quote by Thomas Jefferson that ought to be supressed as well. After all, those tea party activists and town-hall protesters seem to have certain government officials running scared!

Your Obedient Slave,

Elisheva Levin

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

-Thomas Jefferson

R3VOLUTION: Gray Champions Burn Their AARP Cards

When they were in college they burned bras and draft cards.
Now Boomers, this saeculum's Prophets, are buring their AARP cards.

From The Fourth Turning:

"One afternoon in April 1689 as the American colonies boiled with rumors that King James II was about to strip them of their liberties, the king's hand-picked govenor of New England, Sir Edmund Andros, marched his troops menacingly through Boston. His purpose was to crush any thought of colonial self-rule . . .

"Just at that moment, seemingly from nowhere, there appeared on the streets "the figure of an ancient man" with "the eye, the face, the attitude of command." His manner "combining the leader and the saint," the old man planted himself directly in the path of the approaching British soldiers and demanded that they stop. "The solemn yet warlike peal of that voice, fit either to rule a host in the battlefield or be raised to God in prayer, were irresistible. At the old man's word and outstretched arm, the roll of the drum was hushed at once, and the advancing line stood still."

"Inspired by this single act of defiance, the people of Boston roused their courage and acted. Within the day Andros was deposed and jailed, the liberty of Boston saved, and the corner turned on the colonial Glorious Revolution." (Strauss, W. & Howe, N.(1997). The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. Broadway Books, New York. p. 139; Internal quotes from Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales).

"Who was this Gray Champion?" . . . No one knew except that he had once been among the fire-hearted young Puritans who first settled New England a half-century earlier. Later that evening, just before the old priest-warrior disappeared, the townspeople saw him embracing the eighty-five year old Simon Bradstreet, a kindred spirit and one of the few original Puritans still alive.

"Would the Gray Champion ever return? "I have heard," added Hawthorne, "That whenever the descendents of the Puritans are to show the spirit of their sires, the old man appears again." (ibid.)

It looks like the Gray Champion is getting ready to ride again.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Libertarian Ethics: Life is the Standard

I at no time believed that value-free analysis or economics
or utilitarianism . . . can ever suffice to establish the case
for liberty. Economics can supply much of the data for a
libertarian position, but it cannot establish that political
philosophy itself. Political judgments are necessarily value
judgments, political philosophy is therefore necessarily
ethical, and hence a positive ethical system must be
set forth to establish the case for individual liberty.
--Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (1980)

As I have mentioned before, I am second-generation Libertarian, although in my early adulthood I had a long hiatus from any political activity, and then I made some detours in my thinking. However, the apple does not, so they say, fall far from the tree, and so here I am politically involved in libertarian causes, and in the cause of Liberty.

Recently, on the recommendation of a Libertarian friend, I read L. Neil Smith's book, The Probability Broach. It was not only an enjoyable swashbuckling alternative history sci-fi book, but it also poked gentle fun at some of the early libertarian heroes of my childhood. I am guessing that because I am second generation libertarian, I experienced a certain meta-enjoyment of the book that can only be had by second-generation libertarians. Imagine Rand and Ross-Bird (Rothbard) living in a anarcho-capitalist libertarian society, rather than fighting for liberty in a corporatist-fascistic statist society. But there amidst the adventure and the humor, the heart of Smith's book is a description of a society based on the ethics of individual liberty.

There are those who disparage Liberty as a luxury at best, and as a profoundly immoral system at worst. And those who would defend the cause of Liberty often cut themselves off at the knees by conceding the ethical and moral argument for Liberty by agreeing with the collectivist ethics that are destroying the freest and most productive society in history. Liberty is not a luxury; no, it is an absolute necessity for human productivity and happiness, and this is what makes it good as well.

At a basic level, libertarian ethics rest on the idea that human life on earth is good, and that human beings are rational animals that use their minds to survive on earth. That is, that man's ecological niche is the use of technology to alter the environment in order to survive and thrive.

From an ecological standpoint, human beings, like all other animals, must get the energy required for metabolic processes from the primary producers that convert energy from the sun into chemical energy useful to living things. That is, human beings are consumers. (See The Energy Web). Like all animals, human beings must work for a living by finding primary producers and consumers lower on the food web to consume. But because man is endowed with the rational faculty, humans make and use tools, plan ahead and develop natural resources, increasing the efficiency (in time and energy) of that work. In economics we call that production. And the rule of nature is that production must precede consumption. You cannot consume what has not been produced. This is so by definition.

In the ecological sense this means that plants must live where they can access sunlight, and if they cannot access enough sunlight to produce the amount of glucose (energy stored in carbon bonds) needed to carry out their metabolic processes, they die. Animals must go where the primary producers are in order to consume them, and those consumers lower on the food web. If an animal cannot consume enough energy, it dies. And energy is lost at every step of the way. Natural selection therefore "favors"* those organisms that find ways to produce (in the economic sense) enough to consume so that they can not only live, but reproduce themselves successfully more often than others that share the same niche. And it must be emphasized that natural selection acts upon individuals, not groups. (This does not contradict the fact that it is indeed species that evolve, not individuals. See G.C. Williams, Adaptation and Natural Selection, and R. Dawkins, The Selfish Gene). These are the facts of life on earth.

*Of course, being a force of nature, natural selection does not actually favor anything or select anything, it is a blind force operating on the basis of the facts of life on earth. Anthropomorphic language is useful here for conveying meaning, but should not be taken literally. There is no consciousness, and therefore no choice involved, and therefore no morality or ethics implied.

Thus, individual members of a population develop a whole host of different strategies in order to make sure that their offspring (and thus their genes) survive into the next generation. Various forms of aggression against other members of that same population make up some of these strategies. (In evolutionary ecology, the definition of aggression is limited to acts against others in the same population or species; predation is an entirely different activity). Among these is "cheating"--that is gaining advantage by deception or theft upon the productive capacities of other individuals.

There is a maxim in evolutionary ecology that so long as the number of cheaters remains at a minumum in a population, cheaters always win. What this means is that there are costs to the cheaters in a population, but so long as the number of cheaters remains pretty low, the cost of cheating to the cheater is worth paying, and the cost to the "honest" producer for stopping the cheater is not worth paying. In the EEA (evolutionary environment of adaptation), the number of cheaters in a population is kept in stable equilibrium by selective forces. (For a thorough explanation of this dynamic see Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Chapter 5: Agression: Stability and the selfish machine.) However, hypothetically, if the number of cheaters were able to rise above a certain stable minumum, members of the population would not be sustained into the future, and it would crash*.

*This is why the engineers of the current world economic crisis--and it is being engineered by cheaters--may get more than they bargained for. The plan (whether conscious or not) is to develop a world population of serfs over whom they can exert power, and thus establish a system in which the cheaters themselves do not have to exert much individual energy on production. But there are likely too many of them, and their capacity for self-deception is too great, and thus they could end up crashing the civilization, thus destroying the goose that laid the golden egg as it were. If this happens, it is because the honest producers who have been agressed upon were immoral and did not defend against the agressive cheaters.

But human beings are uniquely endowed by their nature to choose between good (life and the fullness thereof) and evil (death and destruction). Human beings are capable of conscious self-deception in ways that the other animals are not. This ability (and requirement) by his very nature, makes the human being a moral animal. As long as she lives, a human being must constantly consciously choose life (good) over death (evil). This requirement devolves on the individual and is independent of social considerations, that is, even Robinson Crusoe had to make moral choices, alone on his island, even before meeting Friday.

Thus the basis of human ethics is that life is the standard by which we measure what is good and what is evil.