A Story about Change

This is an email between myself and one of the Keene, NH city councilors, Cynthia Georgina, who runs a local radio show on Saturday mornings called Talkback. It’s an interesting look into the reality of so many who believe in government, and the misunderstandings that keep them from embracing the principles of liberty. I recently shared one of my favorite movies, and this story is the discussion that resulted.

Cynthia wrote:

First off, Sam, thanks for “Pleasantville”. We finally watched it Friday night. . . .As I said, I’ll donate the DVD to the Keene Public Library so many other people can enjoy it if you don’t want it back. Anyway, we both enjoyed the film. I’m sure there’s some relevance to the Free State movement, and I really didn’t “get” that. But it was enjoyable!

Pleasantville is a story about change and how people choose to respond to change. The parallels to the FSP for me are numerous. Let’s explore the movie a bit and see if I can point out a few observations and correlations for you:

  • Have you ever tried to describe color to someone who only knows black and white? What method would  you use to explain red to someone who only knows shades of light and dark? Given the choice between black and white vs. color, after seeing both most would clearly choose color. However, if you knew nothing of color, had never experienced it, but you manage to get along just fine in black and white, would you be so eager to choose this strange new thing called color?
  • In the movie, as color started appearing around town, how did people respond? Some thought, WOW, this is INCREDIBLE! How do I get more? Others, felt scared, threatened, we need a town meeting to figure out how to control color! Some tried to hide it with makeup, others gathered together in groups to celebrate what is; a wonderful world filled with color by the pond (I’m afraid that’s Keene). The best part, it’s the SAME event, the appearance of color, to which people are responding and reacting! Same event, different response, what varies is people’s interpretation to what is. The facts: color is now here. What people in the movie made up: This is wonderful!, This is horrible!, We must expand color!, We must control color!, Color is refreshing!, Color is strange, scary, and I don’t want any part of it! I’m fine with black and white, thank you very much! I prefer to go along to get along, and black and white is working just fine for me thanks!
  • Look at how this change occurred, remember the books they were interested in reading from the library? The younger population seemed to adjust far more quickly to the appearance of color than the older generations and those exercising control and power over others. Some embraced change while others reacted with anger and emotion. Those reacting used force and violence hoping to enforce their laws (words on paper from the town meeting) over everyone else.
  • What you resist, persists” ~Carl Young, The reaction of anger and violence against the “colors”, served to solidify and organize the people who only wanted something better for themselves, a world filled with color. They didn’t seek to change the people who wanted to stay black and white, they only wanted color in their lives. The people who wanted to keep black and white didn’t want that strictly for themselves, they wanted to keep everyone else from using color by forcing them to, um, not use color. (of course the color was only an outward reflection of who they became on the inside)
  • People brought color into their life because they were able to see the benefits. Those who feared change, tried to force everyone else to restrict themselves to a life of black and white, out of fear and uncertainty a world with color might hold. Their actions are based in fear of what could happen instead of love and hope for what’s possible.
  • What brought lasting change? Not a new law or regulation calling for equal rights for the coloreds vs. the black and whites. Change occurred when the public at large was able to finally see, understand, and experience color for themselves. With that perspective, I can look at color, I can look at black and white, and I can decide for myself which I think is better. Had I been living life in black and white, with no context or understanding of color, would I have made the same choice or clung to the safety of the known? (black and white) I guess it would depend on my personal beliefs and my views on change.

So, you want the movie Pleasantville to tie into what’s happening in Keene and around the state? In the writings above, change out “color” with voluntary society and change “black and white” to governmental control.

You reference MLK, and I have personally studied his methods and the way he incorporates vision into his strategy. Blacks were not viewed as equal human beings by most whites in America. MLK didn’t change that by passing new laws that said you better or else! He engaged in very large public protests and marches to raise people’s awareness.

Today when a black kid jumps into a pool filled with white kids, the white parents don’t start screaming at their kids to get out of the pool, but they used to. Laws don’t change people’s beliefs Cynthia, People’s own experience, beliefs, and perspective on a given issue shape the way they behave. Government has shown over and over that no matter how big it gets, it can’t force human nature to work differently. The voluntary society acknowledges this fact, and works to minimize the damage, discomfort, or harm caused by others in the most effective way possible for everyone involved.

Regarding your letter to Fred, whatever goes on between the two of you is none of my business.  However… I hope I’m not “dumping the difficult questions”.  What I am doing is not answering the same questions over and over or answering the questions to which there are no “right” answers for you unless I agree with your point of view.  And, unfortunately for one of us, I don’t agree with your point of view very often. I’m also tired of hearing “men with guns will hurt me and put me in a cage.” (What if Martin Lutther King has used that catchphrase?) I believe that every society needs a set of rules (laws) to live by.  Not every rule is accepted by every person and there are ways to work with (or against) that. But when you plan to break the law and announce it to the press in advance, what does that gain?

I think Fred enjoys manipulating and controlling others. I’m sure it served him very well as a detective. I’m sure he was able to challenge and rattle people so he could take control and get his way, as he did with Patrick, the 18yo who called in. I’m not really interested in Fred’s power struggle, and I’m committed to supporting Fred with love and acceptance. I hope he can one day understand that, before it costs him any more pain and suffering in his life. I understand the price he pays for holding onto his beliefs, and I hope one day he can understand that as well.

As for dumping difficult questions, if I were asking the mayor in Pleasantville, how many colors are in the rainbow, how would he respond? Let me venture a guess, “That’s absurd, rainbows don’t have colors!” or “What!?!, why do you keep asking stupid questions? Everyone knows rainbows go from light to dark!”, or perhaps, “You people are crazy, why do you keep talking about colored rainbows that don’t exist! This is fantasy land! You people are scary!” All of which relate to responses from my calls into WKBK.

Cynthia, perhaps the reason there are no “right” answers (answers that are true for you at the time), lies in your attempt to answer a question about color from the perspective of black and white? As humans we all like to be right about our beliefs. What if being right about black and white was so important, you were willing to ask your significant other, just like in the movie, to wear makeup to hide the color from others or ban color from certain areas or even went so far as to pretend not to know that government uses force when it enforces (i.e. with force) it’s laws on everyone else? After all, if they don’t use force, why are they issued guns? If “the system” works so well, why are they needed? Would you be able to answer the question about color without suspending your beliefs about Black and White? (the way it is) Could you truly know color without stepping into a world of color to experience what it’s like for yourself?

MLK wanted to make changes in the existing system. He worked to change the shading of black and white in a few small areas of the world. He knew that to do that, it would take changing people’s perspective about black people. Once people’s understanding of the world around them changes, the world will quickly follow,  (as it’s only a reflection of their current perception of reality) reshaped to fit their new beliefs about themselves. You may not be aware, but Rosa Parks was not the first non-cooperative, and she was coached by people just like me before doing her civil disobedience. The only difference is, the civil rights movement didn’t have the internet, cheap video cameras, the ability to stream live on location from a cellphone. If they had, I have no doubt they would be doing the same thing we are today.

Another great teacher of mine is a buddhist monk called Thich Nhat Hanh. The buddhists also understand the value of using love and compassion to elevate people’s understanding of the world. Here’s one of my favorite interviews with him done by Time magazine. Same idea; lasting change requires elevating peoples awareness and understanding of the world around them. Ian and I don’t seek to change any one law, area, or function of government. There are hundreds of other free state participants doing that already.

I have no interest in changing the shading of one particular area of society. I, along with thousands of others, are bringing color to the world. We don’t seek to “fix” or change the existing government system; We seek to sufficiently elevate people’s understanding of your system, so they may one day choose an alternative. Color where they only knew black and white. . . Freedom and liberty, where they only knew governmental force and control.

You and the other people who agree with you (and sometimes, both Fred and I do!) could accomplish so much more if you used the system to change the system.

Hopefully you understand why I no longer believe in using the system to change the system. I’ve found the problem to be “the system”. The process for adding, changing and removing laws of any significance in the direction of freedom and liberty is hopelessly broken. Laws still work great for giving an edge to your friends, setting up barriers to entry, consolidating power to a few large players in a given industry (power, water, telephone, cable, autos, banks, etc. . ), or punishing others with unprofitable mandates.

Personally, I have no interest in taking money from my neighbors to pay for things I want to do. When I see something in the world that needs to change, I take a stand, and bring that change about by raising awareness and encouraging others to stand up for what they believe while learning, listening, and seeking greater understanding.

Oh, by the way, why are none of  you upset about the man who has been told to raze his house on Terrace Street because it’s not safe?  Now there’s a place where you might make a difference.  Get as many people together as you can, work to help him make the house more safe, and while you’re working post multiple signs near by saying how outraged you are that government would do something like that. Probably a lot of people would agree and join in your efforts. But I don’t think you want people to agree with you…..I think you want controversy.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t win friends and influence people.

I heard about the story for the first time recently, and I did think about doing something. Right now, I have too much going on. Perhaps another activist will do something, and I would be happy to go out and film any events for OTN. The civil disobedience and activism I engage in, is designed to raise awareness of a given aspect of society and to start a conversation. The Ride along videos I did with Shane are a perfect example. That video series created a safe space for other cops to express similar views they hold as true for them. Unfortunately most government workers punish those who speak in opposition to current policy. I don’t believe for a second that the people seeing only black and white, wielding the power of government, are going to one day decide, okay, that’s enough for me! I’m going to give up my power and allow people to have more freedom by giving back the power I’ve taken over them.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and you can provide me with an example of how government has significantly and voluntarily relinquished power of it’s own accord? It seems most of them only end in ruin,  by force, or violence when people have had enough. What Ian and I see is the opportunity to step out of the cycle of violence inherent in the government system of control, and evolve mankind into a new era of understanding, peace, productivity, advancement, and yes Cynthia, color.

And please, help the 18 year old from the midwest who called Talk Back on Saturday
find a job! Now I’m going to worry about him as well as everything else I have on my mind!  Which brings me to another question:  how do any of you hold jobs if you don’t want to follow rules?

He’s down stairs working on some websites for me. I’m compensating him a couple of hundred dollars, which will keep him fed for a couple of weeks. I’m sure he will do what it takes to support himself. If government were removed from the equation, he would have far more opportunities. It’s hard to imagine how different a world without government would be in practice. It’s about like describing color to someone who only knows black and white.

Cynthia, I understand most people in government really truly care, and want to help others. I’ve also come to understand that I can’t help others. I understand that people can only help themselves. I can support them by providing opportunities, but it’s up to them to create what they want. Helping, instead of supporting, often times only serves to enable the ineffective behavior that led to the person’s current situation.

Many of the voluntarists like myself don’t hold down a job, we create value for others. I privately contract for film work. I’ve shot TV pilots, commercials, news segments, interviews, conferences, and even hot dancing girls!  I’m also in the process of  buying an existing company in the area. When it comes to Free State participants; There are some really great trustworthy individuals, and there are a few I don’t even want in my home. I find most of them to be very hard working honest people with good hearts who are willing to explore their beliefs and values.

Now when it comes to following the rules, I think this is a big misunderstanding you may hold about free state participants. I believe in rules, along with most other voluntarists. I have rules in my home,and if you willfully break them, I would ask you to leave. What we understand to be completely ineffective is giving one group monopoly privilege to enforce their rules on everyone else. What happens when they write up a bad law, as government frequently does? What group ensures they are following their own laws? (well I can answer that one, as It’s going to be me)

I can hear Fred saying, then move to China! Sorry, that doesn’t sound like freedom. The fact is, people forcing others to submit to their rules have taken over the planet. The Free State participants are not going anywhere, and our numbers will continue growing. Unfortunately, there are a few of us running around town right now who have seen color, and really, there’s no going back. The number of movers will continue to grow, members of the media like Ian and myself will multiply, and the locals will continue coming around to the message of freedom and liberty.

One day, the message of freedom and liberty will land at the doorstep of every government around the world. They will be overwhelmed with people who have seen color and are ready to embrace it in their lives. Unfortunately, government only knows how to respond with force, and they won’t know what to do. Ultimately faced with sufficient numbers of people who are no longer willing to cooperate, government will simply fold up shop and go home. Unfortunately for government, there is no killing the idea of color, so you see the outcome is already determined. The only question is how long will the government continue it’s tyrannical reign over others? How long will it continue fighting the inevitable? How much pain and suffering is it willing to cause? How long do you plan on insisting that black and white, is the best system out there, and color is a fantasy?

I don’t know, but my cameras will be recording as Keene blossoms with color, for all the world to see.

~SamIam

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9 Comments

  1. An excellent comparison, I will have to watch this movie. Up till now I have been relying on The Matrix for such comparisons. Also, the patience that you, Mark, Ian, and others have with people such Cynthia continues to amaze me. You have my respect sir.

  2. Spectacular article.

    That patience is precisely what is most needed. I see too many libertarians breaking off communication with statist. That is not the way forward. We need to understand them and talk to them in their own language as much as feasible. Not too long ago many of us were on their side, so I know we can do it.

  3. Sam,

    Just having a dialogue with such people, when they are responsive to your questions, helps. They will begin to ask themselves some questions.

    Keep up the work.

  4. Excellent Article SamIam! I really enjoyed it.

    On the Terrace Street house, it amazes me the Government can one day "decide" a home is unsafe and have it demolished when the owner is perfectly willing to still live there, at his own risk and the home is not in any danger to surrounding homes/people.

    What's sad about the power that being in Government affords is, it attracts power hungry people who in turn, get their kicks, exercising their power over others (for the "protection" of all the people they say).

    And since they do not produce anything, they jump at the chance to penalize peaceful people, create new revenue, show others they are "Doing something (their job)" and finally create a feeling of self worth for themselves, a justification for the money/homes/cars and whatever else they confiscate from people who don't play along and pay all the Force Backed fees.

    And they always seem to cover their ears when you try to tell them the gun they have pointed at you is very distracting and if they would just put it down, then you could talk.

    But things are different now because a growing number of peaceful Liberty Loving individuals have decided to do something about it.

    Let Freedom Ring!

  5. Sam, this was a great response to Cynthia, not to mention a thoughtful analysis of Pleasantville. Keep up the good (peaceful :D) fight.

  6. Incredibly well done article. Color me impressed (pun intended). One of my favorite movies too. Bonus points for mentioning Thich Nhat Hanh. Check out the Daily Buddhism podcast, you might dig it.

    I really hope you open Cynthia's eyes with this. She doesn't seem to grasp that it's NOT about us not wanting rules… it's about each person deciding what those rules are for themselves rather than at the behest of others.

    Her usual objection to this is that people can't be trusted to make such decisions on their own or there will be chaos in the streets and people will murder each other left and right. She conveniently leaves out the non-aggression principle even though it has been mentioned to her many times.

    Cynthia, if you're reading this, it's a given that initiated aggression (such as murder, assault, theft, fraud, rape, etc.) would NOT be tolerated in a voluntaryist society. That's such a basic, common sense tenet of the freedom philosophy that we often take it for granted that everyone knows about this. Maybe you didn't, but now you do.

    So long as an individual does not do these kinds of harmful things (or variations thereof) to other people, they should be free to choose what they do with their own lives, bodies and property. If two parties have a dispute, they should be able to resolve that dispute without the need for government (or violence).

    No peaceful person should have to bow down and live life according to someone else's demands. It doesn't matter if the other person (or group of people) thinks they know what's better for your life than you do. It doesn't matter what fancy hats or uniforms they where or how many guns they have to threaten you with.

    Slavery, bondage, thralldom, serfdom, citizenship. Whatever you may call it, it is immoral. Yes, even if 51% of voters (i.e. mob rule) say otherwise.

  7. Pleasantville was a great movie to make that point to her. 🙂 I feel almost sorry for Cynthia. From what I understand, she's had the liberty perspective dropped so often that she's really starting to become aware of herself and her cognitive disonance. Once that kicks is, despite the protests, she'll be making her way towards liberty as she begins putting the pieces back together in her own mind. As this process is happening she's getting constantly bombarded with liberty… It's got to be a tough (as in emotional) position to be in.

    Where ELSE do people get bombarded with liberty? I love Keene. 🙂

  8. I don't know, I listen to the Keene call in show quite often, and it leaves me frustrated how often Cynthia either dodges questions by saying "you debate this all the time" or "What I am doing is not answering the same questions over and over or answering the questions to which there are no “right” answers for you unless I agree with your point of view."

    She seems to be determined to be right, with no actual arguments to back herself up. That's the exact opposite of what debate is. In debate, you don't argue with someone to see who is right and who is wrong, you debate to find the truth. Cynthia is wilfully being ignorant to the truth. You're bringing up a very valid point, that you shouldn't be thrown in jail because you disagree with her (and intend to act on your principles rather than hers). If she was actually interested in truth, when she comes across an argument that she doesn't have a rebuttal against she should take one of two positions. She should either agree with you, or, find someone with a rebuttal!

    She doesn't do these things, however, and she also doesn't want to face the truth.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this. It is sad that so many people are just so far gone that no matter how many times you present them with solid, easy to understand support for your position, they still grasp to government. I've been working on my dad for years and have only gotten him to take baby steps in the right direction.

Care to comment?