Ian’s Blog from Jail #7

[Transcribed by Mail-to-Jail.]

Ian Freeman

“Choose Your Words Wisely”

I’d like to comment on the vernacular of the liberty movement. I’m sure some critics will find this analysis to be trivial, but to me, words are very important. You will be judged by the words with which you choose to express your ideas. In addition, the words you select will reveal your mindset.

I was inspired to write this post, as in several of the kind, thoughtful, and encouraging letters I have received while incarcerated her at the Keene Spiritual Retreat, I noticed the writers chose words that I find counter-productive, mentally. Here are three that appear frequently: “fight”, “struggle”, and “sacrifice”. I understand why these words have been chosen – they are commonly used in activist literature and culture, and I mean all activism, not just the liberty-type. For instance, some national liberty political group sent me one of those multi-page fundraising letters (you know, where they try to make it look like someone went in and underlined words, then signed it, and maybe made “notes” in the margins – but of course, you know it’s just a form-letter) after I had become aware of the :fight” mentality. I took a highlighter and went through the letter and highlighted all the fighting-related terms. “Fight” and “battle” appeared many times. There is probably a reason why these organizations use this conflict-oriented language. They want to maximize the effectiveness of their fundraising direct mail campaign, and what American doesn’t like a good war? Who wouldn’t want to be on the side of the winning team – having vanquished the enemy? Who wouldn’t want to sink a bayonet into –

Wait a minute… I don’t know about you, but I am pro-peace! Why would I want to pepper my vocabulary with words that are commonly associated with violence, death, injury, and blood-letting?

For those of you who want to insist that you are locked in a grapple with the opponents of liberty, I say, do and say whatever makes you feel good. I also say, have you ever heard “What you resist, persists?” How many more rounds remain in your fight? Aren’t you getting tired? Is it even possible to win? How will you know when you have?

I understand – there is a lot to be done to achieve liberty in our lifetime. It can seem like it’s overwhelming – but why bother using conflict-oriented terms? If master has weighed you down with chains, isn’t struggling against them just a waste of energy?

Allow me to propose flipping your perspective: It is the people who call themselves “the state” that are struggling and fighting. Those of us who love liberty are choosing to live as free as possible and advocating others be able to be free as well. When I am talking about liberty on my radio show or distributing fliers to the public at an event, that’s outreach, not a battle. When liberty activists engage in politics, they are advocating that an inhumane system become more humane – that’s not a struggle. When civil disobedience or noncooperation is performed, that’s just liberty-oriented people setting an example by living free – it’s not fighting.

We are merely advocating, advancing, and living the principles of liberty. The “struggle” belongs to the people calling themselves “the state”. They are struggling to keep their precious aura of legitimacy. Those who are pleased by the status quo are “fighting” to protect it. Just look at how they are behaving for proof – ludicrous charges and sentences leveled at disobedient activists and even the police shining flashlights into video cameras in a desperate attempt to conceal their violence. In the political realm, “free staters” are being attacked in newspaper editorials defending the status quo and counter-protests are being activated because liberty-oriented state reps have had some early successes, like a 12% budget cut.

If it’s not clear to you yet whose struggle it is – it will become clearer as more people move here and get active.

Of course, many of the references to struggling and fighting came from people living outside the Shire. I remember when I was a liberty activist in Florida. It was frustrating. I can certainly see how feeling all alone, as many liberty-lovers around the world do, could make activism feel like a conflict. Moving together with others of like-mind changed that for me.

Liberty activism can be work and can be fun, but if you feel like you are fighting – you are doing it wrong.

here’s another negative term that I caution against using: “sacrifice”, as in “thanks for your sacrifice”, by say, going to jail for civil disobedience. Sacrifice means to give up or destroy one thing, typically of value, for the sake of another thing. I understand why people choose to employ this term – they are attempting perhaps to empathize with me in that it appears I’ve taken a loss for freedom. I can appreciate their perspective and I get that my choice to disobey and not take the plea deal can be seen as a sacrifice. I’m just suggesting it be seen differently, in a more positive light. I consider it an “investment” in the future of liberty. Perhaps it will pay off, perhaps not – but I believe it will make a difference (and if the letters I’ve received are any indication, it already has), so I made the investment. Prior to this, I have poured countless hours and dollars into the liberty movement, doing all kinds of activism. I could instead have done other things with all that money and time, but I dedicated my life and career to liberty. Never for a moment do I consider what I’ve done with my adult life as a sacrifice. I consider it my purpose.

To a large extent, these words I’m pointing out are like activist clichés. Out movement is unique. It’s moral, principled, and practical. Why use the negatively-loaded terms of other activist movements? Why define yourself by what you are against? (This means you, “anarchists”) I’m pro-peace, not “anti-war”. I support a society based on consensual interactions between humans, so I am a voluntarist, not an anarchist. I don’t want to revolve, or go around in a circle any more, so I don’t use the term “revolution”. Liberty-lovers advocate evolution – an unfolding, a process of development. I want humans to move past the desire to control others – don’t you? If so, then be the change you wish to see and also speak the change. Be careful what you say – someone might just be listening.

One thin of the most challenging aspects of speech to modify is the collective “we”. “We” are not at war in Iraq. They (the feds_ are It’s not “our” debt – it’s theirs. Terms like these are a sneaky trick to get people to identify with the depredations of the people calling themselves “the state”. Most Americans are so heavily inculcated with this collectivist-speak, it’s hard to catch yourself doing it. I suggest having your friends call you out if they hear you using them. Eventually, your mind will heal, and you can show others the way.

Thinking and speaking positively will manifest in your actions. Of course another important aspect is to be around positive people, so if you haven’t yet, join the Free State Project and move to New Hampshire. We need your help to achieve liberty in our lifetime. There is hope!

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