Independence Day is my favorite of the official US holidays. It is the only one that celebrates the individual. Sure, we use it to celebrate the forming of a nation, but that effort was lead by individuals who valued (mostly) the power of individuality; of personal liberty. When enough individuals get together and decide they want to be independent, it creates a revolution. This is still true in societies, businesses and in relationships.
According to psychologist and college professor Jared Peterson, all societies and tribes go through a cycle of order, corruption and chaos. Each phase produces antagonists (primarily apologists and institutionalists) and protagonists (primarily messengers and warriors). Our nation’s short history shows that we were birthed in the corruption phase and have been through the cycle of all three several times since. Businesses go through the same cycles, but call it something different: innovation. Individuals go through the same cycles, but call it something different: enlightenment.
I believe the US is in between the phases of corruption and chaos. That we are governed by two of the most broken, least trusted brands (Republicans and Democrats) is evidence enough of this. But there’s more …
We are in the age of extremes; with there currently being two sides of these extremes.
On one side, the so-called Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) with their obsession with labels and moral relativism — deciding what is offensive and what is acceptable according to their own biases. They are their own religion — preaching the gospel of Worship of the State. And this circular error of logic: everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.
On the other side, the New Right. This is actually two sub-groups: 1) Evangelical “Christians” and 2) the Alt-Right. The Evangelicals are actively seeking to make their brand of Christianity a state-sponsored religion. They judge people on their sexuality, places and methods of worship, and not looking or acting in an “appropriate” way. And this twisted ideology: America is a great country but its citizens are all sinners that need saving.
Here’s the irony. These two extremes are essentially the same people — they just hate different things. They are both narrow, judgmental, exclusionary, easily offended and spiritually asleep. They both shut down discourse and disagreement. They have both sold their souls and their ability to reason to achieve power and status. And most of all, they are both terrified by the power of the individual. Which leads us back to Independence Day — the celebration of individual liberty.
Ayn Rand says it best …
“It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both. This was the great American achievement — and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders’ motive, this is what we should have been teaching the world.”
To step away from the extremes is to embrace individualism and personal sovereignty. It takes tremendous conviction and courage to do so. (Remember, every movement is started by a tiny minority.) It also takes three specific skills to master:
- Know Your Intrinsic Beliefs: These are beliefs arrived at through discovery and enlightenment not beliefs taught or dispensed. We all have them if we seek them. Its these intrinsic beliefs that fuel our purpose to preserve our individuality. It is within these beliefs you will find your mission.
- Seek and Speak Truth: Truth exists but it must be sought. Ignore those that say there is no truth. Ignore those that say they have the truth to give (or sell) you. Within this truth is your message. Once discovered, you must speak this truth. It is your #1 weapon — a fire that destroys pretense and specious behavior.
- Express, don’t Explain. You don’t need to explain yourself. You just need to express truth. When the extremes demand that you explain or defend yourself, it would be good to remember something every great spiritual teacher embodied: the use of questions and the use of silence. Become adept at both.
I firmly believe that the desire to be free and to express our individuality are both inherent features of our human app; a strand of source code that we can re-connect to as a bulwark against extremism, sameness and distractions. When we connect to our own sovereignty, we transform into reluctant heroes — thinking differently, speaking differently and living differently.