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07/02/2004 Archived Entry: "Freedom is not a &^%$#@! spectator sport"


All journalists are cowards. Hitchens knows it, I know it, everybody in this business knows it. If there were any justice at all, every last goddamn one of us would be lowered, head-first, into a wood-chipper. Over Arizona. Shoot a nice red mist over the whole state, make it arable for a year or two. A year's worth of fava beans and endive for the children of Bangladesh: I dare anyone in our business to say that that wouldn't represent a better use of our rotting bodies than the actual fruits of our labor. -- Journalist Matt Taibbi

Now that, my friends, is a first-class rant. As I donned my asbestos spectacles yesterday and read Matt Taibbi's words, I was reminded that it's been a long time since I worked up a really good, raving, arm-waving, fire-breathing rant like that one.

I've been too nice lately. And that's not a good thing.

I feel I'll disappoint my readers. I worry I'll become just another plodding pundit - of which the Internet already has Saganian billions.

But why rant? One can only work up so much steam over the distant depredations of bureaucrats or the supreme stupidities of nine black-robed illiterates who can't read a document as simple and unambiguous as the Bill of Rights. Even when you're talking about a creature as ooze-drippingly malign as John "The Swamp Thing" Ashcroft or ... well, your typical journalist ... there's only so much arm-waving and screaming you can do before it all becomes redundant.

Or before it all becomes nothing but cheap entertainment for readers to digest with their morning coffee. And to s**t out afterwards like their morning donut.

Anyhow, I'd rather not waste breath on things I can't change. I'd rather, in a quiet and civilized way, go about the work of getting free. And despite all the horrors perpetrated in the post-Patriot Act age, I've seen a lot happening in the last few weeks and months to that's encouraging.

Rather than cite all the reasons for this sunny (and I admit, wildly uncharacteristic) optimism, I'll just point you to The Claire Files Forums, where a small but dedicated bunch of people are actually working on real-world, attainable freedom projects. And where people actually offer support and practical advice - instead of philosophical flamefests -- to fellow freedom seekers.

I look at those folks and, despite the occasional idiocy (to which I myself am not immune), I think: "This is what it's about. This is where liberty is happening. This is the absolute essence of freedom - individuals taking responsibility and banding together as a community."

I have also had some private dealings with some of these folks recently that tell me their hearts are as good as their heads and that they're great "neighbors" even though they live thousands of miles away.

When the world works like that, what's to rant about?

Oh, don't worry. There's still plenty of rant fodder. A lot closer to home than Clarence "Papers, Please" Thomas or George "W.hat, Me Worry?" Bush.

Member No. 439 showed up at forums today. Now, for all I know he might be a sterling person out there in the real world. But nobody can tell. Because this brand new member showed up only for one purpose: To cadge free legal advice from strangers. (And possibly - because you always have to be suspicious about these things, of course - to entrap somebody into giving illegal advice.)

Then as I was deleting some of the choicer language from my short reply to him, I received an urgent request to drop everything and help polish and "patch a few holes" in someone else's article that was due to go to press in a few hours. I had to fulfill this request for various reasons which can be summed up as "$." When I opened the document, the article looked something like this:

According to ___, in 2002, revenue from aset forfeitures in the United States exeeded $XXXXXXX. This windfall was equalled only by (NOTE: Put some other big statistic here). This shocking situation rivels the condition of the Amercan colonies in (check what year that was) ...

Okay, I exaggerate slightly. Very slightly, actually. But the point is that this writer on freedom topics had not only failed to do her homework - which we all do now and then - but blandly and confidently assumed that somebody else should and would do that homework for her, and would drop all their other priorities to accommodate her, to boot.

The hardworking, big-hearted community members of The Claire Files forums represent the best of the best of us. But there's this other side of the freedom movement. This side that's fat and flaccid and pallid and lazy and ...

It's the Backside

Let's call it the backside of the freedom movement, as in "sits on its backside and doesn't move." This is the side that rouses its ugly self now and then in the same way that a TV toad rouses itself to order wifey to go fetch another beer.

These are the people who can't spell G-O-O-G-L-E, but who can compose e-mails to complete strangers asking questions like, "Can you give me province-by-province statistics on slave labor in China?"

These are people who can invest thousands in phony offshore schemes offering "3,000 percent return!" but who don't have 25 bucks to send to GOA, KABA, or JPFO. Oh. And of course they're also the people who, when they do dash headlong into trouble, are the first to write to every freedom organization in the book, demanding legal aid.

These are the people who turn up on public forums and announce that they're looking for somebody to supply them with "really good fake ID." And oh yes, they need it right now. And cheap.

And they're the people who howl and screech over the tewwible twaffic citation they got from the big-bad red-light camera, but think it's fine, just fine, thank you, for other folks to go to prison for 20 years for drug offenses or regulatory violations. After all, that's not their problem. They're Innocent! Wronged! Abused! While all those other folks are just getting what they deserve.

Or even if those hapless prisoners don't deserve it they are, after all, just those unimportant other people.

In some future year, these "backsiders" will also be the people who demand to get into the underground railroad when they never helped build it, never studied the need for it, never gave financial support to it, never helped conceptualize it, never offered their home or their vehicle for its use.

And should their plight earn them a trip on the railroad, anyway, they'll be the first to sell out the entire system, should they fall into the hands of the police. Heck, they might even (as pseudo-anarchist Bob Black egregiously did a few years ago to author Jim Hogshire) turn in their freedom friends just for sport. Or to avenge some imagined slight. Or to get more money to invest in "3,000 percent return!" schemes.

They are, in short, a scurvy lot. And should someone lower them into wood-chippers over Arizona, the world would not be worse off for the deed.

Yes, yes, there's already been plenty of ranting done about people who say they love freedom but don't do anything about it. But these "backside" folks represent a special subset of that group. And maybe they're worth ranting about because something can actually be done about them.

Like, maybe hold their feet to a fire, instead of holding their heads to a wood-chipper.

I have to stop and say what ought to be obvious - that my issue is not with people who need help. Good lord, no. Some people really do become innocent victims out of the blue. Or they fall hard and can't get up on their own. Their cries for help are legitimate. And - this is key - as others help them, they learn and grow and eventually extend help to others. Even if they have to extend it from prison or a homeless camp for a while.

And this operates on a smaller, less dramatic scale, too, of course.

The Claire Files forums are filled with requests for information or assistance - and I've made my share of them. (Several of my recent Hardyville columns, for instance, would never have been written without the generosity of TCF advisors.) Acquaintances write to me for advice. But just as often lately, I do the same to them.

We need community if we're to have freedom, and the very essence of community is mutual aid. In the old days: I help raise your barn, you help raise mine. These days: I help you get your Linux box up and running, you critique my book manuscript. Or: I help you plan your gulch, you give me advice on RV living. Or: I adjust your creaky back, you obedience train my dog. Or it might even be: I help you get good fake ID, you help me hide my ugly guns.

Once we've established trust with each other, that is.

My quarrel is with people who think the world exists to serve them. People who want freedom only when it means they get, get, get, and never have to give. People who imagine that freedom can ever be combined in any way with a sense of - god, I hate that word - entitlement.

Member No. 439 ... and all you other folks out there who want, want, want so endlessly ... you who live in a universe that orbits around the tiny little sun of your personal ego ... you who think your difficulties are more difficult than everybody else's ... you who think all you have to do is show up and demand and your needs will be filled ... I got news for you. It's right up there in the headline.

Freedom is not a &^%$#@! spectator sport.

As long as you expect to sit there and to get whatever you want from the people who are doing the actual work ... you think very, very wrong and deserve to be left on the sidelines of an empty field.

You want people to help you when you're in trouble? Then get in and help other people first.

You want good information from others? Then be prepared to give it first.

You want contributions for your legal troubles? Then contribute to others who are in trouble before trouble strikes you.

You want sympathy? Then give it.

You want empathy? Then be empathetic.

You want people to share their goods with you in hard times? Then why aren't you laying in your own goods to share with them?

You want to benefit from the freedom community? Then come in, introduce yourself, get to work and be a real part of it.

Even if you're not confident of your own skills and not sure what you have to offer ... get in there and learn and study and do some practical things and share them as you learn them.

You want to receive? Then reach out and give.

In short: You want freedom? Then act like a free individual among other free individuals.

Otherwise, a run through the verbal wood-chipper is a far nicer fate than you deserve.

Posted by Claire @ 04:30 PM CST

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