The Call for a Constitutional Convention
Addendum – The path to peace
There is an assumption that what makes our nation so great is the freedom of speech. There is of course a mechanical reason why this right is necessary, because you cannot make an accusation against the government without it. There is also a psychological need for people to vent their frustrations. And in the pursuit of democracy, there is the expectation that if everyone speaks their mind then a consensus will develop and a unified path will show itself. The original desire for freedom of speech, however, goes back to the Pilgrims. They wanted to express their religious view freely. That is why we have the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Most people assume that God exists, but even the opening words to the Declaration makes the assumption that we really do not know. There is a reference to the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. Two distinct and separate ideas, that God is real and that maybe he is not. They sought and found a political solution with the recognition that there are and always will be two fundamentally different ideas regarding ourselves and our place in the universe.
Freedom of speech is not guaranteed so we can debate the picayune details of obscure legislation, it is for the purpose of expressing our morality. The debate over our morality is centuries old, and the different interpretations and expressions of it are the driving force of all historical events. What made the colonies unique was not the freedom of speech. To be sure, many came here with the desire to express their moral view, which was an unwelcome act in their homeland. What makes America unique is that our morality was freed and unfettered in a new world, our melting pot of social customs is nothing compared to our interpretations of the unknown and ourselves. We are a nation of extreme views, in a democratic system that prevents dominance by any one person. The best value in our freedom to speak, however, is in the freedom to listen.
By recognizing that God may or may not exist in the Declaration of Independence, the framers set an example of how we should understand ourselves and resolve our differences with each other. The competition of the marketplace was an extension of the opinion that the exchange of ideas would lead to a better understanding each other. Their plans have gone awry. The competition of the marketplace has not created a different society. Immediately after the Revolution, there were complaints about a new aristocracy forming. The egalitarian system that they sought began to crumble immediately. From a historical perspective, it is easy to see why this occurred, we did not alter the basic economic model that was handed down to us from the king. Our legislative process, and our system of taxation, were all based on old historic examples, some reaching back to the birth of democracy thousands of years ago. What really makes us unique in history is the separation of church and state.
Without an overbearing religion to tell us what is right and wrong, the people have taken it upon themselves to define their own morality. The melting pot of ideas and opportunities has provided more fodder for the moral justification of our actions. Whatever role you play in society, you have a moral interpretation that justifies every action you take. In the vacuum caused by the lack of a religious state, we have in many cases assigned moral certainty to our economic choices. And therein lies the source of our political and economic conflicts.
I came to this vision of a new form of government by listening to the complaints of the angry. There is an abundance of rancor in our society, some about money, some about morality, and a lot of simple distrust, anger, isolation and futility. Our original battle with the King was never about money. People today still complain about money, when it is really something else that bothers them. We wanted to be free of the King. The people who came here to worship freely and argue morality had no desire to be part of a system that would regard a man as some sort of deity. Our move towards independence, like most things, was just an historical accident. Two different views collided. They had collided before many times, but this time there was a spark that ignited something bigger, something bigger than any of the participants could ever imagine. As a result, a new nation was formed, and the rest is history. We are now allies with our former foes.
On 9/11 a similar collision took place. It was the equivalent of dumping tea in the harbor. They struck at the primary symbol of the empire, they disguised themselves like the natives, they sought to inflict damage quickly and significantly, and they knew it would cause an immediate wrath.
Like most things, the actions of the Boston Tea Party were a mixture of greed and moral wrath. The heavy hand of the empire was creating resentment, morally and economically. The strike back was an expression of that frustration.
If one were to walk the Boston Freedom Trail, one will find next to the Old North Church, where the two lanterns were lit to warn of the impending British advance, a small gift store with a museum of sorts in the back. In the display on the sidewall to the right sits a small vial. It contains tea from the Boston Tea Party. Sitting inches away, on the other side of the display, are some products for sale, all of our political humanity and righteousness resides in that small vial. It is a symbol and expression of our political consciousness. The black liquid in that vial is the blood of our nation. I am amazed that it survived all these years.
The shopkeeper, dealing with the incessant flow of tourists, undoubtedly put this symbol of our democracy next to products for sale in the haste of making do. If I were Christ and that were a temple, I would have overturned the money tables and expressed my rage. But I am not Christ, and it was not a temple, so following the decorum of our day, I went home to write about it. I can speak freely in the hope that someone will listen. That is the essence of our democracy, the willingness to listen.
We have lost our way. Our Declaration contains two fundamentally different views of humanity, yet they were able to coexist. Not in union against a common foe, but in unison for a common vision. This was later expressed as We the People.
We have lost our way. The citizenry is unprepared for its duties in our democracy. We have blurred the line between commerce and freedom. Buying and selling has become our cause for living. We are no longer thinking.
We have lost our way. We have become a nation divided. Free commerce has replaced free speech. Our morality has become politicized and partisan. We have formed separate groups and classes of people. We are smug in our actions.
How is it that men of good will, God-fearing, and blessed with the gifts of freedom should find it so hard to find consensus? How is it that this rancorous nation is the offspring of men who would dare to write the Declaration and the Constitution? How could we be a nation so wise and so scorned that terrorists of hate and suicide could live amongst us for five years and never forgive us our failings?
That is what I have been trying to figure out. The answer lies in listening. The freedom to listen is the habit that makes freedom of speech valuable.
The five Constitutional changes suggested make everyone happy. The Libertarians get small simple government. The Republicans get reduced taxes. The Democrats get social programs. The Unions get workers rights. The Entrepreneurs get easier capital. The small business owner gets fairer competition. The wealthy keep their money. The worker gets a chance to contribute and share in his efforts. The consumer has better regulations and a better marketplace. Our work life will improve, our family life will improve. We will be a better nation for ourselves, and a better example for our world citizens.
I have been listening to anger. There is a lot of anger in our society. Between political parties, amongst political parties, the crime between citizens, over this issue or that. Everyone is convinced of their own morality, has a legitimate complaint, or a crusade of injustice. What is it that holds it all together?
The answer I have found is all based on a moral interpretation to our conflicts. My biggest fear is that people will accept these Constitutional changes without understanding the morality behind them. People always like ideas that feed their belly, I want to feed your mind.
Every decision we make, every choice we state, every opinion we express comes from a well within us that is either black or white. Native Americans would refer to this as the battle between the black wolf and the white wolf. It is the good vs. the evil. It is our free will, our temperament, and our ability to listen. We are all born stupid. We are taught to think for ourselves, or we are taught to not think at all. We are taught to hate or we are taught to love. But no one can teach us about ourselves, that we have to figure out on our own. Since I am a fool, I am going to try anyway.
Every choice you make in your life is between controlling your own fate and controlling the fate of another. This happens in big things and small things. Every action has a reaction, and every reaction has unintended consequences. There is no decision you can make that you can be sure of. You can want it, you can argue it, you can convince others, but you can never be sure about anything. The framers of the Constitution were not even sure if God existed. This, for lack of a better word, is humility.
It is not possible for everyone to be humble all the time. But, it certainly is possible for everyone to understand when they are or are not being humble. We have lots of cultural assumptions regarding our freedoms, etc., we need one desperately regarding humility. Where we should have humility, we have self-reliance. Any greedy action we take can be defended by the concept of self-reliance. Self-reliance is the mask that hides our greed, and we defend both in the same breath. We need to purge both concepts from our national dialog. We the People are a spirit of community. It requires humility to function effectively.
By exercising humility, you can see that all conflicts in our society are between a kill-first and a die-first choice.
The kill-first choice can be recognized by the fire in its eyes, It is cocksure and arrogant. It demands action and defines what that action should be. It will kill, literally, it is steadfast and sure, it will destroy the opposition, it does not seek to understand or reconcile. It demands obedience and compliance.
The die-first choice can be recognized by a calmness in its eyes. It takes a longer view of things. It recognizes the kill-first for what it is, and tries to rectify it by setting an example, prodding, and calm reserve. It listens to the complaint and tries to find consensus, but refuses to become part of the cycle of attack.
Conflict comes about when two kill-first choices combine. It is very hard to practice the humility of die-first when it is needed the most. In our classic battles between the Democrats and Republicans, both assume a kill-first attitude with the other. Both see each other as the enemy, and both have stopped listening to the other speak. Of course, within their own parties, they regard each other with a die-first attitude. They will do anything to help each other, but nothing to help the other guy.
Humility is required to understand the choices that the other person is trying to make. Take the abortion issue for example. The issue is fraught with human tragedy. The woman with the baby makes a kill-first moral choice. The doctor who performs the service makes a die-first moral choice. He puts aside his choice, and performs the service the woman thinks she needs. He treats the mother with die-first and the baby with kill-first choice. The people protesting on the street, have made a kill-first choice in regard to the mother and a die-first choice in regard to the baby. In every case, the conflict is protecting something or someone and a willingness to kill to accomplish it. Conflict is always between two kill first moralities. Consensus is between two die-first choices.
Humility is the expression of a die-first moral choice. It leads to consensus. That is why the Declaration could contain two different ideas regarding the existence of God. (There is not always an answer.) So chances are if you are angry about something, you do not understand the problem. You have failed to listen and you have failed to approach the problem with humility. Anger of course is real. That is why free speech is such an important component in society. It is the expression by someone with a problem and their kill-first solution. The solution then, is whenever someone has a complaint, you listen to them. And of course, whenever you get angry, you hope they will listen to you.
But there is still more. Karl Marx called religion the opium of the people. Today, we have religious conflict. 9/11, abortion, etc. Religion does not seem to make anyone humble anymore, now it is the reason for our battles here and elsewhere. So what happened? What was he describing? He was describing the idea that we should accept our fate, and be ruled over and worked to the bone, and awaits our kingdom in the next life. He saw die-first humility as the problem. Slavery to Utopia suggests the opposite, that we can have the kingdom here, and that our humility is the way to get there. His was a call to arms, mine is a call to thought. He suggests we take to the barricades, I suggest we take to the voting booth.
His ideas had terrible consequences, and they still do. My ideas my have the same ill effect. When I look at how our nation has evolved, it is only prudent to be cautious about what we say. Ideas matter. In this light I would like to discuss free speech and advertising. Advertising cannot be controlled. It is free speech. But in the process of rearranging our government, if that choice comes to be made, we also need to rearrange the relationship between the media and advertising.
The media has come to dominate our lives. Radio, television, the newspapers, even websites. Areas that should be the collective expression of our humanity and ideas are an incessant commercial. We need to separate our public and cultural affairs from the world of commerce. Fifty cents to have the world delivered to your doorstep in the morning is too cheap. If we pay for the advertising through the products we buy, then it would be better to pay less for the product and more for the newspaper. The constant use of advertising to sell, sell, sell, is what makes us think we cannot survive if people do not buy, buy, buy. Interest is the culprit in this destructive cycle. We have lost our sense of the rhythm of life. We have lost our community, our sense of selves. We are losing allies in the world, and making allies based on the kill-first moral choice to rule and control their societies. We hold up our example of consumption as success, and then we inflate it like a balloon. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. There is less and less inside of value.
Our Muslim adversary has taught me something about ourselves. I listened to his anger. If God exists, we are all his children. If He does not, we are all still brothers. We are all guilty of making kill-first moral choices, the challenge to humanity is to forgive them. In conflict, we need to find a way to lift each other up, rather than to strike the other down. It is a fine line. We need to challenge ourselves and others without doing harm. We need to lead by example too.
Another choice of the founders was to set-up a patent office. In the land of new ideas, it was decided to give some ideas special protection. We have laws against monopolies, but this is a mechanism to promote monopolies. This was expanded to include copy-write. So an idea is free to roam the world, but not the words in which it was written. We have taken our culture of ideas and music and expression and invention and put them in a lock-box of greed, and called it self-reliance. We need to create to a world where there is parity between the work a man does and the award he receives for doing it. We need to end these monopolies, rather than creating a dragon to protect them. Of what danger is humanity if two men share a good idea, and use it for themselves?
We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Our plight is no different than theirs. We are not special. We have an opportunity to work together like no society has ever known. We can communicate instantly across the world. Of what use are we going to use this gift? Are we going to spread Love or Hate? Are we going to use it to deliver our kill-first morality or to free our die-first morality? Do we choose to be humble or arrogant? Do we dwell alone in self-reliance or do we become part of a community? Mutual Responsibility frees us all, and empowers us all. It returns our day to a life of meaning, rather than a battle for money. It is the original expression of freedom and humanity in our utopian vision carried forward to our economic life. It is a way to end our collective slavery, if we, the people, have the courage to choose it.