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Powerful Statement from New York Rabbi

"The Nearly"–My Podcast Manifesto (re-posting)


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People should be free.

People should be free to live their own lives. To decorate their homes as they choose, to plant their gardens, to run their own businesses. They should be free to read the books they want to and laugh at the jokes they want to. To grow their own food, to follow the recipes their grandmothers gave them, to eat and drink and smoke what they like. To choose for themselves what goes into their own bodies and those of their children–and what does not. To buy and sell what they like, and to trade with whomever they choose. They should be able to raise their children as they see fit, to wear the clothes that make them happy, and enjoy the quirky jokes and references that only they and their spouse, or their sister, or their best friend, get.

Every little bit of that is put in peril by the institution of the state.

Maybe not for your family, maybe not even in your neighborhood. But somewhere in the world, the government you think of as "yours" is terrorizing someone else's family. And somewhere, the state that rules over that family (if they don't live where you do) is terrorizing someone else's. Through war, or through economic sanctions, through laws that criminalize non-criminal actions, or just through brute force when they get in the way.

It's what states do.

This battle for civilization–to restore it, to preserve it, to try to make it so that our children and grandchildren get to live in peace–it is for the most part a battle between human beings and the institution of the state.

Words and ideas are some of the state's most powerful weapons, and it uses them against all of us. In the country where I live, it has done a phenomenal job of teaching nearly everyone from a very young age that the state is good and necessary. That policemen are your friends, that democratically elected politicians are your representatives, that sometimes markets "fail" and must be replaced by the state. Above all, it instills the belief that the state–some form of people ruling over other people–is necessary. That civilization could not flourish without it.

I almost wrote "teaching everyone." I had to go back and correct it. Because it's not "everyone." It's nearly everyone, but it is not everyone. And that is critical, because not only did not "everyone" go to their schools, even many of those who did go to their schools and take in their lessons, didn't properly assimilate all of the beliefs they were supposed to.

It's the "nearly" that I'm interested in.

That–possibly very small, possibly not so small–number of people who can see and think for themselves. Who understand for themselves the difference between right and wrong, who don't need to have anyone else tell them that it is wrong to make another person your slave, or to lock another person in a cell when they have harmed no-one.

That's who I think of as the audience for my podcast ("What Then Must We Do?") You might call what I'm doing "preaching to the choir", but that's not it. I'm looking to reach the people who already recognize the problem, and who want to do something about it.

These are also the people I'll have on as guests. I'll be asking them about the things they are doing in the service of peaceful, civilized coexistence. We won't always agree on the solutions, and we probably won't even always see the problem in exactly the same way. But we all have a commitment to creating a world where people can just live in peace and freedom.

Maybe none of us is powerful enough to defeat the violence that is the state. Maybe even together we are not enough. But I am certain that if there is any hope for us at all, it lies entirely with this group of people.

Oh, and if I sound a little elitist, as if I think the "Non-Nearlys" are somehow inferior to the "Nearlys"… well, yes, I do. I do think that thinking for oneself is superior to not thinking for oneself. I also think that great masses of people who don't do much thinking for themselves, who don't have their own moral compasses, are one of the most deadly threats to all of humanity, and always have been.

But here's the thing about being among the "Nearly" (or, as Albert Jay Nock called them, the Remnant): it is a choice. Anyone can choose to start questioning what they have been taught their whole life. Anyone can choose to listen to their own conscience over the values and opinions that are fed to them by the people and institutions around them. Anyone can do this.

"What then must we do?" I honestly don't know. The forces arrayed against individual human beings just living their own lives as they choose seem more powerful and more entrenched than ever before. So, do I know how to change that? To defeat the people and institutions that wish to (and do) rule over us? No, I don't. But I do believe that between us–between all of the "Nearly"–we can figure this out.