In a post yesterday, I referenced a story of a boy receiving his first paycheck, then getting rolled for about half of it. Here’s an email I received from a reader in response:
… “You are locked in the modern prison: quantity, logic, matter, mechanism, money, ego, the Market. That is not false, but only part of a much larger Truth. I am hardly the first person to say it, as it constitutes the opinion of all cultures prior to the Modern Age. So there’s no point continuing this line of inquiry unless you can open your mind.”
Well, I must say, a lot of people who know me best would say that admonishing me to open my mind is kind of like admonishing a skydiver to open his parachute. Still, as someone once said, you don’t want your mind so open as to let your brains fall out.
I do think it’s important to maintain a sense of open inquiry. That’s what an open mind is, and that is what I’ve always embraced. But that’s not what this reader is talking about, is it? No, in this case, it’s that he possesses the “Truth,” and unless I accept it, I have a closed mind. Convenient, but a falsehood for this seeker of “Truth” nonetheless.
The more curious part about this email is the outright fraud it perpetuates. It pretends to be profound, wide, large, integrative, and all encompassing. In rendering its judgment, IT exudes “Truth.” No, not just “Truth;” “The Truth.” All this truth and deeper meaning, yet the reader cannot seem to grasp the simple and profound truth, the general principal that was illustrated in that story of a boy and his first paycheck.
You’d think this reader has no soul, no sense of morality, no principles. All he sees is a material reality on one side, and an inexplicable yet deep mystery on the other. Between them, a dichotomy so profound as to be irreconcilable, necessitating the endless struggle to seek this deeper meaning—over there—that’s ultimately pointless, because everyone dies. Enlightenment alludes. The story falls on the side of material reality. It’s all just a bunch of number crunching, so it’s “unbalanced,” and therefore, to be dismissed.
The problem with this whole “sophisticated” dichotomy thing — take your pick, they all amount to the same thing: mind / body; theory / practice; left-brain / right-brain; heaven / earth; material / spiritual — is that you are forced to choose one over the other. In Western religions, such as Christianity, it has often meant that you must deny the material realm entirely. In the east, the material “side” is true and necessary, but you need a balance with the spiritual “side.” Still, they are seen as different things, different sides, and I hold that this is crippling for the mind.
People are not the equivalent of split-personality schizophrenics, one moment satisfying the body, and the next, the spirit. People are integrated, whole beings, and they must embrace an integrated philosophy that encompasses all, not forcing them at every turn to make an impossible choice between the flesh and the spirit.
So, what’s the simple moral principle that was illustrated in that story, the moral principal that goes far beyond the accounting for that paycheck? The principal is that associations of individuals do not possess rights that individuals do not possess. All rights are individual rights. So, if it’s morally wrong to rob someone, then it’s wrong if I do it, you do it, or anyone else does it, regardless of what they call themselves (“the public interest;” “the social contract;” “the government;” “the people;” “the democracy;” “the greater good”), and, regardless of what they purport to do for you in exchange, be it shining you shoes or providing you an insurance policy on retirement. Here’s a simple fact: if you believe that forced taxation of any form is justified, for any reason, then you do not hold against theft and robbery as a moral principal. That’s just a simple, clear, and pristine fact. The best you can muster is that it’s a good rule of thumb.
If the “greater good” is so good, then shouldn’t it be so obvious that people line up to pay for it, kind of like they do for concerts and all manner of things? It doesn’t work that way, does it? At the end of the line of admonitions and platitudes waits the gun-backed force that represents the “greater good.”