Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto
Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
I’m 56 years old and I’ve been self-consciously libertarian for all but the first eighteen.
I now have an eighteen-year-old daughter, for whom I am writing this, but it’s not my intent to use this essay to convert her to being a libertarian.
Obviously, since I talk about my daughter in the third person, I’m not writing this only to her.
My daughter shares one characteristic with many younger people that made me think of her as the audience for this when the idea of writing it came to me.
My daughter thinks I spend too much of my time ranting about politics. She doesn’t understand why I shout back at the television.
She considers most of what I’ve written — my books, scripts, stories and articles — dominated by my interest in politics, and that discourages her from reading them.
When I say I’m libertarian, I don’t mean that as a partisan affiliation. I’m not a member of the Libertarian Party. Neither do I mean it in the ideological or movement sense. While I’m well-read in what libertarians consider the primary sources for the libertarian movement, and am in debt to many of them for ideas I regularly use, I no longer consider myself part of any organized movement. I’ve come to abhor ideology, itself, as a distraction from my own contemplative thinking.
Years ago I wrote a play titled “Cult of the Individual.” I wasn’t just being ironic.
When, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Brian tells a crowd of unwanted acolytes, “You’re all individuals!” — prompting a shout from one voice in the crowd, “I’m not!” — the humor wasn’t only the oxymoron. Adherence even to individualism, because it has become an ideology, prevents one from being a free individual.
The problem with ideology is that it reduces everything to ideas. Oh, my dear daughter, how I spent much of my life being guilty of that!
As I’ve matured, I’ve come to appreciate the more non-cerebral parts of my life. Yes, I still appreciate intellect and wit. That’s how I make my living! Nonetheless I’ve become both more self-aware of, and less alienated from, allowing myself to respond first with feelings, and not instantly shut down those feelings with thought.
I grew up reading science-fiction. So when — also around age 18 — I first met other science-fiction readers, I met many others who, like me, led with our brains. If feelings were even spoken of, they were channeled into trivia.
It’s no accident that emotion-challenged scientists, robots, and aliens are staples of science-fiction. Science-fiction writers knew who their fans were and appealed to us with psychological mirrors.
After I peeled away at layer after layer of politics and ideology, I found an emotional core that explained to me not only why I was attracted to libertarianism, but why this particular ideology — as hostile as its advocates were to using feelings as the means of choosing pursuits — is the one that at its core is devoted to protecting human loves and human dreams.
Paradoxically, the ultra-cerebral philosophy I’ve spent a lot of my life talking about is the one that’s best suited for those who lead with their hearts and care about others’ feelings.
To put it simply: the politics, movements, and ideologies that value and seek liberty for the individual over the interests of all groups — starting with the family — have been attempts to protect those things which make life meaningful and pleasurable. They have tried to protect whatever it is that you love … whatever are your aspirations … whatever you dream about as your passion.
For all my Spock-like arguments — my geekiness and wonkiness — my devotion to liberty is about protecting your hopes, dreams, and passions.
I’ve come to understand that libertarianism as a movement has been a failure not only because we have preached it as a set of abstract ideas, but because when we have shown strong emotion it has primarily been hostility to values strongly felt by others.
We’ve failed because we didn’t get that it’s not about what we’re against but what it is that we’re for.
When we’ve won support it’s because we managed to connect with something specific that people cared about in their own lives. When we lost it’s because we couldn’t connect to people’s lives.
Again, my dear daughter, this came as a revelation to me. I finally understood that when movements toward liberty have been successful it was because there was something specific and tangible that people loved and were fighting to protect.
This book will be giving examples of that. I’ll detail how other political movements are based on spreading hate and fear — and appealing to the greed of human beings who want to get something for nothing — but neglect to mention that what you have to give up to join them is any possibility of remaining faithful to your own true loves and reaching for your own highest dreams.
What you have to give up to join them is you.
This has led me to a thought that I hope will transform my life as much as it does yours:
Even if I don’t love what other people love — even if their hopes and dreams seem ridiculous or even offensive to me — I must start by respecting what they love, what they hope for, what they dream.
The beginning of liberty is when I respect — and pledge to protect — what others love, if — and this is a big “if” — they also respect and pledge to protect what I love.
For you wise acres reading this, I’m not falling for the tricks I see coming. No, respecting what you love doesn’t mean that if you “love the earth” I can’t put my carbon footprint up your global ass, or if you “love God” I can’t make fun of your end-of-the-world cult, or if you “love animals” I have to sign onto your campaign to get dolphins the right to vote.
But for my daughter, who is reasonably sane, how this can work in practice, and liberate the world, is a journey I hope you’ll take with me.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter I: Forbidden Passions
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.