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The Futility of Hope
To create a better world, we need more personal transformation instead of political reform.

by James Leroy Wilson
August 21, 2008

Although new posts are now very infrequent, Jeff Wells' Rigorous Intuition is a must-read blog for those seeing deeper connections, and spiritual dimensions, to the news of the day. But as the news of war, high crimes, and environmental doom provokes more gloom, Wells, a Canadian socialist, concludes:

"So here it is: they've won. Or let me rephrase that, since there will never be universal agreement as to who they' are: we've lost.

Because life is short, even if I get another turn after this one, I'd rather not waste half of it relearning all the secret wrongs done to the world that I can't undo. So I need to know what, if anything, we get out of knowing what they get away with. And if it's so we may better "organize," then good luck and God bless us playing catch-up, since the priesthoods and kingly classes have had a 10,000 year head start."

In contrast, the English libertarian Sean Gabb notes,

"Most people no longer die at absurdly young ages. Most people do not see half their children cough and sweat their way to early graves. We all have enough to eat. We have soap and water and warm clothes. We have an endless succession of shiny electronic toys to divert us. In another decade or so, what we have now will doubtless seem as inadequate as MSDOS and video cassettes now do to us. But we already live in something approximating the utopia of the early twentieth century science fiction writers."

It sounds like a view opposite of Wells's. But then Gabb asks:

"So why so much unhappiness? . . .We did briefly touch on whether mass enrichment has been accompanied by a loss of freedom and of identity. Very few people may want to do any of the things that have been banned over the past century. But everyone is in some sense aware of the immense structures of guardianship that shape our lives. And everyone to some extent has noticed the rise of a new and utterly malevolent ruling class, that enriches and privileges itself behind a palisade of words about 'equality' and 'diversity' and 'tolerance.'"

But are these "kingly classes" conscious of their own corruption and neglect? Are they aware just how tyrannical their laws really are? Or are they doing the best they can? Is this just the "March of History?"

Almost everyone knows that something is terribly wrong. But the socialist looks at state-run capitalism, mistakes it for the "free market" and believes free marketeers are part of the "they" who are "winning." And free marketeers think the socialists, with their desires for more regulations and welfare, are on the side that's winning.

On a similar note, gay activists and the Religious Right see each other as a threat to civilization. The Right sees open immigration, mulitculturalism, and Islam as threats to our culture, and believe the Left is on the side that's winning because they've taken over the educational system. The Left thinks the Right is winning because of corporate greed and an expanding police state.

It seems to me, however, that over the past seven years we have had more of just about everything. More Politically Correct intolerance AND more religious intolerance. More problems (rightly or wrongly) attributed to "capitalism" AND more Big Government failures. More police-state surveillance AND more access to alternative viewpoints. More nation-destroying "multiculturalism" AND more goose-stepping "nationalism."

But, although the post-9-11 world may have taken everything to greater extremes, didn't we think many of the same things in the 1990's and 1980's? Do not many similar conflicts date back to the Founding? Or even to the Magna Charta and before?

It raises the question of whether there is a "winner" and a "loser." Perhaps things just are, and how one judges the eternal world is a reflection of how one interprets one's own perceptions and experiences. That is, how one feels inside will greatly determine how one feels about the world at large. Some will feel, "many things are better, some things are worse" whereas others will feel "some things are better, but most things are worse."

In the end, how do we know there is a "they" who's winning while "we" are losing? Winning what? Losing what? To paraphrase John Maynard Keynes, in the long run, aren't we all dead? Does it make sense to "rage against the machine," to be angry at institutions and systems one is powerless to change or control? Doesn't it make more sense to love everyone non-judgmentally (remembering that you, too, would not want to be judged), and cheefully give to those in need?

I wonder what would happen if most well-meaning individuals everywhere just quit placing their hope in politics. If they stopped voting for increased entitlements for themselves and stopped voting for candidates who would impose "morality" and "social justice" on others through force. If they sought not political reform, but personal transformation.

Perhaps "resistance is futile," as the Borg claims in Star Trek. Perhaps "hope," which banks on a "better" future, is not "audacious" but is instead equally futile. Perhaps you are powerless to "change the system." That doesn't mean you should be unhappy. That doesn't mean you can't show love, courtesy, and compassion to others. That doesn't mean you are not free. For freedom comes from within, not from the without. If you can undermine the State and loosen the external restraints, by all means go ahead! But it is very possible that mankind just isn't capable of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and long-lasting civilization. Perhaps decay is just in the nature of things, including human societies; how are you so sure you can fix that?

Whether History calls you a "winner" or a "loser" will depend largely on your nationality and class; you, as an individual, will most likely be forgotten. So, really, the more reliable method for achieving a "better world" is not by resorting to swords and lawyers, but by finding some way through which you can become a better person. 

About the Author:
James Leroy Wilson blogs at Independent Country and writes for Views expressed here do not represent the views of

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