Culture, Integrity and Questioning Authority
If you want to have your strongest and most positive impact on your culture, the way to do it is to live with integrity – meaning that you know your principles and you live by them and speak from them.
There are solitary creatures like pandas and bumblebees and there are social animals like wolves and wildebeests but we are the only living creatures on Earth who have culture. Culture is created when your knowledge, wisdom and innovations can be transmitted and have an impact over time and space, beyond your immediate influence.
With culture, when a problem is solved by one person, it has the possibility of being solved forever, and throughout the entire culture, which means that the culture can change in significant ways over time. While our human nature has not fundamentally changed over the millennia, our human culture has.
A culture contains and expresses the qualities that are common to groups of people living and working together; it is the capacity that we as human beings have to engage one another in creating a more complex and more advantageous way of life.
Our human culture has developed differently in different places, and within different groups of people. (Even the prehistoric culture of the San Bushmen that I wrote about in The San People of the Kalahari have a different culture than they did many years ago, incorporating bits of metal in their toolmaking, for example.)
If a culture values integrity and trust, the people within that culture are supported and encouraged by that culture to behave with integrity and in ways that engender trust. If a culture values violence and irrationality, the people within that culture are supported and encouraged to be violent and irrational.
In America, we often talk about how our culture is going to hell in a handbasket. This is not a new development; I would venture to say this sentiment is one of the defining features of our culture.
Look at the '50s and how disturbed many people were with the likes of Elvis Presley, or the Roaring Twenties with the flappers. Go back further and read Mark Twain or HL Menken or Herman Melville or Alexis de Tocqueville and you will find profound and grand critiques and concerns for America's culture.
I believe that this is actually an expression of a degree of self-consciousness and self-examination that flows from a society that values individualism and independent thought – rather than one whose values and identity are imposed from the top down, from a monarch or dictator or powerful leader or central authority.
We look to actively change and improve our culture in America, and that involves defining what's wrong and what we would have different. In America, we all engage in this noble pursuit.
That said, there is much to be legitimately concerned about today in terms of our American culture but I want to distinguish between style and principle. The "metal" music that my kids like to listen to is a matter of style. People's views about aesthetics or personal issues such as drugs or sexuality are a matter of style, meaning that one person may like any of these, another may not, but they both could share the same general guiding principles.
Those guiding cultural principles are much more important.
Does an individual have a right to own his own life or does the collective or the majority or Rousseau's "general will" hold a higher value? Is commerce considered a noble or a base undertaking? Are all men created equal or are some legally superior to others based upon birth or endowed privilege?
Do we as a country, and as a culture, have the right to defend ourselves from threats to our nation and to our culture? Do we each, as individuals, have the right to our personal security and our property, and do we have the right to defend our person and property?
Is what we earn our own or does it belong to the state first? Does the law of the land limit the scope of government or the scope of our individual liberty? Do we desire a culture based upon individual liberty and personal responsibility or do we prefer a culture that is based on coercion and entitlement in the name of some greater good?
These are cultural principles. It is these principles that are at war today, much as they were during Woodrow Wilson's presidency, or FDR's, and to one degree or another ever since the European principles of progressivism/socialism/fascism began their ascent over a hundred years ago. But the conflict is palpable and inescapable today.
This war has been played out in violently dramatic fashion at the capitals of Michigan and Wisconsin, where Union thugs and leftist activists sought to use violence and intimidation to overthrow the legislation that served to weaken those unions' coercive power. In each case, men and women of principle stood their ground and prevailed.
This war is being shamelessly promoted by a media whose members and culture have chosen to firmly advocate for the leftist end of this cultural conflict.
This conflict has escalated not because people are not willing to work together, reaching across the aisle to compromise on legislation to "move this country forward"; this conflict has escalated because the cultural differences between America's founding principles and the principles of the progressive movement are antithetical – they are opposites; they contradict one another. This conflict cannot be resolved through compromise.
This escalation of our cultural conflict makes it very difficult to sit on the sidelines and avoid engaging in the conflict. To live with integrity is to know what your principles are and to actively live by those principles. To act and speak from your principles is the most effective way to impact the culture in which you live.
When you are at a dinner party where everybody seems to be in agreement that the government should take more of what certain people earn and should continue to expand entitlements for an ever larger percentage of the population and such a stance is in conflict with your deeply held principles, what impact do you have on the culture if you say nothing? What impact do you have if you become irate and begin calling people names?
I would venture to say that the answer would be either no impact in the former, or a negative impact in the latter.
What if you expressed your beliefs in terms of style, claiming that today's music is bad or getting caught up in the minutiae of personal preferences or specific opinions regarding drugs or contraceptives or which politician is more caring? I think you'd find yourself frustratingly tangled in the weeds of political talking points.
In contrast, what impact could you have if you expressed your beliefs in the form of fundamental principles? I think you might find that you have a much deeper impact than you would expect because such argument is actually pretty rare, and I have found that not many people on the left – or right – have much grasp of them.
When you understand the principles of individual liberty, of self-ownership, of self-government and of the hugely benevolent win/win dynamic of the free market – as opposed to the win/lose mechanism of crony capitalist fascism – you are on much more solid ground. Understanding such fundamental principles gives you a moral compass that allows you to integrate deeper values, and to speak from a more grounded, deeply rooted position.
This kind of integrity with your principles can be a very powerful and positive influence on our culture.
In Stanley Milgram's well known "Obedience to Authority" experiments, he found a horrifying degree of compliance with authority among his subjects – 67 percent were willing to administer what they believed were potentially lethal doses of electric shock to others when they were told by a person in a lab coat, simply, "The experiment requires that you continue."
But what was much more interesting – and much more hopeful – was that when subjects witnessed another subject defy that authority, those people were dramatically more likely to defy that authority themselves – the compliance rate dropped from 67 percent to 10 percent.
One person acting with integrity to his or her deeply held principles can have a huge impact on the culture – a much greater impact even than scores of people going along with the status quo.
If you want to preserve and expand America's culture of freedom, if you want to steer this conflict toward personal responsibility and limited government, know your principles, study our founding documents and history, read Adam Smith, Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises – read Mark Skousen's Economics on Trial for a good overview of the different schools, particularly that of John Maynard Keynes, whose theory is what the left is counting on to make things work.
For an excellent source of reading material such as suggested here, see the Daily Bell Special Report: "Become Part of an Exclusive Circle: A Unique Free-Market Club Really Worth Joining."
Understand your fundamental principles and why you hold them and then live and speak from those principles. Your integrity will make a difference. It is how we can improve our culture from the roots on up. America is unique in that it is a country founded on clearly stated, powerful, and deeply good and true principles. These principles, and the political foundation they bequeathed, are what make America unique, what has enabled her to alter the culture of the entire world for the better.
The more we understand these principles, the more we actively and assertively live and act from these principles, the stronger the chances are that our culture of freedom will endure and grow.
Joel F. Wade, Ph.D. is a Life Coach who works with people around the world via phone and e-mail. He can be reached for life coaching service at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website, www.drjoelwade.com, where you can arrange a free 20-30 minute phone call and see whether coaching can help you to make the changes you want and reach the goals you aspire to. Joel is the author of Mastering Happiness and A Pocket Guide to Mastering Happiness. "A highly skilled clinician, trained in a variety of psychological disciplines, Joel Wade is a man of immense sensitivity and compassion who has a wide repertoire of problem-solving strategies to bring to the practice of Coaching." Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D., author of The Art of Living Consciously.
Posted by rossbcan on 01/05/13 07:32 AM
JFW: "was that when subjects witnessed another subject defy that authority, those people were dramatically more likely to defy that authority themselves - the compliance rate dropped from 67 percent to 10 percent."
... lead by example. Principled people have words and deeds in total alignment. The unscrupulous have prespriptions for us, but not them. This is anothe corrosive effect of the internet and free flow of information: We can KNOW them by what they DO.
Posted by rossbcan on 01/05/13 07:20 AM
JFW: "This war is being shamelessly promoted by a media whose members and culture have chosen to firmly advocate for the leftist end of this cultural conflict."
Follow the money and ASK: "how do these groups economically survive, what do they trade, with whom, what value is provided?"
and it becomes readily apparent: They trade rationalizations (lies) in defence of their "values", salaries and defence of the right, no "indisputable moral duty" of arbitrary power to impose its will on all others.
These perspectives are unproductive, they create and trade NOTHING that people would willingly trade their own fruits of productive labor for, BUT, those who exist by stealing the productive fruits of labor of others consider it to be "good value" to pay "somebody else's money" to these sophists (DB's preferred term, mine is "fake experts") for rationalizations.
It is because these groups have chosen to "survive by lies" that they are impervious to and NOT amenable to fact and reason. To allow reason to pass the chinks in their armor is to admit: Their chosen methodology of survival and all investments they have made in their careers is wasted and, the only solution is to "get a REAL job", producing something that their fellow human beings consider to be "of value", enough to voluntarily trade a portion of their own, personal productivity for. Since ALL of their "skills" are in unproductive areas, that means their only REAL survival choice is unskilled labor.
The players and rationalizations change and evolve over time, but, in reality, it has been the same problem, for all of human history: WAR between predator (the unproductive) and prey (the productive). Civilizations fall when the unproductive make division of labor impossible, by stealing the fruits of (and therefore reason for) productivity. Civilizations (the rules by which we peacefully cooperate for MUTUAL self-interest) rise when predators are controlled by the law performing its proper function of impartial predator control as opposed to its self-decreed "neccessary" function of "master predator":
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It is easily PROVEN that the relative power (ability to coerce) of unproductive / productive elements within a civilization determines whether a civilization LIVES, or DIES:
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So, we REALLY need to decide, as individuals, summing to collective "unseen hand": Do we support or oppose those alleging they are "in control", do we consent to where trends lead and...
What are YOU, personally going to do about it, when, as proven above, THEY are not amenable to fact and reason?
Posted by Daryl Vansack on 01/04/13 05:48 PM
Been waiting three years for an essay like this -thank you
Posted by 1776 on 01/04/13 05:12 PM
By HAYLEY PETERSON 3 January 2013
Workers making $30,000 will take a bigger hit on their pay than those earning $500,000 under new fiscal deal
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Posted by 1776 on 01/04/13 03:29 PM
Bush-Era Wiretapping Case Killed Before Reaching Supreme Court BY DAVID KRAVETS 01.03.13
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Posted by Ol' Grey Ghost on 01/04/13 03:04 PM
I had a little talk with my inner child about how we should upgrade the default setting on American society...
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Change one mind at a time or bash a million skulls? Both work but one is considered evil...
Posted by nithsdale on 01/04/13 02:56 PM
Bravo Joel Wade!
We have voices and they can affect family and friends but those who would repress have a greater weapon... .finances both private and government. That is the problem!
We are at a divide in our cultural history. Can logic win when the forces against it can take life with a snap of a finger? The voice is so easily silenced. This has been proven again and again in history.
The only chance the individual has is if the House of Cards, our New World Order, collapses from its over reach for power. Demographics are on the individual's side in a chaotic crisis. It hasn't happened but we can still hope it will!
Posted by 1776 on 01/04/13 01:03 PM
The Global Elite Are Hiding 18 Trillion Dollars In Offshore Banks By Michael, on January 20th, 2012
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