Youthful Exuberance

The Declaration of Independence served as formal separation from old ways. Youth and newness were to replace the stodgy conservatism of the aging and antiquated. Thomas Jefferson himself was in his early thirties at the signing of his handiwork. Progress was not fast enough and the exuberance of an emerging nation could not be contained. And so it was, over two centuries ago that the United States of America was born by the passion of a rising generation.

And the lesson I take from such a significant event: whenever tradition hinders progress, it should be thrown to the fire. Ways of doing things are only worthwhile when they advance mankind. And what should we consider progress? “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Anything that moves us closer to that ideal is progress.

Though it seems absurd that a country so enterprising in oppression and servitude should express such an ideal, it is exactly those lofty and seemingly insurmountable goals that America is famous for achieving! We can also be sure that such an ideal WON’T be attained through a government created in antiquity and populated by elderly statesmen. The “new world” in this digital age exists online obviously — and it is in this realm where the brashness of a rising generation will take its place at the helm.

As everything moves online, those stuck in an immovable conservatism will persist in an unchanging world as vitality happens in the cloud. And in time, that liveliness will spread to the static domain as it plants itself on the remains of what was. So on this day, July 4th, I celebrate an end to the old while welcoming in the new. As John Adams wrote to his wife after the signing:

“I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

So you see dear friends, it is the American way to usher in change before we’re ready then somehow deal with the consequences. Therefore, even though we’re not ready, we must embrace a new era and all the change that comes with it — and we should do so with unrepentant optimism, ever heading towards the ideal so stated above: that all of us are born with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

First Last

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Nathaniel Acorn.
Circa 1790. Massachusetts.

Using wealth as a means to determine status and worth, and ultimately power, results in the elevation of cutthroats and thieves to positions of prominence, and ultimately, to the highest ranks of society. Therefore, society must not ennoble wealth accumulation, lest it find itself a den of thieves.

If all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with the right to live lives in the manner most amenable to their nature, then surely it would be a violation of this principle to promote any man to a position above another, lest he wield influence over another’s course of life.

As it is written: whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant — even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for the ransom of many. Therefore, those in the loftiest rungs of society are to be its servants, not masters.

There is but one Almighty, and none upon earth shall usurp His role as provider and receiver of praise, lest he find himself last in His judgement. Nay, let us therefore seek to remove all vestiges of privilege and power within our grand experiment. As it is written: no man can serve two masters, for he shall hate the one, and love the other — ye cannot serve God and riches.

Citizens Dividend

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Nathaniel Acorn.
Circa 1790. Massachusetts.

The resources of this earth belong to its inhabitants, each and every one. If we are to live by the creed of freedom and equality for all, that each man has the right to pursue his happiness, following his inborn desires — then he must be provided with adequate resources. How can a society that does not allocate a fair distribution of its assets be considered free? If a man is beholden to another for mere sustenance, how is he not his servant?

The methods of “finders, keepers” and “woe to the vanquished” are a poor way indeed to govern the fruits of life. Because of the generational nature of existence, those first to discover or utilize a particular resource are no more entitled to it than an eldest to his siblings’ resources. And the winning of contests does not entitle, lest we advocate an eldest utilizing his maturity and strength to take all he can from his siblings.

A just society must provide all members a percentage of its resources — and for what is limited, let those without be compensated through other means. The effectiveness of wealth is directly tied to the stability of society, therefore those with more, requiring the most stability, must pay their share through adequate taxation.

For what reason do we unite as a nation — is it to pen ourselves, making easy prey to be fed upon by ravenous wolves — or is it to lift all men through our collective efforts? Surely it is the latter. Let us therefore strive to make our founding documents not works of mere fancy, but plans of a nation set upon a hill, one so enlightened that it serves to brighten the entirety of earth.

Prophets and Profiteers

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Nathaniel Acorn.
Circa 1775. Massachusetts.

My beloved brethren, I dare say before we seal this pact, that such an unholy union can not endure. How can we, descendants of Pilgrims and Puritans, men and women seeking to build a sacred city upon a hill, align ourselves with profiteers, those exploiting their fellow man for treasures upon earth, where moth and rust decay?

How can we, in good conscience, support those doing the deceiver’s work? Self-governance at what price? Shall we build our city upon a foundation of slavery? Shall we be likened unto a foolish man, which hath builded his house upon the sand? Nay, I pray thee, let us reconsider this folly!

What shall come of this, but a country divided. On one side, man serving his fellow man in pursuit of the Almighty’s kingdom — and on the other side, man in servitude to his fellow man in pursuit of profit — nay, this is absurdity! Such fundamental disagreement cannot sustain.

How shall we be judged by posterity — nay, how shall we be judged by our Creator? From the cook’s pan, we leap into fires, from subjects of a king to abetters of subjugation. Let us therefore rescind this cooperative, surely a more satisfying outcome can be found.

Essence of Education

If a society selects as its fundamental principle, the right of all to pursue happiness, and such a society recognizes education as a necessity in fulfilling this principle, what elements would comprise the curriculum?

Instead of sentence syntax analysis or trivial historical narratives or the application of esoteric formulae, society’s incoming members would concentrate on the pitfalls and dilemmas facing society and the ways in which these troubles are mitigated. And instead of decade-long sequestration from the very society they are to inherit, these incoming members would be exposed to the inner workings of their society throughout their entire education.

Each member must be instilled with an appreciation of the necessary struggles surmounted in shaping a just society. Without an appreciation and understanding of what happens when certain restrictions are not in place, some may feel overly constrained, perhaps seeking change to allow for more chaotic freedom, unwittingly reducing protections and introducing a daily struggle into the lives of all.

Every citizen would need be aware of potential problems, their likely manifestation, and their remedy. What happens when a society is overburdened by intense competition, selfishness, fearfulness, hatred, isolation, punishment, and confusion of purpose? Why must society strive towards cooperation, friendliness, generosity, inclusiveness, forgiveness, tranquility, and a solidarity of purpose? Only with this knowledge, can a people effectively participate within their society or even determine its well-being.

In order to ensure equal treatment and opportunity for all, individuals must understand the pain of injustice. Compassion must be a primary component of study. Consequences of actions must be drilled until concern for the suffering of others is paramount in the thoughts of all. This is the foundation atop which society honors its pact: the right of individuals to live a self-determined life, utilizing inborn talents and worldly resources in the pursuit of happiness.

Diplomacy of Independence

Excerpt of a letter by John Adams to his wife Abigail Adams — July 3d. 1776

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

// Insert American War of Independence Here

Excerpt of a letter by John Adams to John Jay — June 2d. 1785

The Door was shut and I was left with his Majesty and the Secretary of State alone. I made the three Reverences, one at the Door, another about half Way & the third before the Presence, according to the Usage established at this and all the Northern Courts of Europe, and then addressed myself to his Majesty in the following Words—

“Sir, The United States of America have appointed me their Minister Plenipotentiary to your Majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your Majesty this Letter which contains the Evidence of it. It is in Obedience to their express Commands that I have the Honor to assure your Majesty of their unanimous Disposition and Desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberal Intercourse between your Majesty’s Subjects and their Citizens, and of the best Wishes for your Majesty’s Health and Happiness and for that of your royal Family. The Appointment of a Minister from the United States to your Majesty’s Court, will form an Epocha in the History of England & of America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow Citizens in having the distinguished Honor to be the first to stand in your Majesty’s royal Presence in a diplomatic Character and I shall esteem myself the happiest of Men if I can be instrumental in recommending my Country more and more to your Majesty’s royal Benevolence and of restoring an entire Esteem, Confidence & Affection, or in better Words, the old good Nature and the old good Humour between People who, tho’ separated by an Ocean and under different Governments, have the same Language, a similar religion & kindred Blood. I beg your Majesty’s Permission to add, that altho’ I had some Time before been entrusted by my Country, it was never in my whole Life in a Manner so agreeable to myself.”—

The King list’ned to every Word I said with Dignity but with an apparent Emotion—whether it was the Nature of the Interview or whether it was my visible Agitation, for I felt more than I did or could express, that touched him I cannot say—but he was much affected and answered me with more Tremor than I had spoken with, & said

“Sir—The Circumstances of thy Audience are so extraordinary, the Language you have now held is so extremely proper and the Feelings you have discovered so justly adapted to the Occasion, that I must say that I not only receive with Pleasure the Assurances of the friendly Dispositions of the United States, but that I am very glad the Choice has fallen upon You to be their Minister. I wish you Sir, to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late Contest, but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the Duty which I owed to my People. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to consent to the Separation, but the Separation having been made and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the Friendship of the United States as an independent Power. The Moment I see such Sentiments & Language as yours prevail, and a Disposition to give to this Country the Preference, that Moment I shall say, let the Circumstances of Language; Religion and Blood have their natural and full Effect.”

I dare not say that these were the King’s precise Words, and it is even possible that I may have in some Particular mistaken his meaning; for altho his Pronunciation is as distinct as I ever heard, he hesitated some Times between his Periods and between the Members of the same Period—He was much affected & I was not less so, and therefore I cannot be certain that I was so attentive, heard so clearly and understood so perfectly as to be confident of all his Words or Sense; And I think that all which he said to me should at present be kept a Secret in America, unless his Majesty or his Secretary of State should judge proper to report it. This I do say, that the foregoing is in his Majesty’s Meaning as I then understood it, and his own Words as nearly as I can recollect them.

The King then asked me whether I came last from France, and upon my answering in the Affirmative, he put on an Air of Familiarity and smiling or rather laughing said, there is an Opinion among some People that you are not the most attached of all your Countrymen to the Manners of France. I was surprized at this because I thought it an indiscretion and a Departure from the Dignity—I was a little embarrassed but determined not to deny the Truth on one Hand, nor leave him to infer from it any Attachment to England on the other. I threw off as much Gravity as I could and assumed an Air of Gaiety and a Tone of Decision as far as was decent, and said—That Opinion Sir, is not mistaken, I must avow to your Majesty, I have no Attachment but to my own Country. The King replied as quick as Lightning: an honest man will never have any other.

The King then said a Word or two to the Secretary of State, which being between them I did not hear, and then turned & bowed to me, as is customary with all Kings and Princes when they give the Signal to retire. I retreated, stepping backward as is the Etiquette, and making my last reverence at the Door of the Chamber, I went my Way.—

Children at Play

Idealists tend not to achieve satisfaction once their goals are met. Reality never matches perfection and problems always persist. Striving for perfection from the outside in, appears a futile task. Even amongst themselves, these founders of government quarreled, and once their time past, the country was torn asunder, resulting in civil war.

Happiness cannot be mandated, and the government only reflects the discordance of its people. Can a populace be forced to act in their best interests? And who is it that defines this standard of measure? The world seems a disorderly web of confusion, untamable by its nature. There may have been close-calls, but chaos always comes.

“‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains.” Try as mankind might, their efforts are forever and always recycled into antiquity. But this is by no means lamentable, as every end brings with it an impetus for beginning. A child’s tower of blocks, once completed, signals the end of play — until it is smashed and rebuilt, again and again.

Harmonious Roots

If everyone follows their own selfish tendencies, it’s like an orchestra comprised of musicians playing their own tunes — discordance. But when replaced with a common score, each playing their part, each part as important as the next, and each part contributing to a common cause — they achieve harmony. Therefore, to bring about the tranquility and happiness of its people, a society requires a set of principles with which all can agree upon, lest it be mired in a cacophony of self-serving chaos.

And for these principles to be worthy of adherence, they must strive to bring about the health and happiness of all. To achieve such an end, a society would likely adopt principles favoring cooperation over competition, friendliness over fear, giving over getting, harmony over hatred, intercommunication over isolation, pardon over punishment, and tranquility over tumult.

Of utmost importance then, is the instillment of such unifying principles within every inhabitant, along with the consequences of lacking such principles. Therefore, each and every inhabitant must receive an education whose aim is the understanding and reinforcement of these fundamental concepts. Only with this knowledge, can the people effectively participate within their society and determine how well it functions.

And once the foundation of equality, tolerance, and the common good is established within all, each can live the life he deems most worthy, without hindering others from doing the same. It must be remembered that these principles are not a recipe for uniformity, they are simply the underlying glue that binds society into a well-functioning whole. From this solidarity comes the strength to allow growth in any and every direction.

Government 102 – 1776

Further summarizing the role of government as outlined within the state constitutions written during the Age of Enlightenment.

The fruits of this world are gifts given to its inhabitants. In the allotment of these resources, for the sake of happiness and tranquility, humanity has come to favor friendly cooperation over fierce competition. In order to fairly distribute these gifts, and ensure quality of life for all, mankind has instituted government as the maker, arbiter, and enforcer of rules.

Rules are the means by which a community limits selfishness innate to us all. While companionship and the need for assistance drives us to embrace community, selfishness maintains itself as an underlying current, urging us to take more than our share. So as to limit temptation, and as an outright restriction on selfishness, laws are enforced.

And not only material goods, but ideas and activities require fair allocation as well. Individuals must be free to tread where their inclinations lead, therefore, restrictions must be in place so that the beliefs of some do not hinder the pursuits of others. Limits must be placed on those wishing to force their beliefs on others.

Corruption, the manifestation of selfishness within government, must be guarded against at all times. Those in government must act impartially and without motive for personal gain of possessions or influence, and therefore must be scrutinized and held accountable in their duties. It must be remembered that a government does not lead the people it represents, it is merely a tool for enforcing fairness.

Government 101 – 1776

After reading through several state constitutions written during the Age of Enlightenment, my summary of government is as follows.

Man, for his own satisfaction and safety, requires company. But for such company to be enjoyed, certain rules must be obeyed for the sake of all in attendance. Government is that device which creates and enforces those restrictions. And so none lack incentive to follow such rules, their enforcement must apply equally to everyone, without favor or bias.

In essence, these rules are limits on selfishness. In order to accommodate the needs of all, individuals must agree to limitations on their own power and influence, as well as their use and ownership of shared resources. Everyone is entitled to seek enjoyment from life, therefore individuals must not be coerced by the beliefs of others, nor lack the resources necessary to enable their pursuits.

Government is comprised not of leaders, but servants of the people, put in place for the benefit of all, therefore, if some are unable to pursue their happiness, this is a failure of government that requires remedy. So that all may equally share in the blessings of life, there can be no privilege separate from the community, nor positions of inheritance, and everyone is due equivalent participation in government.

When interacting with those they serve, officials of government must be moderate and impartial, as well as subject to scrutiny. If rules are broken or disputes need settling, it is best when citizens in the community decide outcomes. So as to limit corruption and oppression, segments of government must be distinct and cooperate only through formal and transparent agreements.

Whereas a people have the right to their common defense, an army maintained during the time of peace is prone to abuse, therefore, it is properly comprised of those that return to the community and whose authority is at all times subservient to the consent of the people. Everyone is due protection, but all are expected to contribute their share of the expense of that protection, by whatever means they are capable.

So that a community remains cohesive, the principles of equality, moderation, and the common good must be upheld at all times. All are entitled to follow their own beliefs, yet as a community, each must practice tolerance and uphold a spirit of giving toward one another. And by these principles, the people should select and hold accountable, those that represent them in government.