One of the abiding principles of this great nation is the idea that men and women are created to be free. But the reality of life in America today is that few people want to accept the responsibilities associated with living that way.
Our culture is experiencing what I call “delayed onset adulthood.” We are perpetually adolescent, desiring the freedom of being adults, but with none of the responsibilities of taking care of ourselves. Instead, we increasingly turn to our government for solutions to our problems that can be more efficiently and cost effectively solved on a much smaller scale.
Whether our expectations are that government will educate us from birth, or pay for our healthcare until death, whether it will enable us to profit from poor and irresponsible financial choices or rescue us from our own stupidity in thumbing our nose at the raging forces of hurricanes, we must face the fact that we are making choices today that increase our dependence on government assistance to sustain our way of life.
And while today most people believe that the source of this assistance is benevolent, I beg to differ for this reason.
Dependence on government is a crippling force. It damages the human psyche because it stifles creativity and stunts growth. After all, when man got cold enough, he figured out how to create a fire to warm himself. Then he shared what he learned with others who, in turn, shared what they learned with even others.
But as far as I know, there is no perpetual flame that has been passed down for generations upon generations of man from the beginning of time. Since that first fire, many fires have been built and have burnt out and been rebuilt since that first man learned how to do it.
His discomfort became the powerful agent of change for him. And the resulting innovation changed the entire course of human existence.
But relieving someone’s discomfort is a lot like cutting a butterfly out of a cocoon because you don’t want it to struggle.
Except if you cut it out of the cocoon, it will die.
And one sad reality is that some caterpillars never get out.
You see, it is in the very struggle to escape its self-imposed shroud that the butterfly develops the strength to live. And once it emerges—all fat and ugly—it uses the strength obtained in that struggle to start to beat its shriveled, puny wings, which fill slowly with the blood from its pudgy but slimming body, until it is finally able to spread those glorious, colorful wings and fly away.
This natural occurrence provides a great lesson for all of us who would be defeated by our struggles… or who would prematurely intervene in others’ travails.
And while I am sure that we could argue about the definition of premature intervention or the ethics of standing idly by while human beings suffer, I think the important realization is this.
We don’t want to suffer.
And if easing our suffering creates dependence…or even kills us in the end…we are willing to pay almost any price sometime in the future for some temporary gratification right now.
This is a very adolescent attitude.
But left unchecked and undisciplined, this mind-set leads to another, more sinister consequence of dependence, especially dependence on government.
None of us know at what point this seemingly paternal beneficence could morph into a frightful, coercive stranglehold over every aspect of our lives, including, in times of material scarcity, what cars we may drive, how warm we can keep our homes or, even more frighteningly, what medical care we are permitted to seek or how long we are permitted to exhale carbon.
We are living in a world that is facing an unprecedented economic chaos. In the last two weeks of market turmoil, we have entered uncharted territory. And the natural tendency of all human beings is to seek security instead of freedom when confronted with the vast unknown.
As Seneca, the great Greek statesman observed, “Slavery takes hold of few, but many take hold of slavery.”
Sadly, many of us just don’t recognize it when we see it…until it is too late to do anything about it.
But in facing the uncertainties of the future, we must remember first and foremost that we are created to be free…and to resist, by any means necessary, those forces that would cripple us with the benign malevolence of tyrants who shield us from our struggles by providing us with bread and entertainment.
Our founding fathers understood this…and America was born.
Now it is time for America to grow up…and to expect its citizens to do likewise.