Wednesday, 24 March 2010


We humans are small group animals with a monkeysphere of 150 individuals each possessed of an individual consciousness and living in cities populated by millions and interconnected via a media web and a globalised trade and travel network involving billions of people. Wow. No wonder we're confused.

The human being is a creature caught between two worlds. It might be argued that the fruit from The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil granted mankind consciousness and with that the power of reason. From that point we rose above the other animals to become the gods of Earth. So perhaps the Serpent was not completely lying. However, there was a cost.

The cost is one of the central questions of philosophy. Man the self-aware and conscious individual versus Man the small group social animal. The Romantic takes the path of the individual.

In describing the origins of Romanticism it is possible to take a number of starting points in human cultural history. The original early Romantics of the mid to late Eighteenth Century were called Gothic because they drew their inspiration from the Gothic Period as opposed to the Classical Period embraced during the Enlightenment.

For those not in the know, when we speak of the Middle Ages or the Medieval Period it makes sense to ask, "The middle of what?" On one side is the Classical Period and on the other the Modern. We can say that now with hindsight, but the people of the early Modern Period referred to the Middle Ages as the Gothic Period. The term Romantic is derived from the medieval stories of the troubadours. So both Gothic and Romantic are of similar origins.

The warriors of the various tribal cultures, including the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Visigoths, Norse, Franks, ect., were very individualistic. On the battlefield they sought to distinguish themselves so that they may be remembered in song forever. This appealed to the Romantics. Even today we admire the image of lone the barbarian warrior in the form of the classic image of the rebel. Think hairy biker.

Another origin story for the Romantics is found in the world of art. According to Classical aesthetics, beauty originates in the object itself and is derived from the laws of proportion. The Romantic artists believed that the emotions invoked by art come from the individual's response to the object, independent of the thing itself. In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Then there is Paradise Lost. When John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, he wanted to make Satan a seductive character so that the reader could truly appreciate the fall of Adam and Eve. The problem was that Satan even seduced some of the readers.

The early Romantics saw Satan as the hero of the poem. The one who declared "It is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven". Satan is read as the individual rebelling against the supreme and authoritarian God/Society.

Finally, we might argue that Romanticism emerged as the culmination of freedom. The Reformation and the Enlightenment brought freedom of thought; the rise of Capitalism brought the means to act on that freedom; and Republicanism brought the ability to act on that freedom. Just a quick side note here. I mean the rise of republican government and not the rise of democracy. A republic protects the individual under the law, whereas a democracy is the mob rule will of the majority regardless of the individual.

I subscribe to all of these origins and I am sure that more strands can be applied. Each of these focus on Man the individual and as those inherent individualistic tendencies were exercised a shift of human consciousness occurred that created the Modern World.

Anthropologists have discovered that the concept of self, though inherent in the human species, is something that develops. As a consequence people living in a tribal situation or even a collectivist society have a less developed sense of self and personal identity. People are just part of the group and they exist in and for the group for mutual benefit.

The Romantics rebelled against society and collectivism. Instead they emphasised their individual thoughts, feelings, and will regardless of social dictates and encouraged others to do the same. To be a Romantic is to be a rebel.

Of course there is a problem here. On the one hand is individual consciousness and on the other there is small group animal –Individualism and Collectivism. Humans work best when working together. The man who works with society will benefit more than the man who works against it.

How many cool teen rebels eventually grow-up and either sell-out or hold their course to become pathetic loners? How many teen rebels learn to market their cool attitude and sell it to the public while maintaining the external image and yet still pandering to society? But this is a false dichotomy. The fact is that there is no either/or question here. Individualism and Collectivism are two extremes and each of us falls somewhere along the line.

Here is a picture of extreme individualism from Charles Baudelaire:

What is love?

The need to go outside oneself.

Man is an adoring animal.

To adore is to sacrifice oneself and to prostitute oneself

Thus all love is prostitution.

A woman is hungry and she wants to eat. Thirsty and she wants to drink.

She is in heat and she wants to be screwed.

What admirable qualities!

Woman is natural, that is to say abominable.

The more man cultivates the arts, the less he can get a hard-on.

A more and more apparent divorce takes place between the spirit and the brute.

Only the brute has no trouble getting a hard-on, and screwing is the lyricism of the masses.

To screw is to aspire to enter another person, and the artist never goes outside himself.

These passages provide an insight into Baudelaire's views on "the artist" (aka the Romantic) and women. If you are a single man who no longer wants to be single, then what do you do? You chase. You pander. You beg. You elevate this other human being to a level of adoration and thus demean yourself in the process, whether this is in a club or on-line. Who does she choose by the end of the night? Usually either "the brute" or the con artist. The brute because she is in heat and wants to be screwed or the con-artist because he can make her feel what she wants to feel. The only one not sucking-up is the brute and that is who she chooses.

This ideology is cruelly honest and to me it rings of perhaps Baudelaire getting passed-over in favour of a man he considers to be a brute.

This sort of extreme individualism seems to hold to the belief that my values are my own and to give them to another is an act of sacrificial trade. Pure trade occurs when there is an exchange of values. You exchange coins for milk and everyone says "thank you". However let's say that the retailer is selling the milk that you need for ten times the market value. You pay it because he is your only option, but you feel abused by the transaction. There is not an exchange of like for like values. When the exchange involves emotional values we feel used – or prostituted.

For Baudelaire, pandering for a woman's affections is a sacrificial trade. Her attentions and potential affections were unequal to his individualism and freedom. I do not necessarily agree, but I do see his point. I see daily the desirable women surrounded by toadying men and the women revelling in the attention. I have reached a stage in my development where I find that pathetic and I refuse to throw my hat in the ring, which of course leaves me wanting.

I'm am wanting because I am not engaging in the marketplace. You see, the balance between the individual and society is to be found in trade. The purely collectivist end of the spectrum demands sacrifice and prostitution. The purely individualist end hoards values like a miser. It confuses ego and arrogance with the self and pride. This is the rebel without a cause.

To be without a cause is to be without purpose. There is no direction. The rebellion is simply a defensive and antagonistic attitude towards society. Generally such people will surround themselves with like minded nihilists.

A rebel with a cause is a person who wants to accomplish something that goes against the social structure. To do this he needs help and to acquire the aid of others he must trade values. They must see some benefit in joining the rebellion.

Then there are the false rebels. I'm writing specifically of those student communists, socialist, and alleged anarchists. These rebels have a cause and their cause is the increase of government authority. What??? Yes, it is true. They are rebelling against the current powers that be because they do not believe that the government is either doing all that it could or should do to control the lives of others. It boggles the mind.

In its most basic sense to rebel is to act against the existing social authority for whatever reason, including just replacing the current leadership with those of your own choosing. So yes, these students can be rebels. However from the Romantic perspective of individualism slavery is slavery no matter who holds the whip, no matter if they strike hard or soft, and whoever promotes it is your enemy, no matter their twisted moral justification.

In the balance between Man the individual and Man the small group animal the pivot is composed of the Natural Rights of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, as long as you respect and do not violate the rights of others and they do the same for you, then everyone's cool. If they do threaten or violate your rights, then you have also the right to defend your rights and thus are you in a state of rebellion.

As long as everyone plays nice then Man the individual can profit enormously playing Man the small group animal. But never forget. Once that line is crossed the true spirit of the Romantic emerges, for he is always at his heart his own person. He is a rebel.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

What Are You Worth?

We say that human life has value. Whenever someone calls something a value three questions should immediately come to mind. To whom is it a value? What is its worth, or level of value? And finally what makes it valuable.

Your greatest value is your existence, you are human, and therefore it is in your interest to declare the value of human life. But I think we can narrow this down a bit with the question. Each individual is of differing value depending on who the evaluator is.

Here's a thought experiment. Would you sacrifice the life of your child to save the life of some distant African villager? No? What about two, or ten, or a thousand? How many Africans would have to die before you would kill your child? Once you have a figure, and then consider not your child, but your parent, sibling, or lover. Then how many sacrifices are we talking? Now one more twist, how many people of your own country would you trade for the life of your next door neighbour?

My point with this exercise is to demonstrate that the value of individual human life depends on the evaluator. People we love or people close to us have more value to us than people we do not know thousands of miles away.

Apparently the human primate brain is capable of recognizing only 150 people as individuals, everyone else is just people. This is called the monkeysphere. Those individuals within our sphere have more value to us than those outside and events closer to our sphere have more value than those distant. So a local bus crash killing fifty people resonates more than thousands dying in an African famine.

This phenomenon is part of human nature. It is natural and normal. However, we humans love messing with nature. You see, we humans can also imagine and we have emotional responses to our imagination.

So back to the thought experiment. Think of your favourite musician, singer, or actor. Think about how their works make you feel. Imagine your positive feelings when watching or listening to them. Relive the way they inspire you. Now how many Africans go on the fire to save the life of a celebrity that you do not even know? Remember that this is someone who, for all intents and purposes, is an imagined relationship.

We value people who bring us value, particularly emotional values. Hippies and Christians tell us to love everyone. To do so is to deny the unique value of people that we truly love. No one wants their lover too say, "of course I love you…I love everyone".

When evaluating human value, people fall into three categories: direct value, indirect value and potential value. A direct value is someone you know who brings you benefit. An indirect value is not so direct.

Think of your beloved and highly valued PC? Where did it come from? There is the chain of events from Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, through all the designers, developers, the marketers, manufacturers, ect, ect., all the way through the various supply lines to make the value available to you. Then there is your end of the trade, think of all the people who make your pay cheque possible. People of indirect value are those people you cannot even imagine who make the values in your life possible, from your PC, to your milk, to your favourite chocolates.

Fellow humans, in that vague notion that we call society who exist well outside of your monkeysphere, are responsible for the values that you may take for granted in your daily life. These are people of indirect value.

People of potential value are those people you may or may not know who may or may not be of indirect value, but may possibly be of value. Think of the man who was rude to a stranger while running late to an important job interview only to discover this stranger is his interviewer. There are people outside of your monkeysphere who have the potential to become part of it. We all start off as strangers, it is where we end up that counts.

Beyond utility what makes something valuable is its scarcity. You have one mother but there are scores of potential milk delivery men in your area and millions of anonymous Africans (at least from your perspective). To the family and friends of these people they are unique and special snowflakes, but to you they are anonymous people outside of your monkeysphere. Any feelings or empathy that you have toward distant strangers comes from your own imagined thoughts and not from any actual relationship.

The purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness; happiness is an emotional response to gaining a value; values are created and traded, therefore people of value to us are those with whom we trade regularly, indirectly, or are potential trading partners. It is important to reemphasise that values may be material, such as goods, services, or money, or immaterial, such as the emotional values of love, acceptance, companionship, or comfort.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "Everyone lives by selling something." Human existence, relationships, society and yes, civilization itself, is built on trading values. We are all networkers, marketers, and salesmen.

It may at first seem cruel to see human worth in terms of trade. I once knew someone who would whole-heartedly reject that concept. Then one day she spoke of her work in terms of the values she had to offer her employers. I pointed out that she understood the concept of trading values; however she only saw it one way. What she could offer them. Trade is a two way street. What did they have to offer her?

This is common in the popular altruism-based approach to ethics. If morality is based on sacrifice, then we calculate our value on what we have offered in sacrifice. I say that human value in the broadest sense is determined by what each person brings to the marketplace of values.

Imagine a marketplace, perhaps some Oriental setting. What is on offer? Exotic fruits, decorative rugs and tapestries, strange curiosities, interesting meals, unique services? There is diversity on offer because people are diverse. The products on offer may be material, such as in my illustration, or immaterial, such as emotional connections. If someone does not want to buy what you have on offer then someone else will. Everything has a place in the market, whether that place is big or small.

In film and television it is common for the rogue character to ask, "What's in it for me?" Supposedly moral people do things because they are the right thing to do and not for the sake of any profit. This is true, but only to a point.

If you are walking down busy street and you see someone suddenly collapse, why should you stop and help them? You don't know them. They aren't in your monkeysphere. They have no value to offer. So why stop? Because it is better to live in a world where people take care of strangers. If you or someone that you care for collapsed in the street, then you would hope people would stop and help. So ultimately it is in your interest to stop and promote that kind of world.

Benevolence is a good thing. However, suppose someone demands the values you possess, such as your time, energy, or property, with nothing to offer in exchange except their expectation of something for nothing perhaps laced with some moral platitudes regarding serving others, or a higher cause, or a sacred duty, or just a sob story.

Imagine yourself as a trader, which you are, but think of it in a more modern sense as a small business owner. Your purpose is to make money. You create values which you offer to others in exchange for money. Now suppose a charity worker comes to you and asks for money. They want something for nothing. You may deem this as a good cause and give the money. That is your choice.

However, giving away money on this occasion does not alter your purpose. You are still a small business owner looking for profit. You are under no moral obligation to give money away to everyone who asks.

Likewise your life is an end in itself, as are the lives of others to them. You have no claim on their lives and they have no claim on yours. Your purpose is the exchange of values, but this does not exclude being benevolent should you choose.

It is a perfectly moral and legitimate question to ask, "What's in it for me?" In the Nineteenth Century, it would have been considered to height of rudeness to enter negotiations with nothing on offer except moralising.

There was a scene in the old television series Young Indiana Jones in which Indy was in the Belgian Congo where he met Dr. Albert Schweitzer. In one particular scene Indy was describing the number of deaths in the Great War raging in Europe to the natives. One asked if there were as many as ten men killed. Indy was confused and said that there were thousands of dead. "Must be expensive," one African replied.

Dr. Schweitzer explained to young Indy that these people subscribed to what the ancient Celts called the honour price and Anglo-Saxons the "man-gold" where the law dictated a value to each member of society. The penalty for murder was payment of the honour price to the family. In the context of the story, among these Africans this also applied also to those killed in battle.

Young Indy was horrified by the notion of putting a monetary value on human life. Schweitzer responded, "At least they value human life." As Aristotle said, we do not value that which costs us nothing.

This also illustrates the difference between Capitalist and Socialist societies. Capitalism recognises the Natural Law that human value is based on the ability to create values. Again, I want to emphasise that these values need not be material. They are more often than not emotional. And yet even something like money is a symbolic token representing the result of human time, energy, and skill – immaterial values converted into material value.

In principal, if a man is wealthy through enterprise and hard work, as opposed to inherited wealth, then he has proven himself capable of high production. This production is then spread to others to increase their production. His creation of values makes him valuable, increases the value of others, and thus increases the value of society as a whole.

I am reminded of a scene in Les Misérables when Jean Valjean is considering turning himself in to Detective Javert to save the life of his look-a-like. In weighing his options, he considers the fate of the employees in his factory who are dependent on his production. When he does eventually escape the town, he leaves the factory to his workers who run it into the ground because they lack his management skill.

According to the traditional idea, the great man was great because others were dependent on his production and he is held responsible by his investors to continue and expand that production. The consequence is opportunity for those beneath him to support their families and improve their lives.

In a Socialist state, all men are deemed to be of equal value regardless of their ability to produce values. The man who brings nothing to the marketplace of values is equal to the man who brings everything. Politicians, bureaucrats, and their enforcers enter the marketplace as non-producing third parties to ensure this forced equality.

The result is the creation of an entire segment of the population who are possessed of a sense of entitlement to the values of others but produce little or nothing to contribute. Since human value is based on the creation and trading of values, there is a shift of consciousness to one that bases human value on emotional grounds. This ultimately devalues human life.

In the words of Ferris Bueller, "I do have a test today, that wasn't bullshit. It's on European socialism. I mean, really, what's the point? I'm not European. I don't plan on being European. So who gives a crap if they're socialists? They could be fascist anarchists, it still doesn't change the fact that I don't own a car."

This line from the film could be used to illustrate American ignorance of the world outside of their sphere. It may be deemed small-minded thinking and lacking a global perspective. However, in terms of a value-oriented approach to existence it is a perfectly valid point. The affairs of other nations are only relevant when they threaten our acquiring our values.

The alternative is to "feel" the pain of others who we do not know, who have absolutely no bearing on our lives, and live thousands of miles away in another country. We may acknowledge their woes, but at the end of the conversation we return to our lives, our values, and our concerns. Thus are many serious moralists hypocrites.

This is why global activist like to "put a face" on an issue, usually child's face. They want evoke emotional responses that are not natural. The ultimate message is that all human life is of value, which is true, but also that all human life should be of equal value to every person regardless of values. Therefore we must sacrifice our values for people who will likely never trade with us because it is the right thing to do.

Emotions are a response to values. When emotions are based on pure imagination without any real world foundation, then they are "fake" emotions. This is what the Victorians recognised as sentimentality.

Thus far I have presented an argument for value-based assessment of human value. The alternative is a sentimental-based assessment. This devalues human life because we are not actually valuing humanity so much as valuing our preconceived idea of certain segments of humanity. With Idealism the idea of the thing takes precedent over the reality of the thing. Anything that does not fit the idea must be eliminated.

In a quasi-socialist state like the United Kingdom the sentimental assessment of human worth has been sustained at a relatively high level. However, in more authoritarian states, such as Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and Maoist China, the emotional bubble bursts and the result was the mass murder of tens of millions of people.

Why? Because a value-based judgement is focused on what one individual can offer other individuals as a direct, indirect, or potential source of values. When value is no longer determined by the marketplace of values but taken and redistributed by the state according to groups, then both the values and the creators of these values have no value beyond arbitrary levels determined by the state.

I appreciate that what I have written here may go against all we in the West have been taught. We are encouraged to love everyone and hold hands like in a Coca-cola commercial. Unfortunately Natural Law does not support that notion.

I also appreciate that what I have written here may be taken wrongly as a licence to be a dick. Nothing is further from the truth. In retail sales, the key to good customer service, what every customer expects on the most basic level, is for the experience to be pleasant. The same holds true in our dealings in the marketplace of values. Treat your fellow man with courtesy and respect. You can do that without being either loving or cruel. You can do that without either sacrifice or dishonesty.

Likewise internationally we must do what we can to encourage global trade to allow people thousands of miles away to bring their values into the marketplace and thus improve their lives. History has shown that the best way to alleviate poverty is to have a job. Governments do not create jobs and charities do not create jobs (except for their employees of course). Businesses create jobs.

As for your personal life, one might define success as the achievement of your values. People we call successful do so on a regular basis. The fruits of regular value creation usually yield money and money is exchanged for stuff. Thus is the well-dressed man in the nice car who takes luxurious holidays considered to be a success.

However, values are very personal. The achievement of your values and value creation may bring you happiness and bolster your self-esteem, but not all the stuff society equates with success. That does not matter as long as you are happy in the space that you have created for yourself.

So how valuable are you? If you are happy in your space then you are of value to yourself. If you produce values for others, then you are of value to them. If you mass produce values on a global scale, then you are of value to millions of people. If you want to increase your value, then create more values, market those values, and sell those values.

This applies in your monkeysphere and in the world at large. The great sin is expecting something for nothing. So you can create nothing and claim some sentimental value or you can create value and have true worth. The choice is yours.

Thursday, 18 March 2010


I was wrong. It appears that I have been wrong on this particular for my entire life.

I have always believed in hero worship. Heroes are models for our aspirations and help us to achieve our personal goals and imitation is the beginning of learning. Well, all that may still be true, but only to a point.

I recently learned of an experiment in which subjects were taken down a corridor to the testing area where they were asked to form sentences from words. All of the words had some association with the stereotype of the aged: grey, slow, wrinkled, bingo, etc. The results showed that the students walked slower when returning to the waiting room. Similarly, when exposed to images of athletes the subject's athletic performance improved or images and words associated with professors increased test performances. However, when exposed to a singular person, such as Einstein, then the scores were lower. Look here for the full article.

The explanation for why Einstein did not improve test scores is because he was seen as unique, separate, and individual. The stereotype of professors had more power to influence behaviour than the man personifying genius. Perhaps he even intimidated the students.

Here's a short video on the subject of stereotyping

If you have read the article and watched the video then you will have a better understanding of the possibilities. If you haven't, please read and watch now.

Consider for a moment the negative stereotype of the sad and miserable Goth. I never bought into this one but a lot of people have, including self-professed Goths that I have known.

When you look at the Gothic idiom you find two distinct strains. One can be traced back to Edgar Allan Poe whose loved ones all died of consumption, no wonder fear and sorrow were dominant themes. The other is from Lord Byron which emphasises power and fierce individualism. I preferred the Byronic model to that of Poe, the woe is me life is shit approach.

Take a moment and consider a few concepts that you associate with Goth. Maybe even write them down. I'll wait.

Here are my stream of consciousness associations with Goths: Intelligent, Artistic, Well-mannered, Stylish, Dark, and Individualistic. Look at your list. Now back to mine. Are yours ultimately positive or are they negative? If you are of a Gothic persuasion, what qualities do you want people to also associate with you?

As someone from the Byronic school, I saw Goth as being about power, and yet Goths were among the least powerful of subcultures. Even the hippies had more social influence. Even the rappers had more credibility.

Many of the Goth girls I knew had major issues and some even had one-upmanship discussions over who was more fucked-up. This is not what I would call positive, but the negative stereotypes promoted in music and society may have contributed.

During the late fad of the Noughties my preconceptions were challenged as "Goth" became little more than a subset of rock or punk thanks to Marilyn Manson and the hosts that followed in his wake. This was when I eventual abandoned the Goth tag in favour of the more appropriate "romantic". I found that my associations were different from the most vocal of voices in popular culture despite the fact that they had no idea of what they were talking about in terms of cultural history. They were simply children following the pied pipers of rock.

There was a common view that no real Goth would admit to being one. The word Goth was always seen as an outsider's label not to mention that no one wanted to be branded according to some stereotype. I understand that. We are more than a stereotype. We are more than just part of a group. We are individuals.

And yet the stereotype has incredible power to influence both our behaviours and their quality – more so than focusing on a single hero. So does it not stand to reason that we should create our own stereotypes based on the heroic ideals to which we aspire – our hereotypes.

We are encouraged to look after our bodies through our eating habits. We are made aware of the affects of drugs. We are told to eat consciously, being aware of what we eat and how our diet affects us. And yet we do not look after our psycho-emotional health by looking after what we put into our souls.

This diet enters not from the mouth but through the eyes and ears. We live in an age of mass media where our senses are bombarded with messages telling us what to believe and how to live. Most of these are received subliminally.

I read an interesting theory a few months ago. Desire is the imagined gaining of a value. Advertising works by stimulating desire and associating that desire with the product. In other words, "sex sells". Of course there is the old bait and switch. Lynx deodorant won't make women chase you. So the desire remains unfulfilled. What are the psychological affects of a perpetual state of unfulfilled desire?

I can only guess. Nathaniel Brandon, an authority on the topic of self-esteem, concluded that one of the keys to healthy self-esteem is a sense of efficacy. We must belief that we are worthy of existence by being able to achieve our values. But what if those desires meant to drive us to attaining our values are an illusion that cannot be achieved?

Fear is the imagined loss of a value. That includes the loss of an imagined value, a desire. The results range from anger to frustration, worry, numbness, and a low self-esteem. It seems the modern multi-media world is against us. What is the solution? Make your own world.

There is no way to screen all the messages pouring into our brains. It's difficult to control your diet when someone is secretly force feeding you Twinkies. However, there are things we can choose.

I cannot remember the exact study, but I recall an article that mentioned a study on how films affect people. After watching a Romantic Comedy couples felt more inclined towards their relationship. After watching Action films, men felt more ambitious and ready to take on the world. When I left the film Dorien Gray, I felt just dandy – literally. I was in my space and proud of it.

This little essay is about my new pet theory which I intend to explore much further. Hereotyping is reinforcing your values (and therefore your goals) by consciously choosing the messages that you receive from positive group stereotyping, group self-association, and mass media, including music and film.

We live in the real world and exist in the realm of our perception. Each of us has the power to create our own pocket universe that reinforces our values. We can either choose to create a universe that supports us or we can just accept what is handed to us through society and the mass media. The choice is yours.

Here's a little exercise. Imagine the ideal you and then make a list of this person's qualities. Then think of stereotypes that share these qualities. Use this as a template when choosing your mental diet. Maybe watch films featuring these types, or the music you associate with them, and maybe stick a picture on the wall. You don't need to think about them, or meditate on them, or try to be like them. Just have them around and let your unconscious do the rest. Likewise, remove anything that undermines your values and perhaps takes you away from where you want to be.

Make no mistake. There is a war on for your mind and we all need to learn how the game is played and how to take back control.

I'll leave you with this clip from Derren Brown on the affects of subliminal messages. I'm afraid embedding has been disabled, so here is the link. Enjoy.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Romantic Spirituality

In my previous essay on Romantic politics, I looked at which political system was most attuned to the Romantic values of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love. They say one should never discuss religion or politics. I've done politics so now it's time for religion.

The pursuit of Truth involves two branches of philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology, the question of the nature of existence and the question of knowledge. If I were to say the world is like this, then it is only reasonable to counter with "how do you know that?" In other words, "Prove it." You might say that Doubting Thomas is the patron saint of the truth-seeker.

When it comes to Objective Reality, it is important to keep an open mind. Having an open mind does not mean believing every notion that comes along. It means being open to the possibility of being wrong in the face of evidence and not just dismissing the facts because they do not sit well with our current belief system.

This requires a certain flexibility. If your belief system is too hard, then it is incapable of changing in light of new discoveries; and if it is too soft then it is a worthless mush that hardly counts as a belief system at all.

The entirety of our Subjective Reality rests on the foundation of belief. One thing we know about life is that it changes, therefore we need a belief system capable of changing and adapting, and yet still firm enough to provide structural support for our reality throughout the entire course of our existence. This is not as difficult as it seems.

A friend and I once stopped at a table set-up by a Buddhist looking for converts. My friend did all the talking and I only half-listened. As we left I said to my friend, "He used to be a fundamentalist Christian, didn't he?" "Yes, how did you know?" I answered, "Because he still talks like one". Our fundamental belief system is like a bookcase. Throughout the course of our lives we may change the books in the bookcase from Christian to Buddhist, but the bookcase remains the same. The bookcase represents our core, largely unconscious, beliefs.

We are creatures existing in three realities simultaneously. In the real world of the Objective Reality we are guided by our reason. In the perceived world of our unique Subjective Reality we are guided by our feelings. The third reality, the man-made Artificial Reality, on both the material and social levels, requires both faculties. The Objective Reality is a reality of thoughts and definitions, whereas the Subjective Reality is one of beliefs and meanings.

A belief is a thought with an emotional attachment. Now in a perfect world our thoughts guide our beliefs, but this is not usually the case. More often than not we tailor our thoughts around our beliefs. Why? Because beliefs go deep. They are the field on which your thoughts are played out; they create the context. This is the core, the essence, the source of the actions that define you, the causation behind your emotional responses to your thoughts, the progenitor of your unconscious values, and therefore the source of your drives, your loves, and your passions. There are beliefs and then there are BELIEFS. The former is just a little derivative of the latter.

When we come into the world we are possessed of our unique neuro-chemical make-up and genetic composition. This is Nature. From before we emerge from the womb we start analyzing reality to form our core belief system. Once in the world, a combination of Nature, Nurture, and Analysis takes over and within about five years the core is formed and buried. It is like a black hole. It is invisible to our consciousness and we only know of its existence because of all the lesser beliefs, values, thoughts, feelings, and actions revolving around it.

We may change our conscious beliefs many times over the course of our lives and with it change all that hinges on them, but the core will remain constant without a deliberate exercised effort to change it. Sometimes needs changing if the core beliefs are untrue.

Truth is simply that which is consistent with Reality. The real question when we ask, "What is truth?" is "what is the nature of reality?" The level of emotional intensity of your beliefs about reality does not make it true. Truth is objective and not subjective.

Therein lays the problem. The rational mind looks at Objective Reality and the emotional mind perceives the Subjective Reality. Concepts like proof and evidence are part of the rational, objective sphere, however the beliefs themselves are emotionally held regardless of proof. The only resolution is having a core belief system that allows the Subjective to conform to the Objective as much as conceptually possible. This is the path of Truth.

Someone once said that if God did not exist, then we would have to invent him. The implication here is that the human mind has an innate need for God, whatever form that takes. This is backed by neurologists who discovered the "God Spot" in the brain that is responsible for feelings associated with religious experiences. It is as if God made us with the capacity to know Him. However, the atheist would argue that existence of the God Spot is an evolutionary response to a hundred thousand years of human religious activity. And yet there it is and we have to play the cards we are dealt.

The origins of religion go back to fundamental issues of Life and Death. The Life question involves ancient man's attempts to understand and control the world in which he lived. The Death question came from the observation of once animated and alert people and things suddenly being devoid of consciousness. The body remains but the spark is gone. Where did the spark go?

The answers to the question of Life are the Nature Religions and the question of Death led to the Ancestor worship religions. Eventually both questions came together to form a central metaphysics based on gods, goddesses, other spiritual beings, and an afterlife or spirit world.

Pantheism probably started off as ancestor worship and over time the more powerful of the dead ancestors evolved in the consciousness of their followers into the gods who controlled the affairs of life, such as the sky, the lightning, the harvest, love, or whatever. They were probably once all mortals being from the dawn of time with a particular field of expertise who left their mark on society. From there the priests and storytellers took over.

One such god was a Canaanite deity called El, who was the father of all the gods, but most notably the father of Baal. According to legend, when Abraham came to Canaan from Mesopotamia he adopted the worship of El as the supreme and eventually the only true god. The name El actually translates as God. Abraham's decedents continued to worship El and the faith evolved over thousands of years into the modern day religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

What made this religion of El unique was that El was more than just a super-powered human. Myths of his divine exploits are rare if not completely forgotten. He was not seducing mortal women like the Greek gods or engaging in heroic battle. He was above all of that.

The name El translates as God because that is what He is – an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present father god who possesses a genuine concern for His people. He was not the petty, vindictive sort who would destroy your crops because you did not sacrifice enough to him. More importantly his laws were moral laws. With El worship, religion became more than just Life and Death. It became a moral path to salvation and an eventual union with the divine.

During the Reformation those breaking-away from the Catholic Church believed that the individual could interpret scripture for themselves without the need for a priest. A few hundred years later this freedom of thought led to questioning even the existence of God during the Enlightenment.

When we look to the Romantics who followed the Enlightenment we see a wide range of religious beliefs, from mainstream Christianity, to Neo-paganism, to Spiritualism, to Atheism. The modern Romantic may call on numerous predecessors to argue their particular religious leaning and claim it as Romantic. I however will look at the fundamentals and see which path has the best claim to the label Romantic.

The core of Romanticism is individualism, individual thought, individual feeling, and individual will. Consider the God Spot for a moment. This portion of the brain is responsible for our sense of spirituality and the emotions associated with it. This is not the Christianity Spot, or the Pagan Spot, or the Islam Spot. The human emotional response to spirituality does not differentiate. The positive emotional experiences of the Christian are no different from those of the Muslim or the Jew.

This class of emotion ranges from peace, to an eye-watering sense of being part of powers beyond us, to a sense of community. There are many religious people that do not or cannot discern between these ecstatic emotional states and the presence of the divine. For them the emotion is evidence of God's existence. Everything else is just justification.

Due to Nature, or Nurture, or varying degrees of both, we each have unique emotional responses. Yes, there are certain universals, but even these are open to variances in receptivity and intensity. The same holds true of religious stimuli. You might say that some people have a more developed God Spot than others. Such people may be called religious or even spiritual.

As for the Romantics, the chain of reasoning goes like this. Individual will relies on values (those things we act to gain or to keep) to guide action, and emotions are a response to either gaining or loosing values, either in reality or in the imagination, therefore emotions are a key aspect of the Romantic. This includes the emotions associated with religion, spirituality, and the God Spot.

Consider Percy Shelly for a moment. He was thrown out of Oxford University for handing out a tract promoting atheism and yet later in life he seemed to embrace paganism and spiritualism. Why? I reckon because he rejected the stale, well-worn, religious institutions but not the feelings of religion. So he sought stimulation on freer and more fertile ground.

On the subject of Spiritualism, I'll add that during the Romantic Era science was still relatively young. It was like a child looking into every corner of creation to see what it might find. This included spiritual matters. Machines were even built to detect ghosts. Science and mysticism seemingly went hand in hand. Spirit mediums used this Victorian passion for the unknown to dupe people and unwittingly opened-up a whole knew avenue of study.

After Harry Houdini's mother died, he went to a spiritualist to contact her. The medium gave a message from beyond that was laced with Christian imagery. Houdini was outraged. His mother had been a devout Jew, so there was no way this message was from her. Houdini then set about disproving the charlatans of his day which started a tradition of debunking religious experiences. Understanding and replicating the affects of religious experiences on the human mind has brought us a better understanding of the psychology of religion as well as the power of hypnosis, belief, and meditation.

When we look at Romanticism as the search for Truth, we are led down the path of objectivity, reason, and science. If we look at Romanticism as the pursuit of Love (which I define as the pursuit of values), then we are led down the path of subjectivity, feeling, and religion. Reason demands proof, but all that belief can offer is evidence led by feeling. The two seem mutually exclusive.

There is another challenge. Romanticism is also about Freedom, the liberty to act according to your will. Religion is not just about metaphysics, epistemology, and feelings. It is also about ethics. People with a core belief system grounded in religion cannot accept human morality without God. The word atheist means ungodly, and to be ungodly is synonymous with being immoral. This is why Romantics have always been associated with evil, because like Lucifer they have chosen to go their own way rather than obey the authoritarian dictates of God or His self-appointed officers on Earth.

Romantic ethics is another essay for another time. Suffice to say that I hold to the Aristotelian view that the moral is the rational. The right path is the one that promotes flourishing and that path can only be known through reason, and not feeling.

As for the apparent dilemma between reason and emotion in regards to religion, it is important to remember that emotions are an end in themselves. Feelings may give us a sense of our subjective world; intuition may be falsely interpreted as feelings; emotions may even serve as a catalyst to action. However, emotions are part of your unique Subjective Reality derived from your core belief system. They tell you the truth of that world, but that world is not the world. It's your world.

The Romantic must understand that emotions are a unique, personal response to the real or imagined reality and not a source of Truth. Therefore the Romantic may revel in the emotions born of religious stimuli in the same way he responds to other stimuli, such as a special experience, sexual encounters, a good movie, a piece of art, or a rock concert. What makes each of these things special is not the thing itself but the emotions they evoke.

Belief is a powerful force. The notions of the divine, shared communal beliefs, and the emotions religion evoke have provided a source of strength, mental discipline, morality, and comfort for billions of people over thousands of years. These are all very special things that come from a belief in the divine. Countless human evils may have been done in the name of religion, but likewise so have wonderful achievements.

I would not advocate abandoning the faith to anyone. I enjoy religious stories, art, and iconography. I like seeing, "In God We Trust" on a dollar. I see these religious sayings as having value. However, if I was to look forward into the future I would look towards a religion without the need for the divine.

I believe that as we learn how the mind works, employ psychological methods of self-improvement, and even incorporate the lessons learned from faiths that do not have any sort of "god" figure, such as certain Buddhist sects, that a new religion will develop. A religion based on reason without dispensing the emotions that drives us to improving ourselves and the world, and a religion that is flexible enough to change with new information and yet rigid enough to provide support.

I think that this religion of the Romantic exists, but only in fragments scattered across the intellectual landscape of human endeavour. I would like to believe that some of that is contained in my words. I am one of those people with a highly developed God Spot. So perhaps I am just looking for some means to stimulate it. After all, we all need something to believe in.

If a person believes in science as the only valid path to Truth or calls themselves an atheist the image of a sort of robotic, emotionless, Mr Spock comes to mind who lacks any sort of spirituality. And yet the non-deistic Buddhists as perceived as being spiritual.

If spirituality, as it is commonly perceived, is all in the mind, then doesn't it seem reasonable to find spirituality in the mind through meditation and self-hypnosis techniques rather than looking at some external source that cannot even be proven to exist? When it comes to aligning our core beliefs with our conscious beliefs and those with Objective Reality, then this is the only proven way to go.

There is so much about the human mind that we do not understand. It is a new frontier and its study will give us a power of our souls that we never thought possible. Traditional religion and spirituality has been able to tap into this power through certain techniques. Now we can secularize those techniques and do on purpose what was once achieved by accident.

What religious path is most suitable for the Romantic? I do not think that it exists. If it did, it would be a rooted in the Western Tradition and combine elements of Aristotelian philosophy, religious iconography (both Christian and Pagan), non-deistic Buddhism, hypnotherapy, Neural-Linguistic Programming, and psychology. The goal would be self-improvement and its purpose the pursuit of happiness.

I think that it will develop organically and any leaders who emerge will be seen as teachers for a time, and not leaders in any authoritarian sense, who will be paid on a person by person basis rather than a collection plate.

There will be morals, virtues, and values and therefore sins, but the sins are generally the expected mistakes and bumps along the road. The greatest sins are the violation of the Natural Rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, in other words, don't murder, enslave, lie, cheat, and steal.

I do not know if it will take the path of having a metaphoric god-figure, as employed by the Satanist (who do no actually believe in a literal Satan), on which to focus the mind, but it is possible. Having such a figure is a useful tool. My current metaphoric deity is Athena, the goddess of Truth, Reason, and Justice.

No matter what may occur religion and spirituality has always been a part of the Romantic whether it is experiencing the emotions of the perceived divine or appreciating the divine wonder in the everyday, mundane world. I believe that Romanticism is intrinsically atheist, but it need not lack soul and spirituality.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


America once celebrated its trailblazers. The name that usually comes to mind is that of Daniel Boone. These are the men with the drive, vision, and courage who went first so that the rest could follow. I get annoyed when people describe America as a nation of immigrants. My ancestors who arrived on The Mayflower were not immigrants. They were colonists and trailblazers moving from the centre of British culture to its outer territories to build ollowed her. Thosthe cities and the nation that drew immigrants from all over the world.

The other day I was watching an interview with libertarian author, commentator, and former New Jersey Supreme Court justice, Judge Andrew Napolitano. He said,

It is clear that when a person resurrects an old idea, or even comes up with a new one, that challenges the authority of the establishment and the establishment has little intellectual argument against the idea, they will attack the originator or the proponent of the idea. So the name calling is to be expected.

Like Alice the visionary, all such people are called mad and not taken seriously. Take myself for instance.

The vision of my life did not become fully crystallised until about six years ago, and even then it took years to learn the territory. I certainly had the background from a lifetime of fragments, but this is when it all came together. Even in those days I possessed considerable small group influence culminating in being referenced in a few PhD theses and appearing in national radio shows and even a local television program, not to mention my published articles. Yet in all this I was a novelty from a mainstream perspective. Hardly a national movement.

What is my vision? I want a restoration of the Romantic Age. I want to go back to where we were at the peak of our civilization. A time before the Great War and the Great Depression changed everything. No, not just go back, but also go to where the track should have led us had we not diverged from it. I want to live in the world that our ancestors dreamed for us. If I cannot live there, then like Moses I can at least help lead others to it.

Such a curious trailblazer going back to where we have been. In the words from the VNV Nation song Genesis, "Even lands we once called home lie undiscovered and unknown."

The thing about trailblazing is that someone has to go first. I dress in tailor-made reproductions of c.1870 clothing. I do it because I like it. I do it because it manifests my self – it expresses my values and my soul. It also serves as a representation of the world I long for as an example for others to rise above the vulgarity of jeans, t-shirts, and post-modernity. Yes, I am ridiculed and yes I am praised. But these mean nothing to me, probably because I am incapable of being anything else. A friend recently told me of a "nightmare" she had in which I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The horror of someone like me betraying his principles.

Today the libertarian movement is gaining steam. A year or so ago I read an essay from a man who was there at the start of the Libertarian Party forty years ago. In it he described the various types at the different tables, including the followers of Ayn Rand "with their cigarette holders". Even c.1970 this manner was considered passé and possibly pretentions. Yet there they were. Today I imagine the table might be filled with Goths, Dandies, and Steampunks. Either way, these were the trailblazers and over the decades their numbers have multiplied.

In our age of big media beating the drum for the masses there is the belief that you are nothing if you cannot capture the giant's attention. Even if you do it is as a novelty piece. "Oooh, look at those people, they are so different, interesting, and weird." I'm not interested in such back-handed compliments.

They say that the best advertising is word of mouth. Beneath the giant's gaze are the trailblazers on the internet. Individual Romantics, whether they see themselves as such or not, creating their art, writing their poems, singing their songs, sharing their visions, debating their issues. More importantly they are making connections with other like-minded individuals and they are taking that virtual experience into the real world. Perhaps like me they occasionally feel disheartened or depreciate there work or influence, and yet they do what they do because they cannot do otherwise, such would be against their nature.

The name Heather Sweet just came to mind. Here is a girl in love with the Romantic. She did her research and her work refining her knowledge and skill and she became an inspiration to millions of women as Dita Von Teese. She was like the Daniel Boone of trailblazers, but she would be nothing without the lesser trailblazer who followed her example. It was as if her success served as permission for them to follow their hearts. It even gave them a degree of social acceptance.

There are people who are drawn to the works of the Romantics and they enjoy it. In their teenage years they buy the music, go to the specialty shops, wear the clothes, and put the posters on their walls. Then they grow-up, join the vulgar ranks, and say, "Yeah, I used to be a Goth."

But there are a handful who truly get it. As they mature they branch out from the transient popular-alternative scene (such an oxymoron) and explore the full measure of Romanticism as a part of their soul, first in areas of aesthetics and then beyond. They understand Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love and these values become their guiding light in all aspects of their existence.

These people may be ridiculed or misunderstood, but if they hold true and speak-out they will form the foundation of the world to come in generations hereafter. They will be the forgotten trailblazers who led the way for the immigrants to follow.

...if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely...a legend. – Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins





Wednesday, 10 March 2010


I am a man of many acquaintances and very few friends. There are people that I like and who like me in return that could become friends, but more and more I find myself living a largely solitary existence. I do not know if this is because of so many disappointments as so many people have let me down and even caused injury, or because of an inborn sense of alienation, or because I have become so self-absorbed that I prefer quite contemplation and freedom from being meddled with.

However the importance of friendship is not lost on me. I know that we are defined by our actions – not by the thoughts, feelings, and intentions that drive or inspire our actions. From our perspective looking out through our eyes we do not always see who we are for good or bad. Friends are there to tell us who we are. They shed light on the actions we may be too close to see in complete focus.

Today I received a message from someone with whom I share a piece of my history. I do not know if this person is an acquaintance or a friend, however it is someone among a small handful of people who knows me better than anyone else.

The message was a quote from my favourite novel, " was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again." I was flattered to tears and it inspired these thoughts.

It's from a story about a young man from a poor family who wanted to be someone special. He had no idea what this would be, so he set about training himself in broad skills such as elocution, bearing, and positive habits, such as saving money, regular exercise, and cutting back on smoking.

Then one day he fell in love. He was in the army at that time and knew that he could not support her. So after he was shipped away to war and eventually returned he set about making his fortune to achieve his goal of being with the woman he loved.

In the interim she had married a wealthy man and had produced a daughter for him. Nevertheless she was what he wanted. He threw lavish parties that were the talk of society, and yet he never attended them. He only hoped that they would draw her to his door.

Eventually he won her, but a chain of events led to his fall. After which she carried on in her little bubble as if nothing had happened. She proved unworthy of the greatness she had inspired in him.

Here is the full passage from which the excerpt sent to me was taken:

"If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again."

In reading this there was a sense of familiarity as if through this person who knows me so well I was reminded of qualities in myself that I had forgotten. In solitude it is easy to forget who you are without the reflective glass of the world.

And yet though I know I have touched many lives over the decades and inspired others, I have never achieved the greatness that I wanted as a child. And yet I am driven by this persistent hope that one day my ship will come. In the meantime have become a cheerleader encouraging others to persevere and strive for greatness in the Romantic mode. It is a role that I think I am quite good at doing.

It is important to have goals. To know what you want. I have articulated many high and lofty goals, but the predominant actions of my life have been for her. They have been for Daisy.

The novel in question is The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby wanted to be one of them. He wanted to be there in the in-crowd with the alpha males and he wanted the alpha female. Yet at the same time he was never one of them even at his own lavish parties. He was always aloof and apart. He was simultaneously less than them and far more than they could ever be.

Daisy was a fantasy, a distraction, something worthless that he imagined as having worth. Yes, he loved her, but I wonder if she was more of an idea than anything else – the dream of ascension.

Part of me has always wanted social acceptance while at the same time I see that crowd as vacuous, possibly because I do not share their values and cannot surrender mine. Like Nick and Gatsby, I can never be one of the Buchanans and sometimes I deride myself for wanting to be one of them. And yet the hunger is always there.

In the final scene between Nick, the novel's narrator, and Gatsby, as Gatsby presides over his goal slipping from his fingers and yet defiant in his hope assured that Daisy would come to him. Nick says to him, "'They're a rotten crowd. You're worth the whole damn bunch put together." These are the reassurances of a friend who sees the truth of things when we forget who we are.

Today I received a message from someone that reminded me of who I am at a time when I felt lost after being distracted by chasing Daisy, a worthless and rotten illusion programmed into me in my youth. It's a distraction resulting in achieving nothing. I have no idea where to go or how to accomplish my real ambitions. But I suppose that is the first challenge on the path to greatness.

If there is a message here it is this. Beware of Daisy. Make sure your goals are truly worth having regardless of how wonderful they may feel and count on your friends to set you right when you have lost your way.

Monday, 8 March 2010


There are two words that I associate with Steampunk, but in all truth it has more to do with Victoriana and Romanticism -- Enterprise and Discovery.

I just watched Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film and what I took from it are those two magic words. I wrote in “What is Romanticism?” that the thrilling, wonderful, and magical stories of the Romantic are metaphors. This notion was brought into 3-D focus watching this film.

The film portrays Alice’s father as a visionary who appreciates that people like himself are oft seen as a bit mad. The thing about visionaries is that they can see beyond what is and envision new potentials for creating values. They can see the impossible and make it possible.

This is the lesson Alice learns through the course of the film. She learns that she does not have to accept the limitations given her by social expectation, family/peer pressure, or even circumstance. And through her victories she gains the confidence necessary to achieve. The film ends with Alice on the path towards enterprise and discovery.

I left the cinema thinking of my short comings concerning that pursuit of enterprise and discovery and felt inspired to do more. I thought about the lessons on the Romantic that surround us in our stories and yet we see so little of it in real life.

Though I did also considered those real life visionaries and the values they created. Bill Gates came immediately to mind. Of course he is a biggy. but so many people have done so much in their pursuit to create values. These are the trail blazers and the people who maintain the trail so that the rest of us may follow.

So those are my brief thoughts on Alice. Now just remember those two words, Enterprise and Discovery. And never be afraid to be a bit mad.

Romantic Politics

In my previous post, "What is Romanticism", I outlined the basic goal of the Romantic philosophy as the glorification of man the individual and that if one subscribes to that premise then logic dictates certain ideological positions. In terms of politics this is summed-up by the single word Freedom.

When I was growing-up in Los Angeles freedom was a buzzword. The World War II veterans were in their sixties and all the freedom propaganda was still in their minds and in the minds of their children. I was born at the tale end of the 1960's and the hippies were still yammering on about freedom, and free love and free this and free that. The Cold War was still on and the films were all about the freedom loving Americans against the evil Communist.

During the 1980's patriotism was cool again. People were proud to be Americans again after the disasters of the 1970's and most of this was pouring from the Reagan White House and into popular culture. Even a song about the mistreatment of Viet Nam vets got turned into an anthem – Born in the USA. I grew-up hearing phrases like, "America is the freest country in the world" and the president being called "the leader of the free world."

After a while a person just becomes numb to the whole thing. The word freedom looses its meaning. It's taken for granted and seems unimportant. I doubt most people then or now could give a proper definition of the word; I know that I certainly could not.

Today I know that if you cannot define a concept then people can twist it to mean anything. Today I know what freedom is and how important it is. More importantly I know how incredibly rare and fragile it is.

As John Philpot Curron said in 1790, "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

In a society where freedom is taken for granted it is easy to become lax, accepting, and inactive while those who strive for power over others, driven by either ambition or a perceived moral sense, continue to fight for their objectives. The result is the loss of freedom.

Freedom is one of the four Romantic values. This is both social and economic freedom. Once you have accepted this as a value, then your political ideological course is fixed down a single political path. Otherwise, freedom is just a meaningless word to be used for your own delusion. Here is a short tale of the origins of that political path.

This story begins with the fall of Rome. The great empire was eroding from within and yet the facade was still appealing. People wanted to be part of the Roman system, but not just part of it. They wanted it for themselves.

Rome did not fall is one great clash of shields against the barbarian hoards. There were several raids over a century into the Roman territory by the Germanic tribes moving in from Central and Eastern Europe.

The government was no longer in a position to protect the people, so they took refuge on the estates of the great land owners. These men promised protection in exchange for rent (production). This was the beginning of the feudal system.

When the fall did come the tribal warlords divided the spoils amongst themselves. Remember these men wanted to be Roman. So they set themselves up as Roman nobles as best they could. Rome was feudal and Christian, so these Germans became the Holy Roman Empire.

The king was king because he owned all the land through the right of conquest. He then divided the land on loan to his friends who then sublet land to their friends and so on all the way down the hierarchy. These were the progenitors of the noble houses of Europe. Granted my explanation is simplistic, but this is how the medieval world of kings, nobles, knights, clergy, and peasants came to be, and it lasted over a thousand years.

The king's power was absolute. When the nobles thought that he was abusing his power they formed a council which in England evolved into a Parliament. The nobles and clergy formed the House of Lords and two knights from each county and two burgesses from each shire formed the House of Commons. This was the beginning of modern representative government.

This early Parliament had very little power. However, the equivalent in Scotland that was forming at roughly the same time was bolder. It went so far as to claim the right to depose their king and choose a new one should he abuse his power.

I was once part of a social club that met in a pub where the music was dictated by the management. Everyone accepted it. Later, we changed venues to one that allowed us to choose our own music. It was then that the infighting began.

Likewise, as the power of the absolute monarch weakened political parties began to form. In Britain there were the Tories who were pro-monarch and aristocracy and the Whigs who were for a less authoritarian government and pro the emerging business class.

On the most basic level all political ideology can be divided into these to camps. One is pro-central government authority and the other is for a limited government. If you accept that the primary value is Freedom for the individual, then which is the most Romantic?

I do not believe that any person in the world of any political orientation would speak out against freedom. However, they will constantly speak-out against the consequences of freedom.

The defining quality of the human animal is individual consciousness and its capacity for reason. Because of this every human being possesses the natural right to choose and act according to his values and the purposes derived from those values.

This is the right to liberty and it is part of the innate quality of being human. Freedom can be defined as the right to act according to your purposes. All actions require the power to act and all actions have consequences. These two aspects are key to understanding freedom.

Power is the means by which action can take place. The most important forms of power in this context are time and energy. Someone employs freedom in deciding how best to use the time and energy available to accomplish a purpose. Once that action occurs, or does not occur, it affects an outcome that ripples throughout the world. These are the consequences and the person who initiated or failed to initiate the action is responsible for the consequences, be they positive or negative.

I may want to climb Mount Everest; however I lack the power. I do not have the experience, the skills, the physical strength, the money, the materials, or the time. I may be free to climb Mount Everest, but I do not have the power to do so.

There are those who would argue that because I cannot act according to my purpose then I am not truly free. Therefore I have a right to the collective resources of society to empower me to accomplish my purposes.

Others may argue that so many tourists have flocked to Mount Everest that the natural eco-structure of the area is being damaged. Therefore, I am not permitted by law to attempt a climb of the mountain because of the potential negative consequences of my freedom on the environment.

In the first example, my freedom to act is confused with my power to act. So in an attempt to facilitate my freedom the government will take the production of other men's free will, time, and energy by force to empower me.

There are those who might say that my desire to climb Mount Everest is frivolous. The money that the central government collects is for humanitarian purposes and not to indulge my adventurous spirit. When all the money goes into one pot, then it pays to know who is giving the hand-outs. It would not be the first frivolous expense paid for by public funds.

In the second example freedom is thwarted by potential consequences. The enemies of freedom will say that you are free, however not in this instance because of the harmful consequences, or this instance, or this instance, or this instance, and so on. And so with the one hand they praise freedom and with the other they denounce it as destructive, or only for the deserving few, or only within this legal framework.

Consequences are important in that they are the natural check to freedom. If a man uses his freedom to be lazy and unproductive, then the consequence is that he will lack production. He will be poor and therefore lack the power to act on his freedom.

However, what if in the name of mercy or charity the consequences are removed? Then he is no longer self-responsible or held accountable; there is no visible warning to others to be productive or this will happen to you; and the existence of safety nets promotes risky enterprises or sloth.

Freedom does not mean you can do whatever you want. From an ethical stand point, you may not act against the rights of others. One may live, be free, own property, and pursue happiness without infringing on the rights of others to do the same. However, the immorality of infringing on the rights of others does not prevent people from doing so. Therefore there is the implied right to defend your rights, by force if necessary.

The consequence of immoral exercises of freedom is retaliation. Or to put it more bluntly, if you fuck with people expect them to fuck with you. In a civilized society, we might call upon the police to protect our rights against those who choose to abuse their freedom and to restore order. And if a government abuses the rights of people, then expect the people to retaliate against the government as is their right.

When the consequences are removed then freedom must be checked by other means. Should people be saved from their mistakes by government charity or laws that prevent people from defending their rights, then more laws must be passed and more government agents hired to enforce those laws. Then over time people loose their freedom to the government.

These are the political principles held by the Romantics. For the purpose of preserving liberty one cannot call themselves a Romantic and simultaneously subscribe to a political ideology that restricts individual liberty in favour of a strong centralised authoritarian government.

The members of this camp were once called Whigs, and later Liberals, and they opposed any power that violated the natural rights of the individual. Unfortunately things became more complicated over time.

Remember that freedom is linked to action and the power to act, utilizing time and energy, results in production. Therefore people choose to sell their freedom for a specific period or purpose. The worker chooses to sell his freedom to his employer in exchange for a wage. Even from a non-economic stand-point, when we commit to a relationship we are in essence trading our freedom for love and companionship. This is not a bad thing. Freedom exists to be traded.

Now suppose jobs are scarce and the only available employer does not pay well and does not care for his workers. We might argue that the worker has no choice and is therefore exploited. However, the worker did choose the sell his freedom to the employer even if it was his only choice. Even though he cannot afford to leave the employ, he is still free to leave. He is in essence trapped, but still he is no slave.

And yet many Romantics during the Nineteenth Century looked upon the many working under these circumstances and sought to bring them freedom. On the one hand there was the authoritarian government and on the other the authoritarian businessmen. The apparent solutions were Socialism, Communism, Fascism or Progressivism to either take control of the means of production or regulate business, and initiate government institutions to provide welfare to empower people to rise above.

As this ideology gained potency the anti-authoritarian position of the Whigs/Liberals was displaced. It even became renamed in America to "Classic Liberalism" to distinguish it from the modern Progressive/Socialist Liberalism that dominated the Twentieth Century.

It is said that Socialism works in theory but not practice. From the view of the primacy of natural rights, it does not even work in theory. The redistribution of wealth for any allegedly moral purpose involves the government theft of property. Remember property is the result of production; production is the result of time, energy, and skill; and this is the result of the will to act according to chosen values, which is the essence of freedom. The transfer of wealth is the transfer of power, thus lessening the power of one group to act in order to empower another group. Therefore none of these economic systems can promote freedom because they are structured to destroy freedom.

So what then is the politics of the modern Romantic? I once read that Goths are apolitical. They just want to be left alone. This is true. However, the desire to be left alone is in itself a political belief. It is a belief in freedom, and freedom must be constantly fought for.

Today when we look at the political landscape we see two prevailing forces and both are pro a strong central government with a centrally planned economy. The last remnants of the small government and pro-freedom position are the modern libertarians.

Over the past two centuries key Romantics have been associated with a variety of political causes, from pro-government, to anti-business, to anti-government. Some even called themselves Socialists. The modern left embraces the artists and intellectuals and lays claim to the mantle of the Romantics and even goes so far as to lure the developing young Romantics into their camp. I know I was.

Today, given the course of Twentieth Century history and philosophical scrutiny, we know that the only political orientation for the Romantic philosophy is one that promotes freedom and natural rights as paramount. At present the only voice for this Classical Liberal tradition are the libertarians. Yes, there are pros and cons in the libertarian movement and within the world's Libertarian parties, but it is the only bus moving in the direction that we want to go.