The Common Enemy of Us all is Collectivism
I hope this note finds everyone healthy and safe. (I wish I could add “free” to the list, but…)
I thought that this week I’d be writing about the continuing trend that we are seeing in parents surveyed saying that they’re seriously considering homeschooling when the lockdowns end, or maybe about how The Tuttle Twins and the Road to Surfdom is a great read for a family taking a beach vacation. I’d jotted down thoughts on what we had learned over the last several months, and how we could try to avoid making some of the same mistakes the next time something new and unexpected gave us all a scare, and thought maybe I’d talk about that.
But then—in what we are all beginning to simply accept as “2020”—the world was thrown into commotion again in the past few days, and we once more have serious and important things to talk about.
I’ve learned that our emotions and our personal experiences and the voices of those with whom we generally agree or closely associate have a tendency to get in the way of the “bigger picture” when matters of true consequence need understanding. I’ve found that time and exposure to a broad range of narratives and opinions are our greatest tools in making wise and moral judgements—especially when everything is so very loud and becoming more polarized with each passing hour.
There are a couple of ideas that I would invite you to consider as you form your own opinions and interpretations of the current state of our country right now.
As the president of Libertas Institute, I devote a tremendous amount of time and resources to identifying bad laws or policies that empower the already-too-powerful, or that restrict the rights and freedoms of citizens of the state of Utah. Thankfully I have a fantastic team of like-minded, extraordinarily talented men and women to help me, because we have found the list of bad laws and terrible policy to be essentially endless. Worse—each time we earn a victory in the legislature, we turn around and find a dozen new liberty-limiting bills in the pipeline for the next year.
Government is truly a beast that will not be tamed without constant, vigilant, and tireless monitoring and confronting—and even then it often feels more like a two steps forward, one step back uphill march than it does like a sweeping charge to victory.
Still—we are making progress.
I recently shared an article we put together showing the work we’ve done at Libertas to help limit the authority of law enforcement and protect the rights of those suspected of crimes. I’d encourage you to give it a read if you want to learn more about what I do in my “day job.” Here’s the intro:
Riots erupted over the weekend in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis—a clearly problematic use of force by several police officers. Part of the frustration no doubt stems from the feeling many share that this is a trend that is not reversing, and that excessive use of force by law enforcement, especially with ethnic minorities often being the victim, is not met with proper accountability.
Libertas Institute has been at the forefront of reform in Utah since shortly after Matthew David Stewart’s home was invaded by police in Ogden nine years ago because of some marijuana plants he was growing. A shootout ensued with multiple officers being injured, and one dying. Matthew was shot several times, and later died in his jail cell. This incident, and our reform effort, attracted national attention.
Over the years, with supportive legislative sponsors and organizational allies, we have succeeded in pursuing various law enforcement reforms, each in response to different circumstances and concerns that emerged along the way.
Sometimes the people we view as public figures don’t speak like we think they should in times such as these. I would encourage you to consider that while there is no shortage of people who will happily share their opinions on each and every tragedy—often garnering large followings and fervent supporters along the way—there are others who choose instead to look for ways to bring about real and lasting changes that will help ensure that the awful things everyone is talking about don’t happen again.
Representative Justin Amash, only three days after the news of George Floyd’s death began circulating in the mainstream news, introduced the “Ending Qualified Immunity Act” which would, among other things, allow individuals to sue law enforcement officers for illegal and unconstitutional acts. Currently, the qualified immunity doctrine protects officers—even when courts determine that they have violated civil rights.
Ending qualified immunity would be a huge step in ensuring that police will think more carefully about their potential actions and the use of force they choose to employ against those suspected of committing a crime. I support and applaud Amash’s efforts here and I wish him success. (Though, this is the federal government we’re talking about… so, I’m skeptical.)
Cliff Maloney over at Young Americans for Liberty is putting his money where his mouth is every single day with his organization’s Win at the Door campaign. If you head over to their site, you can check out an interactive map of all the liberty-minded folks they’ve gotten elected (and how many doors they knocked for each). YAL is doing a fantastic job at mobilizing college students and getting them active in fighting for liberty-promoting causes.
In fact, their Win at the Door campaign has been such a booming success that the Bernie campaign actually tried to steal it!
If you know of individuals or organizations with goals similar to those of Congressman Amash and we here at Libertas, or if you value the work they’re doing over at YAL, please do everything in your power to support them. There are groups doing work like Libertas all over the country—and if you don’t know who is working in your state, check this list. We need all the help we can get to bring about real change!
There’s one other point I want to make before I sign off—it’s one I feel like I have gone blue in the face repeating and addressing since I first began writing kids books and working full time toward protecting and preserving individual freedom, and it needs to be brought to the forefront of conversations now more than ever.
We must do everything in our power to teach our children—and anyone else we have any ability to influence—that we cannot view people as collective groups. Everytime something awful happens there are those who would see us divide ourselves and each other into “they” and “we” and “them” and “us.”
“They” all look the same so they must all be the same.
“We” aren’t like them because we don’t look like them.
“They” all worship the same so they must all be the same.
“We” aren’t like them because we don’t worship like them.
How can you agree with “them?”
People like “us” don’t agree with them.
I recognize that groups of people do voluntarily join together and present themselves as unified in a cause or belief system. In those cases, it’s maybe a little safer to assume that “they” are fairly like-minded and that you might not be likely to agree with a lot of what they believe. But even within groups of seemingly like-minded people you will find individuals who choose to overlook or even embrace big differences in order to work to be part of something that they see as more important than the things they may not agree on.
When we collectivise people, we stop seeing them as individuals. And when we stop seeing people as individuals, we are a lot more likely to turn a blind eye to their individual hardships and needs, or to elevate one group of people over another.
Countless times in the last few days, I’ve seen posts or stories featuring frustrated people asking, “Why are you burning down this neighborhood? This is a black neighborhood! Why are you hurting your own?”
Each time I wonder what is at the heart of those statements. Is it the idea that it would be acceptable to burn down a white neighborhood? A latino neighborhood? An asian neighborhood? Is there even really such a thing as a neighborhood full of only one ethnicity, or are neighborhoods more commonly segregated by economic rather than ethnic factors?
Is it somehow more horrible to cause massive damage and possible loss of life in one neighborhood over another? And if so, why?
When we group people based on ethnicity, gender, faith, sexuality, or economic status, are we elevating the value of one group of people over others? And if we are, does that mean that a person’s value is truly only skin deep? Are we really nothing more than the perceived worthiness of those with whom we share attraction, physical traits, or who worship the same God as we do?
I saw an image in a new article that struck me—a storefront with signs taped on the door reading, “Single mother owned. Please show mercy. This is all I have.”
I wonder—will rioting crowds show this store the mercy the owner is begging for? If they do choose to spare her store, why? Because they value the life’s work of a single mother over that of the faceless person who owns the store next door?
I wonder what would happen if everyone posted their appeals for mercy in such a way? If with just a few words on a sign we could show those filled with anger and hatred our most human and vulnerable truths, would compassion find a way into the individual hearts of those in an angry mob?
If each storefront message caused rioters to pause for just a moment and consider the human cost of their next move, how many would choose to show mercy? I suspect more than we might think.
When we consider one another as individual human beings with individual weaknesses and joys and fears and trials, we are able to look beyond the things that would otherwise divide us. Bills and activism and door-knocking for the cause of liberty go far, but they can’t compete with virtuous and moral lessons taught in homes and around tables.
That’s the “fire in my belly” with the Tuttle Twins—the important work of teaching young people the lessons and values that can change the world for the better.
Collectivism is the enemy of all that is good and right. It demands that we ignore each other’s humanness and instead adopt tribal views of those who deserve dignity and protection and respect and those who do not.
The government stands—always ready—to be used by one group or another to impose their view of how things should be on everyone else. In The Tuttle Twins and the Fate of the Future, we liken it to government becoming predatory rather than protective towards the people whose rights it was created to defend.
Each law carries with it the potential for violence to be used in its enforcement. We have watched as an attempt to use a $20 bill (that may or may not have been counterfeit)—by someone who may or may not have even known if it was real or fake—has been met with the immediate and brutal sentence of death.
This is not the world I want for my children, and the lessons being taught in the media and on the streets right now are not the ones I want them to learn. The world is becoming more divided each day as talking heads and those with something to gain work overtime to convince us that people who are different from us are our enemies and that only those who look or think or earn like us can ever be our allies.
I choose to tell my children that those are lies.
Our kids are still looking to us to make sense of all the chaos—we have their attention, and they trust what we teach them. Let’s endeavor to teach them the difference between individual and collectivist thinking.