Live Out Your Principles — FSE Blog

Live Out Your Principles

I received a question, someone discussing activism with me. So I wrote a response, though it was a DM rather than a public post, and it was a more general thought. I've edited it only lightly, so it may not flow quite like one expects a blog post to flow.

I think it's important to keep your eyes open, but I don't have a lot of confidence in activism (or at least the type of thing typically called activism) as such. I think people protest for a lot of stuff that they wouldn't need to protest for if they just lived out their principles, and not just that but you end up thinking harder about your principles if you do that, as you can't adopt impractical principles.

Smoking, for example. Citywide smoking bans have been passed in several cities. I worked in Glendale when they passed theirs. I think people ought to be able to smoke if they want, so I ignored it. Never got a ticket, never even got hassled. The reason for this is that everyone ignored the law, even cops smoked in the city. If nobody smoked, maybe it would be different, but all the activism in the world would have been less effective than people simply ignoring the law en masse. Similarly, I run FSE because I think people that can run such services ought to, and that people ought to be able to post without censorship, and I think the outcome is better in such a world. Because I did it, I know what the outcome is, and it's more or less what I expected, and in cases where it wasn't what I expected, it's all stuff I should have expected.

So people that want communism would do better to create or join a commune than they would to agitate for it: it makes it real, you see how it actually plays out, the compromises you have to make the more people you add, what kind of person you can pull in, that kind of thing. That falls on deaf ears the same way as it does when I suggest to the white nationalists that they should try building or joining a community that embodies their principles. For both groups, as long as they don't cause trouble for other people, they're free to do so in this country and many others. (I certainly won't join any community that has racial criteria for membership or that wants to abolish private property, but surely you can get along fine without me.) It's easy to dictate how the world ought to be, but it's comparitively difficult to take an actual step towards it, and it's hard to confront the reality something, because reality forces you to acknowledge the problems or fail hard. For a lot of people, even figuring out what they'd have to do to take a step towards what they want is difficult, because what they want is so completely divorced from reality as to mean nothing. They don't even want to contemplate it.

So when someone's got complaints and a grandiose vision of earth, I ask "What's stopping you?" and almost invariably they blow off the question, they ignore it completely, they accuse me of arguing disingenuously, but it's a serious question. Really, it's one of the most important questions to be able to answer if you've got a vision for the world you want to live in, and if someone gives a florid speech about their perfect world but doesn't have an answer for that question, they're afflicted with learned helplessness or they're lying about what they really want. The "learned helplessness" crowd is inert, not really worth worrying about, but the people that don't want to say what they're actually up to, they're probably worth watching. Too often, when they have an actual answer but refuse to give it, it's "I am unable to enforce my will on people that disagree with me." Sometimes it's that they don't mean what they're saying: they're just trying to get a rise out of you or they're trying to entrap the gullible (maybe it's to make use of useful idiots, it's because they're actually cops and trying to legally entrap them, there are any number of reasons someone might lie about this kind of thing).

So Alex Jones got banned everywhere, all on the same day, by the San Francisco tech cartel. I'd never watched Alex Jones before that, but he seemed harmless to me, so I bristled a bit. I don't want to live in a world where an unpopular opinion gets censored (whether it's corporate censorship or government censorship), so what was stopping me? The answer being "nothing", I quit Twitter and moved to fedi. Like with any attempt to control people, if enough people disregard the paper tiger, it'll be gone next time it rains. If people ignore censorship, censorship will have no effect, so I encourage other people to move to fedi, join an instance or start one.

Whatever it is that you would like to do, you can talk about it, consider it, that's all fine. But at the point activism enters consideration, you should actually try living out the principle before you start demanding that the entire country or the whole world lives it out. If you're so convinced that it's the best way forward, prove it. Live it out. You won't need to agitate for other people to do it—let alone try to force them—if they can see what happened to you when you tried it. You'll have something real to talk about and other people will have a reason to care what you've got to say.