I’ve been angry for a while now.
When I turned 50, I took pause and reflected on my life, presuming that I was at the halfway point (yes, I intend to live to see 100).
I thought about my childhood in the 60’s and early 70’s.
I reminisced my high school years and realized that my topsy-turvy life to that point had pretty well mirrored the turbulence of the era.
I remembered my fear of possibly being drafted into the Vietnam Conflict (I missed it by several years, but the possibility still seemed very real at the age of 15) and my full participation in the Cold War aboard a nuclear submarine shadowing Soviet ships of war.
Shortly after my military discharge, I became painfully aware of the poor state of my country and just how much had been lost, and I dedicated the balance of my life to the restoration of the America given us by her founders.
But then came 9/11 and the torrent of bad choices made by the American citizenry and its political leaders following that tragedy. The Patriot Act, the continuation of wars that we could never hope to win with the adopted management policies—that were and still are being used—the gargantuan unjustified economic bailouts and the rapid decline of the US dollar by the alarming leadership of the Federal Reserve, and the unabashed implementation of socialized medicine by all three branches of the federal government destroying any hope of restoring liberty and personal responsibility.
So by the beginning of 2011, I was disgusted with our “stage four” situation and began contemplating what could be done about it. Obviously, there was no political party to look to, and political activism by concerned citizens was having no more real impact than it had during the previous two decades.
By 2013, the pain I was feeling in my heart about the decline of my country began to turn to indignation towards those responsible for leading my country down this slippery slope. Short of building our college and impacting a few hundred students a year, for which I still feel very determined, I felt powerless regarding the country at large until fate brought a few outstanding individuals into my life that sparked some real creativity, turing my indignation into a steady slow fury, and leading to my current process of thinking. What follows is that process.
Considered one of the ten most influential books in the United States, Man’s Search for Meaning, has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into 24 languages.
In this pivotal volume, Viktor Frankl chronicles his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II.
At one point he states that freedom is a dangerous and destructive force unless it is tempered or harnessed by personal responsibility.
Think of it—without an active, personal sense of responsibility, the almost proprietary concept of American freedom could actually be a destructive force that does harm and diminishes human dignity.
The message of this series of posts is—freedom—political, economic, religious, gender, and racial.
My goal is to give you a lot to think about, and to motivate you to make some changes in your current approach to financial and political autonomy.
This is not another rant about politics, political parties, or Washington discord; as much as those topics might warrant another hearing.
I respect and honor all actively involved citizens regardless their political leanings because the greatest act of citizenship and the strongest check on abusive government is the actively involved citizen.
I do not see others with different political views from mine as the problem. The problem—are those who do nothing.
This post is about the attack on the American family and the millions who allow it to happen by default. I am choosing the word “attack” because whether is it intentional or not, the end result of American politics today is the serious assault on small business owners and the American family. And the majority of the country is watching it happen without lifting a finger. Few would disagree when I say that the fault is our adulterated political system and its political parties.
Speaking of political parties—which party is safeguarding the sanctity and financial stability of the family? Which party?
Neither. Unless you see more and more government subsidy as the right solution.
Which party puts the interests of our children ahead of their own power struggles?
Neither. In fact, both republicans and democrats are heavily promoting an educational system that seems more interested in mining student and family data than preparing our children for successful, secure, and happy futures.
Both parties continue to pass mountains of law that make it harder and harder to provide an honest family living. As true as this is, it could not be happening if the majority of Americans took a stand against it.
So why are most Americans standing idly by watching the destruction of our once most beloved nation? That is the question that I want to take a few posts to explore.
America is sick. The test results are back and they confirm that our beloved nation is suffering from a potentially fatal illness called Enervation. Enervation is the lack of desire or the inability to do those things that must be done to protect ourselves and our families from corporate and/or governmental abuse.
To give you an example, let’s talk about the adoption of Universal Health Care! Or Obamacare! Or The Affordable Healthcare Act! Whatever you want to call it.
There are two clear opinions. You either love it or you hate it.
But that’s not the problem.
The problem is that in a democratic society like ours, these kinds of things should be part of the daily discourse. Something this divisive should stimulate tons of adult dialogue, sit-ins, shaved heads, local political debates, protests…And on both sides of the aisle.
Where is the heated and loyal support in favor of such a social remedy? Where are the avid public supporters of Universal Health Care? On the other hand, where is the public outrage against such a measure? Where are the protests? Those against this law should not rest until it has been abolished. Those in favor should stay vigilant against it being over turned.
The illness of Enervation from which America suffers is a lack of political will. Political will or political autonomy is a by-product of personal responsibility. When we cease to be personally responsible for our surroundings and our communities—our reality, we lose power to maintain or change it.
But how do we lose our sense of personal responsibility? The loss of personal responsibility occurs when we lose our financial autonomy. How does this happen? How do the citizens of a nation with the greatest system of government and the most freedoms of any nation on earth, become so apathetic?
To answer this I want to share some predictions from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy In America. In the 1830’s during his first American tour, Tocqueville, a French aristocrat and jurist said that if Americans did not vigilantly guard their freedoms through personal responsibility, they would lose them
[Americans] are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free.
As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once.
They devise a sole, tutelary [guardian], and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people.
They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage [guardianship] by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians.
In other words, because Americans wanted to avoid personal responsibility, Tocqueville predicted that they would create governmental institutions that would protect them from cradle to grave. But because they wished to remain free, they would naively believe that by retaining the power of suffrage they could control the very individuals who would keep them in this enervative state.
Tocqueville uses the term “guardian” several times, so I looked it up to get a better perspective:
A person lawfully invested with the power, and charged with the duty, of taking care of a person and managing the property and rights of another person, who for defect of age, understanding, or self-control, is considered incapable of administering his own affairs. – Black’s law Dictionary, 6th edition
According to Tocqueville over 170 years ago, government dependence leads to the eventual need for 100% federal guardianship including health care to housing to food to personal finances. When Financial Autonomy is gone, our sense of personal responsibility weakens and shrivels. Shrinking personal responsibility will always lead to a lack of political will.
Since 87% of all American hate their jobs and the vast majority are experts at living Clason’s law (living above one’s income), the average American finds themselves in financial “survival mode” and feels little hope of securing the American Dream of Financial Autonomy. As they cannot succeed at providing properly for themselves, they cannot even conceive of how to help others or the nation at large.
Watch for part 2
This post is one that will separate our readers into two groups. You will either read it and say, “wow, that makes so much sense, I see why Monticello College has a farm and teaches the manual arts,” or you will read a part of it, become bored, and drift toward leaving the site.
Either way, I strongly encourage you to stay the course and read this post to the end.
Joe Salatin, in his book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal, writes a very compelling argument (for the first group) supporting the return to common sense and being grounded.
He starts on page 36:
One of my messages in this book is to try to awaken a thirst and hunger for some basic food and farming knowledge before our appetite for cerebral and academic techno-subjects crowds out all of this historically normal knowledge.
Wouldn’t it be as valuable to go process your Thanksgiving turkey, or at least spend some time with it in the field, as it is to face-paint your five-year-old and stick colored feather shaped construction paper in her hair?
Farms and food production should be, I submit, at least as important as who pierced their navel in Hollywood this week.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who believes this. Please.
As a culture, we think we’re well educated, but I’m not sure that what we’ve learned necessarily helps us survive.
I’m talking about the skills and knowledge contained, for example, in the Foxfire books. The back-to-the-land books of the hippie era are still some of the best living manuals out there.
Country craft and farmsteading enjoy an interest revival every time things look bleak. To me, it seems prudent to acquaint ourselves with some of this information before a meltdown occurs.
A rudimentary, basic knowledge of things won’t crowd out celebrity information or keep us from knowing how to use a cell phone. Trust me, it won’t.
I love people, and I love learning. And it seems to me that an educated person should know a few basic things about farm ecology. Not much, just a little. I offer the next examples in the spirit of explanation.
“You don’t have roosters with your laying hens? How do they lay eggs?” Dear folks, chickens don’t need roosters to lay eggs.
They need roosters to hatch eggs, but not to lay them. Just like women don’t need men to lay eggs; they just need a man to hatch one.
A mere century ago, not one in a hundred would have been ignorant of this common agrarian knowledge.
The next common one: “oh, there’s the bull, ‘cause he has horns.” Dear hearts, horns do not make a bull. It ain’t what’s on top of the head that counts. It’s what’s between the legs. I don’t know if horns have anything to do with horniness, but they sure don’t have anything to do with masculinity.
A farmer friend of mine told me recently about a bus load of middle school children who came to his farm for a tour.
The first two boys off the bus asked, “Where is the salsa tree?” They thought they could go pick salsa, like apple and peaches.
Oh my. What do they put on SAT tests to measure this? Does anybody care?
How little can a person know about food and still make educated decisions about it? Is this knowledge going to change before they enter the voting booth? Now that’s a scary thought.
Do you know the difference between hay and straw? Straw is the stalk and leaves of a small grain plant. Stover is the leftovers of a corn plant. Hay is solar-dried forage. In order to get hay equally dried, it is windrowed to let the air blow through it and get the underneath leaves turned up to the drying sun.
A windrow is a long tube of hay. A baler picks up the windrow and forms the hay into packages; round bales, little square bales, little round bales, or large square bales. Each of these has a different machine and different reason for use.
How do you herd cows? Cows have a flight zone. Since their eyes are on the sides of their head, they have far more peripheral vision than people.
They can see about 300 degrees around themselves. If we could do that, it would be equivalent to having eyes in the back of our heads.
Depending on our approach to the cow, she either wants to go past us, turn around and stand off at us, or turn tail and run away. All these responses are a result of how we approach her flight zone.
Trees grow out, not up. They only grow up right at their buds. That is why you can put a rope on a tree and it stays at the same height. Once bark forms, the height does not change.
The cambium grows the tree horizontally, in diameter, but not vertically.
Otherwise, that hammock we stretched between those two trees this year would be a foot higher next year and a foot higher a year after that. Wouldn’t that be funny?
Farmers speak in precise language. A cow is a female who has had two calves. A first-calf heifer is a female who has had only one calf. A heifer is a female who has not calved. A bred heifer is a female who is pregnant but has not yet calved. A bull calf is a young uncastrated male.
A bull is an uncastrated male old enough to bred—and that is far from full-grown, believe me. A calf is an unweaned bovine of either sex. A heifer calf is a female calf; a bull calf is a male calf. A stocker is a weaned calf prior to finishing. A finisher is a calf almost big enough to slaughter—it’s being finished.
An open cow is one that is not pregnant. A dry cow is nonlactating. A fresh cow is one that has very recently calved, and a freshening cow is one that is just about to calve. A bull can cover (bred) about thirty to fifty cows.
Folks, that just cows. And believe it or not, virtually every American knew all this lingo a scant century ago. Every species has this same level of nomenclature.
Not long ago, common knowledge included the difference between a wether (castrated male sheep) and a ram (breeding age male sheep). A ram lamb and ewe lamb.
[Blogger’s Note: Several of these words show up in spell check as misspellings, have we strayed that far?]
A shoat (castrated male pig) and a gilt (unbred female pig). Sow and boar.
And then you have the whole grouping thing: herd, flock, gaggle (geese).
And if that’s not enough, the birthing takes on distinctives: cows calve, sheep lamb, rabbits kindle, hogs farrow, horses foal.
Can you name four vegetables that grow underground? Potatoes, carrots, beets, salsify, parsnips, turnips. How about four that grow above ground? Corn, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, green beans, lettuce, peas, melons, squash, cucumber. Tomatoes are a fruit.
Which vegetables can handle frost? Which ones have to be planted after frost? Which ones are legumes? Which ones grow tall? Which ones need trellises? Which ones are perennials? Asparagus, rhubarb.
Everywhere children and gardening mix, the enthusiasm for learning this heritage agrarian knowledge is insatiable. To interact with nature and food in this visceral functional way is foundational to developing common sense.
When people lose touch with these cornerstones of existence, their thinking gets all screwy. Staying grounded, very literally, and staying anchored in sensibleness require relationships with food production.
Along with our academic and leadership goals, Monticello College has the goal of instilling common sense into each and every student by helping them develop a solid relationship with nature and food production.
This post is a tribute to Earl Shorris, one of my favorite writers on education who passed away in 2012. I am reprinting the April 16, 2013 Wall Street Journal Book Review of his latest book, The Art of Freedom. This piece was written by Naomi Schaefer Riley.
In The Art of Freedom, Earl Shorris describes his efforts to establish a set of courses that would teach the core texts of Western civilization to people living in poverty, whose school experience had scanted the canon or skipped it entirely.
Almost two decades ago, Earl Shorris, a novelist and journalist, told the editor at his publishing house that he wanted to write a book about poverty in America.
The editor, to his credit, said that he didn’t want just another book describing the problem. He wanted a solution.
So Shorris, who had attended the University of Chicago on a scholarship many years before and who was greatly influenced by its Great Books curriculum, hit upon the idea of teaching the core texts of Western civilization to people living in poverty, whose school experience had scanted the canon or skipped it entirely.
His Eureka moment came when he was visiting a prison and conducting interviews for another book he was planning to write.
He asked one of the women at New York’s Bedford Hills maximum security prison why she thought the poor were poor.
“Because they don’t have the moral life of downtown,” shereplied. “What do you mean by the moral life?” Shorris asked.
“You got to begin with the children . . . ,” she said. “You’ve got to teach the moral life of downtown to the children.
And the way you do that, Earl, is by taking them downtown to plays, museums, concerts, lectures.”
He asked whether she meant the humanities. Looking at him as if he were, as he puts it, “the stupidest man on earth,” she replied: “Yes, Earl, the humanities.”
Poverty, Shorris concluded, was a condition that required more than jobs or money to put right. So he set out to offer the “moral life” as well. Beginning with a class of 25 or so students found through a social service agency in New York, Shorris—along with a few professors he had recruited—taught literature, art history and philosophy. The first classes included readings in Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides and Sophocles.
Thus was born the Clemente Course in the Humanities, which is now the recipient of broad philanthropic support.
It is offered to the poor in more than 20 cities around the United States, as well as in other countries, from South Korea to Canada.
“The Art of Freedom” is a narrative of the program’s founding experience as well as a meditation on the Western classics and their effects on readers.
The book, sadly, appears posthumously. Shorris died last year at the age of 75.
The idea of the Clemente Course—named for Roberto Clemente, the baseball player who gave his name to the Manhattan community center where the course debuted—was to “educate a self-selected group of adults living in poverty,” in classes taught by professors from nearby colleges and universities.
The spirit of the Great Books program was a key part of the idea: There would be no chasing after trendy reading lists or narrow relevance. When Shorris went to recruit students in the South Bronx, in New York City, a white social worker asked him if he were going to teach African history. “No,” he said. “We will teach American history. Of course the history of black people is very important in the development of the United States.”
Over time, Shorris began to add texts from the various cultures where the course was being offered—Native American myths, South Korean novels.
But his focus on the Western classics was refreshingly relentless. He was accused of “cultural imperialism,” but the charge didn’t seem to faze him.
The Clemente Course now taught in Darfur, in the Sudan, teaches John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty.”
Shorris had no patience for mediocrity in his project and insisted on only the best professors to teach Clemente’s classes. When he had to find staff to teach in Chicago, he writes, “neither Chicago State nor the nearby community college . . . were up to the standards of the Clemente Course.”
In the classes he taught, he addressed his students with “Mr.” or “Ms.” He believed that a proper form of address conveys dignity and avoids the kind of casual relationship that most universities want their students and professors to have.
The Clemente Course differs from life at universities in other ways—for instance, by taking the Western classics seriously. How many college graduates have read Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides and Mill?
It also differs in its sense of what the texts can do.
Much of the liberal arts curriculum in universities today is devoted to learning about oppression of one sort or another, but Shorris argued that the study of the humanities is a fundamentally optimistic endeavor.
Not that Clemente texts are routinely cheery or anodyne.
Shorris himself taught Dostoevsky, “the brilliant archeologist who dared to make us look deep into our dark sides.” But Shorris did feel that, by reading and discussing classic texts, life was better or richer in some fundamental sense: more valued, more hopeful, more free.
One way that the humanities can help the poor in particular, according to Shorris, is by making them more “political.
” But, he writes, “I don’t mean ‘political’ in the sense of voting in an election, but in the way Pericles used the word: to mean activity with other people at every level, from the family to the neighborhood to the broader community to the city-state.”
The humanities, he tells his first class, “are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you.”
Shorris recounts the story of a young man in his first class—a 24-year-old with a history of violent behavior—who called him describing how a woman at work had provoked him. “She made me so mad, I wanted to smack her up against the wall.
I tried to talk to some friends to calm myself down a little, but nobody was around.” Shorris asked him what he did, “fearing this was his one telephone call from the city jail.” Instead, he told Shorris, “I asked myself, ‘What would Socrates do?’ ”
This article once again makes the point of how simple and deep education should be. Our efforts at Monticello College are inspired by the work of people such as Earl Shorris, Louise Cowan (a great educator and founding fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture), Viniece Walker (the insightful Bedford prison inmate) and the hundreds of other Liberal Arts advocates who understand the vital necessity of the classics to our culture and our civilization.
We have spent considerable space in these posts discussing education, particularly the liberal arts.
This post is dedicated to the lesser known side of our curriculum—the manual arts.
Manual arts are not something that the average American thinks about in the 21st century.
But a hundred years ago, the vast majority of Americans were engaged in the manual arts everyday.
In fact, excluding the last 60 years of developed nations, manual arts were the reality for nearly the entire global population. Even now, most of the seven billion inhabitants on earth engage in the manual arts daily.
Without the manual arts, most of what we enjoy almost unconsciously, would not exist. In our high-tech, synthetic, and artificial world, we have reached a “roman” sense of existence—the only difference from then to now—we just have more sophisticated slaves.*
In a very thought-provoking article by Oliver DeMille, The Future of American Education: 8 Trends Every Parent Should Understand, DeMille gives us a glimpse of what we have become:
Since 2001 a number of social commentators have noted that as a society we are outsourcing more and more of the things that were typically done by families (one of the best works on this is The Future of Business by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich).
For example, the following list includes things done almost entirely by families in the year 1900:
Reading Bedtime Stories
Taking Care of Animals
The list has changed in the past century, and the victim has been the family. Perhaps the “Big 5” on the list are:
Childcare, which has been outsourced, especially in urban America, to professional childcare institutions.
Food Preparation, which has been outsourced to fast food and pre-packaged meals. For example, 1999 was the first year in which expenditures in the U.S. for fast food exceeded expenditures for groceries.
Entertainment, which used to consist of families reading together or activities like group picnics and outings. Today, even when families are together, they usually sit facing away from each other toward a television, movie screen, or sporting event.
Teaching Religion, which was once seen as the role of parents with the preacher lending a helping hand, is now almost entirely outsourced to the pastor or Sunday school teacher or to some secular alternative.
Education, which historically was overseen by parents who hired and evaluated teachers and did much of the instruction themselves, has now been almost fully outsourced to “the experts.”
Another huge trend, which already has drastic consequences that are only beginning to be understood, is the outsourcing of counseling between husband and wife (discussion of their fears, anxieties, worries and fondest dreams) to expert counselors.
Perhaps the 54% divorce rate in the U.S. is connected to this; as Allan Bloom** pointed out in 1987, people live, sleep and sometimes eat together, but they don’t think, dream and work together toward a common goal in the same way that our grandparents did. This delegation of intimacy to the experts may yet be the biggest trend of all.
And what is the impact of using videos or DVDs in the place of reading bedtime stories to toddlers? The outsourcing of our families and the things only families can do well is a growing trend, and a very sobering commentary on the future of our society.
Historians might compare it to the fateful practice among French women in the 1750s-1780s of not nursing their own children—of instead turning them over to wet nurses. Few would argue that this was the only cause of the bloodbath and societal fall in the French Revolution in the 1780s, but almost everyone agrees that this was a significant part of it.
So, with all these duties being outsourced, what is left that only the family can do? According to the new economy – nothing. The leading view today is that “It Takes a Village,” that even love can be outsourced to teachers, coaches, clubs, and mentors.
The truth is that it does take a village, a community, but a community of families working, playing, cooperating and facing obstacles together, not a community of government institutions.
This idea of outsourcing seems to be a national pastime, albeit there does appear to be a small underground resurgence of the manual arts illustrated by websites such as theurbanfarmingguys.com.
One of the reasons we have disowned the use of the manual arts is due to the steady progression of technology. The advent of labor saving devices (LSDs) has improved our lives in many ways. It has also been the underlying source of a whole host of sedentary lifestyle diseases. Where is the balance?
Labor saving devises or the greater concept of saving labor has an interesting history.
From the advent of the Industrial Revolution, saving labor changed the world from mere survival to producing a cash crop beyond subsistence or allowing a farmer increased discretionary time for more favored pursuits.
By the 1970s the workingman was able to produce much more with a fraction of the backbreaking labor required a century before which stabilized into a 40-hour work-week…increasing discretionary time even further.
It also freed the American housewife of many undesirable chores, and like her spouse, freed up significant “my time”…but to what end?
If it was to allow them to relax a little more, no harm down. If it permitted more time to give to others or to develop talents that would be good too, but unfortunately for most of people, it led to their less ambitious side with copious amounts of time being devoted to the latest entertainment and diversion– Television– late morning and afternoon soap opera TV series such as the “Dark Shadows” or “General Hospital”, and time devouring shows such as “The Price is Right.”
It allowed them more time to engage in recreation and entertainment on the weekends, often ignoring family, relationships, and service to neighbors, and expanding into long weekends which monopolized the traditional Sabbath for non-Sabbath day activities.
By the 1990s we were thoroughly absorbed by a numbing consumerism, life had gotten pretty easy so labor saving was really no longer the goal, but keeping up with the “Jones,” and securing the latest fashions or gadget, or the newest car, or a bigger house was—this really exploded with the advent of computer technology, gaming, and home entertainment from the late 1990s to the present.
The latest chapter in our American LSDs story is resulting in skyrocketing obesity— 70% of all adults and 30% of children in America suffer from poor health and diseases not seen two decades ago.
According to Popular Mechanics (2011), every man should possess certain basic manual art skills.
They provided a list for men to become more manly, clearly an indication that males no longer possess these skills.
Removing anything on the list that was technology related, I am including the remaining 16 manual arts that the modern man has apparently lost:
1. Sharpen a knife
2. Patch a radiator hose
3.Frame a wall
4. Back-up a trailer
5. Build campfire
6. Use an ax properly to chop wood
7. Fix a dead outlet
8. Navigate with a compass and map
9. Fillet a fish
10. Get a car unstuck
11. Paint a room
12. Mix concrete
13. Clean a gun
14. Change oil in a car (and know that the filter needs to be changed too)
15. Paddle a canoe
16. Fix a bike flat
While writing this post, my 22-year-old daughter looked over my shoulder, saw the topic and stated that of her closest 15 male friends ( ages 20-30) only one had competency with all the items on this list. Things that four decades ago any self-respecting man did himself–only specialists can handle today.
Today there are 184 million active facebook users in America (that’s 60% of our entire population) spending more than two hours a week on facebook, but if you factor in all online activities (all social media, all gaming, all youtube viewing and other online videos, etc) the percentage sky rockets to almost 25% of our awake time.
For the average American over the age of 16 that can be as much as five hours a day, every day or the equivalent of an entire work week per month. This does not include texting, and playing games on our iphones.
This is all time wherein we are distracted from our loved ones, our community and our social responsibilities.
How do we not see that this is a monumental waste of our national resource of labor, not to mention a decline of our national character?
We are so far removed from reality that we even believe that we can get a sense of the plight of the third world farmer through playing a video game!
LSDs and the specialization of the consumer age has not only made us inept to care for ourselves, it has driven the cost of living many times over what it was just fifty years ago. Are our lives really better and more satisfying now compared to the 1940s?
Working as a youngster on a dairy farm in the mid 1970’s, I worked along side sixty year-old men who never had high cholesterol and very little arthritis. They had no weight problems (a little pudgy—they were in their sixties) and were active in every other way. They could put in a 12-hour day of hard farm work as easily as I could. Yet today I see countless 30-something men who are overweight, soft, and would likely expire at the thought of hard physical labor. What has happened to us?
We have forgotten the enjoyment of using our hands, the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from “doing it ourselves” and the security of self-sufficiency. We have forgotten that human beings are still needed for the most basic necessities of life—food still grows in the ground and must be harvested, fruits still needs to be picked from the tree, cloth is still manually fed into the sewing machine, and fossil fuels and natural resources are still wrenched from the earth— by hand.
Not having personal experience in the manual arts is one level of losing our humanity and threatens civilization—not remembering that someone is practicing the manual arts right now—is a much deeper and catastrophic failure.
We believe that every congressman, every police officer, every corporate CEO, every surgeon, every diplomat, every teacher, every real estate agent; every American citizen would make better decisions, have better morals, and lead happier lives if they were more engaged in the manual arts. In fact, we challenge our reads to do just that– find ways to more deeply engage in the manual arts.
The manual arts are a natural cure for egoism, self-deception, and obesity. The manual arts are an instinctive remedy for a troubled mind and eliminate the need for sleep aids. The manual arts will increase health, vitality, and improve your view of the world. The manual arts enhance our powers of observation and appreciation.
Many of the manual arts involve dirt or soil or being outside in the fresh air—it is spiritually grounding and emotionally balancing.
Some of the least stressed and happiest people I know are masters of the manual arts.
*At the peak of Roman culture there were seven slaves for every roman citizen. The Romans had for the most part completely shunned the manual arts, becoming increasingly dependent on slave labor and the importation of their food supply. We have reached a similar existence. We are becoming more and more dependent on exports and even the manual labor done in this country is emotionally and culturally relegated to a certain segment of our population.
** Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom
Bringing You Up To Speed
If you will recall from part one, for the past twenty years, we have taught that America was somewhere on the “pre-bondage” side of the cycle, between Selfishness and Dependence.
As we enter 2013, we have clearly entered the Bondage phase. Just consider the events of the past 12 months:
- NDAA 2012
- Congress passed Obamacare and it was sanctioned by the Supreme Court
- The national plunge over the Fiscal Cliff on January 1, 2013
- The likely lifting of the “Debt Ceiling”– spearheaded by the president
- 23 Executive Orders restricting the Second Amendment out of existence (in addition to hundreds of others the president has issues during his first term in office)
If this doesn’t spell BONDAGE then nothing does.
So now that we are in bondage, how do we get out? The normal pattern of this cycle indicates that you don’t –you stay in bondage for about 200 years, then an event of significant magnitude catapults you out of bondage momentarily. While you stand bewildered and blinking at the sun like prisoners from Plato’s allegoric cave, the power you just overthrew regroups and brings you back into bondage as you quickly circumnavigate the cycle to your original position.
However, all is not lost. There have been a couple of times in history that men did not follow their worst nature and did secure a position in Abundance rather than Bondage and changed the course of history. The 200 years of abundance of the Roman Republic is one of those times, and the 200 years following the creation the United States is another.
America, thanks to founders, has been very slow in working its way back into Bondage, but make no mistake, we are here. And now that we are in bondage, we do not know how long we will be here and that can be scary. But we do know that the only way out of Bondage, the way both the Romans and the people of the American founding era got out was by becoming a people of high humility, high integrity, high literacy, and devotion to Deity—developing Spiritual Faith.
The natural consequence of a people in Bondage developing Spiritual Faith is the advancement of Courage.
Acting on that Courage leads to Liberty. Liberty with such a people always leads to great Abundance.
This is precisely what the pre-American founding era did. They left the religious and tyrannical bondage of England and Europe and removed themselves to the wilderness of America. That removal and subsequent hardship moved them to rely on God and develop Spiritual Faith, Courage, and Liberty in a way they may not have otherwise.
So our path is clear—to get out of bondage we must as a society develop spiritual faith or become a people of high humility, high integrity, high literacy, and devotion to Deity. How do we do that? Let’s tackle these one at a time.
Humility and Integrity
The annals of history are full of accounts of people suffering and turning to Deity for relief. The old adage, “there are no atheists in foxholes” is alive and well (a foxhole is a hole or indentation that a solider creates to avoid being shot on the battle field). Humility is not a state of abject poverty or groveling. It is a deep and abiding acknowledgement that we are dependent on a Higher Power. While it may take sometime for the general populace to realize the predicament we are in, we as individuals and families, even communities can become humble, turn to Providence now and aknowledge His ever-protective embrace.
Integrity is a choice. We do not have to go along with the prevailing culture of “take care of me first” or “it’s not personal, it’s just business” or “if they are dumb enough to fall for trickery, they deserve it.” Integrity is a decision to be honest 24/7. This does not mean gullible or foolhardy, it just means being honest and fair, in all situations.
In a phrase – live your religion. I don’t care what that is, just stand for something, declare your principles and live by them so that all can see your good works and praise God.
Literacy is always the beginning of liberty. From the 1845 Narrative of Fredrick Douglass we get the essence of the value of literacy. Falling into a rage of anger over the discovery that his young wife was teaching 10-year old Fredrick to read, Douglass’s master declared, (Douglass uses his master’s own words):
If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell (Old English – 45 inches). A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as his is told. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,” said he, “if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.
These words [said Fredrick] sank deep into my heart, stirring up sentiments within, that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. . . I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man.
Masters and slaves come in all colors, sizes, and shapes.
This leads us to an in-depth look at literacy and the liberal arts.
In ancient Greece and Rome, the population experienced a natural segregation into two distinct classes; the slave class (those who were slaves or plebes who lived at the level of slaves limited by a slavish mentality) and a class we call, the Liber.
Liber is the Latin word used today for botanical purposes meaning the inner layers of tree bark.
In times gone by, when men had command of written language they would record their histories, laws, businesses transactions etc. on clay tablets, animal hides, papyrus, or even thin layers of tree bark. The creation of these records required a person to possess the skills of thinking, reading, writing, engaging in commerce, contract, and politics. We associate the word Liber with those freemen who possessed and used these skills.
There were varying levels and types of slaves and peasants, and likewise different types of Liber: from citizens to merchants to the aristocracy and royalty. But the fundamental difference between slaves and Liber was the exercise of freedom. It was not enough to be born into a free class, if a person did not exercise that freedom (through daily use of the above mentioned skills) there were plenty of political and ecclesiastical powers ready to snatch it up and exercise it for the free citizen, thus transforming him into a slave.
What is Liberty?
Liber is the root word for liberty. It is also the root word for libro (book) and library. Liberty is the state of being Liber. There is a distinct and deep relationship between the holding and use of a library (especially a private library) and the state of liberty. Liberty is not just the absence of bondage, but the fitness of an individual to exercise the liber skills to be a free citizen (we distinguish freedom from liberty thusly, freedom is individual and liberty is a social or collective action).
The concept of liberty is all but lost in America today. Being a society in bondage, the ability to see our way without government involvement and oversight has vanished. The conception of having a voice and standing completely on our own is nothing but a shadow, eradicated from the modern role of citizenship.
Liber is also the root word for the phrase “Liberal Arts”, such as in liberal arts colleges; the arts in a Bachelor of Arts or B.A. degree comes from the term “liberal arts.”
The term Liberal Arts or better known as Artes Liberales during the middle ages (10th through 14th centuries) does not mean arts as we understand the word at this present day, but those branches of knowledge which were taught in the schools of that time.
They are called liberal, because they serve the purpose of training the free man, in contrast with artes illiberales, which are pursued for economic purposes.
Artes illiberales or illiberal arts where important but almost exclusively acquired via internships and residencies for good reason as modern employers are finding, regardless the degree a new hire possesses, they still need to engage in OJT to be worth their salt.
The aim of the classical liberal arts was to prepare the student not for gaining a livelihood, but for the pursuit of science in the strict sense of the term, i.e. the combination of philosophy and theology known as scholasticism. This was a preparation for one’s philosophy of life, one’s moral perspective, a way to see the world and interact in it.
There are seven original or classical liberal arts arranged in two groups, the first comprising grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, or in other words, the sciences of language, of oratory, and of logic, better known as the artes sermocinales, or language studies; the second group comprises arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, known as the artes reales.
The classical liberal arts possess a special interest for historians, for in spite of modern pedagogical practices, here stands a two thousand year-old system, still active today, that challenges modern notions of education, surpassing them in both duration and in local ramifications.
But it is equally instructive for the philosopher because thinkers like Pythagoras, Plato, and St. Augustine shared in the framing of the system, and because in general much thought and pedagogical wisdom have been embodied in it.
Further, it is of importance to the practical teacher, because among the comments of so many schoolmen on this subject may be found many suggestions that are of the greatest utility. Aside from the ancients, there are authors such as Locke, Shaftsbury, and Turnbull who have commented greatly on these arts or skills for the development not of a career but of one’s personal moral philosophy, which of course dictates so much of what we do in the rest of our lives.
In our day, there are still two types of people—the Liber or liberal arts educated and the not Liber or not liberal arts educated. A liberal arts education does not guarantee moral judgement or moral action, that must still be instilled from youth. But in general, those who are Liber (moral or not) are those who lead society because they know how to think. Those without this type of education, have no choice but to follow.
Other Liberal Arts
In addition to the seven arts cataloged above, over time other great thinkers and teachers have added to the list. Here are Aristotle’s considerations for a list of arts required to check the abuse of power and maintain the liberty of society:
- Fine Arts
- Political Economy
To be Liber, according to Aristotle was to have a serious depth of knowledge in all of these areas, not just one or two. Today we have B.A. or B.S. degrees that focus in just one area, but originally the B.A. degree meant to have depth in all the arts of freedom. We cover this in depth in another paper – The State of American Education.
Mortimer Adler the assistant editor of the Great Books of the Western World, a collection published by Britannica and the University of Chicago in 1952, listed the following as skills required to maintain freedom:
Adler stated that, “Training in the liberal arts is indispensable to making free men out of children. It prepares them for the uses of freedom — the proper employment of free time and the exercise of political power. It prepares them for leisure and for citizenship.
Robert Hutchins, Adler’s partner in the project and president of the University of Chicago at the time declared, “I am afraid we shall have to admit that the educational process in America is either a rather pleasant way of passing the time until we are ready to go to work, or a way of getting ready for some occupation, or a combination of the two. What is missing is education to be human beings, education to make the most of our human powers, education for our responsibilities as members of a democratic society, education for freedom.”
Hutchinson continues, “This is what liberal education is. It is the education that prepares us to be free men. You have to have this education . . . if you are going to be an effective citizen of a democracy; for citizenship requires that you understand the world in which you live and that you do not leave your duties to be performed by others, living vicariously and vacuously on their virtue and intelligence. To be free you have to be educated for freedom. This means that you have to think; for the free man is one who thinks for himself.”
More Liberal Arts
In the late 1990s a number of prominent schools, Harvard and Princeton to mention two, published lists of skills they projected would be necessary to succeed in the 21st century. Some of these fit our criteria for maintaining liberty and so we include them here:
Harvard School of Law
- The ability to define problems without a guide
- The ability to ask hard questions that challenge prevailing assumptions
- The ability to quickly assimilate needed data from masses of irrelevant information
- The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one
- The ability to discuss ideas with an eye to application
- The ability to think inductively, deductively, and dialectically*
Princeton Undergraduate Program
- The ability to think, speak, and write clearly
- The ability to reason, critically and systematically
- The ability to think independently
- The ability to take the initiative
- The ability to judge what it means to understand something thoroughly
- The ability to see connections among disciplines, ideas, and cultures
In the year 2000, Oliver DeMille added his thoughts to those already mentioned and suggested 4 additional skills for the mix:
- The ability to understand human nature and lead accordingly
- The ability to discern truth from error regardless the source or the delivery
- The ability to discern true from right
- The ability and discipline to do right
The age we are currently experiencing is not only a bondage period of the Tytler cycle but it is also an alignment of the Tytler Cycle and the Saeculum or the Century Cycle. This only happens once in every 8 generations or turnings/seasons of the Saeculum. What we do during this “fourth turning” which means the next couple of decades, will have a dramatic impact on the next two centuries of American existence.
Next part in this series – The Liberal Arts During Bondage: Part Three; The Fourth Turning: The Opportunity of The Century
*Inductive reasoning or thinking is the method of processing information from detailed facts or observations to broader general principles or theories. Deductively reasoning is basically the opposite process, beginning the process from generalities and distilling them down to specifics. Inductive reasoning is sometimes called “bottom-up” thinking and deductive reasoning is called “top-down” thinking. While both methods of reasoning are used in science and elsewhere, induction is used to follow a hunch or dream up a theory, which may of may not be true, while deduction is used to meticulously prove out theories or ideas created by induction.
When thinking dialectically, the thinker will take two or more opposing points of view and pit them against each other, developing each by providing support, raising objections, countering those objections, raising further objections, and so on. Think of opposing attorneys in a court case or debaters.
Dialectical thinking or discussion can be conducted so as to “win” by defeating the positions one disagrees with — using critical insight to support one’s own view and pointing out flaws in other views or, if being fair and honest, by conceding points that don’t stand up to critique, trying to integrate or incorporate strong points found in other views, and using critical insight to develop a fuller and more accurate view.
And so it begins…
Of the almost 127 million voters, a majority preferred a governing system that favors high taxes, a saturated welfare system, forced health care, and an abundance of government dependent workers.
Apparently we have learned nothing from the real-time occurrences in Europe, most recently in Greece.
As Oliver DeMille put it in a recent article, “Make no mistake. Whatever the pundits say, we fell off the fiscal cliff on January 1, 2013.
‘Until House Republicans stand up and simply say “no” to the Obama super-spending agenda, the Spendocracy will grow and a depression is looming.
Indeed, conspiracy theories aside, those who want government to grow are actually benefited by recession and depression because they gain even more demand for increased government involvement.”
There is no turning back; in fact, according to a recent Forbes article titled “Do You Live In A Death Spiral State?”,this government growth and spending frenzy is not just a national government phenomena; the state and municipal governments are joining the party as fast as they can.
Face it, with more than 20% of the states already upside down, this is our new reality; and the sooner we warm up to it and adjust our thinking, the better for us in the long term.
Quoting from the Forbes article:
Don’t buy a house in a state where private sector workers are outnumbered by folks dependent on government.
Thinking about buying a house? Or a municipal bond? Be careful where you put your capital. Don’t put it in a state at high risk of a fiscal tailspin.
They can look forward to a rising tax burden, deteriorating state finances and an exodus of employers.
If your career takes you to Los Angeles or Chicago, don’t buy a house. Rent.
If you have money in municipal bonds, clean up the portfolio.
Sell holdings from the sick states and reinvest where you’re less likely to get clipped. Nebraska and Virginia are unlikely to give their bondholders a Greek haircut.
California and New York are comparatively risky.
Two factors determine whether a state makes this elite list of fiscal hellholes. The first is whether it has more takers than makers. A taker is someone who draws money from the government, as an employee, pensioner or welfare recipient. A maker is someone gainfully employed in the private sector.
Let us give those takers the benefit of our sympathy and assume that every single one of them is a deserving soul. This person is either genuinely needy or a dedicated public servant or the recipient of a well-earned pension.
Taxes get too high.
Prosperous citizens decamp. Employers decamp. That just makes matters worse for the taxpayers left behind.
Let’s say you are a software entrepreneur with 100 on your payroll.
If you stay in San Francisco, your crew will support 139 takers. In Texas, they would support only 82. Austin looks very attractive.
Ranked on the taker/maker ratio, our 11 death spiral states range from New Mexico, with 1.53 takers for every maker, down to Ohio, with a 1to1 ratio.
The taker count is the number of state and local government workers plus the number of people on Medicaid plus 1 for each $100,000 of unfunded pension liabilities.
(Sources: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and a study of state worker pensions done in 2009 by two academics, Joshua Rauh and Rovert NovyMarx. Professor Rauh estimates that the shortage in pension funding is on average a third higher today.)
Conning’s analysis focuses more on dollars than body counts. Its formula downgrades states for large debts, an uncompetitive business climate, weak home prices and bad trends in employment.
Conning rates North Dakota the safest state to lend money to, Connecticut the most hazardous. A state qualifies for the Forbes death spiral list if its taker/maker ratio exceeds 1.0 and it resides in the bottom half of Conning’s ranking.
A final word.
Ideas have consequences, and the consequences of the ideas that are shaping our fast approaching fiscal reality could not be any more obvious. Sure, go ahead, hope and pray that a miracle will occur or that government will come to its senses and stop all new spending and cut deeply into current spending (yes, that means real budget cuts such as reducing or stopping all non-vital services, no new construction projects, and pay raises).
And while you are waiting for that miracle or change of heart, you might consider entertaining the same steps that we have been suggesting for at least two years:
1. Read at least one of the depression books listed below within the next 30 days (no really, just do it).
2. Re-evaluate your current economic and family situation and make hard choices to re-position with a better strategy (down-size, more family time, grow a family or community garden, food storage instead of family vacation).
3. Get as liquid as possible and out of debt as soon as possible. Fire sale opportunities will be on the rise over the next 5-10 years.
4. Start a mini-factory (develop multiple streams of income – home-based business, a cottage industry, enhanced education to shift to more flexible income, parallel incomes, CSA, Network marketing business, etc.) and be as creative and optimistic as possible. These sentiments will soon be in short supply.
5. Create a culture and community of service
6. Create a family legacy. This means lay the groundwork for a multi-generational organization that unifies and protects your family — come what may (true happiness can only be found in family).
Take a look at this list of books to help adjust your thinking and position yourself to succeed during economic hard times at a level we have not experienced in our lifetime:
The Great Depression Ahead – Dent
America’s Great Depression – Rothbard
The Fourth Turning – Howe and Straus
The Third Wave – Toffler
5,000 Year Leap – Skousen
The Cube and the Cathedral – Wiegel
The Servile State – Belloc
A Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens – DeMille/Brooks
P.S. Please be sure to do your own research. I am ok if you don’t believe me, but for heaven’s sake, do not believe those who are saying “don’t worry, things are just fine.” Get your own sense of truth by doing your own investigation.