Freedom and Nonviolence

 

"An' it harm none, do what ye will" Wiccan Rede

 

Like all living beings, we are born with a desire to impose our will on the environment. To a degree, manipulating and controlling our environment is necessary to stay alive. Nonetheless, when this desire for control extends to manipulating others against their will, this desire can also be one of our biggest obstacles to freedom. Expecting others to deny their own goals in order to serve our goals is like expecting water to run uphill. Expecting water to run uphill or expecting a person to act in contradiction to his or her nature is to deny reality. This is a waste of time, and wasting time is antithetical to freedom. The more time we waste, the less free time we have to pursue achievable goals.

 

Furthermore, if we attempt to control others by initiating violence (physical harm) against them or threatening them with violence, we are in effect endorsing such behavior and thereby inviting others to use violence against us. I recognize that some people think they can get what they want with violence without suffering retaliation. Personally, I don't want to live life this way. I prefer to follow the Scottish proverb, "Live and let live." I don't initiate violence or threaten others with violence to get what I want, and I oppose those who would use such methods.

 

I support:

I oppose:

The freedom to keep the money we earn and spend it on what we believe to be good causes, as long as we are not initiating violence or threatening others with violence.

The government's extraction of taxes on money we earn and products we buy, even when the money is spent on good causes, and imprisoning those who refuse to pay taxes.

The freedom to refrain from military service or any form of involuntary servitude.

The government's drafting of persons into the military or alternative service programs and imprisoning those who refuse to be inducted.

The freedom to ingest any substance, as long as we do not act violently to obtain the substance or are more likely to act violently as a result of ingesting the substance.

The government's imprisoning people for merely possessing, distributing, or using substances.

A woman's freedom to prevent pregnancy with contraception and to terminate pregnancies before the period of fetal viability.

Denying anyone information about, and access to, contraception, and forcing women to give birth to children they do not want to have.

The freedom to accurate information and freedom from indoctrination into irrational and superstitious belief systems.

Indoctrinating children and converting adults into irrational and superstitious belief systems.

Freedom for consenting persons to engage in any nonviolent sexual activities and relationships they desire.

Threats and punishment leveled at individuals for engaging in nonviolent sexual behavior.

The freedom to die with dignity when pain or infirmities make life no longer worth living

The prolonging of life when a person desires to die, especially when pain and medical costs are extraordinary.

 

I have three final points. First, while I disapprove of threatening or initiating physical harm, I do not necessarily disapprove of retaliating with physical force when threatened with physical harm. I have no interest in martyrdom. Next, while I strongly abhor inflicting physical harm on others, and I prefer to avoid causing others even emotional distress; I have absolutely no sympathy for someone who claims to "feel offended" by what I think is true and good. That's their problem. Finally, while I have no interest in manipulating others with physical threats, I strongly advocate using reason and rhetoric to change people's lives for what I think is the better. In fact, I see it as my job as a university professor to make positive changes in people's lives through teaching, research, and service. I list these specific changes below in what I call my "personal mission statement."

 

I see my mission as a professional educator as a responsibility to replace:

 

ignorance and illiteracy with knowledge;

credulity and gullibility with critical thinking;

superstition and illogic with rationality;

prejudice and bigotry with tolerance;

narrow-mindedness and parochialism with openness; and

dullness and prosaism with creativity.

 

John A. Johnson

August 24, 2002