“It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.”
– Noam Chomsky
This is a “Manifesto of Intent.” A sort of summary of where I have been, where I am going, and why; but mainly a collection of thoughts I need to get down, and have struggled to express in a formal way. Some of the points may appear esoteric, but I hope you find something, none-the-less, of value in their exposition.
I take very seriously the idea that, where one sees a serious threat to civilization, one immerses oneself in the defense of it. Because I love civilization. Civilization is everything to me. To say one of the greatest threats to civilization is Islamic fascism while staying in America is, not necessarily cowardice, but not exactly morally honest, either. And I do feel, at this time, that if the 20th century has taught us anything, it has said, “Take at their word those who promise genocide.”
I look at the political landscape of America and all I see is confusion, solipsism, and bitterness and polarization for the wrong reasons. Conflict clarifies, but mud-slinging is a better image than those who utilize the phrase have previously known: not because dirt muddles the character (what is character?), but because it obscures the vision. How much conflict now, in this country, on radio and on TV and on the internet, is false? How much of it is based on the most trivial bits of information about us while the real battles have no willing soldiers? Conflict clarifies because it reveals what is necessary, what is good. Conflict gives life to everything, but American politics seeks constant consensus. It raises as virtuous “even-handedness” and “objectivity” as if such things were possible. In the mean time, it polls us and divides us into demographics — black and white, man and woman, young and old, gay and straight — and pretends this information means something. Then it sells us what it wants based on the nothingness of us; on choices we never made. And what it sells are not just toys, TVs, and entertainment, but ideas, politicians, and terror.
That is it, then. The impossible deemed desirable and the trivial deemed necessary. The self put on a pedestal in this age, yes, of capitalism and consumption, but also of rampant pragmatism. The key thing is to have a goal, then measure the means to reach it. Above this burning, valuable syllogism steams the cult of work, possession, and ends. And lost somewhere in this are the means! We are taught the means become valuable because they reach the end, but is this not a reversal of the syllogism!? The conclusion is true, and here are the premises, made valid because they reach the conclusion! Should it not be, first, that each premise is true, and then you find the conclusion takes care of itself?
And furthermore, a straight line is the right choice because it gets to Point B quickest. But Point B does not exist! Only the line exists! And now the line has changed! What kind of line are you living and why should it run straight? Why? Why!? Not “how?” but “Why!?” Death to conclusions! Long live premises!
I reject the cult of goals and their implication to path. There is no choice in this, you see. You choose the goal, perhaps. Often times it is put to you rather forcibly. And then what? The path is rendered for you clearly by the goal, and that is your life. Is the teleological not inherently masochistic and, in its worst forms, eschatological? The end is a lie. When it becomes the only thing it becomes nothing. Fellow Children of the Age of Identity, understand there is nothing to be but now and nowhere to be but here! Where personality is not a choice but a fact of birth; where honesty is not a virtue but a shrugging acquiescence of inherent quality; where identity is not a crafted work of art but an excuse for feelings; where everything is free and yet we pump out youth in debt with nothing to show for it! We teach the cost as necessary to the end, as preceding it; but not as a part of the now. Cost is constant and why pay it for a future of nothing?
So, of course, I have a “plan.” I always have a “plan.” It was my greatest quality at age 17 to have a plan — a ridiculous, fearless, overly-ambitious plan; and a plan that wholly involved the betterment of other people, as I prefer it this way. Though maybe “plan” is not the right word. Maybe “dream” is better. I have a dream.
But, at the time, I did not know what any of those words meant. “Fearless,” for example. Being fearless cannot come from ignorance, but from knowledge — just as being fearful must come from knowledge. 17 turned to 18, and I moved without thought or caution to New Hampshire to participate in the Free State Project — a plan to get libertarians around the country to move to one state to affect local politics. My “plan” was to establish two-year residency, run for office at age 19/20, and then work my way towards the Governorship, secede from the Union, and establish New Hampshire as a paradise for the poor and tired of the world to come and be free.
Talk about setting yourself up for failure. But this is what I am best at. My participation in the Free State Project broke my heart because I lost faith in the plan — how could I not? Then, through not executing the plan very well — what else could be expected? — I likewise lost faith in myself.
I am not a quitter. No one likes to think themselves one, and I differ not on this point. I am not a quitter; but what other word than “quit” can describe what I did? Except maybe, “fail,” and neither bodes well for one’s sense of worth.
Whether I quit, or failed, I did so because I was not ready. I was fearless, but not through knowledge, only through ignorance. Not only were my hands not prepared to achieve my goals, but they were not enough to handle the goals being achieved. “Victory is a very dangerous opportunity,” said French World War II General Andre Beaufre. This is because victory, like goals, like ends, means nothing. Victory is offered up as permanence, as conclusion, but it can only be another beginning. Most are not ready to do what must be done for victory, and even fewer are prepared to handle victory herself. The historical evidence for this is the way men behave once in power. I was no different. I was, if anything, an even worse example. I was not ready.
Case in point: my act of civil disobedience. After being in New Hampshire for a few months, I had a plan to purposefully be arrested for marijuana possession by informing the police of my location and the time I would conduct the act. This would, I assured myself, demonstrate to everyone quite clearly how stupid and immoral the Drug War is, and there would be much rejoicing (or something like that).
Again, to clarify: I basically called the cops on myself for pot possession with the intent of having it filmed and distributed as propaganda against the Drug War.
Concocted haphazardly under the influence, I’m sure, of a few drinks (as all good plans are), and put into action with no regard for what consequences I might truly face, or what might truly be gained, it was an act, not of moral courage therefore (though certainly of morally-praiseworthy something), but of naivety.
The young cannot be courageous, you understand. Which is why they often are. And I think one thing this cult of goals has given us, more than anything, is the capitulation of youth to fear. How can one give up everything for a cause when one has a future to worry about? Diplomas, careers, debt, ambition — these are the roadblocks to action. The Devil on each shoulder, keeping youth in line.
Still, the protest was a “success” in that way things can be successful when you don’t consider their consequences. What I did gain from it, however, was a moment I will never forget.
The protest had received its fair share of YouTube views, and I became a bit of a celebrity of sorts within anarchist and libertarian circles. Again, all this despite me, one, not knowing what I was doing and, two, not being prepared to reap the benefits or deal with the fall out. Occasionally, people recognized me on the street even though I had never met them before, and I got friend requests from people I did not know claiming to be “fans” of mine, and so forth. Then, one time, an Eastern-European man with a pretty heavy accent approached me at a bar in Manchester and said, “Andrew Carroll, you are the reason I came to America.”
These are the kinds of statements an adult would struggle to handle. I heard it and did not even dare to guess at what it meant.
I ran my campaign for the New Hampshire State Legislature with similar (lack of) forethought and awareness. I knocked on hundreds of doors, but I should have, and could have, knocked on thousands. I wrote a few letters to the editor, but I should have and could have written more. I ran as a Democrat but lost in the primary to a unified Democratic Party I had no chance in beating and who were, regardless, out to slander me; a gang of old, conservative reactionaries who possess no revolutionary thrust, let alone any democratic arousal, and gladly engaged in illegal tactics against the smiling, wide-eyed campaign of a hopeful child. I hate those people for what they did to me. Broke my fucking heart — in that literal way only true love can — and for what? One day I will go to New Hampshire and tell them to their faces what cowards they are. When that day comes, my record will speak for itself, and they will feel, not just my arousal, and my thrust, but come to regret their impotence.
(To one day become Governor of New Hampshire… I think this is still, somehow, in parts of my mind, the “goal.” But I do not dream of being Governor. I dream of being Governor. Do you understand?).
Regardless, the past is filled with should haves and could haves because I was not prepared for my own potential or the reality of what it means to be. But then you come to realize the phrase, “I could have” is a lie. “I could have.” No. No, I couldn’t have. I could not have. I was not capable then. I was not prepared.
After leaving New Hampshire absolutely destroyed in all the wrong ways by my experiences in the democratic process, with feelings of being a quitter and losing faith, I spent three years in a drunken slur which should have ended in my death for all the wrong reasons, but instead ended in my heart again being broken (this time through my own idiotic choices) and, through that, I lost all identity and ego and delusion and awoke to a real world and a real self. This time, I was destroyed in the right ways.
All that was not real has been broken and I see, now, only the necessary. Not what can be, but what must be; what cannot be otherwise.
For these revelations, I have a beautiful, Goddess of a woman to thank. I terribly miss her laugh and her smile. So much. Her laugh is civilization and I wish to be a forever-soldier in its defense. And her smile-lines are the valid premises, the paths I choose to walk with skeletal fingers, livened and concluding in love. Because her smile and her laugh are things that must be. And I hope, somehow, wherever she is, they are.
All I have now are the memories and the lessons and the thankfulness that come when a soldier is beaten and, in utter defeat, sees his reflection in the river and asks why; then comes to understand and move forward with courage and without fear. And here I anticipate a criticism: “Is courage not a response to fear?” I do not know that I recognize this alleged relationship between fear and courage. Courage is not a function of fear, it is a function of knowing. One does not need to fear risk, or fear potential or inevitable disaster, to have the courage to face it.
I used to fear loneliness until I found myself saying to her, “I’m afraid…”, and she finished, “Of being alone?”, and I uttered as a reflex, without time to pause and lie, “Yes.”
A devastating question and an answer, once known, I could not tolerate. So I set out, not to overcome it through courage, but to understand it. I used to likewise be afraid of the dark, and of spiders, and sometimes of sleeping, and always of happiness. These things, too, through understanding, are no more. I killed one spider during these trials and broke down immediately in tears. “Poor little guy,” I uttered. His death was unnecessary. Fear is unnecessary. The old fears are gone and have yet to be replaced. And I intend on discovering where in this Earth such a thing as fear could exist, and then I will put to the test this relationship between it and courage. At least, for now, I am not afraid of failure.
For such a task, I was never before ready. I was never ready for what I wanted to do. For what I could do. I was not ready for success or for failure. I was not ready for what I could be. Intelligent, courageous, fearless, selfless, happy. I was not ready for these great qualities — no, not qualities, not goals, not things to be possessed, but constant actions, constant choice; things, like America and like democracy, that one must be ever-vigilant in creating.
I was not ready for me. I am ready now. Thank you to the woman who knows she changed my life and smiled when I told her so. I am ready.
First step: Istanbul.