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Jacques Cousteau and Political Philosophy

A number of years ago I wrote a blog that went over this pivotal event in my life, but it bears repeating now as we watch the continued tribalism playing out on the news.  To be fair, I am not singling out any particular “tribe” in the preceding sentence.  The “State” has circled the wagons inasmuch as other groups have as well.  Actually, the “State” has ironically bifurcated itself between individual states often at odds against a third tribe, “The Federal Government”.

All that notwithstanding… and we will delve into the oddity of some of the positions in a bit…one of the things I have found the most annoying in this whole fiasco is the utter lack of political literacy on display between all groups, and I include both the State and the Feds in this criticism.  Rioting is now being done largely for the purpose of well… rioting.  Statues of civil rights leaders are brought down for purposes that continue to elude me.  There is also a consistently reemerging image of the typical rioter made apparent in the now widely-published booking photos of those who have been detained:  malnourished, malignant, disheveled, disoriented and, decidedly, Caucasian.  Evidently, the diversity movements within Antifa have failed to produce the desired outcomes they are looking for.  Perhaps civil actions could be brought to bear against them for their clear and apparent civil rights violations vis a vies discriminatory membership practices?

When those from the agitation class has allowed themselves to be interviewed, their rhetoric is disjointed at best.  For the life of me I cannot tell if these people are anarchists or communists.  These are diametrically opposed philosophies but, outside the mainstream, so worthy of deep appreciation from the financially well-off leftist elites.  Many of them feel organized religion is wicked, especially Christianity; in their minds Buddhism is okay since that comes from the east, is exotic, and people will think they are complex if they have an understanding of it.

And, yes, the champions of the “other side” are, frankly, not much better.  Some State governors and mayors have pathetically tried to form an alliance with these morons to form a united front against the evils of the federal government.  (No… scratch that… they have no issue with the federal government per se… just the current occupant of the White House.  The same policies issued by his predecessor would have been completely acceptable.) 

To bolster their argument they have become “States’ Rights” champions for the first time in their lives.  Well… perhaps the Democratic party has finally thrown off the white sheet and come full circle to its original position in 1861. 

The Federal Government tribe has decided to be the “tough guy” demanding law and order, and threatening military intervention if it is not restored… because… well… because!  The government is there to secure law and order!

Ummm… no it is not!

The government is there for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to protect the rights of The People.  If the Federal intervention into a State is for the protection of the civil rights of the citizens of that state against the unconstitutional conduct of the State… then I am a full-throated supporter.  If it is to “restore law and order,” you lost me.  That is the State’s job, and if it is not doing it, the citizens can find someone who is willing to, and vote the slobs out of office.  (Or throw them in jail… I like that too.)

(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)

So… many of our newer clients have tried to “figure me out.”  They talk to me at Artemis, or read the blog and have a general assumption that I am a Conservative.  But then I say things that… well… just does not seem to jive with conservative orthodoxy.

The confusion is completely understandable.  I am what is called a Classical Liberal.  The closest thing in modern political philosophy would probably be called a Libertarian.  I am fundamentally opposed to the idea of a homogenized society, be it philosophically, religiously, financially, sexually, or by pigment.  I also am completely distrustful of Collectivism.  As one of my military commanders pointed out to me, “A camel is a horse that was designed by committee.”

Lastly, I hate tyrants. 

If you have heard me speak, you know that I reserve a special place of contempt for those who would seek to use force, or the threat of force, to compel me to behave in a manner that is more agreeable to them and opposite of my own desires. 

So… how did a Jewish kid from Anaheim Hills become a “Classical Liberal”? 

Jacques Cousteau.

When I was in fourth grade, I had been blessed (or cursed) as an identified “gifted student”.  This meant that I was to be removed from my school and bused 20 miles away to a school with other “gifted students”.  There we would be provided a more challenging academic environment than in our traditional, local schools.  This was, of course, before the advent of charter schools… kind of a forerunner, I guess.  Regardless…”challenging academic environment” simply could be read “more homework”.

When I went to fifth grade, I had the misfortune of having Ms. Butcher (yeah… that really was her name) as my teacher.  Her reputation for arbitrary and capricious behavior preceded her.  Still, I stayed quiet and essentially “off her radar”, so my day-to-day interactions with her were decidedly limited.    

Around November of that year we were taken by Ms. Butcher to the school library for somewhat of an on-campus field trip.  We were told to find a couple of books and check them out.  Evidently the commissars felt that we were not investing a proper diet of State-approved reading material. 

While most of my prepubescent colleagues gravitated towards the Newberry Award novels, I sauntered into the “non-fiction” section.   There I found two books that fundamentally changed my life:  one by what was written in it… the other because of the book itself. 

The first was a “juvenilized” version of a biography on Benjamin Franklin.  He was, for all intents and purposes, the first Founding Father I was exposed to, and this was the book that performed the introduction.  I remember devouring that book over two nights, quite literally under my blanket with a flashlight.  That book started my deep interest in history, and the American Experience. 

The second book was another biography, of Jacques Cousteau.  I was fascinated by the sea, and hell… it had a lot of cool photos in it.  I figured I would read it during Thanksgiving break.  I honestly don’t remember if I did or not… but I do remember going back to the library before school and dropping both of the books into the little slot by the librarian’s desk, saddened that I was having to give back the Franklin book and figuring that I would probably be checking it out again.

Fast forward to the day before Christmas vacation.  While in class I get a note delivered to me from the librarian asking me to meet with her. 

During our first recess I did just that.

She asked me if I was planning on returning the Jacques Cousteau book.  I told her I had dropped off both that book and the Franklin book right after Thanksgiving.  She did not challenge me on this, but seemed to stare at me for a couple of minutes.  She then told me I was excused.

When recess was over I returned to my classroom to see the librarian and Ms. Butcher talking at her desk.  They both looked over at me but did not say anything.

Midway through our reading period that day Ms. Butcher called me back to her desk and asked me for my home phone number without telling me why.  I gave it to her and went back to reading.

That night I was at home having dinner with my parents, thrilled that I now had the next two weeks off.  The phone rang and it was Ms. Butcher wanting to talk to my father. 

My father took the phone and was told my Ms. Butcher that I had stolen the Jacques Cousteau book, and having been confronted that it had been stolen, I had lied to both her and the librarian. 

My father thanked her for the information, hung up the phone and proceeded to impose a martial punishment on me that today would have most likely resulted in an arrest for child abuse.  My father himself had been a teacher, and why would a teacher make up a story like that about one of her students?  Clearly, his son must be guilty of what this “agent of the state” has said.

Needless to say, it was not one of the more pleasant Christmas vacations.

Fast forward again to the night before Spring Break of that same year.  Again, I am at recess when I happen to run into the librarian.  She says hello to the members of my little group of friends and then looks at me and has a momentary flash of recognition.  “Oh Steven!  I forgot to tell you!  We DID FIND THE BOOK! It had fallen into the space between the box and my desk… it was there the whole time.  I guess you didn’t steal it.”   

I immediately stormed back to my classroom and found Ms. Butcher seated at her desk. 

“Ms. Butcher, the librarian told me they found the book she thought I stole.”

“Oh that.  Yes, she told me that a couple of weeks ago.”

“Ms. Butcher, will you please call my parents and let them know I did not steal it?”

“What?  No.  Go to your desk.”

“You will not call my parents?”

“No… now go to your seat!”

I immediately fled from the classroom and ran to the principal’s office.  The principal was a decent, if somewhat absent, man named Mr. Durkman.  I went up to the assistant and asked to see Mr. Durkman.  She could see that tears were welling up in my eyes and Mr. Durkman obviously could hear me from his office.

He came out to see what was up. 

I told him the story and he nodded and told me to go back to my classroom. 

No phone call ever came.

From that moment, I became deeply suspicious of authority.  I realized then (perhaps too early) that people were fallible, and often those infused with power had their own interests, and not those of their people, at the front of their minds.  I also realized that tyrants come in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes tyranny is an overt act of oppression, and sometimes it is the failure to act.  For in failing to act (calling my parents to apologize)… she was, in fact, reinforcing a power structure between us.  What was important to me was a nuisance to her… and since she held the cards, I was completely at her mercy.

From that day forward, I have become a fighter of tyrants.  To me, the most despised is not the grand dictator, for in reality he or she has very little control over my day-to-day existence…no… it is the petit tyran.  The low-level bureaucrat, manager, or clerk who, empowered by the State, has enormous power over me or my clients. 

I suppose, in a sense, and it does so pain me to say this, I should thank Ms. Butcher.  Without her, who knows, maybe I would be a member of Antifa?!

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