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I am not a religious personage, nor am I ensconced in a parsonage. I am, however, going to preach just a tiny bit.
Preach. Intransitive verb: to deliver a sermon; to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action. Transitive verb: to set forth in a sermon; to advocate earnestly; to deliver publicly; to bring, put, or affect by preaching.
Sermon. Noun: a religious discourse delivered in public by a member of the clergy as part of a worship service; a speech on conduct or duty.
Now why, you probably wonder, is this dumb shit preaching? He ain't no preacher!
It's a good question. And I'm sure as hell no preacher.
As it turns out, I'm preaching largely to myself. Writing it down like this is an exercise in ordering my thoughts and ideas in an attempt to winnow some fundamental grains of truth from the chaff of emotion and reaction. It's a Socratic thing; my try at not living a worthless life.
Is it the right thing to do or the right way to go about it? Beats the shit out of me. I am, after all, going by what Plato wrote about a rhetorician and sophist who managed to collect an Athenian death penalty some 2,500 years ago. So there's that.
Somehow, though, it makes sense to me. I have a powerful desire to find stuff out, and I am so very, very, fundamentally ignorant.
As I've noted many times before, our nation was founded on a set of principles. The bedrock principle, upon which everything America could be or should be depends, is the very first principle set down on paper by our founding fathers:
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Now read that again. Before the rights comes the reality. All men are fundamentally, equally, human. None are fundamentally better or fundamentally worse. Each human life is of equal fundamental value. Period, full stop. No modifiers, no yabbuts.
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Get that? Governments are instituted among men. Before there is government, there are men. All men are created equal.
Before there can be any discussion of rights or government, the first principle of fundamental human equality must be the foundation. Like it or not -- and an obvious majority of the folks who live here do not -- that's the way it was set up.
I've been thinking about this thesis for many years. I've tried every way I can to smash it; to falsify the notion and discover a different underlying truth. So far, however, it's the only thing that holds together.
Yes. It's not the only way for a society to be organized. It is, however, what the founders said and wrote and what the various states agreed to codify into the Constitution.
Like it or not, the first principle is the foundation of America. It must be the most solid part of American society, or all else eventually crumbles.
So why is America crumbling? YGTBSM. I think it's safe to say that a majority of those who live here put their own personal wants, generally regarded as sacrosanct rights, well ahead of their personal responsibility to hew to the first principle. It's simple, really.
There's probably a critical number, a number that represents the sum of those who live here and who also do their very best to put the first principle first. If that number is large enough (in my critical number theory anyway) then the foundation remains solid enough. If the number drops below my undefined critical number, the foundation crumbles.
An obvious question is, well, what exactly is that critical number?
Like me, you've probably heard the third-third-third theory. At the founding, a third of the population were staunch British Tories, desiring to remain part of the Empire. A third were revolutionary patriots, desiring independence and holding a different vision of an ideal society, one based on -- you guessed it -- the personal liberty of fundamentally equal human beings. The final third of the population really didn't care one way or another. They wanted to live their lives and not be bothered by all that political bullshit.
So is the critical number 33.333 percent?
I doubt it.
Here's another stab at suitcasing the number. Victor Davis Hanson once noted in a lecture that since the dawn of civilization roughly 20 percent of any population tends to be ideologically collectivist, about 20 percent ideologically individualist, and about 60 percent don't really care. That 60 percent, he said, are more opportunist than anything else. In any given system, they'll do whatever they feel they need to do in order to get by -- and even flourish -- from day to day.
Now please pay attention to what I write. There's a very good chance that what I write is actually different than what the reader might imagine I mean. I didn't write that being an opportunist was a bad thing, or that 60 percent of the world's population are immoral or monsters or thieves. I wrote what I wrote, nothing more, nothing less.
That 60 percent number bothered me at first, but then it occurred to me that it's a very good reminder that if I really do believe in the first principle, then it is vitally important that I respect the fundamental humanity of those who don't see things exactly the way I do. I don't agree that swapping principles with the direction of the political wind is a good idea, and it's certainly not the way the nation was set up, but I also can't afford to think of those I've labeled opportunists as anything other than human beings who are not fundamentally less human than myself.
So what is the critical number? Is it 19, or 20, or 21? Is it 59, or 60, or 61?
Well, here's where I'm at on that. If the critical number is the percentage of people who do their best to hew to the first principle and thereby keep the national foundation from crumbling...
I have no idea what that number might be. Sorry.
But I do know that when it comes to me and my own personal existence in this place and at this time, the critical number is...
Here's a gem. Imagine flying a Jag into Khasab.