Winning Arguments

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The speech Morpheus gave to Neo in the original Matrix was elegant – and eloquent. But we’re not in a movie – and most of us are not masters of verbal ju-jitsu any more than we are masters of actual ju-jitsu. So, how do we – we being those of us who believe in non-aggression, voluntarism and thus, human liberty – make our case to people who don’t think in such terms?

The other day I had a chat with a neighbor friend. He posed a rhetorical question, “You do believe some taxes are necessary, right?” Rather than debate the merits of this or that tax, this or that function funded by taxes – I merely replied that as a non-violent person I am opposed to the use of violence, for any reason except in self-defense. I therefore oppose, I told him, the violent taking of other people’s property for any purpose whatsoever. That while I might prefer this or that outcome, I would rather people dealt with one another on the basis of persuasion and mutual free consent – and not at gunpoint.

This approach usually at least results in a momentary pause. It may even get your opponent thinking.

Most people – including most of us – grew up with authoritarianism. It envelopes us, from womb to tomb. And so, we grow up accepting, implicitly, the moral schism that says violence is ok when it is done officially.

Or by a group, having so voted.

No. It goes much deeper than that. Because the violence is never – or rarely – spoken of openly. No politician running for office ever says, “I will threaten your neighbors with violence to provide money that I will use to provide schools for your children at their expense – and if they refuse, I’ll have them caged – even killed.”

Instead, the politician talks blandly about his “support for public education.” The lethal violence he is advocating remains in the background. He is thus able – of all things! – to posture as a “concerned” and “public-spirited” citizen, who “cares about the childrens’ future.”

Never mind the present of his victims.

People talk about the “need” for this or that – never mentioning or even considering that what they propose entails threatening people who have done them no harm and who owe them nothing with murderous violence if they disagree – and decline.

And so on.

The violence of our society is so pervasive, we swim in it as naturally – as obliviously – as fish in water. We – most of us – literally cannot even see it. We merely accept it as the natural order of things – and go about our lives accordingly. We vote – casually – to put our neighbors into cages – unless they Submit and Obey. To send armed men to their doorstep. To control and micromanage them, with the ever-present threat of the fist, the baton, the Tazer, even the gun always in the background. To deprive them of property – even life.

And they, in turn, to us.

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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