I realise that I shall probably come in for some shtick for even mentioning any form of spiritual faith in the same breath as Libertarianism, Hey Ho!
One of my readers picked up on the fact that I said that I had arrived at Libertarianism from ‘a Quaker vantage point’ and has asked me to explain further. I could have done so in a private reply, but have decided to stick my head above the parapet. (Yet again).
I should define what I mean by spiritual faith first. It may have a different meaning to that employed by others, for the simple reason that such things are not defined in any book of rules within the Quaker fellowship. We arrive at our own personal definition.
I don’t know, for I have never met anyone who has travelled outside of our physical existence, that there is definitively a God. Some people, armed with the knowledge that there is no proof that God doesn’t exist, are happy to believe that He does, and follow their chosen religion. Others, armed with the knowledge that there is no proof that God does exist, are happy to call themselves Atheist, and denounce all religion. I struggle with the notion that an absence of proof either way means that I should join either one of the opposing camps.
I simply don’t know. I hope, I trust, I put it no higher than that, that mankind is not the highest form of existence in overall control of our planetary system. If mankind is, I would venture that we are in bigger trouble than we are capable of envisioning. I live my life on the basis that I shan’t know the answer to this question until I die – and until I do, I will assume that there may well be a God.
The Quaker fellowship doesn’t demand of me that I declare emphatically one way or the other my beliefs. There are no churches, no intermediaries, or ‘middle men’ as I refer to them, to demand that I renounce all other beliefs and publicly declare my allegiance – just a fellowship of other people very privately going about their business, living in a simple manner, trying their level best to do more good than harm. That seems to me an eminently sensible ‘insurance policy’ just in case we do have to account for ourselves one day.
A Quaker meeting is primarily in silence, a quiet dedicated hour or so set aside to reflect on how we think we have succeeded in our personal goal of ‘more good than harm’. The silence is occasionally broken by someone who feels that they have something to say, some insight that might be of use to others. There is no obligation to speak, no reason not to. There is no High Priest to tell us how we should live, or which rules to adhere to, no village elder to declare that this or that action will be condemned by this God or that God. Nor is there anyone specially commissioned to offer us a ‘get out of jail’ card if we have managed to cause more harm than good by one of our actions.
My ‘spiritual faith’ is entirely a matter for my conscience, my personal responsibility.
When I first ventured into the political bear pit, I was puzzled by the devotion of the party members – Left or Right. Conferences were held every year to decide on the party line, henceforth those who disagreed with the party line were liable to be vilified. It was almost as though they had threatened the very salvation of the rest of their chosen tribe.
You ‘were’ a Labour voter or a Conservative voter, and therefore this is what you believed. People arrived at this ‘belief’ through a process called ‘democracy’, the conference vote, and if 51% of them believed that Black was White – then the other 49% were forced to mouth the same supposition – and that was democracy on a good day!
I don’t want to be told what to think or what to do based on a man in a suit, regardless of which way round his collar is, holding up a piece of paper and saying ‘henceforth, this is what we believe’. I would prefer to make my own mind up on the basis of individual choices at a personal level.
That doesn’t make me a dyed in the wool individualist, who merely wants to get on with my life without outside interference, contributing nothing to my fellow man. I don’t hold with that notion of Libertarianism, which seems nothing more than a form of institutionalised selfishness that uses a misplaced understanding of the Libertarian label to excuse their egotism.
If I have time, money, knowledge, a spare bed for the night, even a pork chop, that is surplus to my requirements, then the Quaker principle of doing ‘more good than harm’ requires that I share it with someone who is in need – someone who is more vulnerable to the vagaries of physical existence than I am at that moment. It is perfectly possible to do that on a personal level – you don’t require a government edict to demand that you share your supper with a starving neighbour; human beings have been doing it for centuries.
Sometimes you need more than one person to give effective help to someone in need. People can and do act in concert without government intervention. There are those who will refuse to offer help when asked. So what? Let them live their individualistic existence. There are plenty of people who will help.
Many of the early Friendly Societies, groups of people who banded together to provide help and assistance for any of their number who fell on hard times, were of the Quaker belief. The idea that people can live together in peace and tolerance, mutually supportive of each other, without being ordered to do so, is one that sits easily with my beliefs.
The Blogosphere is a Friendly Society – I still say that even after recent experiences! – it can be mutually supportive, it can achieve far more collectively than any of us do individually. I christened it the Blog Society as opposed to Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. It should form the backbone of the Libertarian movement, for it allows all those who subscribe to it to step up to a call for help or ignore it at will, no vote required, no orders given.
There will be those who mock and sneer; there will be others who use the Blogosphere to write lengthy philosophical treatise on why their political movement is the one you should be following – but the ungoverned blogosphere is the perfect environment for the Libertarian movement to exist unfettered and to do ‘more good than harm’.
That is why I have nominated Andrew Withers as the new Libertarian leader, for I know that he will take the movement in a new direction, one which I believe will benefit all of us. A direction closer to the philosophy of the early Friendly Societies rather than the foul mouthed, vitriolic and destructive Anarchism that we have become associated with.
If you doubt that this is what the Libertarian movement has become associated with – then read some of the reports on the recent student riots, where the phrase Anarchist/Libertarian was freely bandied about by journalists. The two words have become interchangeable in many minds, aided and abetted by a MSM that is keen to see the status quo of Left/Right maintained.
Libertarianism is in desperate need of re-branding! The solution is in our own hands – we don’t need to be told what to do, we are Libertarians after all.