There is Cosmic Wisdom in this Simple Question

My late father was what you might call a secretly brilliant country boy. 

“Rick” was a big fat man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a baritone voice. He loved to fiddle with cars, so he wore grime-stained clothes. When he got angry, all manner of colorful things flew out of his mouth. There was no mistaking him for a doctor, lawyer, or college professor.

Still, his brain doubled as an encyclopedia of useless facts, which means all the people he loved eventually lost to him at Trivial Pursuit. He could be silly, crude, and frequently a glutton, or warm, witty, and occasionally wise.

But on first impressions, people saw him as the punchline of a Jeff Foxworthy joke — that is, until he managed to slip something charming or profound into the conversation. Otherwise, he was a truck driver, which meant he identified with the working man.

Elites, therefore, tended to underestimate him. But, despite too many flaws to count, my dad had a strong sense of dignity and fundamental equality. He greeted those who overstepped with a simple question that is woefully under-appreciated today:

Who do you think you are?

Let’s dive a little deeper into the wisdom of this question.

Imagine living under a regime:

  • Whose authorities force you to bankroll both your censors and the propagandists you despise;
  • That punishes those who reveal state secrets, but not state actors keeping secrets from the people;
  • That requires you, your children, and your grandchildren to suck bilgewater out of over-leveraged banks while the bankers dine at Le Gratin; 
  • Whose officials force you to pay for your children to be taught that lies are truths and truths are lies;
  • That mandates you put woefully under-tested therapies into your body to keep your job. 

One could go on ad nauseam. 

We don’t have to imagine living under such a regime. But with each point, that simple question rings in my head — my father’s baritone voice booming with rectitude:

Who do you think you are?

As our Empire sinks into the sea, red with blood and ink, we export war machines and sleep under the watchful eyes of a doddering fool and a thousand Col. Jesseps who remind us daily that we can’t handle the truth.

Who do you think you are?

As the newspapers of record abandon their adversarial beats, what’s left of journalism has been taken up by comedians with podcasts. The rest — these boot-licking Columbia j-school grads — skin their knees trying to get a taste of power and prestige.

Who do you think you are?

As the Central Banks run dry, their functionaries wait in obscurity as predators to configure a system Mussolini would have cheered. Soon a few monstrous technocrats — the same ones who made this mess — will control every penny in your Fed account and, therefore, you.

Us vs. Them

In the rabble’s courage, something timeless awakens — the courage of musket-bearing yeomen pushing into advancing redcoat regiments, of Ms. Parks with her stiffened spine, of Mr. Snowden giving up the life he once knew so that we could all know. 

Legions of fools stay distracted by left versus right. We know the real war is us versus them. And a few anti-authoritarians are getting wise to it. It only takes a few.

Remember, the only rational answer to that simple question is: 

Because I am someone with the power to compel you.

There is no other suitable answer. 

Those at the highest echelons don’t have genes that confer special powers. God does not anoint them. And “democracy” is just a spectacle by a power-sharing cartel that paints legitimacy on a protection racket. 

Those who stand up for justice realize that the authorities have limited power to compel us if we bear arms, lock arms, speak up, and remember to be brave for our kids. As writer Jamie Bartlett wisely observed,

[Nation-state authorities] rely on control. If they can’t control information, crime, businesses, borders, or the money supply, then they will cease to deliver what citizens demand of them. In the end, nation-states are nothing but agreed-upon myths: we give up certain freedoms in order to secure others. But if that transaction no longer works, and we stop agreeing on the myth, it ceases to have power over us.

The transaction no longer works.

Our job, then, is to make sure our voices ring out in the minds of our children after we’re dead. For that simple question is the last check before discourse turns to destruction. So, if ever there were a mantra for righteous revolutionaries, an anthem for redneck satyagraha, it would be this:

Who the hell do you think you are?

The post There is Cosmic Wisdom in this Simple Question was first published by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), and is republished here with permission. Please support their efforts.

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