Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

The final face-up
by Manfred F. Schieder



“Now, if they slay the dreamers and the riches the dreamers gave, They shall get them back to the benches and be as the galley slaves.”

(From “Ballad of Ryerson,” by Edwin H. Lewis)



Where and when the first thoughts on personal liberty came up is and will, as so many other things past, remain unknown forever, for first comes the thought itself, which is an act of mental pondering, and only then, how far later is also unknown, was it stamped in some early form of what would be known as writing. There’s a cuneiform inscription discovered on a clay tablet from some 4,300 years back in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash that, apparently, signifies “ama-gi,” meaning “freedom” or “liberty”. This definitively states the first break with the kind of social form we humans inherited from our far, far back primate ancestors.



Much, much closer to our present times, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (120 – 180 our Age) wrote of “a polity in which there is the same law for all, a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a (kingly) government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed.” Unknown to himself, this was a further intellectual break, not just with nature’s social system, but with those who want to cage modern man to a way of behavior that has no longer any significance to us, nay, that even want to decree our vanishing as the human species from the universe.



Other wedges were to be sunk later on into the fissuring crack, some of them very local and practically unnoticed, for a time, by the further human population. Some 1,500 years after Marcus Aurelius, now mixed with though timid, but still effective practical applications, such as the signature of the Magna Charta in 1215, that guaranteed certain personal rights to the British barons and later swept out to ever widening areas of the mankind; the “Habeas Corpus,” that had early antecedents in 12th century England and was codified in 1679, a time when in the far away colony of Plymouth Governor William Bradford, noticed that the there ruling socialist principles, based on religious commands and enforced when the “Mayflower” landed on the American coast, had only produced extended “starving time” hardships. Thus, which was an absolute novelty, he instituted the assent of allowing each family to cultivate a small private plot of land for their individual use, which “had very good success,” as he reported, “for it made all hands very industrious.”



When the pilgrims renounced to the socialist practices and gave way to private enterprise, they introduced a system of life that was, some 100 years later, to start the success of the United States of America. This was no longer a fissure nor a break, but a definite parting of the ways. The Founding Fathers had decided to travel a new road.



New things may take a long time to develop, which is also most likely the reason why some people don’t understand the slow, lengthy workings of evolution. The idea of personal liberty follows a similar development. History traces a slow progression that significantly relates directly to the growth of new intellectual capacities that, as well, determined our definite separation from all other species.



In a way it’s similar to a baby’s growth, whose brain is practically an unwritten pad, a tabula rasa at its birth and, thus, unavoidably obliged to absorb whatever its parents and further grown ups write on it, however unrelated to reality this may be. Being an absorbent sponge, the human brain takes up every possible data to which it might have access, no matter whether it’s right or wrong, in its struggle and need to survive. By the time it has done so, it has taken all, hook, line and sinker, and, most of the time, will remain in this state for the rest of its life, up to its death… unless it turns on the self-thinking function of the brain, a faculty called reason, that operates beyond the level of mere automatism. Thus, at the beginning, the human species took over from its beastly antecessors their social structure, its mode of behavior and its foggy view of the surroundings, as this was the only procedure available in nature. The later change developed slowly, the road to civilization thus being sparsely dotted with timid modifications and improvements on a widely separated time scale.



Our records can scarcely provide the exact time sense that went by from food hunting and gathering to the invention of the first manual plow, still used in many parts of the world, and the very first attempts of genetical engineering by mixing various kinds of grass that slowly allowed the later obtainment of early forms of wheat. As history registers and philosopher Ayn Rand stated in “The Fountainhead,” such human achievements were most of the times “rewarded” with the death of the successful achiever, for mankind considered that he was “an evildoer who had dealt with a demon mankind dreaded.” The notion of “gods” and “demons” was an early outcome in the effort to explain what seemed unexplainable; in its wake religion developed as a dreadful and delaying tool of power.



But once the big sweep of the obsolete social system had started, the ideas of personal liberty gained power and speed. Resistance was inevitably to be expected, and we are now in the time of transition toward a social structure and operation proper to human beings that is fundamentally different from the old order of things.



Yes, I know that we can easily agree with Ludwig von Mises when he said “It is poor makeshift to call any age an age of transition. In the living world there is always change. Every age is an age of transition.” (Part 3 of chapter 36 of his monumental work “Human Action”), but there are certain times that mark a particularly decisive moment of transition, a time that determines a no-way-back time in history. The one here referred to is a particularly long one, but it’s also a definite one, one that will determine if the human species will survive and progress or if it will be added to the further 2,500,00 species that were totally erased by Nature. For this one is the time of the final face-up.



It gathered momentum from about the time when Governor Bradford took the essential step of throwing the far away past overboard and it had as its background a new view of the facts of reality, for while religion was a desperate intention to arrange the self-contradictory tenets of primeval assumptions inherited from the past antecessors, that were still close to the world of irrational animals, into a foggily understandable arrangement, the human brain had reached the state where some considered such collection of castles-in-the-air to lead to a dead end, for our brain could as well and properly be used to analyze our surroundings and ourselves in a rational way. Shortly after Bradford’s decision, John Locke brought to paper his deductions on personal liberty and not far later Adam Smith, in spite of some mistaken understandings of wages and profit, traced the main economic considerations in his “The Wealth of Nations”.



Thus, the Renaissance, man’s rebirth, that had started around the 13th century opening a new trend to investigate nature, practically opposed the belief that all was “god given,” which unavoidably produced a strong reaction from those who believed that man’s task was only to establish a right relation with “god,” that had been lost when Adam committed the “sin” of what “god” had forbidden: to taste the fruit of knowledge and discovering, as Eve recognized, that its obtainment had a most pleasing taste. It can be sensed as symbolic that eyeglasses were invented as Renaissance began, for we were now and correctly obtaining a new view of the world where we live.



We’ve seen that growth is a slow and long process. History is filled thousandfold with events that prove the steadfast hatred of people of high and low standing against human progress obtained through science and industry, precisely those instruments that confirmed themselves as being able to lengthen human life and lead it to prosperity and wellbeing. The list of disasters originated by humans against other humans in their quest to move mankind away from civilization and back to prehistory seems endless, with religious as well as secular groups being burdened with the guilt of producing untimely deaths in their path of hatred.



Looking at the trail run by injurious ideologies, we reach the time where mankind is now facing another of these historical confrontations, launched by those unwilling and/or unable to learn the evolutionary backbone of history. This time there are clear signals of the final face-up against a line of doctrines that developed from the way of life taken over from mankind’s long past irrational ancestors, a way of life that resulted from the development of life itself, but that is no longer proper for a species that has reached the state of rationality. History has arrived at the time when the prehistoric religiously based past must crumble under the conditions required by a social system proper to human beings as a developed rational species. Our historical development has already gone beyond the point where most of the human population still remains hooked to a lack of understanding of what the new situation demands: the acceptance of a totally different moral, political, economic and aesthetic basis. This inevitably results in conflict.



The new pro-human social system demands from each of us a consistent relationship with reality and a peaceful and productive existence, which is the main tenet of Capitalism. Nothing less will do. It is only our existence as rational human beings that give significance to the world where our life takes place. Without us humans, who learn and understand where our existence takes place, the world as such would lack any meaning. No other living being but us humans has any knowledge of it, at least in this local area of the universe.



The emerging new social system that corresponds to the human species as the rational exposition of living matter required, of course, a non-contradictory philosophical foundation. It took a very long time for all the corresponding details to be available and the brain of a female genius to arrange it into a consistent unit of thought: Philosopher Ayn Rand.



Starting, as mentioned, at “ama-gi,” the first vocal and written expression of liberty, it encompasses Marcus Aurelius cited quote, Aristoteles laws of logic, England’s Magna Charta, Habeas Corpus, John Locke’s thoughts, Adam Smith’s main deductions, the main concepts of the United States Declaration of Independence, as well as further political and economic teachings of Capitalism, and the required metaphysic, epistemological, ethical, political and aesthetic deductions deduced from reality by Ayn Rand.



It is now up to us human beings to take the decision of accepting and structuring the new social system in its full application or, else, to allow those who’s every effort leads to the definitive disappearance of the human species to reach their aim. Should the dreadful purpose of mankind’s extinction take place, the universe itself will lack any significance for, at least in this area of the whole, nobody else will know of its existence, as all other living matter on the planet lacks the smallest capacity to understand where its existence takes place. Because we are the evolution’s development of a THINKING brain, as Carl Sagan clearly stated it: “For we are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: star stuff pondering the stars: organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for the Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves, but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.”



We are involved in the final face-up. Either we construct a truly rational human social system of a peaceful and productive existence or those who are decided to erase mankind from the universe will reach their purpose.



The choice rests on us.



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