Born Free

“Born free, as free as the wind blows, As free as the grass grows Born free to follow your heart.”

 – John Barry, Don Black.

Those are the opening lyrics from the song of the same title, a big hit in 1966, the year that I became free as the wind. I left my hometown of Edmonton and flew to Ottawa the day after the Queen Victoria long weekend to begin my career with IBM in Ottawa. I had turned 21 the year before and felt free as a bird. Free to leave my home, free to get a job, free to jump on a plane (and without going through screenings or pat-downs!), free to go to a pub for a beer, free to drive down to the U.S. for the weekend (and without a passport!), free to do most anything. I took these freedoms and many, many more for granted. After stopping in Ottawa to meet my new employer and workmates, I was shipped down river to Montreal for some formal training and my freedoms jumped. In bible belt Alberta, the beer parlours, as we called our pubs, would close around 11:00 and you could only buy your beer at government-run beer, wine and liquor stores. In Montreal, we drank our beer in bars that never closed down and bought our beer at mom and pop grocery stores. When I finished my training a few months later and returned to Ottawa, my long-time friend and roommate Boyd and I would regularly go off on weekend nights across the river to Hull in Quebec where we could drink and listen to rock until we got tired, not until 11:00 like back in Ontario.

Another good thing about Quebec was that Boyd could drink there legally. We were thankful for living in Canada as at our ages and living in the U.S. would have us eligible to be drafted and sent off to Viet Nam. We knew about these legal differences but never got into heavy debates about the limits on our freedoms or the differences in other parts of the world. Freedom was more than drinking laws and closing times at bars. We knew about the Iron Curtain and East and West Berlin. We just had better things to talk about. Like who was going to win the Stanley Cup. Like girls. We weren’t deep, but we were free.

But then I think back to 1967 when a work colleague at IBM went back to India where he was born to visit his family over the Christmas break. When he returned he left us all flabbergasted when he told us that he had returned with his bride, someone that his parents had chosen for him. I wasn’t ignorant of the idea of arranged marriages still happening in India, but I thought that Raghu was thoroughly Canadian in this way of life. The obvious might need further examination at times. Never talked to him about whether he was free to marry as he chose.

I’ve been looking at freedom lately, and had this revelation that life forms are generally born free, free to pursue whatever it is that their nature requires of them to stay alive. We humans are no different. But somewhere in our evolutionary journey we transformed from being animals of instincts to animals of choice. We began to create and invent things that made it easier to survive. These creations, these cultures that we brought into existence were products of our freedom to imagine.

This freedom to imagine, freedom to create is infinite in its possibilities. Since earliest childhood, I loved stories. I can remember mum reading stories of Babar the elephant to my sisters and me on frigid winter nights, enchanted by Babar’s adventures and tropical life in Africa. How envious I was even then of a life of palm trees and coconuts and it’s likely not a coincidence that I now find myself in a land of comfort and warmth. Living with -40 degree temperatures is no world for me or Babar.

But in Googling for some information of Babar to include here in my blog, I uncovered some information that shows up the darker side of being creative, the bringing into existence creations that can be used to bully and control people. When I was six, Babar was a story for children, clearly a fiction about talking elephants and monkeys and their adventures. But now seven decades later it’s headlines like, “Babar The Elephant – Racism, Sexism, and Privilege in Children’s Stories”. The books have been banned everywhere because they tell stories “wrong”. We humans have invented a vast arsenal of methods of interfering in each other’s lives, from censorship to dropping atomic bombs on people.

Also from my childhood comes these wise words from Pogo Possum: “We have met the enemy and he is us”. In his time creator Walt Kelly was a multi-awarded cartoonist but I doubt his intense satire and political commentary would survive a minute in today’s world. We have become our own worst enemy.

Let me turn down the seriousness of this post for a minute with another blog revelation. Man, do I love cartoons and fiction! When I do a bit more research Googling “Charlie brown and the”, the second offering in the list that comes back two nanoseconds later is the one I was looking for, “Charlie brown and the red-haired girl”. I’m one of those millions who Google this who shared that fear of approaching the red-haired girl. I was my own worst enemy in this matter. My freedom to go up to someone I was attracted to was squashed – by me! Freedom from fear isn’t available to us but freedom to call on courage is. I’ve been able to make my way there many times, or almost as often as I need to.

Freedom and being free is the first ingredient for each of us in coming alive and following our heart. It’s going to be a regular theme here in A World of Honour. I don’t want to be left with Janis Joplin’s lament, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”. Freedom’s not just another word for something – it’s the source of everything.

Who’s the Pope?

Back in my high school and university days, I hung out with a gang of childhood friends. We loved our weekends and typically would get together Friday night and play poker or bridge at Lumpy’s house. As the evening wore on we would get hungry and jump in a car and head off to the Burger Baron for hamburgers and chips. All except Grant. He was a Catholic and was bound by papal decree to eat no meat on Friday’s. We gave him a hard time about this. We were spiritual anarchists, free to eat as we pleased while Grant was a serf of the church, bound by their code.

Reflecting back those many years, I saw that we considered ourselves quite free then, and later when I was the first of our mob to turn 21, then the legal age of consent, I would buy us a case of beer and join my underage and scofflaw friends with burgers and beer. Grant had no trouble with the beer, by the way, but stuck with the Pope on the meat thing. We didn’t think too deeply at the time about drinking while under age and I certainly didn’t think about being a bootlegger. The consequences of our breaking the law would have been far more severe than Grant breaking the meat edict. He could spill the beans to his priest on his next confession and perform some penance. We might end up in court and depending on the judge suffer anything from a slap on the wrist with a small fine to something more severe. We never thought about that. Clearly we never thought about our lawmakers and politicians in the way that Grant thought about the pope. Thinking back, we never thought about anyone that way, not even our parents. I was Popeless. I’ve never had a spiritual or political person above me to whom I felt any sort of obedience.

What’s at steak here is much more than being the pope about eating a hamburger on Friday. It’s about who’s calling the shots. What can I eat? What can I drink? What and where and when can I smoke? How about what job can I pursue, where can I live, who can I marry? What choices are really mine to make?

I did a bit of research on meatless Fridaysand quickly was overwhelmed with way too much information. I know for most of us whether we have meat on  Friday or not is considered a personal choice. When something as simple as this choice is taken over by someone else, the issue soon becomes more dramatic than Ben Hur. Follow the link I’ve given and you’ll see what I mean. The complications and justifications that fall out of this simple intrusion into free choice become horrific.

For a much more serious example of having someone else choose what you and I can ingest I strongly recommend Chasing the Screamby Johann Hari. This book is all about the war on drugs and what this war has cost humanity. I cannot offer a better example of the unintended consequences that can follow turning over your freedom to choose to some authority.

Now, as I write these words, I’m proposing that each of us reclaim our right to choose. I’m proposing that we take on living a life that has us come alive, to play and work together following  a simple code, one with only three rules: do no harm, be your word, and everything by agreement. I am proposing that we build A World of Honour together from these simple proposals. In such a world, who is the Pope? Who calls the shots? Do we have a pope or ping or any other form of ruler?

I’ve already offered my answer to this. In your world, you call the shots. Looked at this in another light, you are the Pope. In my world, I am the Pope. I call the shots. “Oh, wow!”, some might say, “I can do whatever I want!”, with a mischievous gleam. But doing what we want is bound by our agreed-upon rules. “Whatever I want”, as long as what we do is harmless to others and not in disagreement to any promises we’ve made. A World of Honour is not some nihilistic playground for vandals, thieves and psychopaths.

We are honour bound to each other in this ideal world. This is heady stuff. Suddenly you are the pope in your papal domain – but so is everyone else in theirs. But this begs the question. What holds our current world together? What stops us from doing harm to each other? Is it fear of being caught out, fear of being put in prison for breaking the law? I say it’s not fear that holds our world together but respect. We live together mostly as mutual popes already. But we don’t know this. I’m saying that we’re ignorant of this and it’s this ignorance that keeps us in the dark – and keeps us tolerating external rule.

Another word for what holds A World of Honour together is responsibility. In a world of equal popes, each of us is responsible for keeping our code. There is no higher authority to keep us common folk in line because there are no common folk. There are only equals.

That’s my ideal. To live in a world of equals – not equals in importance or wealth or talent or any other measurement except that of being equal in being master of our domain.

The Dumbo Effect

We were watching Pulitzer Prize winning What the Constitution Means to Me on Amazon Prime the other night. This is a movie adapted from the Broadway play of the same name, based on the teenage life of American Heidi Schreck who at 15 gave numerous speeches on the American constitution, winning enough prize money to pay for her university education. One of the segments of the play that caught my attention was the one in which Heidi played by herself invites an ace local high school debater, 14 year old Rosdely Ciprian, to join her onstage. The two of them participate in a formal debate on whether or not the constitution should be abolished. At one point, the young Ciprian declares that the constitution is flawed to the point of being hopeless. Heidi concedes that the constitution has its weaknesses but asserts that without it there would be no guarantee of liberties.

For the benefit of readers who may not be up to date on the American constitution,

The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States. Empowered with the sovereign authority of the people by the framers and the consent of the legislatures of the States, it is the source of all government powers and provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of United States citizens.

The Constitution

Since its enactment in 1789, the constitution has been amended 27 times and is a topic of perpetual debate in American politics. Ciprian’s proposal for the abolition of the constitution for some reason brought to mind Walt Disney’s cartoon film, Dumbo.

This Disney classic from 1941 tells the story of Dumbo, a baby elephant who is the subject of ridicule for his big ears. He is taken under the protection of Timothy Q. Mouse and one morning after the two of them accidentally got drunk, they find themselves stuck high in a tree. Timothy realises that they got there because Dumbo flew, using his ears as wings. Later they befriend some crows who plot with Timothy to convince Dumbo that he can fly if he has a magic feather, a simple tail feather plucked from one of the crows. Soon Dumbo and Timothy and the crows are seen flying through the air as Dumbo masters his magic skill. Dumbo and Timothy return to the circus where they are forced up to the top of a tall burning building where Dumbo must dive into a rescue net held by the other clowns. Timothy has planned for a dramatic turn to this dive, one that sees Dumbo show off his flying skills to the audience and the circus folk. However as Dumbo dives out of the window, his magic feather blows out of the grasp of his trunk and the two plummet towards the tiny net. But at the last second, Timothy blurts out that the feather isn’t magic at all and that Dumbo can fly without it. Dumbo gives his best try and sure enough, he flies on his own.

Now what had me see Dumbo as being similar to What the Constitution Means to Me? It’s the magic feather. I assert that the constitution is held as some sort of political magic feather. The feather works like this: if we get the constitution right, then American rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will be honoured. We didn’t quite get it right and those errors and omissions are what lets legislators pass laws that compromise our rights. But is this really the case? Isn’t this concern – that our rights will be compromised – our magic feather? The legislators can’t get it right because the magic feather is missing.

There is a painful part of the Constitution movie in which we hear actual recordings of a supreme court member discussing what the meaning of “shall” is. He’s doing this because of a case before the supreme court in which a lawsuit has been brought against the police for failing to protect a woman from her violent husband. The woman assumed that the police would protect her because that is their job. However, the judge points out that the legislation in question says something along the lines of “The police shall protect the people”, not “The police must protect the people” and somehow there is confusion over “shall” and “must”.

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark if the supreme court of the U.S.A. must go to the constitution to work out whether police forces “must” protect people or “shall”. They are using the “magic feather” to evade their duty. And here I agree totally with the premise that the constitution be abolished.

What if we replace it with a simple code of honour? The constitution with its bill of rights was intended to be such a document. Wasn’t the intention for the American society to be one of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that governments are created to protect those rights? If so, then this can be said in one sentence, one paragraph at most. It is not created to be the supreme law of the land but the source of inspiration and integrity from which justice is delivered.

We become a people like little Dumbo. He can’t fly without his magic feather. We can’t live in peace and harmony without our constitution. Dumbo was wrong. We are wrong. Consider that those thousands and thousands of laws, rules and regulations that we bury ourselves in are like magic feathers. We need them to guarantee us justice. Consider we must shed those thousands of orders and replace them with a simple code of honour.

I will end this by quoting from The Seekers and their song Georgy Girl, “… shed those dowdy feathers and fly …”. Shed those thousands of rules around your neck and come alive! A little bit?

What no one told us

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that because what the world needs is people who have become alive.”

Howard Thurman

I’ve been inspired by this quote since I first came across it back in 2012. It spoke to me and captured something in me that was previously unspoken but there in me, nevertheless.

At times I’ve been someone who didn’t heed these wise words. No, no – the world needs a better political system. And then I forgot about what has me come alive and instead went into politics. Mr. Thurman’s wise words didn’t come into my life until 2012, 40 years later. But then again, in 1972 I already knew everything there was to know about everything and wouldn’t have had the wisdom to heed his words anyway. My arrogance was far and away way too big.

I have since discovered that this is what turns me on, has me come alive. Talking about philosophy, what it is to be human, what is possible for human beings living, playing and working together building a world of people who have come alive and being one of those humans.

Whether the world, i.e. all you other people, needs the world of honour that I’m proposing is none of my business. My business is to do what makes me come alive. It’s your business to figure out whether this makes sense and then whether to add it to your base of wisdom so that you can better do what makes you come alive. My intention is to write words, hopefully wise words, that may inspire you and make it easier for you to take on the challenges you will face in constructing a world that will turn you on. Make me a part of your brains trust and I will do my best to live up to honouring that decision.

What no one told us is what is it to be human and that we should ask this question. What is it that makes us unique? Let’s start there and build from that. As I see it, what makes us unique from other species is our rational mind. It’s this rational mind that brought about my power to learn and use words to speak to you over the internet using computers. What also makes us human and is also unique to us is our incredible framework of feelings and emotions. Properly harnessed it leads to the creation of symphonies and sonnets, computer networks and cancer cures. Improperly harnessed it leads to the creation of hydrogen bombs and concentration camps. We get to choose. That’s also what it is to be human: to be a being of choice.

But wait, there’s more! What it is to be human is to be gregarious, sociable. We’re social animals who enjoy hanging out together. Not all the time. We also need our own space, but at heart most of us would rather be close to each other than far apart. Look at the world we’ve built. Regardless of language, culture, religion or race, we’ve gathered together in villages, towns and cities that number into the millions. We get together by choice, to work and play. Most of the time, in most places we are at peace with each other. We assemble in office towers. We get there jammed together in trains and buses and cars. We sit shoulder to shoulder at concerts or sporting events, quietly listening to music or boisterously cheering on our team. We’re like this everywhere. We’re social animals, we’re sociable animals. We like being together.

What it is to be human is to be born tabula rasa, born with a mind that’s empty and needs to be filled correctly. We need to figure out what “correctly” means and sadly too many of us too often have gone to bloody battle arguing over what correctly means, completely missing the black humour that correctly implies never going to bloody battle with each other. More than anything, we rational, social beings born with empty minds need a moral compass, a rational code of conduct for living together.

We’re surrounded by codes of conduct. We have constitutions, laws, moral imperatives given to us by political leaders, religious leaders, gurus. But pretend for a moment that you are tabula rasa. From that perspective, try on this code:

Do no harm. That’s it, that’s all you need. Never by choice harm a human being. Never harm yourself, never harm your neighbour. Never harm anyone. But I didn’t quite get that right. That’s not quite all we need. Rational beings living close together with all the grab-bag of emotional baggage that comes with us need to align with each other on this. We need to agree with each other, to promise each other that we will live this way together. It’s like shaking hands and promising this to each other. “I promise to do you no harm”, and you in turn promise that to me. And one last thing: we must honour this promise, this agreement and all the others that will follow.

  • Do no harm
  • Everything by agreement.
  • Be your word

That’s what I’ve chosen to offer as A Code of Honour to best build A World of Honour.

But wait, there’s one more thing that goes into this being human. We are beings filled with feelings and emotions and these feelings and emotions run the show. When there’s a conflict between doing what we know is the right thing to do and what we feel we want to do, feelings trump knowledge every time.

An example of this in my life is my capacity to procrastinate so perfectly and let myself get away with it. Like I launched my website on 1 July and here it is, the 1st of December, or whatever, and I’m putting up my 2nd post. My intention was and still is to get out a post every week. It’s like I’ve got this little demon sitting on my shoulder, you know like in the cartoons, and this demon is conspiring with my mind and telling me that I don’t feel like writing. Meanwhile on my other shoulder is my conscience telling me be your word and don’t listen to the devil.

My struggle is to be my word in the face of conflicting feelings. My battleground is procrastination – you’ll have your own skirmishes.

Ultimately, we must address conflicts between our feelings and our thoughts with our moral compass, our moral code. I wasn’t put on this Earth to follow the coaxings of some little devil nor the edicts of someone else, no matter how wise and saintly that person might be. I was put on Earth to choose my path, to discover what has me come alive and then do that, to use my capacity for reason and logic to carve out a joyous and creative life.

This is what I will write about.

Baby Starts School

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die                      

–     Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade

What was being taught to this child was about to change. A few months before my sixth birthday, I started grade 1 at King Edward Park public school in Edmonton, Canada. In 1950, each day at school was started with us standing, and doing some sort of pledge of allegiance to our flag and our king. Looking down at us as we did this was a picture of King George VI. I can’t remember if our teacher ever pointed to old George and said something like “that’s King George, our king”. But somehow I knew it. And then a couple of years later his picture was taken down and replaced with that of his daughter, Elizabeth, and now we had a queen. That and my memory of her visiting us in Edmonton a few months earlier as a princess was all more like a fairy tale unfolding than something real.

Something happened in my education in this period that has Dr. Edlund say, “we have her (or him) for life” We’ve moved the context for our learning from concrete objects like dog or apple into abstractions, like country or monarch. A new set of rules are needed now, rules calling for skills like critical thinking and concept formation. We are now in a realm of thinking and knowledge expansion that calls for questioning, for testing, for connecting what we’re about to learn against everything that we’ve been taught so far. With everything we learn, we’re checking to make sure that this new idea that we’re discovering doesn’t contradict anything else that we’ve learned.

But this level of learning requires a more sophisticated and developed mind than is possessed by a seven or eight-year-old. You and I in grade one aren’t ready for God, king and country. You and I are still miracles, but that tabula rasa must be filled in correctly. “Correctly” means one thing if the adult is trying to educate a child to grow up to be some form of serf for some form of ruler. If this is what we want to be, serfs, then being indoctrinated into a belief system that maintains the idea that we need rulers is perfect.

But “correctly” means something totally different if the adult is trying to educate a child to be a creative and productive person, filled with a life that is to be held as a miracle and not merely as some bit of cannon fodder for the King. If this is the aim, then the education must be designed to bring into being a rational and autonomous human. Once language and numbers are mastered, the focus of teaching must be on reason and critical thinking. Unfortunately you and I were indoctrinated into valuing the ruler and not taught to value our brilliant mind and miraculous self. We now face the challenge of unlearning the errors and mastering as best we can how to think critically.

But that heady challenge lies outside the scope of what we’re building together here, in A World of Honour. Here what we’re building is the possibility of a future that is consistent with being an equal and rational person. To attempt to live in any other way will only lead to some future with very yucky consequences, like finding yourself in Afghanistan killing someone’s grandparents and children and damaging your soul forever.

Here we are at the crossroads. Our belief that the monarch has divine rights to rule each of us was challenged by the Declaration of Independence. We have a monarch with divine rights versus you and me with inalienable rights. One of these notions must go. We are faced with a choice. But to reach and understand this conclusion takes reasoning and tools of logic that we do not possess because they weren’t taught to us, weren’t taught to our teachers, our leaders, our bank tellers, our CEO’s, our parents.

Either the idea of divine king must go or the idea of miraculous you must go. To frame this in the context of A Code of Honour, either Tennyson’s “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die” must go or “Do no harm” must go. There is no middle ground, no greater good, no higher principle, no “yes, but…” There is nothing to rely on to create and maintain a civilised world but the three “laws” of A Code of Honour. Never has been, never will be. We either live with chronic mayhem and fear of each other or we accept that we must depend on each and every one of us to be worthy of trust and respect.

You are lord and master and ruler of your life right now. You always were, you always will be. Yours was always to reason why; it was never to simply do and die. At this moment of your life, you chose to give the time to contemplating what I have to say in A World of Honour. You rightly assumed that “permission” to read this blog post was solely up to you. Taken to the next step, I’m inviting you to take on the three principles of A Code of Honour as the guiding principles of your life. You will unilaterally take this on or not. Of course by doing so unilaterally implies that you are already playing A Code of Honour but that’s not as easy to see.

Are there times when it’s appropriate to ask permission to do something? Of course there are, many times. If you are an employee of someone, it’s not right to unilaterally decide to take a day off because you feel like it. You and your employer have an agreement, the second principle of A Code of Honour. You are bound by your word, the third principle of A Code of Honour, to keep that agreement so you go to your manager and ask if it works for you to take tomorrow off.

I can’t stress this enough. You and I are already playing by the rules of A Code of Honour and always have been. But you and I never declared this to the world. We can and must change that now. Who says that you can and must change this? Guess.

That’s right, you say so. You first say this to yourself and then to others. That’s what I had to do. I had to declare to myself that I was going to abide by the rules of A Code of Honour. Then I decided to write up what I was discovering and begin telling my story to others. And that brought you into the picture. If you don’t know me personally, then my story has gone public. If things work out the way I would like them to, this will go viral. We shall see.

You, the Miracle

You began your existence defying the odds. Your mother provided the egg. Your father provided the sperm. Your journey started at the instant of fertilization. Any other egg, any other sperm and you wouldn’t be here. Any mishap or failure to fertilize and you wouldn’t be here. Think about what happened in the past such that this one egg and this one sperm connected at this one instance in time. Each of your parents defied the same odds as did all their parents and so on back in time to the beginning of life. It’s been calculated that the odds are about one in 102,685,000 against you being born. You are a miracle.

Given what a miraculous creation you are, I say that you are the most unlikely, most precious being in the universe. Paradoxically so am I and so are the seven billion or so other people on our planet. We are all miracles, all the most precious and most unlikely beings.

I will start with the self-evident truth that you are a rational animal. My proof, not that proof is needed for self-evident truths, is that you are understanding what I’ve said with relative ease. I’m not saying that you agree or disagree with it, just that you understand it. Only a rational animal could do this. Just as miraculous is that we are born with this capacity for high level thinking. We humans depend on this rational mind for our survival. It’s our most important asset that we use to live and thrive. Every action that we take is thought out, not always correctly, not always wisely, not always consciously – but thought out.

Our survival is also dependent on our knowledge. Your first go at knowledge acquisition was learning how to speak. You learned your mother tongue from your mother. If you think about it, this too was a miracle. You couldn’t walk, you couldn’t care for yourself in any way, your mum had to nurse and spoon feed you, but somehow just by listening to her coo at you, you grasped what was going on and gave it back to her. How in bloody hell did you do that? You weren’t some parrot doing a “Polly wants a cracker” number. You knew what you were doing. Somehow you thought it all out and learned how to speak, your first miracle creation.

Without any formal training at all, you then went on to learn to speak in sentences. You became masterful in using nouns and verbs together, without having a clue what a noun or a verb was. Soon after that you began mastering concepts, again without knowing what a concept was. You learned the concept “red” and could distinguish ten shades of red from green or blue or yellow. You learned the concept “colour”. What you accomplished in the mastery of your language and concept formation skills was miraculous.

I want to underline something. This learning to speak takes place everywhere on the planet, every second of the day. Somewhere some new human being right now is mastering one of these skills, either speaking her first word, learning a new word or mastering a concept. This is all done with the skills that we are born with. How we do this perfectly integrates with the three principles of A Code of Honour.

Baby and the Code of Honour

  1. Do no harm: clearly the infant and adult are learning to speak with mutual pleasure. There is no bullying going on. Mum isn’t using any form of force on baby and baby is obviously engaged and captivated by what’s happening.
  2. Everything by agreement is going on with each word spoken. Mum is teaching the notion of agreement. The words that we learn to speak are words that the baby is implicitly agreeing with. When mum points to the family dog and says “dog”, she is following an agreement that we all made and honour that says “dog” is the word for the kind of an animal that we are pointing to.
  3. Be your word is also implicit in the learning process. Each of us agreed that “dog” was “dog” and not “apple” and we practiced being true to that agreement always. Such a good start to being our word. We learn so early that “dog” stays as “dog”. Mum saying “dinnertime” implies a promise.

Do we ever think about such things in this way? I’m saying that therein rests a power that is missing to us, the power that comes to each of us when we make something that we’ve learned be explicit and be brought into the light rather than be implicit and remain in the shadows.

Sometime around two years and nine months of age, you were ready to learn to read. At this stage we could take the sounds of the words we have learned and connect them to a written expression of the word. In English we use a phonetic approach to this, taking one or more of twenty-six letters and arranging them into a sequence that represents the word we are using. “d” plus “o” plus “g” make up the word “dog”. Again, the three principles of A Game of Honour are applied.  Agreement has been undertaken word by word as we master reading. All this agreement is implicit, demonstrated by the ease in which we learn and demonstrate that we’ve mastered speaking, reading and then writing.

As an infant you aren’t ready to think about concepts like “agreement” or “acceptance” or “trust”. You simply take in what you are being told and believe it to be true. You can’t think of it this way yet, but you trust your parents to teach you the right words for everything in your universe. As toddlers, “trust” is inherent in our learning. It cannot occur to us to question what we are hearing or seeing. We are designed to listen and learn. We all start this way, with this mind that is tabula rasa.

Tabula rasa,: the idea that each of is born with a clean slate with no mental content, that we fill up our mind from experience and perception. We can neither trust nor distrust anything as toddlers because we haven’t learned this distinction yet. Skepticism will come much later. For these early days, our learning rule is simply, “If a grownup says it, it’s true”.

Ah, what to teach baby and what not to teach in the light of this observation. As Ignatius of Loyola is claimed to have said, “Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.” Or to be more contemporary, “Give us a kid till she’s 7 and we’ll have her for life.”

Does it matter what we teach our children? More than anything! What we teach them is sacred.

A Code of Honour

Let’s take one final look at this world of ours dominated by a code of obedience. It’s a world of inequality, a world in which the biggest and the strongest rules the rest of us through nothing but the principle of might is right. It’s the law of the jungle from our pre-human past. It’s the divine right of kings, still being practiced in parts of the world. Here’s the question: do we want to continue being ruled by such practices? Is it worth it? Is there another way?

The law of the jungle was passed on from generation to generation and challenging it meant taking a beating. But as we evolved into beings of thought and reason, we began to express our upset about being beaten with sentiments that evolved into our moral codes. Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill, do unto others as you would have others do unto you, honour thy father and thy mother, live and let live. We were developing a system of respect for each other, a system of human equality. The divine right of kings or equality? Something had to give.

Just over two hundred years ago, this clash between divine rights and equal rights furthered their evolving expression with these words from the American Declaration of Independence:

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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

A Step in the Right Direction

The American Founding Fathers were calling for the creation of a paradigm shift in socio-political thinking with their declaration of unalienable rights. There was no way yet to conceive of what a society based upon the notion of a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness might look like. They knew they must sever all allegiance to the British crown but then what?

Imagining a new society founded on these principles, how would they “secure these rights”? I offer that we look at the next part, “Governments are instituted among Men”. Clearly governments existed already and were not instituted to secure human rights for all. Governments existed for the pleasure of the governors, the king and his court. To secure these wonderful new rights an equally wonderful new creation was needed. This was too big a leap for the founding fathers. What was called for was an investigation of these evolving moral concepts, ones consistent with equal human beings with unalienable rights. They were so close, but they didn’t succeed.

Instead they replaced King George with someone who wasn’t a king, but rather someone “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. Perhaps they saw the contradiction looming, the contradiction between equal human beings with rights and “just powers”. What if there are no just powers?. In April 1887 British Lord John Acton penned his famous quote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What is power in this sense of the word except the power of one human being to demand the obedience of another? No human being with a sense of having a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would consent to being dominated by someone else. President Washington replaced King George. How different might it have been if instead we had Custodian Washington, someone to oversee the governance of these new and equal states rather than someone with power over people. What’s the difference between power and governance?

What I am proposing to secure these unalienable rights is a new way of governing. Rather than continue with a corrupt system of government in which one of us sits at the top demanding obedience from the rest of us, we instead live under a system of self-government in which each of us governs the only person that any human being has a right to govern: herself or himself. Rather than “consent” to be governed by Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Morrison or President Biden refuse to be governed by anyone but thy self. Declare our independence with the same conviction of the American Founding Fathers. Declare ourself the ruler and governor of our life! Now we are free and equal. So what does your overseer of governance do? Maybe we don’t even need Custodian Washington. Or perhaps he evolves into a figurehead, a reminder of how things once were.

Did we do that, did you and I declare ourselves free and equal? If you did, then we have at least two human beings that are free and equal by declaration on this Earth – you and me. So now what, now how do we secure these rights? We could look again to the American Founding Fathers. They ended their declaration with “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” We do something similar, something that I am calling A Code of Honour.

I claim no credit for its sentiments which have been handed down to us from ages past. I’m proposing that this code has three statements, the three guiding principles that each of us must pledge unilaterally to each other:

  1. Do no harm
  2. Everything by agreement
  3. Be your word

Hardly original, hardly profound yet I assert will be the biggest challenge each of will face to live up to and uphold.

Do no harm

Often associated with the Hippocratic Oath that many doctors take when beginning their profession, it can and should apply to each of us in living with each other. We intend never to intentionally do harm to another or to another’s values and possessions. We begin there. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not play thy television at top volume at 2 a.m. If we know it’s harming another human being, we don’t do it. If we figure it out too late, we make amends!

Everything by agreement

When undertaking a venture that involves others, we must explicitly agree to each other what we are undertaking. Whether it’s getting married, being employed by someone for paid work, or playing a game of cricket with friends, know what we are getting involved with. We set up the rules, we know the conditions we are agreeing to. If it’s complex, we get a lawyer or someone good with logic to draw up a contract. Then take the conditions on whole-heartedly.

Be your word

What one has agreed to undertake, what has pledged to take on is now one’s word. Honour it. If one pledged to be married “until death do you part”, then honour and be that pledge. If the promise is to work as a bank teller Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. then honour and do that. Over and over without exception.

Sounds easy? I know it’s not. Undertaking such a pledge will take every bit of courage and integrity we possess, and then ten times that much again. This is not a code for weaklings. This is a code for adult human beings trying to build a civilized society. It is a code for equals, a code reflecting and upholding human rights. It is a code demanding self-responsibility of each of us. It is a pledge we make to ourselves and a declaration that we make to all humanity.

Mother begins her relationship with each child with this code. Our earliest moments were lived by this code. Let’s explore this further together.

A Code of Obedience

The recent flood of laws regulating our behaviour flowing out of the COVID-19 dilemma have only deepened my conviction that we are an obedient species. Wear a facemask, don’t stand closer than 1.6 metres to someone, stay in your home after 8 p.m., stay out of Queensland, close your café, hold a Zoom funeral for your much-loved mother, no singing in a choir. I’m dumbfounded about how we obey these commands so meekly. How did we come to be this way?

I think that the key to understanding this obedience to authority requires a Darwinian look at human development. According to these ideas, humans and chimpanzees began their split into two species about 7 million years ago. Both species today are social animals, both still carrying the strong trait of domination of the alpha. It’s this dominant alpha aspect that lies behind both our tendency to obey orders from the alpha and to give orders when one’s fulfilling an alpha role. Seven million years is a long time to build a characteristic.

But isn’t the defining characteristic that makes a human being different from our chimp cousin intelligence, the capacity to think? This emerging mutation became more and more a gene that gave its owner a better chance at survival, a better chance at passing on that gene to the next generation.

But whatever gene keeps the alpha domination going didn’t disappear. Over the millennia, the regressive alpha merges with the evolving intelligence. The capacity to grab a banana or sex from a clan member lives side by side with the capacity to figure out the seasons, plant seeds and harvest crops. We find brute force begins to integrate with reasoned thought.

As we move forward in time, at no point does this might-is-right aspect of humanity cease. The trait is powerful and is passed from generation to generation. But the other trait, our evolving intelligence, is also being passed along. This intelligence leads to everything that we are and have today, so slowly in its changes as to be imperceptible. Our growls and grunts evolve into sophisticated languages. The twigs that we use to pull ants from their nests evolve into complex technologies. Hundreds, thousands, millions of years in the unfolding, invisible changes to each of us in our day to day existence, unnoticed, unexamined, taken for granted as just the way things are.

It’s the might-is-right side of our genetic inheritance that we want brought under control. None of us like to be aggressed against, to be bullied. We didn’t like being bullied at school; we don’t like being bullied at work. We’ve developed a language for the various kinds of bullying. Sexual harassment, armed robbery, blackmail, rape, murder, assault, battery, molesting, teasing. Most of these categories we declare to be illegal and call on our governments to protect us from these abuses. We prefer to work and play together free from violence or the threat of violence. The protection from violence and the retaliation against violence is entrusted to our police. They enforce the laws of the land. Ultimately they hold the power to use force to arrest and detain citizens accused of a crime. Put simply, our police are the ones charged with standing up to the bully. We are taught not to take the law into our own hands but rather call a cop. That’s their role. Few of us would disagree with this. If my government limited its scope to this peace-keeping role in our society, I wouldn’t be speaking up, voicing my concerns about my loss of liberty. It’s my observation that government has always been acting far beyond this role and into that of a meddling busybody, sticking its nose into our affairs and issuing orders. “Don’t do this!” “Don’t do that!” That troubles me. I wasn’t born to be bossed around by some bully. I don’t care either if the bully is some king who inherited his throne from his mommy or some prime minister who received his position through a democratic election. I’m not here to be pushed around.

I can see how it evolved though. Over the long, long passing of time, the alpha who pushed my ancestor around and grabbed his banana whenever he wanted it evolved into some variation of ruler who grabbed his bananas through some variation of a tax collection system. We have many layers of rules and structures that hide the banana-grab that’s happening so that all I see is a line on my pay slip that tells me that some of my wages went to the government as an automatic deduction as my income tax. But it was my money and it was grabbed just as my great-great etc. grandfather had his banana grabbed.

And yet the history of our species as we become more and more a species of reasoned thought rather than brutish bullying is a history of challenging authority. I think the best example of this is still the words spoken in the American Declaration of Independence that each of us has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Suddenly and explicitly we had the possibility of human rights overruling the divine right of kings.

Perhaps we think that since we live in a democracy, our human rights are secure. But this would be flawed thinking.  Living in a democracy means that we are entitled to vote for and thus decide who makes up our government. It tells us nothing about what that government might or might not do.

For the alpha it’s always about power and power also evolves, ever growing. Power always demands obedience. Human rights must be suspended permanently if obedience is to rule. This is what I fear has happened in Australia and most of the free world. Our liberty is gone. Check out this recent Melbourne story of police shooting at a curfew breacher.

Ah yes, the thin blue line, all that stands between us and bank robbers, terrorists and elderly men who go out for a drive after 8 p.m. Give me a break!

We have been conditioned from earliest childhood to obey authority. Later in life, we never question any authority figure. The game works only because we are understandably afraid to question the policeman who enforces the orders because deep inside we know that disobedience can lead to our death right then and there.

It’s too much of a stretch to even suggest that we end government. It’s like proposing that we end breathing or eating. But in the spirit of evolution, I am proposing that we end this bullying that has been evolving in government. How can this come about? Ah, that’s a story for another day. Stay tuned.

Happy Canada Day!

Hello world. Before I get into explaining the name of my blog and what it’s about, let me introduce myself. My name’s Rick Bolstler and I currently live in New South Wales, Australia. I’m launching this blog site on Canada Day, 2020. I’m Canadian by birth and Australian by choice, enjoying and appreciating my dual citizenship. Since retiring in 2008, my wife Heather and I have spent our Australian winters, June-August, in British Columbia, spending time with our family and friends and enjoying the lovely summers on Vancouver Island. This year due to circumstances falling out of the political machinations over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), our trip had to be cancelled and I find us spending our July 1 Canada Day celebrations in Australia.

Heather and I emigrated to Australia in 1983 with our two infant children. Why we did this is a story for another blog or two. We made a new life for our family in Sydney. My background was in computer programming, Heather’s was in teaching high school. We combined our skills and created a computer education company which we eventually sold in 2003. I speak only English, have no religious beliefs, consider myself to be a complete anarchist politically and am a very law-abiding citizen. I am a bit of a loner, preferring the company of my family and friends as my social life. I am very tolerant of others and expect them to be equally tolerant of me. My social philosophy would be summed up as Live and let live. My economic/political philosophy is laissez-faire. I am an advocate of the free market and advocate that each of us be free to carve out our lives as best we can in freedom.

I am an idealist who believes that we should spend our lives trying to improve our lot in life. I am an advocate of the ideal that man can be noble and wise. I believe in the laws of reality and the utter finality of their judgment. I do not believe any of us are exempt from these laws and what we don’t know can and does kill us. In one or two areas I have shed my ignorance and have found myself to be a tad lonely in my enlightenment. I have also found myself to be concerned with what I discovered, so concerned that I came to Australia and now am driven to do this writing.

I’m also one of the world’s best procrastinators. I’ve been meaning to get this blog going for some time now, but always found an excuse to delay starting it for another day, for another week. Two incidents of late became the straws that broke my procrastinator’s back. One was coming across a writing of mine in an essay I wrote for myself back in 1995. I was writing about my life in Australia and found myself reading these words.

We are politically a democracy with a strong heritage of freedom. I can come and go as I please without permission nor the need for permit.

The second incident was the travel restrictions imposed as part of the COVID-19 rulings. My words about being free to go about as I please were suddenly of another era. The strong heritage of freedom that I wrote so admiringly about had obviously disappeared while my attention was elsewhere. I can’t come and go as I please. I must ask permission of my masters. I’m not ignorant nor naïve about COVID-19 either. I’m well aware that Heather and I are in the most sensitive age bracket for this disease and that most of the deaths across all continents have been in the over-70’s age group. Perhaps we would have postponed our annual migration north given what is happening. But that choice is ours to make, not someone else’s – if we still live in a free country that is.

With few exceptions, most of the other nations have taken measures similar to ours in Australia. For me, the lockdowns and restrictions are far more dangerous to the world than any disease could be. For me, freedom to think, freedom to choose, and freedom to act trump everything. As a Canadian school boy, I was taught that we fought in World War I and II to defend our freedoms. The best of our youth were called upon to risk their lives to defend our freedoms. I also learned about the American Declaration of Independence and its self-evident truths, that we are endowed with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unalienable means “not transferable to another or not capable of being taken away or denied”.

Clearly our rights have been taken away, denied. This is unacceptable to me and was the final straw. I have long been in admiration for the founders of the American struggle for independence. They were willingly and openly declaring that their freedom and independence were their rights. I love how their Declaration of Independence ends.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

This is what I intend to bring to the world with my writings. Honour. Sacred honour. We do not live in a world of honour. Instead I see us living in a world of arbitrary rules, rules that constantly compromise any notion of what it means to be free. We haven’t made any sort of pledge to each other to honour and maintain our freedom.

With what remains of my freedom to speak out, this is what my blog will be about: A world driven by obedience to arbitrary rules contrasted with a possible world driven by pledges to sacred honour.