The world is big and that can be scary. The more we know, the bigger it gets. And so we tell ourselves it has structure. We turn tendencies into truths, and truths into facts. And those facts become a shared story we tell ourselves and each other. Stories like society. Stories like government. Stories like money. We tell ourselves these stories and we all agree that these stories should be true. And so we accept them as though they are true.
One such story is the United States.
The United States is a wrestling match between power and freedom. In fleeing from the persecution in Europe, the early colonists hoped for religious freedom. In pursuit of that freedom, they eventually fought off the rule of the British monarchy and made a promise to themselves and to future generations.
The United States has in its Declaration of Independence a statement that came to represent hope to the entire world. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal, with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
That statement, that promise was the first of its kind. It said, come here. Here you will be free. Here, you can dream as big as you want and nothing will stop you if you have the courage and strength to pursue your dream. Here there is no class system. Here there is no caste system. Here there is no monarchy or king. Here, we all rule and we all decide.
It was the first time that kind of freedom had ever existed anywhere in history. It was a grand and glorious promise. It was so amazing that many people didn’t believe it. But, as word of it spread, so too did the idea of freedom and the revolution that came with it. France revolted against its monarchy. The Mexican’s declared independence from Spain. The Russians overthrew their Tsars. Later, India like the United States before it, cast off British rule.
But, like all promises, unless everyone participating in it chooses to keep that promise, to maintain that story, it becomes a lie. Even at the founding of the United States there was the threat against the promise. There were those trying to turn it into another monarchy.
A monarchy is where the richest person around declares themselves to be the leader. They hire soldiers and say, “If you submit to my will, I’ll protect you from the roving hordes who threaten your farms and your families.” A monarchy functions because it uses fear to control people. That fear causes people to sacrifice their freedom for a false sense of security.
At the turn of the 20th century, the United States wasn’t a very powerful country. On the world’s stage it was relatively new, only having been founded 124 years earlier. Add to that the fact that it was deeply unstable due to a civil war and the varying political views of its elected officials.
But, according to the amazing documentary, The Men Who Built America, five men were changing that: the oil baron John D. Rockefeller; the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie; the railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, the industrialist Henry Ford, and the banker J. P. Morgan. They took over the United States and changed it. They became the kings and turned the story of freedom into a lie. They made moot the promise of the founding fathers.
When money is the central choice in determining truth, politicians can be bought. And so can scientists. With money as the primary story we tell ourselves, it becomes, as Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek argue an end in itself, a means by which the individual can be deity. This naturally resulted in Rand writing a book extolling The Virtues of Selfishness. And the five would-be kings and their ideological children lapped it up like ravenous dogs.
They believed that their own selfish interests should be the only means of determining morality. They ignored mathematicians like John Nash and his game theory who argues that the selfish lone player will lose unless he works towards what’s best for himself and the other players. Or, when they adopt Game Theory, they assume the only players of value are other Captains of Industry.
Those five men, in acquiring their fortunes learned that the stories we tell ourselves are just that. Stories. And stories can be rewritten by anyone creative enough to think up a new story, and the will to tell it long enough and loud enough that we all start believing in it.
Once the people believed the would-be kings’ new story, those five men and their families found they could contaminate the political system designed to fulfill the promise of freedom. They could bribe, threaten, coerce, blackmail, and control politicians. They could write and rewrite laws. And as they began to purchase the newspapers, they found they could tell people their story and replace freedom with money. They could replace hope with security.
Those five men muted the ideals in the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. They turned the religious zeal of the early colonists into a zeal for country, for national identity. They turned the ideals of freedom for all people into a security found in the scraps of paper and cloth we call the dollar. They said work was where people found their value. Because work brought money. Because work brought purpose. Because work, the toil of men and women in the factories was the machine that was making America great.
And in doing that, those men became kings.
John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil sold to all sides during World War II. And, once the United States divided Standard Oil, the Rockefeller’s wealth became unparalleled, equalling what today would be close to $300 billion.
Henry Ford manufactured cars in Europe as well as the United states. When World War II broke out, the U.S. asked him to convert his auto factories to build the machines of war. He refused. When the Nazis made the same request, he accepted. The U.S. bombed Ford Motor factories in Germany because of their new military strategic value. And, at the end of World War II, Ford sued the U.S. government for the damage to those German factories.
J. P. Morgan has been behind, if not the direct cause of many of the United States’s and the world’s great economic collapses, including the recent 2008 housing crises, during all of which they made record profits. They were recently caught violating international law in rigging the futures market.
If you’re not sure you believe the story of the new kings, ask yourself, at what point did the elected officials of the United States stop being your representative and start being your leaders? At what point did you decide you would rather have a bunch of people who have little or no idea what you experience determine the shape of your future?
At what point did you stop believing you, personally, could change the world?
As I write this, The United States is about to repeal the Affordable HealthCare Act and replace it with something that will leave a great many people without medical insurance which means they will be without medical care. In other words, those people will die, with a vote from their elected officials.
That’s one way to see what’s happening.
When Martin Luther broke from the Catholic church (which was deeply corrupt by that time), he became a symbol for the political leaders who also wanted freedom from the Holy Roman Empire. He, and the social leaders of his time created space for what became known as The Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment has many starting points, but for this we’ll start with Descartes. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” He made the experiencer of reality the determiner of truth. But, what happens when we have different experiences, which is inevitable when we have different backgrounds? How can we know what is truth?
In response, Immanuel Kant argued that we can know truth by talking about our experiences with each other and figuring out what we have in common. He called those common experiences “self evident.” And that became the foundation for science, and for much of the rest of enlightenment thinking.
Museums and creative works entering the public domain came into existence because people realized that for freedom to exist, for democracy to work, people should have access to as much information as possible so they can be an “enlightened populace.” Only when information is freely accessible can we have a dialogue of equals.
And so another way opens up. A way not dictated by rich, greedy kings. A way where people begin to see that anyone can rewrite the story.
The Affordable Care Act mandates that every citizen have health insurance. And, it states that the insurance is mostly provided by private companies.
But, there’s another way.
In a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia, a group of citizens got together, pooled what meager money they had and chose to make their own healthcare insurance. They chose to stop waiting on rich greedy men who were kings of the United States to save them and instead changed their world. They now have plenty of medical care they can afford. The Mormon church does pretty much the same thing for its adherents.
Current copyright law states that copyright lasts for “the life of the author plus 70 years.” It started out as 15 years total. But, as Mickey Mouse grows older, the length of copyright grows older. So, that mouse we all love, the Star Wars and Marvel movies we enjoy, they are responsible for keeping vital information from the poor and only in the hands of the rich. Since Mickey Mouse came into existence, not a single creative work has entered public domain through the standard legal process.
Disney fears it will lose its power if Mickey becomes public domain.
And it will. And that’s the way it should be.
Freedom means power can’t be in the hands of a single individual or company for too long. The founding fathers understood that too much power held by too few people for too long means corruption. It’s why elected officials constantly need to be reelected after 2, 4, and 6 years.
The Internet breaks the tyrannical power of the would-be kings. It allows all information to be freely accessible, by everyone. Everywhere. Crowdfunding enables us to elect different people to tell stories. It allows us, the people, to choose who gets to tell stories. It lets us choose how big or small those stories get to be.
I’m crowdfunding Intelligent Design not because I can’t take it to the rich money men. It’s a good story. Everyone I pitch it to loves it. I’m crowdfunding it because I want you to be in control again. I want have the time and space to go find the way the world really works and then I want to show it to you so you too can see the world. So you too can see the story we’re telling ourselves. So you too can be like that poor community in Philadelphia, or the Black Panther Party, or founding fathers. So you too can write the story we all choose to believe.
My dreams are big. And they include everyone. With your help I want to dispel the lie that the U.S. currently believes and reboot the promises on which it was founded, freedom and equality. No kings. No castes, no classes. All of us, choosing to make the future a beautiful and glorious story we can tell our friends and children, something that fills us all with hope again.
Join me in this peaceful revolution.