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Focus on Freedom

Incremental Approach - A Better Method for Effecting Change

This March 19th is the 4th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, from which withdrawal is still not planned despite increasing numbers of US citizens opposed to its continuation - even if most didn't oppose its initiation. At this time and prompted a few weeks ago by a comment from an individual whose opinions I (Kitty Antonik Wakfer) listen to, I've done some thinking about how my approach to my nephew Aaron, a pilot in the Air Force, might have been better worded and thereby possibly have elicited a more favorable response from him. (See email within article from Sept 2005 "Social Preferencing - Evaluation and Choice of Association; A Method for Influence")

If I were now contacting my nephew Aaron for the first time regarding his military participation, this is what I would write:

Hello Aaron,

I've been doing a lot of thinking about you lately and am deeply concerned.

At the time you graduated from the Air Force Academy (1998), I considered the military only 1 of 3 valid functions of government, an entity I thought was necessary to a free and orderly society. Since then, all after meeting Paul and having many detailed discussions with him - concurrent with the reading of various anti-statist writers of the past and present - I came to the conclusion that governments are the cause of most of the problems of society. The progress that occurs and the happiness that individuals achieve are mainly in spite of government rules and regulations rather than as a result of them. The fact that most people do not recognize this is because they have not seriously considered how a society could be free and orderly without coercive law-creating entities - governments.

The actions of the current US federal government administration have been particularly horrific - numerous instances of the highest officials lying about an assortment of situations and possibly even allowing harm to come to thousands of US citizens on US soil (World Trade Center catastrophe and Hurricane Katrina to name just 2). To also send US troops to attack and occupy another country on fabricated evidence of imminent danger to the US is reprehensible - more thousands of USers killed and far more Iraqis.

You appeared to me at the time of your Air Force Academy graduation to be a young man who seriously took his oath to defend the US Constitution. During all this time of increasingly illogical statements by President Bush and orders by him and his subordinates, I also thought that you would resign your commission. The oath that you took as an officer does not contain the wording present in the version taken by enlisted personnel: "and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice." Lt.Col Kenneth Keskel has noted in: The Oath of Office; A Historical Guide to Moral Leadership, "It is a true blessing that America does not require its officers to obey 'unquestioningly' but gives them the opportunity and flexibility for innovation. But with that flexibility come both responsibility and accountability for one's actions." This is in direct contrast to many other countries where allegiance to the leader of the country and superior officers is required of every military officer.

I seriously thought I would hear from your Mom that you were at least considering leaving the Air Force while maybe in a quandary as to how that would be accepted by family members since your maternal grandfather and great uncle, at least, were career military men. Maybe, though, you don't share such serious thoughts with your Mom. Or maybe she doesn't speak of them with me. (She's never to my memory written about ideas to me, just of family or her own activities.) In either case, I want you to know that I don't like the thought of you - a gentle and thoughtful man from my limited exchanges with you - being an enforcer of the current government's militaristic policies, very few of which are actually helping (or even for the reasonable purpose) to protect US citizens within the US.

I encourage you to - if you have not already done so - seriously examine this administration's actions that have brought harm to so many. I am quite willing to discuss any of this with you.

While I will not seek out interactions with government enforcers, which includes agents of any departments with the legal authority to initiate force, I do want to attempt to persuade those I already know and like, that their choice of productive work is in opposition to the concept of a society of individuals interacting to mutual benefit for the purpose of each optimizing his/her lifetime happiness. In the direction of this last, I encourage you to read Paul's foundational essay, "Social Meta-Needs: A New Basis for Optimal Interaction". I hope that you will think deeply about what you read there - it is not an item to be skimmed and assumed to be understood - and raise any questions or comments. It may challenge some long held views if they are ones not based on facts of reality. But I would hope that you have developed an appreciation for reasoned thinking, and the practice of it, and that you always seek the truths of reality, wherever this takes you.

Continuing to think about you and hoping we can begin a dialog on these very important ideas,


So instead of approaching Aaron with a completed decision on my part that I would socially preference against him, as I did in September 2005 ("Social Preferencing - Evaluation and Choice of Association; A Method for Influence"), I now conclude that something very similar to the above email would have been far better. At the very outset here I began with expressing my concern about Aaron, which I failed to do initially even though I felt the same way then. I think this was an error on my part and could very well have placed me at a disadvantage in my attempts to convince my nephew to seriously consider the possibility that his continued military participation might be neither in his own best interest nor that of those he holds dear.

In many cases an individual will only be able to shift to a new paradigm in small steps, and a full frontal approach will only result in defense of ideas currently held as true. I didn't come to agree with Paul in his ideas on social order the first time he mentioned them; in fact he was purposefully careful not to introduce the most radical of these until I understood and concurred with those more fundamental. We joke about it now, but had he told me in his early emails in late 1999 that he thought a society totally without government could exist and still consist of free, happy and orderly individuals I would have thought him quite bizarre.

I never came to think of Paul as bizarre and I long ago (mid 2000) stopped thinking these ideas strange, though I readily admit that there are others who hold both these views. For these individuals I think a small steady (or even occasional) dose of studying and considering these ideas (as well as knowledge of Paul himself), different from much of current and past mainstream thought, is a necessary process to enable acceptance - if they are truly interested in truth rather than retaining the possible comfort of the status quo. Part of this process of acceptance is in the initial approach, which I came to realize in the course of beginning this writing - that at the least this method will be more successful in promoting dialog. Small incremental steps may be the best way to introduce a new idea to those who have not already expressed an interest in those ideas and who may actually be acting in opposition to them.