To self-identify (in part) as a voluntaryist implies having gone on a journey. It isn’t something we grew up learning about in school. There are no statues of the great voluntaryist writers and thinkers in our parks nor public holidays to commemorate them. It is never discussed by the mainstream media. No, voluntaryism is something that must be unearthed by inquiring minds who’ve grown tired of our current systems and ways of being. Those who do find it are not rewarded with membership into an elite club nor will they find themselves among a special priest class. It is a relatively straightforward idea that welcomes one and all. The fact that anyone from any background can find themselves drawn to voluntaryism is what makes each story worth sharing.
This is mine.
Three Choices: Democrat, Republican, or Independent
My first political leanings developed some time early on in high school as I’m sure is common with most people. These were the early post-9/11 years where the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were raging. Though I was disturbed by the events of that day and the news that poured out of the Middle East for years to come I found myself agitated that anyone was actually afraid that terrorists were lurking and more attacks could be imminent anywhere, anytime. It was during these events that I first started questioning the government. I wasn’t a clairvoyant but even my intuition, developed from such a short-lived experience on the planet, said that something wasn’t right here.
When I moved halfway through my junior year of high school my social life shrank drastically. I also had a cable TV in my bedroom which filled a lot of time until I could drive to see friends on the weekend. Admittedly, much of the television watching centered around King of the Hill reruns and music videos but it was when I also first discovered the 24-hour news cycle and MSNBC. Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews were the first progressive pundits I remember actually being critical of the government’s policies abroad and occasionally domestically. They promoted my social values and promised there would be equal rights for all if we just had the right people in power.
For a couple of years it was crystal clear: I was a Democrat. They were the ones protesting the wars, questioning big business, calling bullshit on drug legislation, and talking about how to save the planet. Same-sex marriage was imminent and marijuana legalization was on the horizon thanks to them.
That was until Ron Paul emerged (in my world) during the 2008 presidential race. Here was a Republican who had voted against the PATRIOT ACT because of the civil liberties that would vanish and was advocating for an end to the so-called War on Drugs and dismantling the Federal Reserve. He was also speaking about brining troops home and shrinking our military footprint abroad.
My head was spinning. These were things the Democrats were supposed to be saying but here’s someone with a (R) after their name talking about his beliefs and plans for presidency and I’m largely agreeing with him. Suddenly the difference between the two parties wasn’t as clear as it was made out to be.
This was the beginning of a schism where I could feel myself peeling away from party lines but couldn’t detach from the two-party system fully as I didn’t think there was anything like voluntaryism beyond it. Luckily I had a third choice, I could be a registered Independent. Now I could truly follow my heart every four years without worrying about party lines.
The Internet and An Awakening
Before the election could take place I would become disillusioned enough to never cast a ballot. These years were also the Wild West days of the Internet. Kazaa, LimeWire, and SoulSeek grew my mp3 collection exponentially, and crashed several computers, while torrents put any video I wanted just a click away. More importantly however, gathering information seemed limitless.
I had discovered Alex Jones and InfoWars at the end of high school. Their reporting and his documentaries presented things much differently than what I was hearing on MSNBC. Learning what a police state was and how think tanks and secret societies worked was a bit frightening for starters but this information threw a massive wrench in the gears when it came to believing in the left-right paradigm. Jones’s melodramatic coverage of these topics felt too theatrical to be the gospel truth but I couldn’t dispute much of what I was seeing once I did more research. So, how could I trust Keith Olbermann’s reporting when the influence of the Bilderberg Group or Council on Foreign Relations is never mentioned in his reporting?
The pivotal moments kept coming when I discovered Google Video. Now there was countless hours of documentaries to watch but perhaps none was more perception-shattering than Loose Change. I knew there were alternative theories surrounding the events of 9/11 through Jones and the work of others but this documentary pushed me along far enough to concede that while Loose Change might not be the definitive account, the official narrative simply wasn’t true. The government’s narrative became completely unsustainable after seeing what Zeitgeist and 9/11: Blueprint for Truth had to add to the conversation.
So, if the government’s version of 9/11 was a lie, what else were they lying about and what wasn’t the media telling me? A lot it turns out. I spoke about the War on Drugs did more to militarize the country than it did to eradicate drugs and that the CIA was often in bed with the traffickers. I watched the transition from Bush to Obama which continued the cover-up of the financial crisis of 2008. I listened to politicians speak of freedom and democracy as blood ran through the streets of Kabul and Baghdad. I read about the Constitution in my civics class while the NSA was secretly spying on all of us.
All of this new information was confounding, angering, and disorientating. A struggle emerged where I couldn’t let go of the political system I’d been entrenched in but voluntaryism hadn’t come onto my radar yet. This was bound to happen when I was looking for a political solution to a philosophical problem, but that wouldn’t last.
A Philosophical Solution
During college all my elective courses were in philosophy and eventually I declared a double major so I could formally get the degree. This didn’t happen until junior year so I had a bit of backtracking to do and ended up in a freshman logic and ethics course to complete the degree in my final semester.
I had accidentally leapfrogged the basics and it ended up being this course that benefitted me more than any other. It wasn’t like I became an adherent to voluntaryism overnight or that my worldview radically changed, existentialism had a tight grip on me, but I now had a much better grasp on the mental building blocks for testing what I thought to be true. An understanding of the fundamentals of logic and an ethical compass quickly proved more useful than any political or religious system I had come across.
It wasn’t long before I’d fully exited the false left-right paradigm but took a while before I finally found a home in voluntaryism. I don’t know when exactly the final lightbulb went off but it was during a period when I was specifically had The Corbett Report, Media Monarchy, and Derrick Broze on heavy rotation and I began reading Larken Rose and Samuel E. Konkin III. There was some moment when it made such crystal clear sense that building from the perspective that all interactions between adults should be voluntary was not only the morally correct thing to do but the simplest since it was consistent and easily built upon.
It’s been that way ever since. Voluntaryism hasn’t given me all the answers or solutions but it’s given me great peace of mind. I’ve found a philosophy that I can live by and, the way I see it, it’s a life that seeks to do no harm to others. It doesn’t matter if there’s a word, or a leader, or a perfect treatise exploring the subject in depth. It only matters that we all find what works best for us without forcing it on anyone else so we can work towards a freer future.