by Cathy L.Z. Smith
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
When I was a child, and it was the responsibility of others to look after me, that seemed to me to be the proper way of the world. To be taken care of is a child’s hope. When I was a child I was a liberal.
In my early teens I attended church and Sunday school. One month, having missed two sessions of Sunday school, I received a bill from my church for the $.50 I had failed to tithe. In my teens—understanding suddenly what organized religion was all about I became indifferent.
When I started earning my own money, watching others who didn’t earn it (and with whom I had no relationship) take some of it, it seemed to me that I should be the one to decide on the use of my resources. Conservation is a natural response to the acquisition of wealth and responsibility. When I was a young adult I was a conservative.
Somewhere along the line, after I moved far away from the family that had taken care of me and protected me, I discovered that those who call themselves liberals and those who call themselves conservatives meant something other than what I did by those terms.
The liberals meant that they knew better how to run my life, that their hearts were better and more compassionate than mine, and that what was mine was actually theirs to distribute to those their hearts they deemed worthy.
The conservatives meant that they knew better how to run my life, that their minds were better and more productive than mine, and that what was mine was actually theirs to distribute to those their minds they deemed worthy.
As teenager I became disenchanted—disinterested in a political landscape that left me no opportunity to follow my own heart guided by my own mind.
In my early twenties, I became a wife for the first time. I also found the works of Ayn Rand, and her words demonstrated to me that I was not alone in my distaste for hearts with no mind. I began to question the common wisdom, the phenomena of charity at gunpoint, of religion that dismissed science, decisions made and imposed without regard for the wishes of those expected to foot the bill. I had come a long way. I had become an atheist, and something else for which I had no name.
In my mid-twenties I moved to Fort Collins. I met and eventually married L. Neil Smith, and I discovered that the something I had become was a Libertarian. I traded my disenchantment for activism, then proceeded to witness endless bickering, refusal to “take a stand” for fear of damaging some perceived respectability, and the notion that you could somehow trick people into being free instead of walking with them down the long and demanding path of self-discovery. In my mid-twenties I learned how to laugh, and I became a libertarian.
In my late twenties, I began to understand the psychosis of power—that those who sought it should never have it, and that those who could be trusted with it would never want it. In my late twenties I became an anarchist.
In my thirties, I became a parent. I learned, unlearned, and relearned all of the lessons of my life as I passed them on to my child. In my thirties, I finally became an adult.
In my forties I watched my child grow into an exceptional human being, and grew along with her. I became skilled and confident surrounded by the love and encouragement of my own family.
In my fifties, I have gone back to school, working toward a degree in a field that I love. I have a mind that works, and a “heart” that understands its function as additional guidance in human relations. I understand responsibility (and evasion of responsibility), and that we are where we are (as a species) in part because we allow evasion on the part of individuals, corporations, and governments.
In my sixties, I will work to educate my fellow beings about the dangers of government, the deleterious effects of agency, and the consequences of evading self-ownership and personal responsibility.
In my seventies, I hope to participate in the revolution that finally replaces the state with a state of self-sufficiency attained through the voluntary interactions of selfish and self-directed human beings.
In my eighties, I hope to reach the stars—or at least zero gravity—on the way to a new frontier. Maybe this time we’ll get it right from the beginning. The one thing I have learned as a liberal, conservative, atheist, libertarian, parent, and adult is that we never stop making mistakes, which is good, because that is how we learn. What we must strive for is to make new mistakes to ensure that we learn new lessons without forgetting those that came before.
By the time I reach my nineties I expect to have the option of living forever.
Freedom, immortality, and the stars. Not necessarily in that order. What more could a girl ask for?
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