Born free

The main subject of our stroll thru civilization today is Jean Jacques Rousseau, the Swiss romantic who made his reputation by denigrating civilization itself. “Civilization is a hopeless race to discover remedies for the evils it produces.”

We’re born free, he said. “To assert that the son of a slave is born a slave is to assert that he is not born a man.” But he didn’t really think we could lose our chains, just loosen them a bit, by educating ourselves to understand that some chains actually unify and improve our condition.

“I have never thought, for my part, that man’s freedom consists in his being able to do whatever he wills, but that he should not, by any human power, be forced to do what is against his will.” Nice reverie, but he also said some shall be “forced to be free.”

He wasn’t wrong about that. Nobody wants to pay taxes, but without them we’d be slaves to primitive circumstance and deprivation. We’re all better off when we do. Total independence and self-reliance are myths that do not enoble, any more than savagery enobles.

He was wrong to encourage a cult of community and nationalism. “Every patriot hates foreigners,” and that’s supposed to be a point in patriotism’s favor? What would JJ say about Brexit? What does Brexit say about him?

“Trust your heart rather than your head,” he said. Wrong again. Mistrust both, use both, learn, repeat.

6 am/5:35, 69/85/62, 8:07

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