Kitty Antonik Wakfer whacks all of us who say we support WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning, but who haven’t cancelled our Amazon and PayPal accounts or cut up our MasterCards and Visas.
She does one very good thing, which is to provide a list of possible payment alternatives — even if many of them haven’t reached the point of sustainability (and may never) and others aren’t really applicable.
But the whole piece also does one very bad thing. It implies that because she has chosen the course of boycotting businesses on behalf of WikiLeaks, others who haven’t are wrongheaded at best, and hypocrites and defeatists at worst. She rips into Lew Rockwell, Wendy McElroy, the Center for a Stateless Society, Rational Review News, and a bunch of others. Never gets around to me. But I felt the barb, anyhow.
I haven’t dumped Amazon or PayPal and I don’t plan to. I love Amazon. Hate PayPal. And yes, my conscience pricks me for not joining the boycott. I like to live by my principles. But the simple, pragmatic point is that I need Amazon and PayPal. The $30 or $40 a month they regularly bring in (more around the holidays) is a big deal to me. The alternatives Wakfer mentions won’t replace them.
When it comes to alternative payment systems, it’s not just the Catch-22 of “they won’t become viable until people use them and people won’t use them until they’re proven viable.” It’s that, one after another, highly promising and highly touted digital money or payment systems have fallen due to mismanagement, flawed concepts, or the federales. (I’ve got $500 or so in precious metals sitting in an e-gold account I’m no longer allowed to access because the feds imposed stupid identity rules on them. Anybody want to figure out how to retrieve that money for me, eh?) Now, I would love to see a business with better customer service and a less cozy relationship with the feds compete wildly successfully with PayPal. But you know what? In this case, I’m not willing to play King Canute against that particular tide. I’ll support WikiLeaks and Manning with my words and my donations and ask others to do the same. But that’s it.
Now, I don’t know Kitty Antonik Wakfer. She may be a terrific human being. I hope she is. Her heart’s in the right place.
But I would ask all the “more pure than thou” freedomistas of the world: Have you walked a few years in my shoes?
Say you’re a libertarian or a free-market anarchist. Surely, you object to paying taxes — especially for wars of aggression or government handouts. Surely you object to having a government ID number. Drivers license? Auto registration? You know darned well those are clear violations of your right to travel freely.
So tell me: Do you care enough about your principles to live without all those things? Do you refuse to file your 1040? Refuse to use an SSN or get government ID? Refuse to make your vehicle “legal” with the government? Refuse to send your kids to public school or to comply with your state’s homeschool curricula requirements? Of course, if you live by your principles on that level, it also means you can’t open a bank account, can’t travel internationally (unless you sneak), can’t hold a regular job. It means every time you drive you’ll be watching for cops and taking alternate routes in an attempt to avoid them. It means the state might come and take your kids away from you. It means you’ll be a refusnik in your own society.
But heck — You believe in living according to principles, right? So what’s the problem? If you can pat yourself on the back for closing your Amazon account and imply that everybody who didn’t follow your lead is a hypocrite, surely you’ll be willing to take your principles all the way, wherever they might lead — to prison or penury … or freedom. Or all of the above.
Ask me how I know.
For 15 years, I increasingly lived according to my principles. I did those hard things. Went without numbers and ID. Became an exile in my own land. Got by with a little help from my friends (and sometimes a lot of help from them). And every one of those friends was less “pure” than I; but they should kick my ass if I ever have enough nerve to damn them for their lack of purity.
I no longer live like that. Got tired. Went broke. Became weary of being an outcast — weary of knowing I’d have to fight through every little tiny thing that others take for granted. I’m older and ready for a little calm and comfort. I don’t regret one minute of trying to live free. I’m glad I did it. But it didn’t make the world freer. And for me, that time is done.
Today I resist taxes by making very little money rather than by saying an in-your-face NO. I showed a passport to travel to Panama last year. I comply with just about all of the little everyday compliances demanded of modern American serfs (though living in a small town, there are blessedly few such demands). I contemplate becoming a Cockapoo, though I haven’t yet brought myself to that point and may never. Today I’m more Agitator than Ghost. Anybody who wants to condemn me for that is perfectly welcome to.
Thing is, even in my most hardcore days, I wasn’t as “pure” as some folks. Go to the Mental Militia forums and look up the postings of suijurisfreeman if you really want to see hardcore. And I defy anybody to find me one, single freedomista on this earth who never violates a principle — never pays a sales tax for a purchase, lives on property which is neither taxed nor subsidized, totally ignores the existence of the state and all its works, drives boldly down the highway sans license and registration and doesn’t bother to stop when the red light flashes in the rear window because to stop would be to obey the unjust state. Show me the person who goes through life without a single compromise of principle. Show me.
The closest person I know to that ideal is my friend Joel. And even he survives amid compromise.
And unless you are that perfectly pure person whose life is the epitome of principle every moment of every day, then don’t go around condemning others for failing to take a step that you consider proper and necessary — but that also doesn’t cause you any huge inconvenience.