What's Wrong With The World?

Andrew brought us both an ale and we smoked Roger's custom cigarettes, and I eagerly awaited his explanation of what is wrong with the world.

"The truth is, Mark, I know what is wrong with the world, but I do not know why. I have some ideas, a hypothesis, you might say, but that's all it is. Perhaps the whole answer will never be known.

"The reports that were made by those who first studied the people of this world could hardly be believed. They were intelligent volitional beings perfectly capable of rational thinking, but, except for the most commonplace things, almost everything the people on this planet believe is not true. They understand just enough of the truth to manage their daily lives, and that only poorly, but everything else they believe is lies.

"They not only believe lies, they passionately defend them, teach them, preach them, die for them, kill for them and go to war over them. If it were not for the lies they believe, their wars, their oppressive governments, their crimes and cruelty, even their diseases and crushing poverty would be unknown. The most bewildering thing of all is that even if you could make them understand it is the lies they believe that are destroying them, they would not let them go. They are positively addicted to them."

I didn't really want to interrupt Roger, but I was not sure I really understood what he meant by lies, so I asked him.

"Excuse me, Roger, but I'm not sure what you mean by lies. What kind of lies? Can you give me some examples?"

"You can pick almost anything that is widely believed and it will be a lie." Roger began. "Most of the lies are common lies. Throughout the history of the people on this planet there have been lies held by entire societies and cultures. They are called common lies because they are held in common by large numbers of people.

"Some common lies of the past were astrology, a lie which persists in some form even today. It is an example of lies called superstitions which includes all the religions, as well as belief in voodoo, witch doctors, spiritualism, and magic, for example. The belief the world was flat and alchemy were not only scientific mistakes, but widely held lies when believed to be unquestioned facts.

"Some of the modern lies believed without question by most people on this planet today are put over as sciences like psychology, environmentalism, sociology, anthropology, and evolution.

"The most dangerous lies are the false ideas that have no real meaning but are just accepted without question. People base their most important choices and decisions on them. Some of those made-up concepts are ideas like rights, justice, duty, honor, and patriotism, as well as complete fictions like corporations, contracts, and intellectual property.

"These are all common lies with disastrous consequences, but they are not the lies that really matter, however. The important lies are the false principles the humans on this planet have embraced that make all the other lies possible.

Roger paused, I think to give me a chance to digest what he had just said. I took the opportunity to ask an obvious question:

"I've always doubted most of the things you have described, Roger. But a couple at least seem to be real things or ideas. Justice for example, and individual rights. Are they complete lies too?"

"The truth is, Mark, every commonly excepted lie contains some truth, which is how the lies are put over. The two concepts you named are good examples. There is a true meaning for the word justice, but its meaning is unknown on this world. This world's concept of justice is a violation of true justice. As for rights, it is a word that mixes what is true with what is not true. It is true that you must be free to choose and do whatever you can to live successfully as a human being. It is false that you have a claim on, that is a "right to," be protected from others preventing you from choosing and doing. Like everything else in your life, such protection is your responsibility to supply."

"Roger, do you mind?" I again interrupted. "I want to see if I understand this. The word, 'rights,' as it is always used, implies some kind of guarantee. If it didn't, it wouldn't mean anything. When a person demands their rights, what they are demanding is that they be guaranteed something, like freedom of speech. But no one has a right to... ah, I mean no one may morally demand anything, including guarantees. The only thing an individual has a ..., it's dang hard to avoid that word ... the only thing an individual may morally have in this world is what he has earned, produced, or acquired by his own effort. Is that right?"

"Yes, precisely, Mark." Roger chuckled. "And in this case, 'right' is the correct word."

"The real problem with words like, 'rights,' is that they do not identify anything real. I do not mean because such words as, 'rights,' are abstract. Abstract terms do identify real things. 'Up,' and, 'down,' identify real directions and, 'empty,' identifies a real state.

"If you look up the definition of the word, 'right,' it means 'that which is due to a person,' or 'anything one has a claim to.' But the only things any individual has a claim to or can have due to him is that which he has earned or honestly purchased. A 'right,' in that sense, is not what is meant by the word, 'rights.' It is obvious the word, 'rights,' attempts to identify something that supposedly everyone has due them or has a claim to, not because they've earned it, but simply because they were born. There can be no such thing. It is an evil concept. If one has a claim on anything they have not produced or earned by their own effort, it is a claim on someone else's life and effort, the one required to provide what is claimed.

We took a break to smoke while Andrew brought us fresh ales. I'm not sure I was understanding everything Roger was saying, but had to agree this world was dominated by ideas and beliefs that not only had no basis in reality, but defied it.

Roger began again:

"A human being is an individual living organism with his own consciousness, mind, and will, responsible for his every choice and action. Every human being is required by his nature to make his own choices, to use his own reason to make them, and to bear the consequences of his choices.

"These are the psychological requirements of his nature and they are as absolute as the physical requirements of his nature to eat and breath. It is no more possible for an individual to evade the necessity to think, and choose, and bear the consequences of his choices than it is possible to evade the necessity to eat, drink, and breathe.

"Mark, it is this fact of human nature that every false belief held by earth humans denies. Whether that denial is the fundamental flaw or not is not certain, but it is at least a major one.

"The denial by individuals of their own nature is not usually explicit, but is implied by everything else they believe and choose."

Roger paused again, obviously thinking about how to proceed. Without explanation he seemed to change direction.

"Living is action and the life of all organisms consists of what they do, and what all organisms do is whatever is required by their nature to live. Every organism must act to acquire nourishment and provide itself with whatever is necessary for its survival as the kind of organism it is.

"It is therefore an organisms own nature that determines what is right for it to do, and every organism, except human beings, is provided with a pre-programmed pattern of behavior, which on this planet is called, 'instinct,' though it is badly misunderstood and wrongly applied even to human beings. Instinct is exactly what human beings do not have. Instinct provides organisms with recognition of what what is food, what they must do to protect themselves, and how to provide themselves with all the requirements of their nature.

"Human beings do not have instinct. Human beings have what no other organisms have, minds. The human mind consists of three attributes: the ability to gain and retain knowledge, which is the intellect; the ability to think, which is reason; and the ability and necessity to consciously choose all of one's thoughts and actions, sometimes called the will.

"Organisms with instinct do not need to discover what kinds of things constitute food because instinct provides both the recognition of what is food and the appropriate behavior necessary for acquiring it. Human beings must use their intellect to discover and learn what constitutes food, their reason to determine the best method of acquiring it, and their ability to choose to implement that method.

Unlike the behavior of any other organisms, all human behavior is chosen, and when chosen correctly it is guided by reason based on knowledge. When an animal acquires food it is simply an instinctive act. When a human being acquires food it is by means of chosen actions based on what has been learned about the nature of food and how to hunt for it, fish for it, raise it, or grow it. An animal simply acts at the moment to take whatever food is available. For a human being no food is simply available and the reason-guided action a human being must take to obtain food is called productive effort. Productive effort is the requirement of every human being's nature to live successfully and happily as a human being.

"It means all an individual is, and all that he is worth as a human being is determined by his own choices and actions, guided by his own reason, based on his own knowledge.

"Every human being on this planet identifies himself as a member of some group: a race, a nationality, a religion, an organization, a movement, an ideology, a clan, a family, or some other group from which they believe they derive some value or importance no matter how worthless they are or meaningless and pointless their life is; but no association with or relationship to any other individual or group of individuals, past or present, has any bearing on who or what any individual is. The belief that it has is the second of the two great lies based on the denial of human nature that every human on this planet embraces in some form. It is a denial of their individual nature.

"But it is the first lie that makes the second lie possible. Human beings have only one faculty for understanding what is true, their ability to reason. The faculty of reason is capable of working only with the facts of reality. But the beings on this planet have substituted feelings for reason and credulity for facts. Why should this be?

"What one choice makes it impossible to think and reason? Isn't it the choice to believe anything other than reason can provide knowledge of the truth? Isn't it the choice to believe the human mind is limited in some way, that it cannot discover the truth, and therefore must rely on something else? And what else is there to rely on? There is nothing of course, but if one has convinced himself he cannot discover and understand the truth by using his own mind, he will accept a substitute. And what substitutes have earth humans accepted? First, feelings and passions, then authorities, then what is socially accepted, then what is believed by most others, especially any group of others with which they identify themselves, then any whim or passion they can get away with.

"Do not your men say, 'no one is perfect; no one can live rationally all the time; no one knows everything?' If one believes they cannot always do the right thing, why would they try? If one believes they cannot always think and choose rationally, why would they make the effort? If one believes they cannot know all they need to know, why would they bother to study and learn? Won't they settle for what some authority says is true or what most people believe is true rather than make the effort to discover what is really true? That is exactly what they have done.

"The essential act of evil is attempting to have what one has not earned and does not deserve by one's own merit. All temptation to evil comes from the desire to have more than one can have or achieve by their own effort. All humans are subject to it, and the weak, especially the mentally weak, occasionally fall prey to it. In all the universe, the idea that one may have more than one is worthy of is understood to be the fundamental evil. Even when one succumbs to that temptation, except on this planet, they regret and despise it, and bravely accept the consequences of their wrong choices and actions. It seldom happens more than once.

"It is only on this planet this principle is despised, if recognized at all. It is only on this planet that short-cuts to success, wealth, happiness, or anything else are believed in. It is only on this planet that it is believed knowledge is possible without the effort of study and objective reason. It is only on this planet it is believed virtue can be achieved by obeying someone else's rules or laws without understanding whether those rules or laws are correct principles or not. Only on this planet is it believed one is not obligated to discover if the rules they live by are right or not.

"That is what is wrong with this world.

"Human nature requires every individual to think for himself, to learn by his own effort, to discover what is true by means of his own reason and study. It is what every individual must do because every one has his own mind, and their own minds will condemn them for doing what their nature and their consciousness require. They can choose not to fulfill that requirement, but they cannot evade the fact they are still responsible for their choices, and they cannot escape those consequences.

"There is a saying we non-earth people learn as children: 'live or die.' The secret of that saying is what it means to live. Living for a human being means doing, and to do anything a human being must choose to do it, and to choose correctly a human being must have knowledge, and to have knowledge a human being must learn and study all that is possible, and to use that knowledge correctly a human being must think. So, 'live or die,' means, 'do or die,' it means, 'choose or die,' it means, 'know or die,' it means, 'learn or die,' and it means, 'think or die.' In all the universe except on this planet, a human being who refuses to think, to learn, to know, to choose, and to do what is required to live, dies. That is what the word justice means everywhere except on this planet.

It is only on this planet it is believed a human being can evade the requirements of his own nature and get away with it. It is only on this planet that promoting that evasion is called justice. Only on this planet are those who refuse to do the work necessary to live provided for at the expense of those who do work. Only on this planet are those who refuse to know revered as mystics and believers who are supported by those who do have knowledge and use it to produce. Only on this planet are those who refuse to learn and study referred to as, "uneducated," as though it were the obligation of someone else to do the learning and studying for them. Only on this planet are those who refuse to think and choose for themselves, blindly following their authorities and leaders, called "law abiding" and "faithful" and "obedient" as if those words identified something moral instead of what they truly are, the lowest of moral failures.

Consider your world's governments. Men on this planet believe governments are necessary even though they have never agreed on what purpose governments are supposed to serve. The real purpose of every government is to give power to some men to control other men—large numbers of other men, either to enslave them, or to confiscate their wealth, for the enrichment of those who rule over them. That is the real and only purpose of government. Everything else about government is a lie. The most modern lie used to convince people they need a government is the lie that their freedom and safety depend on government. It is a lie that everyone believes."

"Roger, are you saying that it is governments that are the cause of what is wrong with the people on this planet?

"No, Mark. Governments are not the cause of the evil. Governments are evil but are the inevitable consequence of its cause. The cause of all evil is the action of human beings, human beings who choose to act in defiance of the facts of reality, in defiance of the truth that describe that reality, and in defiance of the requirements of their own nature.

"I've already told you the essential act of evil is attempting to have what one has not earned and does not deserve by one's own merit. Since all human action is chosen, and all human choice is based on what one believes, the cause of all evil is the belief that one may have and enjoy what one has not acquired, created, or produced by one's own effort.

"The reason there are governments, Mark, is because the people on this planet do believe they can have and enjoy more than they have earned or deserve by their own merit, and it is governments that promise them those unearned and undeserved benefits. So long as that lie is embraced by the people on this planet, the evil that enables the existence of governments will persist."

"So the cause of this planets corruption is the desire for the unearned and the belief it is possible?" I asked.

"No, Mark. That, like government, is only a symptom. The cause, at least the hypothesis for what is probably the cause, is the denial of human nature, particularly the denial of the individual character of human nature.

"The denial is a chosen one. I have not yet discovered why everyone on this planet makes that choice, but, with very rare exception, they all do.

Every human on this planet denies they must each individually think for themselves, individually learn by their own effort, and discover what is true by their own individual reason and study, which is why almost any kind of lie which promises knowledge or success without effort is accepted.

The denial of the individual nature of every human being is why they all identify themselves with some collective group and believe their success and happiness can be provided by some social condition rather than their own individual effort.

There is a word on this planet for those who do not choose that lie; it is individualism. It is unknown in the rest of the universe, because, in this world's terms, everyone in the universe is an individualist, which is why in all the universe, the horrors of this planet—its oppressive governments, its horrible wars, its cruelty and unhappiness—are unknown.

I have tried to capture all that Roger said that evening as faithfully as possible. It may not be word-for-word, but it is as true and complete as I can make it from memory. I wrote it first for myself, because I was not able to digest all Roger had said that evening, and wanted to have time to study it more thoroughly.

I think Roger is mostly right in his analysis of this world's population, but I'm making no argument for it. These are, after all, Roger's views, not mine. How you, the reader, choose to consider Roger's views is entirely up to you.

—Mark Halpern