Freedom's Phoenix – "Uncovering the Secrets and Exposing the Lies"


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By: L. Neil Smith

Years ago, I gave a speech to a libertarian gathering in Phoenix entitled "You Can't Fight A Culture War If You Ain't got Any Culture".  I realize now that I was wrong, and that it should have been " No Culture".

Be that as it may, for several reasons, my concern has always been that libertarianism is more than just a political movement, and that if some kind of broader culture didn't begin to grow up around it, then it would die. If, however, it became a culture, it would acquire a life of its own and be impossible for its many enemies to extinguish.

Partly I knew this because it seems to be an assumption built into the works of Robert A. Heinlein, which I started reading when I was eleven.

Partly I could see it unmistakably as an enthusiastic (if very politically incorrect) participant in the folk music movement of the1960s.

Partly I could sense it underlying the thoughts and works of Ayn Rand.

And partly, I encountered it, neatly sewn up in a package, in the fascinating writings of that great social anthropologist Anthony F.C. Wallace, a specialist in the field of "cultural revitalization", whose works I ran into in college. America needs cultural revitalization. Wallace's theories were synchronistically reflected in a little-known but wonderful little novel by Robert Silverberg called To Open the Sky.

Anything worthy of the name "culture" rests on a foundation of stories. Aside from Plato, whose stories never interested me, the attempt to create a new culture begins with the 1516 book Utopia, by Sir Thomas More. I knew about him because my grandmother was a fan and believed we are descended from him. (Another part of my family thinks it is descended from Jessie James, which may actually explain some things.)

It's said that when Abraham Lincoln was introduced to Harriet Beecher Stowe, he pronounced her "the little lady who started the Civil War", which is a bald-faced lie on several levels, But it's true that her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin changed a great many minds with regard to emancipation, and probably generated more progress in terms of advancing individual liberty, than Lincoln's killing 620,000 people.

As a kid, I read very little besides science fiction, but the most popular works of Britain's foremost socialist SF writer were his least polemic, and I was in high school before I found When the Sleeper Wakes. H.G. Wells did a great deal for the Fabian socialist movement -- and to bring about the brutal, eugenically-motivated Holocaust, as well.

On our side of the Atlantic, Edward Bellamy (cousin of Francis Bellamy, composer of the socialist Pledge of Allegiance and inventor of the salute the Nazis would eventually adopt), was a very bad writer but an influential one, who inflicted the massively boring Looking Backward on the country, describing how a socialist America would work.

All of this convinced me, as I was growing up, that it is easier and more effective to tell important social and political truths with fiction than with non-fiction. Robert LeFevre's retelling of stories from the American Revolution -- anticipating Rush "Revere" Limbaugh by at least half a century -- convinced me to try telling stories of my own.

My first novel was to be called The Constitution Conspiracy if I hadn't decided to call it The Probability Broach at the last minute.

Begun in 1977, it sold in 1979 and it was officially released in 1980. Since then I've averaged about a book a year. Blade of p'Na, prequel to Forge of the Elders will be my 33rd, and General Jenny, a sort of Joan of Arc coming-of-age story, with Craig Franklin, will be my 34th.

From the beginning, I've received snail-mail, phone calls, and now e-mail from people telling me I persuaded them to become libertarians. It's even better when they say I convinced them to buy their first gun. Somebody once told me that Benjamin Franklin believed we should have made a religion of our Revolutionary principles and beliefs. I have come as close to that as is humanly possible, and I'm far from finished.

In the 1960s, a pop group called The Fifth Dimension, probably best known for their hits, "Up, Up and Away (Wouldn't You Like to Ride in My Beautiful Balloon?)", and "The Age of Aquarius (Let the Sun Shine In)" recorded the section of the Declaration of Independence, beginning with "We hold these Truths to be self-evident ...", which many radio stations refused to play in an era of anti-government protests, because it was "subversive" -- proving that Tom Jefferson still had the stuff. The older I grow, and the more experience as a writer I manage to accrue, the more beautiful his Declaration seems to me.

I don't believe that refusal would happen today. More of us know our rights and are prepared to back them up more than ever in American history.

I'd like to think I've changed the world a little bit already.

I will strive to change it even more.

L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 33 freedom-oriented books, including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, and  DOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis.Visit his webpage at LNeilSmith.Org 

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