One of the basic truths of human psychological growth is this: If you want to change something about your life, you must first acknowledge and accept what's true about your life right now.
The same principle applies to the improvement of human relationships and cooperation on larger scales: If we want to improve our human culture, we must first acknowledge and accept what's true – including the truth about human nature. Then we can see how to actually improve our present condition.
We in America have allowed the progressive movement to pursue their ideals for over a hundred years. Those ideals are based on a fictional ideal of how people can be made to be, which rejects much of the truth of human nature, leaving us unmoored from reality and thus culturally and politically vulnerable to seduction by the latest demagogue.
Any Boy Scout can tell you that if you don't have some way of orienting your current position, you won't be able to find your way to any given destination. Orienteering is the skill of finding where you are, so that you can find how to get to where you want to be. It's a basic requirement for the rank of First Class.
I can tell you, from three decades of working with people who want to change their lives for the better, that this is as true for personal growth as it is for wilderness navigation.
Let's say you want to do a better job at work but you are not interested in knowing that you spend way too much time on the Internet or with unnecessary emails. Well, you can read self-help books, go to personal growth seminars and practice lots of new skills that should improve your work, but if you won't first acknowledge and accept that you waste a good portion of your time on the Internet you will never make the kind of changes that you need to make.
You'll just think that there must be something wrong with you, or somehow the expectations are too high, or there just aren't enough hours in the day … whatever it is that you think. You won't be able to make sense out of how little you get done because you aren't letting yourself know that you're wasting perhaps several hours every day on the Internet, rather than doing your work!
It will just remain a frustrating mystery: "Why can't I get ahead?"
On the other hand, if you begin with an honest look at what you actually are doing during the day you'll see that you waste several hours every day. Then you can make a choice: "Given that I am wasting several hours a day, and given that I want to do a better job at work, am I willing to limit my time on the Internet in pursuit of a better life?"
Maybe you'll decide that you'd rather waste your time on the Internet, but at least you will have made a conscious decision to waste your time, with the full knowledge of what you're doing and of the consequences of your decision.
This is the same dynamic that we're struggling with as a culture.
One of the major flaws in left-wing ideology, beginning with Rousseau's crazy notion of the "general will," is that it rejects the limitations of human nature. This rejection opens up infinite possibilities for improving mankind … in theory. But because the theory is not grounded in the reality of human nature, it is purely idealistic and the ideals do not match what actually happens in the world. (There have been strains of this idealism before Rousseau, and versions of human domination since the dawn of time but the political categories of Left and Right originated in the French Revolution.)
This is why the Left can keep pushing for policies that clearly do not work in the real world. They do not see the elephant in the room that we see and so they are perplexed when their policies, that are supposed to work according to their theories, do not work in reality.
People are supposed to respond to being given things, they are supposed to be relieved when deprived of personal responsibility, they are supposed to perform when told and they are supposed to be grateful for all that their masters are doing for them.
The progressive/socialist/Marxist/fascist ideologies all are based on the idea that mankind can be perfected through coercion by other men; that people are a blank slate, to be molded, educated, and regulated into whatever the ideal may be; and that it is possible for some people to know how to manipulate other people into being different and better than they are.
But this is a denial of reality. The truth is that we are not available for such grandiose change. We come into the world very much who we are as individuals. We each have certain temperament styles – one person may be more sedentary while another needs a lot of physical movement, one person may have very strong emotions while another has less strong emotions, one person may be more comfortable with new people, places and situations while another prefers the familiar.
These temperament styles are changeable to a degree – a person can personally decide to become more comfortable with novelty or physical activity when such things do not come naturally to them – but it takes work and personal motivation. Such qualities cannot be erased like chalk on a blackboard by some progressive administrator.
We also share a common human nature. We can be greedy, envious, violent, self-absorbed and lazy. We can also be heroic, generous, innovative, loving, kind and devoted. We each have these potentials and many more within us, and it takes an internal motivation to choose the more positive qualities over the more negative.
I choose the kind of person that I want to be. It is a life's work to become and live as a good man. It is serious and meaningful business to become trustworthy, reliable, honest, competent and kind. When a person overcomes his or her negative impulses, habits and desires, and points him or herself toward a life of responsibility and integrity, it is a triumph.
This is our shared humanity; this is where our common struggle exists, whether you are rich or poor, whether you are gifted or slower, whether you come from privileged or humble beginnings. We all are faced with our own nature, our own demons and our own battles.
It is in this sense that we are all created equal. It is this reality that our American founders understood so very well.
It is the heroic potential of mankind that offers each of us the opportunity to fight for our own good life through whatever particular challenges we may face. How we engage this fight is what earns us each our own personal reputation within ourselves – for better or worse.
No government can do this for us, no legislation can make us other than who we are and no politician has any wisdom to direct anybody toward a better life. The use of force can scare us into behaving in certain ways but it cannot make us better – creativity and innovation are expansive qualities built on inspiration; they flourish with freedom and openness and are never enhanced by threats.
It is a government that protects and champions our individual liberty that provides the best opportunity for each of us to face this struggle for ourselves. It is a rule of law that provides for a predictable and reasonable structure of rules by which to work and live that allows us to make long-range plans and to pour ourselves into creating and producing value for our fellow human beings.
And it is a population of free men and women who can ensure that their government, their media and their academies of learning keep to their proper function of protecting individual liberty throughout our country.
We have to accept what's true; our republic is dependent upon free people keeping their government in check and denying special exemptions from the laws of human nature among our elites. We will always do this imperfectly but we the people must always do our part – or lose this triumph of the human spirit that is America.