Opinion Editorial




By James Strauss


You are not lost, if you don’t know you are lost. Most of Western civilization is lost, without knowing that they are lost. Being lost does not mean that you are not following someone else. Almost everyone in these cultures is following a number of other people. They follow a pastor’s leadership on Sundays, a boss’s local, and not so local, leadership during the workweek, and overall the national political leadership of the country daily. They also follow the governmental representatives of the state, county, and community, all the way down the line to the local police and sheriff’s department officers patrolling the cities, villages or towns. You don’t know you are lost, because all those leaders you are following make sure that you are constantly bombarded by assurances, and reassurances, that you are indeed going in the right direction, which always happens to coincide exactly with where they are going.

What happened to you? What happened to the ‘you’ inside you, that you portray yourself to be? America is a country where the entire population, with very few exceptions, is of the same belief when it comes to individual determinism, which we call freedom. But just what is it in your life that is determined by you, and you alone? Almost nothing. You are subject to sets of rules, laws, and mores that are ever-expanding. The average American exists within a system where all conduct is subject to more than 47,000 of these controlling laws, rules, and regulations. And that number is increasing every day! There are no committees, or congresses, or even village and town councils set up to eliminate useless, unneeded or ridiculously outmoded laws, or rules of conduct.

Yet the United States House of Representatives and Senate bodies, enact at least a hundred and fifty new laws a year. Every year. There are traffic laws, health laws, eating, spitting, smoking, and family conduct laws. There are laws against nature, governing physical contact, and laws limiting the rights of spoken and written words. If written down, simply the list of all these rules would run for over a hundred pages, even single-spaced. Yet, with all of this seemingly never-ending, ever-increasing, regulation of social-behavioral, the national belief in the total freedom of the individual not only survives but also thrives.


It survives because it is in the best interests, in fact, the survival interests, of the people you are following. Without that basic belief, a cold reality might set in that would no doubt cause the entire culture to come to a complete halt. Now would such a halt be a good thing or bad thing? In fact, it would be both, and illustrating that is easy. If everyone driving stopped obeying traffic control devices, then you can imagine the resulting carnage that would result. On the other hand, if everyone stopped believing the rules about restricting protesting, leaders might be motivated to be more attentive to the actual needs of those they are supposed to serve. Neither of those ‘proofs’ can be proven, however, without experimentation that’s never going to take place.

As a society, we understand that rules are constructs created by our fellow men and women to maintain order in our social universe. Favoring the needs and benefits of some, and not others are accepted as part of the price for having order. One can only find oneself, and exercise any control over external circumstances, by coming to understand that the majority of the rules in modern, civilized, societies are not fair. A hundred and fifty years ago, before South Dakota became a state, in Deadwood, South Dakota, there were only eleven laws on the books. The punishment for not obeying these laws was draconian. But those punishments were seldom invoked, as only a small percentage of the population ever ran afoul of them. On the other hand, the modern world has thousands of laws, and the punishments are less draconian (in most circumstances) for violating them, but their pervasiveness is almost complete. A long time ago, when the ‘Western’ part of this country was still considered open and free, and not yet officially joined with our country or constrained by its laws, the greatest surge of technological advancement occurred that the world has ever known. Did that explosion of innovation (apparent even to this day) come about because the people were free to find themselves, and discover their own way? They could even ‘re-find’ themselves by changing names and moving ten or twenty miles from where they might have had failure or trouble. How can a person in western culture find him or herself today? What is required to ‘reinvent’ oneself now?

To be found is not to hold oneself distant or immune to the rules that govern society. Without rules of conduct comes chaos (and there was a good bit of that throughout the American old west).

No, to be found, is to understand, accommodate, and then adroitly work to interpret, avoid and deftly use the rules as they exist and change. The most common violation of the law that occurs every second of every day, and is found to be inexcusable by all legal authorities, is the crime of ignorance. Ignorance of a law’s existence is not considered a defense by any legal body, for the simple reason that it is dependent on an unprovable aspect of the accused’s personae. The validity of the claim can not be determined.

The best way to be a ‘found’ human being, and become more free, is to study the laws and rules.

  • Do your own taxes, and you will know the tax laws applicable to your situation.
  • Get a copy of the traffic codes applicable in your state (not those few you might see on a driver’s test).
  • Get a copy of the federal, state and county laws, and read through them. You will be amazed by this relatively simple and seemingly boring exercise.

You will be amazed by this relatively simple and seemingly boring exercise.
You will not believe how many of the rules that govern your very existence, and define the freedom you hold to be so dear, that you have never heard of.

You, like most members of western cultures, only learn many of the laws that govern your behavior by violating those laws, getting caught, and then unsuccessfully defending your actions by claiming that you didn’t know about them. You are probably, for the most part, telling the truth when you deny knowledge about whatever rule you are accused of violating. But truth has little to do with applying all these rules and keeping humanity, and you, from living in chaos.


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