April 1st – Lake Minnewanka/The Red Pill

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.

Proverbs 23:13

While all the devote church goers were off doing their Sunday spiritualism I drove out to Banff and ran/hiked Lake Minnewanka. I wonder who had a more enlightening experience?

I got up early this morning to maximize my favourable weather and increase the possible duration of any adventure. I hadn’t yet done this trail but supposedly it was free of snow year round. I had a feeling this would be bullshit when the 10k fire road leading to the trail head was covered in fresh powder and sure enough the trail was much whiter than expected. I was able to run for out for exactly an hour and then the snow became deeper and the trail disappeared. I stopped for a snack and then hiked back the same way. There was a lone xc skier out on the lake that paralleled me the entire time. On the way back the sun really beat down on the trail and it began to thaw considerably. About 3k out I met a man walking his dog and we shared a conversation the rest of the way. It was quite comical when I first ran into him. He turned around and said “You’re the runner!” I hadn’t seen him yet so I asked how he knew. “I could tell by the stride length. I thought, I am envious of this guy.” I didn’t realize I was being stalked by Mantracker.

He, like every person I meet it seems, asked if I was afraid of rolling an ankle and running into trouble. Why is it everyone instinctively goes to the negative first? The thought has crossed my mind but has never caused me any great concern. Even if I break my ankle I am simply faced with a long and miserable crawl. I’d rather that then never leave home because the world isn’t covered in bubble wrap.

***

I have to write almost a second blog today. I also wanted to talk about Wes Anderson movies but that will have to wait. To lead into this next entry check out this scene from the Matrix.

Two of my debates have recently ended with the opposing side taking the stance of preference over truth. The evangelist I have been writing to told me that even if it were shown to be false he would still want to believe in the Jesus fantasy. I’ve run into this before. Perhaps at the end of a brief theological discussion the believer will challenge me with “Well then what happens when you die?” When I say that nothing happens I then get a response like “Wow, how can you believe that?” As if I have some choice in the matter or that my personal desires have any influence on what is actually true. I would rather know the truth and then try to form a bearable worldview around it than start out with a false presupposition and be pleasantly deluded. I would always take the red pill.

More recently I ran into the same sort of issue when having a political debate with a Running Room employee. I was doing a shoe talk and right before I started I heard him say that he would rather pay 100% taxes and have everything provided for him. I entirely disagreed and so I shared some of my Libertarian views with him after the group left for their run.

My political views stem from the notion that I should be able to live my life any way that I choose just as long as i don’t impose on others. And in return I grant the same right to everyone else. This means that I don’t believe it is morally acceptable for someone to take something from another person and give it to a third party, even if it benefits the third party more than it hurts the victim of theft. This is a fancy way of saying I think taxes are bad.

The example I gave to him I now pose to you. Say that there is a street with 5 farms on it. That season 4 of the farms have great crop yields and for some reason the 5th grew no crops. This means that 4 families will certainly be well fed while the 5th may starve. Is it morally acceptable for someone to take a percentage of crops from the first 4 farms and give it to the 5th? I say absolutely not and this disgusted my opponent. The funny thing is that we both very much wanted that 5th family to get food. The difference is that I don’t believe the end justifies the means. So what is my solution? I think that people are naturally altruistic and in this situation the first 4 farms would willingly donate some of their crops to feed the 5th family. However, my Libertarian view is not dependent on the generosity of humans but rather the original notion I stated above. It could very well be the case that if left to their own devices people would be selfish and the suffering in the world would increase. But this doesn’t make a bigger government or higher taxes correct. He also tried to insert the steal-a-loaf-of-bread dilemma in there. But two things were very wrong with this too. For starters, there is a distinctive difference between a hungry man stealing a loaf of bread from a wealthy man and a wealthy man stealing a loaf of bread from another wealthy man and giving it to a hungry man. Secondly, it is still necessarily wrong to steal, no matter what. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it but I wouldn’t try to justify the theft as a proper thing. Again, I would hope that the wealthy man would willingly offer a loaf of bread up and this is an important expectation in a Libertarian society, but his doing so or not doing so would not change my opinion or the truth of the matter. I would always take the red pill.

A further note on taxes. The man I was speaking with was a teacher and thought taxes were good because he saw the benefit of a well funded education program or health care or food banks. I very much agree that those things should receive money but again it was the means by which they did. I want people to willingly donate to important causes. But I don’t want a third party deciding what is best for me and for others. No one can know that. And worst of all, even if there are things funded by taxes that please you, there will always be areas that you fund that you are displeased with, such as war or even specific parts of broader areas you do like (Perhaps education gets funded  but only math and science, while the arts actually get cut back). If everyone is in control of their own money they control exactly where it goes. AGAIN, this assumes a lot of “faith” in humanity but I have seen plenty of evidence to suggest that it would work out favourably for society BUT AGAIN, it doesn’t actually matter from the perspective of truth if it did or didn’t.

The thing that bothered me the most was the hard pendulum swing that I here from theists when talking about secular morality. When speaking of say, The Ten Commandments, I’ll hear something like “Well, if there is no God what is to stop people from going around raping and killing other people?” Tonight I got almost the same thing. When I stated that I thought everyone should have the right to do whatever they want just so long as they don’t take away from other people’s rights he said “So then I could just smash someone over the head and beat them to the ground?” First of all, no, because you would be ignoring the second requirement of a Libertarian society (in fact, this is why privately funded police forces would still have to exist) but also who do you know that would do that?

Anyway, to re-iterate, it may be the case that a world in which a God does not exist or Libertarianism is the primary form of government may be a bleak place. Just like a world without the Matrix veil is scary, cold, and demoralizing. But this doesn’t make either of those things any less true. At the end of that scene Morpheus has a great line: “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

What pill would you take?

***

On a lighter note I had a “That’s what she said” moment tonight. I was in Sobey’s for a late night grocery shop. I picked the till with the cute cashier. When it came time to pay I presented my debit card and she said “Insert into the bottom when ready.” It was 11pm and I was tired from my drive to Edmonton so it took a lot out of me not to break down laughing.

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