The Painful Journey Towards the Pursuit of Happiness



The middle class of Venezuela continues to daily protest their government’s destructive domination of their lives, despite overwhelming force.  A Ukrainian battalion, completely surrounded by invading Russian forces that have stormed their base, parade, and in unison, sing their country’s national anthem.  An owner of a small machine shop in Texas decides to assure integrity in democracy, starts a democracy education program called True The Vote, and brings the whole weight of a “weaponized” American government upon her head.  A group of auto workers in Chattanooga Tennessee reject collective union representation at a Volkswagen plant because “we have good jobs with a good company, and joining the union risks those jobs.” A intensely conservative politician Rand Paul gets a standing ovation from the most liberal statist population on earth at the University of California/Berkeley , when he states the government should get out of the business of monitoring individual lives.

What’s going on?  Governments the world over have assumed the post modern human has accepted the benefits of a collective community and the security it offers against hunger, inequality, and safety, and are finally willing to subvert their uncivilized instincts for  utopia.  Why don’t these people see the advantages of being taken care of and just accept the facts of life? Its that darn free will.  It just keeps rearing its untamed head and refuses to submit.  When Thomas Jefferson unleashed the power of language to define this very fundamental human instinct as unalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, he brought ancient truths to modern concepts of the individual.

In the depths of history, some 25 centuries ago, Greek philosophers already recognized innate genetics of the human animal.  They saw that the power of intellect would have unpredictable consequences when herd tactics were taken by the strong upon the weak.  Epicurus, the father of individual happiness, defined it as the human’s need to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  Good and evil, moral tenets, found their place in Epicurus’s world as expressions of pleasure and pain – Good was pleasurable, Evil was painful.  The achievement of  pleasure, however, could submit to a painful path, if the ultimate outcome by undergoing a painful interlude would ultimately lead to significantly more pleasure.  Although the ultimate expression of happiness might be found in a modest life devoid of controversy, the acceptance of challenge, even instability, however painful, could still provide the fuel for the achievement of a better life, as that individual perceived it.  A world of “self control and determination”, not anarchy.

Epicurus got the opportunity to school other Greeks in his thoughts, as did the Stoics with their desire for order through the avoidance of moral corruption, and the Platonians for their desire to attain an ideal state devoid of the ephemeral pleasures of the sensate world.  Diverging philosophies were all part of the individual acknowledging his own perception of the world around him and responding according to his intellect.  Certainly this could work for several hundred thousand Greeks living on millions of acres of Greek lands.  Can the modern man be philosophical about his individualism in a world where for instance in Bangladesh,  2,850 people compete for every square mile?

Pursuit of happiness. Sounds simple, but what profound strains of human existence it symbolizes.  The Putins, Maduros, Khameneis and Obamas of the world continue to struggle with the notion that individuals can not cotton to these statists’ constant need to define what is good for you.  The force of the statist impulse is overwhelming, but inevitably weakened by the  individual intents of tens of millions of intellects that see real power in the freedom to determine one’s own destiny. In a world that seemingly has given up its flower of humanity to the strangling vines of security and safety, the inability of statist powers to stamp out  this ongoing need to be human, and free, gives us all a tendril of hope.

Tianamen Square - 1989

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