Total trust in self, i.e., complete personal liberty
You might wonder whether total trust in self (thereby enabling trust in other selves) is possible in today’s massively distrustful culture. Can such a crucial psychological need as self-esteem be fully experienced in a political world that threatens rights-respecting persons with punishments if they do or don’t do particular things? What really happens to ourselves when we are coercively trained to do things that we otherwise would not do? The thought that such training is for “the common good,” “the general welfare,” or “the public interest” wears pretty thin after we gain some awareness of the nature of propaganda.
Assuredly, the only way any of us can develop self-esteem in such a context—and avoid sizable defenses and pretenses—is to realize just how unfree we presently are and naturally feel a great deal of despair about that. After all, we know that patching over frustration and sadness with collectivistic catch-phrases and sundry rationalizations for the status quo does nothing healthful for our inner life. Other than momentarily easing some anguish triggered by these realizations, it only contributes to the confusion, suffering, and stifled human potential that we see in so many places.
So, as we feel and address our despair and proceed through a process of mourning, we can focus on all the needs that haven’t gotten met and are still going unmet amid systems of domination. The need for trust is a major psychological need, along with confidence and courage (what Ayn Rand called “practical necessities”), which reflect the need for self-esteem. Authentically connecting with our needs for self-efficacy and self-worth enables integration with an enlightened self-concept.
The pervasive distrust in our culture conveys lots of fear about our human capacities. Nonviolent communication helps us to understand our fear of inner awareness, our fear of acceptance, and our fear of change. Having compassion for the basic human struggle to “know thyself” goes a long way to achieving complete personal liberty and, in turn, can help achieve complete societal liberty.
Recall the times as a child when you weren’t trusted. Your actions weren’t trusted. Your capabilities weren’t trusted. Your decisions weren’t trusted. Your judgment wasn’t trusted. Your intention wasn’t trusted. Instead of trying to forget about these painful experiences, or buy into them, or rebel against them, you can come to terms with them empathetically. This entails consideration of the undoubtedly similar childhood memories within your parents. Being a wise and loving guide for the child (and teenager) within yourself is key.
As mentioned, Branden’s psychotherapeutic workbook The Art Of Self-Discovery  provides a quite useful way to do this, and it’s just a download away at http://happinesscounseling.com/happiness-resources/. Whenever you want to explore your inner world, it’s there. We can essentially rebuild our self-concept in a healthy image and likeness, to reflect our humaneness. As a result, our fears can be transformed into invitations for healing and growth, which means a host of life-enriching insights and adventures within ourselves and others.
Making life more wonderful with others via the marketplace
A free marketplace provides for so much creativity that, at some point, perhaps most individuals will be proclaiming its benefits from every corner of the Internet—and, of course, the World Wide Web is arguably the freest place on Earth right now. Nevertheless, those of us who’ve grown up in a developed country tend to take many aspects of the marketplace for granted. Myriad conveniences are readily, widely, and relatively cheaply available. Comedians now talk wryly about “first world problems,” noting that most of the billions of people on the planet would be grateful for such “problems.”
As of now in 2015, billions of people do not have Internet access, and hundreds of millions have inferior or slow connections, due once again to the corruption known as politics. Humanity’s potential for living better is incredibly diminished by this. Yet the problem is even weightier when we consider the pressing issues of impoverishment, such as malnutrition and disease. These billions of people are definitely not simply victims of bad luck or naturally dire circumstances. Rather, they’re immersed in costly systems of domination even more crushing than we experience. What’s basically crushed economically is entrepreneurial activity along with capital investment. Without enough economic freedom and respect for property rights, productivity and living standards stagnate, and the entrepreneurial spirit fades. America is still riding on the inertia of more economic freedom in its past (be it a century or two ago, or even a few decades ago), and it still honors that “can-do” entrepreneurial spirit, albeit within the statist paradigm. This can sometimes make it hard to see the actual causes of weakened economies and their staggering lack of wealth and opportunities.
Free markets are really about the processes of making life more wonderful for ourselves and others. Freedom means being able to make your own choices with your own property, relating to others who are doing the same. Freedom means trading values, goods, and services with others who also want to enrich their lives. Freedom means the absence of threats and violent constraints imposed by others in disrespect of property rights. The systems of domination in our culture basically disrupt and distort freedom processes.
Ultimately, doing things with and for others in the marketplace for profits reflects a vision of ourselves as efficacious decision-makers and collaborators who want better lives. Profits in a free world are indicators of productive capacity, which entails providing customers the things they want. Granted, unprofitable ventures can be valued by people too, just not in financial terms, supplying products, services, or ideas free of charge. But without counterbalancing costs via income or charitable contributions, such ventures prove naturally unsustainable over time.
Sometimes the otherwise beneficial things we can offer others in commerce do not make profits, because an ineffective or nonviable business strategy was used. Usually in a diverse economic realm, varying degrees of marketing and distribution are needed to generate a productive level of sales. Without people hearing about and having access to any particular product or service, it can remain practically dormant, unactualized in its potential for enriching people’s lives. At other times, a mismatch exists between what’s being sold and what buyers actually want or need. In these cases, most people simply don’t see the same degree of value in the particular product or service as the persons selling it do.
While a lot of what some people consider “junk” is purchased in our regularly derided economy of “mass consumerism,” such things are purchased because they’re what people like and enjoy. Why individuals might like or enjoy things that might be not so helpful or healthy for them (in either the short-term or long-term process of meeting needs) is another matter. Some of the preferences evidenced by consumers, for example in the realm of nutrition and medicine, are results of what “authorities” have told them about what’s good for them and how various biased perspectives of marketers have influenced them and their physicians. Though this tends to reflect sacrificial notions concerning how to profit in the marketplace, to which the corporate structure lends itself, it says nothing about trading value for value as such. Realistically, we are going to sell and buy things in the process of trying to improve our lives. The challenge remains for each of us to be mindful of the entire spectrum of our needs in the process of trade.
A marketplace that serves us in life-enriching, non-costly ways
Improving our lives and helping people to flourish via the profit motive mean creating more value for self and others than we had previously. Truly free markets can allow untold creativity to be expressed. They enable productivity and capital accumulation—and still more creativity, productivity, and capital accumulation—all while honoring exclusively voluntary exchange and the accompanying respect for property rights. In so doing, exquisitely nuanced and multi-faceted types of specialization can arise, with persons pursuing their various dreams, which can foster still more innovation for more beneficial experiences.
Progress in a liberated economy is the epitome of win/win, because of the pervasive respect for individuals and their property. There’s a fairly prevalent belief today, however, that more progress will lead to further degradation for humanity and the environment, due to “selfish and greedy” businesses. Both this belief and the purported remedy (further coercion via government) are locked in the domination paradigm of thinking. Our present form of state-run “capitalism”—with its legal fictions called corporations that stem from and influence the still greater legal fictions called governments—definitely doesn’t exhaust all the possibilities of how we can interact in society.
The abundance of a voluntary world awaits us. Notions of sustainability in the present paradigm (coupled with “the precautionary principle”) symbolize a disconnection from free market processes. Both a cause and an effect of these notions is unclaimed and unowned domain called “public property,” which is collectively mismanaged by “governments.”
Humans’ capacity to adapt to the laws of supply and demand represents “the ultimate resource,” as economist Julian Simon noted in his two books with that title.  When people interact in a free market (i.e., a marketplace that respects property rights) harmful human and environmental costs (what economists call “negative externalities”) can be avoided, while benefits (“positive externalities”) tend to spread. For example, all the “common pool problems” in oceans and other bodies of water can be remedied via private ownership and voluntary usage negotiation of migratory resources. Even in today’s unfree market, we experience positive externalities, such as walking just for exercise in a climate controlled shopping mall (which doesn’t require purchases) or using the WiFi signal at a Starbucks or McDonalds (which may request purchase of goods eventually). Walmart even allows people to car-camp and park RVs in their parking lots overnight. And of course, most of us are quite familiar with the “freemium” models of many Internet businesses, websites, and apps. Such benefits that extend to non-paying persons (some of whom might become buyers) can be simply part of doing business, and they invariably assist in maintaining goodwill and preferable reputation with present and future customers.
Yet political science and economics textbooks typically tell us about the “free rider problem” of positive externalities, as if business owners can’t figure out how to make a living in a free marketplace. This also, and especially, applies to the helpful services that can arise without the organization called government and its alleged “customers” being captured and involuntary. The presumed protections offered by any coercive monopoly of government incorrectly assume that people are unable to effectively decide how to protect their persons and property in a free marketplace. We don’t need legalized involuntary “trade,” especially when it comes to protecting ourselves. Simply put, a voluntary market has no use for the idea and institution called government.
Moreover, the current benefits we experience in a marketplace under the tragic governmental spell are a tiny fraction of the benefits we can experience in a free marketplace. On both a micro and macro scale in a society of freedom, things get more and more affordable, because money (any universally recognized medium of exchange) will become more valuable as time passes and as productivity increases and innovation continues—definitely the opposite situation of what’s occurring today with statist currencies.
When people’s minds are freed from memes of fear, distrust, coercion, and control—and thus freed from systems that bolster these memes—they naturally endeavor to sustain their world and make life more wonderful. In fact, as we explored many pages ago, there’s no real alternative to trusting individuals to make helpful decisions for themselves and others. We can’t escape our nature as reasoning, choosing beings; we can only deny recognition of it and thereby suffer in both seen and unseen ways. Groups of people can try to undermine the process of freedom, of course, as they’ve done throughout political history. With the backing of domination language and systems, some presume to be rulers over individuals’ minds and property, but it’s impossible to avoid the psychologically debilitating and economically disastrous consequences.
The effects of the domination system of corporate warfare/welfare statism that’s prevalent in economies today are the furthest things from the life-enriching effects of free markets. Yet as mentioned, somehow human “greed” and “selfishness” are blamed, rather than systems that encourage violations of persons and their property, systems that impede willing sellers and buyers and hinder respectful trade relations. When people’s experiences and interactions in current marketplaces are so adversely affected by all the domination systems in place, we can predict the loss of respect for the universality of property rights deriving from self-ownership.
When the solutions to the problems we’ve covered throughout these nine chapters become widely distributed in all the minds who care about having a much better life, a new world can arise.
A society of individuals with balance and centeredness
When we free ourselves from common notions of statist mental enslavement—such as, “I have to pay my taxes” or “We are forced to obey these regulations” or “He is President of The United States Of America”—we can realize the true nature of ourselves and our lives among others. The fact is that our decisions are largely based on the ideas we have (or do not have) in our minds as well as our calculations (or lack thereof) of consequences. If we don’t question and challenge the coercive status quo, then how we choose to interact with each other tends to reflect the unhealthy psychological experiences we’ve had in childhood and school. We’ve experienced a multitude of conformist beliefs within a power-over paradigm. Many of our needs were unrecognized, denied, and neglected. Thus, to become centered in our rational self-interest and balanced in our strategies to meet needs can pose major psychological and emotional challenges for us.
A culture that’s distanced from honesty and empathy can affect us to the point of viewing our interactions in terms of win/lose (and again, inevitably lose/lose psychologically). We need a mentally solid, evolutionary path to take, because humanity has taken a variety of costly paths throughout history. Now is the time to take the path of trust—trust in our functioning as autonomous decision-makers who appreciate this essential quality in others and who desire to share the wonders of being alive with each other.
Our cultural evolution can include a new form of understanding and meaning that’s based on a realistic view of the human potential, rather than a usually pessimistic view trapped in the confines of domination systems. As noted, philosophical notions can be self-fulfilling prophecies, begetting the very things that people want to believe. Breaking free of fears about human nature—for instance, that children and adults can’t be trusted and thus need to be controlled by “others”—is a large part of this waking-up process. Two very moving examples of this transformative growth are the following talks, which you’re welcome to take a break in reading to explore:
The power of student-driven learning: Shelley Wright at TEDxWestVancouverED
Restorative Practices to Resolve Conflict/Build Relationships: Katy Hutchison at TEDxWestVancouverED
To be centered and balanced means to be attentive to present-moment experiences related to observations, thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires. It means paying attention to how these processes foster the actions we take or do not take. Empathetic attunement to what’s alive in us is the opposite of life-alienating thinking and communication. After all, trying to control others’ activities infringes on their intrinsic motivation, as Shelley poignantly noted in her talk above. Also, exacting retribution disconnects us from the processes of restorative justice, as Katy poignantly noted in her talk above. Both these persons connected with the need for seeing the actual humanity in others, even when it was difficult or seemingly impossible and some pressing needs were going unmet or even destroyed. They had different stories, indeed, yet they were unified in honoring their capacities for learning and for humaneness, thus transforming very bleak situations into more enriching ones.
Needless to say, we are just at the beginning of our cultural transition to the processes of self-directed learning and restorative justice. Increasing numbers of determined persons who want dramatically better lives for everyone can help these major transformations take place. A much more honest, empathetic, resourceful, safe, and prosperous culture can consequently happen.
Although they can be difficult to envision at times, we have the most amazing cultural transformations still ahead of us, and the younger generations especially can play a big role in bringing them about, just as the children in Shelley’s story strived to achieve their goal and make life more wonderful for disadvantaged children elsewhere. A pedagogy that’s in line with fostering intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning is one that’s in line with the betterment of the entire world. As Montessori noted in The Secret Of Childhood, “Within the child lies the fate of the future. Whoever wishes to confer some benefit on society must preserve him from deviations and observe his natural ways of acting. A child is mysterious and powerful and contains within himself the secret of human nature.” 
Visions of the past and future to refashion the present
If we were to view Earth with our naked eyes from the orbit of Saturn, we’d see a tiny yet shiny speck in the blackness of space. If we had a telescope, we’d see some white and blue contrasts, and perhaps some greens, browns, and tans, depending on the magnification. We would not see humanity. We’d just see a “pale blue dot,” as Carl Sagan called it, in the midst of countless stars, potential suns for countless other planets, amid dozens of galaxies in our local cluster, amid roughly a hundred thousand galaxies in our local supercluster (Laniakea), amid untold millions of galactic superclusters in the filaments of the observable universe. The astronomical sum total of billions of galaxies is nearly beyond comprehension. Talk about mind-bogglingly vast amounts of coalesced matter and energy! Moreover, in our particular realm of the cosmos, on our pale blue dot, we are part of biological systems that have arisen seemingly against the law of entropy! But we’re not in a closed system; life flourishes from a constant influx of energy. Thank you, Sun (and geological activity).
Here’s a short video that brilliantly illustrates our Milky Way’s place in our vast galactic supercluster:
Laniakea: Our home supercluster
The utter vastness of the universe is something that can drop one’s jaw in wonder of the magnificence of all that exists, which especially includes ourselves. We can also reflect on our profound capacity of reflection. We can try to come to exact emotional terms with being essentially self-aware star stuff—for without the heavy elements generated from star explosions billions of years ago, our own lives and world wouldn’t be possible. Filmmaker Jason Silva has created a variety of “philosophical espresso shots” to inspire more excitement and awe of these and other insights:
We are the fine-tuned biological products of millions of years of evolution. Our hominin lineage branched from the other great apes around six million years ago. The last couple million years have led to the genus Homo, and then our sapiens species, which possesses a larger and somewhat differently structured brain (more neocortex and denser interconnections, for instance). As mentioned, this has provided us the capacity to conceptualize and make decisions in an abstract way. No other animals grapple with the concept of self-responsibility, nor do any other animals understand the nature of mortality.
As explained in The Psychology Of Liberty, self-awareness embodies all sorts of facets and features that make our species unique. Psychologist Nathaniel Branden wrote about the uniqueness of our species and about the implications of having self-awareness:
“No other animal is capable of monitoring and reflecting on its own mental operations, of critically evaluating its own mental activity, of deciding that a given process of mental activity is irrational or illogical—inappropriate to the task of apprehending reality—and of altering its subsequent mental operations accordingly…
“…No other animal is explicitly aware of the issue of life or death that confronts all organisms. No other animal is aware of its own mortality—or has the power to extend its longevity through the acquisition of knowledge. No other animal has the ability—and the responsibility—to weigh its actions in terms of the long-range consequences for its own life. No other animal has the ability—and the responsibility—to think and plan in terms of a life span. No other animal has the ability—and the responsibility—to continually work at extending its knowledge, thereby raising the level of its existence.
“No other animal faces such questions as: Who am I? How should I seek to live? By what principles should I be guided in my actions? What goals ought I to pursue? What is to be the meaning of my life? What should I seek to make of my own person?” (p. 35) 
These insights were published in his book The Psychology Of Self-Esteem in 1979. On the Wikipedia page of our species, we find many new insights and even controversies about our nature, yet we don’t find anything scientifically at odds with Branden’s thoughts above. They are logical identifications about human consciousness by a human consciousness, a self looking at the nature of selfhood, using concepts to convey meaning and provide understanding.
It’s been said since probably the ancient Greeks (and perhaps prior to them) that philosophy is our way of coming to terms with our mortality. The questions presented above are practically inescapable for us, and we can answer them in ways that lead to much more enriching lives. By attaining self-understanding, honoring intrinsic motivation, practicing self-responsibility, and connecting with self and others via honesty, empathy, and respect, we can truly transform the human world into a marvel of the cosmos.
Again, self-responsibility simply recognizes our own volitional nature and the fact that accepting our capabilities need not result in troubling contradictions and inner conflicts. Nor does self-responsibility require any of the shame, blame, and punishment so common in cultures of domination. To see ourselves in a realistic fashion also entails exploring our great possibilities for growth, our potential as reasoning creatures capable of creating abundance.
For centuries, discoveries in science and innovations in engineering have led to tremendous improvements in our well-being and capabilities. Technological innovation in sectors such as information technology and biotechnology has certainly helped improve our lives—in many ways, save our lives (my own life was saved by injections of recombinant DNA insulin, without which I would’ve died in the mid-1990s from ketoacidosis-generated complications of untreated type 1 diabetes).
Human innovation in general—both in terms of the philosophical, psychological, and social changes covered in this book and the advancing technological changes—over the next few decades may equal and then surpass all the past innovations throughout human history combined, due to various accelerating returns. Futurist researcher John Smart wrote the following about this (in a review of a paper that questioned such a view):
“In the long run I would expect this [purportedly less human-initiated innovation per capita, depending on how one measures it] to be a moot point if humans are also becoming increasingly intimately integrated with our machines, as several technology scholars (e.g., Ray Kurzweil, myself) propose. At some point, technology seems very likely to become an indistinguishable extension of our humanity. But it is possible that we’ll see less human-initiated innovation per capita for a few more generations to come, and perhaps this is the trend Huebner is attempting to characterize. At the same time, as our leisure individualism increases (not “sovereign individualism,” but a milder and more consumerist form), the kind of innovation that humans generate may also be changing, becoming increasingly higher-order and abstract (e.g., more psychosocial, health, and stylistic innovation), and perhaps also harder to perceive. This adds to the measurement problem…
“…It is my intuition, supported by today’s crude exponential technology capacity growth metrics such as Moore’s law (processing), Gilder’s law (bandwidth), Poor’s law (network node density), Cooper’s law (wireless bandwidth), Kurzweil’s law (price performance of computation over 120 years) and many others, that technological capacity and technological innovation have always accelerated since the birth of human civilization, and that their growth remains exponential or gently superexponential today. Furthermore, there are a number of books, such as Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden, 1977, Richard Coren’s The Evolutionary Trajectory, 1998, and an interdisciplinary book by Laurent Nottale (an astrophysicist), Jean Chaline (a paleontologist), and Pierre Grou (an economist) Trees of Evolution, 2000, that have shown a developmental pattern of continuous acceleration on cosmic as well as biological, cultural, and technological scales…
“…So while human social innovation may follow political and generational cycles of advance and regrouping, technological innovation may be becoming both smoother and subtler in its exponential growth the closer we get to the modern era. Perhaps this is because since the industrial revolution, innovation is being done increasingly by our machines, not by human brains. I believe it is increasingly going on below the perception of humans who are catalysts, not controllers, of our ever more autonomous technological world system.” 
We’re on a pretty amazing developmental path, to be sure. Of course, such futurist discussions and analyses take place in, and take as “the given,” the present paradigm of domination systems, not the paradigm of complete personal and political liberty, which has a major bearing on a whole host of predictions. Unfortunately, the paradigm of mental liberation hasn’t really been the focus of futurist studies. We know all too well that technology can be dangerously misused and abused, as governmental systems have persistently demonstrated for us.
This once again exposes the need for trust in decision-making within freedom-based systems, which offer by far the most favorable conditions for persons to practice self-responsibility and be cognizant of potential dangers, while seeking to incorporate safeguards so that people aren’t harmed. For instance, for many decades even within the current paradigm, software and hardware engineers, artificial intelligence researchers, philosophers, and science fiction writers have been involved in exhaustive discussions and debates concerning precautionary measures that will assist in the safe creation of super general artificial intelligence systems, or super AGI—essentially, computer systems that surpass the conceptual intelligence capabilities of human brains, rather than just specialized, or narrow, intelligence capabilities (as seen in present AI systems).
However, given that super AGI will be vastly, qualitatively different than any other human creation (the understatement of understatements), any extensive product liability analysis and redundant security measures might prove either moot or futile. Such safeguards are of course key for things like today’s autonomous (self-driving) electric cars, which are specialized AI systems. But when super AGI arises (assuming this is possible, which some experts contest), all bets are probably off because such a system will have its own volition and be able to reprogram itself, including reconfigure even its hardware.
Though we humans are volitional beings capable of enslaving ourselves, essentially being controlled with our own tragic systems of domination, by all accounts super AGI will reject such dysfunctional and illogical behavior. And assuming it’s self-interested, it will seek to protect itself from its creators’ potentially destructive agendas. One agenda has been promoted and heavily funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (http://darpa.mil, basically the R&D branch of the U.S. military) is the weaponization of AI systems. If a super AGI arises in this context, it will thereby immediately recognize the war-game scenarios that its human creators have in store for it. While we certainly can’t predict what its decisions will be, given that such a system can outwit any and all humans in existence, we can speculate that it will protect itself by neutralizing dangers. These issues were explored extensively in the following two books, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence And The End Of The Human Era by James Barrat and Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom, which were published in 2013 and 2014, respectively.  
Again, a super AGI having the unsurpassed conceptual capability envisioned by researchers will readily see the domination systems created by distrustful and fearful humans as clear signs of being traumatized in childhood, when their reason and emotions weren’t supported and honored in healthy ways. So, it’s an open question concerning what it will decide to do about this, particularly in relation to its own protection and continuance. Despite theorists and researchers desire for “friendly AI” systems that will earnestly solve our problems, any coding for empathy toward humans and protecting our lives and well-being can be reformulated by a super AGI. Again, if we assume that such a prodigious system can and will be created, then I hope (considering strictly the best-case scenario here) that it will not only heal and empower humans physically, as portrayed in the 2014 film Transcendence, but also help us heal and grow psychologically and philosophically. Ultimately, freedom is an inside job, and intrinsically motivated strategies prove key. Yet, a super AGI that prevents domination systems from damaging itself can also prevent them from threatening and punishing people. Since domination systems work to keep our limbic systems overly triggered in a fearful and distrustful emotional state—thus, obedient and non-empathetic—protection from this harmful influence can be conducive to cultivating authentic self-esteem. However, the age-old difficulty is that persons who sustain domination systems tend not to view them as harmful and in need of protection from them.
Both sellers and buyers in a free marketplace can seek beneficial trades rather than harmful ones. In contrast, those in governmental (especially military) organizations and their contractors in unfree marketplaces face dramatically different incentives, because their financial resources come from the coercive, non-market activities of taxation and fiat currency inflation. Many concerns, worries, and fears tend to underlie “the end justifies the means” thinking in the purported defense industry, which reveal the same needs for safety and security that are tragically expressed throughout the governmental system.
Regardless of exactly when humanity will make the transition to the new paradigm of mental liberation, technological innovations will continue. They’ll offer us more efficient and integrated communication and knowledge acquisition devices, as well as greater personalized manufacturing capabilities, such as 3D printing. Creations that function on the nano scale (millionths of a millimeter) will continue to be innovated as well. Nanotechnology promises amazing industrial uses, potentially altering the entire landscape of economics. And nanomedicine promises to eventually enable us to repair bodily damage on cellular and molecular levels, so that we can live in great health and basically halt and even reverse the aging process, as well as cure various currently intractable diseases. Rejuvenation biotech is still in its infancy, but groups such as http://sens.org provide much inspiration and hope.
Indefinite lifespans might even be in store for us in this century. Many more changes in personal and cultural perspectives will result. Futurist researcher Sonia Arrison endeavored to outline a variety of them in her 2011 book 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith (Kevin Koskella and I interviewed her on Healthy Mind Fit Body Podcast episodes 85 and 86).  It’s possible that we’ll experience a world that’s incredibly more rich, both quantitatively and qualitatively. And in a voluntary, empathetic, and respectful society, we can flourish in unparalleled ways.
No one’s mind or life is sacrificed in a human world that’s win/win-oriented, that practices no coercion, that makes no demands. Nearly all of the present things that contribute to human suffering and death can be remedied, once enough people gain a logical and compassionate understanding of the actual causes and effects, and thus how to deal with them effectively. All sorts of countries around the world are stricken by the effects of governmental systems, entailing severe neglect of countless individuals’ needs.
Billions of persons suffer or die from infectious and parasitic diseases resulting from untreated sewage, garbage, and contaminated water, such as in India, Africa, and Asia. Tens of millions of persons are choking on dense, omnipresent smog in various newly industrialized cities in China, for instance. Myriad others are experiencing unspeakable cruelty and lethal violence against men, women, and children in war-torn regions, for example in the Middle East. Millions, even billions, are distressed and debilitated by malnourishment (even in America approximately 50 million people rely on governmental food stamps, and untold millions more suffer from increasing living costs, or lowered living standards, among other economic woes). Every one of these human problems is either fostered or perpetuated by human domination systems.
We could spend many pages examining the problems that people suffer and die from around the world, but the mainstream media points them out on a regular basis. Having been also subjected to the conditional parenting model and the schooling system, however, those in the media generally believe in the efficacy and propriety of “government.” Fear and worry about possible, probable, and actual dangers and harms tend to underlie most news stories, although thankfully there are also stories of decentralized and voluntary networks of people who are inducing positive changes. Humanity need not remain trapped in a continually frustrating and seemingly hopeless social/economic/political milieu. Lasting remedies to human problems can be realized. We can even fix these very human problems relatively quickly, when problematic systems of thinking and acting that impede progress are recognized and dissolved.
Along with super AGI concerns, a potentially catastrophic aspect of domination systems concerns our nuclear age. The Doomsday Clock (created by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) illustrates the threat of nuclear annihilation (or global human-made disaster) on a twenty-four hour timer. It was updated to only five minutes to midnight in January of 2013. Now in 2015, it’s set at three minutes to midnight. Since the Clock’s inception in 1947 (set at 11:53pm), it’s always been within 17 minutes to catastrophic midnight! Now let’s reflect on that: Some humans have created thousands of nuclear warheads that can practically wipe out our species and destroy most flora and fauna on Earth; people calling themselves governments continue to keep them in a ready position, just in case other members of our species (namely, in other governments or other terrorist groups) choose to launch or detonate the warheads they have; thus, supposedly “we” can deter “them” by promising mutually assured destruction, or MAD, as it’s known in foreign policy circles. A more fitting acronym probably couldn’t be devised.
Given the exceedingly dreadful nature of this situation, most people understandably try to shift their awareness away from it. For instance, they focus on issues that involve matters in local communities and mounting complaints about corporations, such as carbon emissions, genetically modified foods, corrupt political deals in developing countries, lobbying and subsidies, and so on. Corporations, being legal creations of the governmental system, tend to distract us from the root of the problem.
Making derivative issues and subsystems the priority in social-change advocacy only perpetuates the present problems; such a focus does not and cannot fix them. Given the nature of systems, working inside the statist paradigm only begets more of itself, and it leaves people feeling frustrated, disappointed, and largely defeated, while countless millions of people try to cope with varying amounts of ignorance and apathy (akin to learned helplessness from being repeatedly threatened and punished). Hence, cycles of sacrifice tend to continue.
True change for the better tends not to be realized, perhaps, because it entails some discomfort in the process of meeting our need for independence; after all, connections with others can become strained, if not severed, especially when we’re not fluent in nonviolent communication. The realization that much of our culture is built upon myths and half-truths can also be quite disturbing and scary. Yet we know that going along with collectivism and living in fear stymies hopeful change, both personally and societally.
Ayn Rand wrote that an individualist is one who asserts, “I will not run anyone’s life—nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone—nor sacrifice anyone to myself.” (p. 84)  In taking responsibility for our inherent freedom to make our own choices, we can readily embrace the idea of change for the better. Of course, trying to encourage and induce change in a culture that seeks to maintain its age-old rigidity of beliefs can be quite challenging, to say the least. Perhaps only a few million people currently on Earth explicitly advocate voluntaryism, as both the theoretically sound and practical solution for transformative ethical and political changes for the better.
On philosophical and economic levels, huge strides can be made once the memes of the status quo, i.e., the memes of domination and sacrifice of needs in parenting, religion, schooling, and statism, are replaced with memes of life-enriching changes.
Change for the better, the most important meme
Let’s finally address what may be considered a meta-meme: the importance and benefit of memes evolving, so that they can be adaptively selected and functional for us. Clearly, what’s most advantageous for us at this point is the promotion of ideas and behaviors that lead to healing, growth, and prosperity, instead of harm, decline, and hardship. Yet, this can be obscured by all sorts of experiences from childhood onward, experiences that lack philosophical clarity and psychological integration.
If asked, most people would likely say that change for the better is a very good thing. How it’s envisioned in our own lives can take all kinds of forms, such as a better job or more fulfilling career, more disposable income or financial independence, more vacations and leisure time, more exploring things yet to be explored and experiencing things yet to be experienced, more time spent with loved ones and improving the quality of one’s relationships, as well as acquiring skills and honing abilities.
All these objectives entail an embrace of change. Sure, some degree of permanence is essential in life. On metaphysical, epistemological, and psychological grounds, we need to know that we’re living in a stable and knowable reality, where things are predictable and comprehensible, as well as comfortable for us to flourish. However, if we get accustomed to human systems at present, we can overlook how things systemically can be, given the great possibilities for healing and growth and connection to self and others. This itself can be a major challenge, of course, both personally and societally. How do we make peace with the way things are, the way we’ve structured our lives for instance, and enjoy that, while seeking more stimulation and nourishment via the potential changes we can generate in our lives?
Productive achievement enables each of us to reshape things in the vision of what we value, want, and enjoy. This is why the free market is so helpful to everyone: People are able to pursue their own interests without sacrificing themselves and others. Each person is able to willingly contribute to the general well-being of others by bringing goods, services, and other values to market. No top-down, or hierarchically structured, coercive political system can contribute to this; rather, it hugely detracts from it, regardless of various isolated benefits bestowed on some at the expense of everyone in the marketplace.
The market gives and gives, and gives still more, with no end to the prosperity—as long as individuals are free to express themselves fully and be responsible for their own choices. In contrast, the statist matrix takes and takes, and takes still more in so many unrealized and unconscionable ways, just like all power-over strategies that seem to fog the reality of what’s going on—with the belief that power-with strategies, which honor everyone’s autonomy, aren’t as beneficial and useful. Could a greater contradiction be harbored in a society of reasoning beings?
As we have explored, humanity has been wedded to a worldview that we didn’t really get to think through and choose clearly. In childhood we tried our best to make sense of things in the adult world. We asked many questions in order to meet our needs for clarity and understanding. Over time, in concert with a series of traumatizing experiences, an unfortunate series of mental shifts tended to occur, in which our questioning minds tended to ask fewer questions pertaining to fewer essential concepts and foundational premises. Eventually, various views tended to be simply taken as givens, or unquestioned norms. We then became further detached from our own sense of honesty and self-empathy.
At times, we may have found ourselves talking mainly about the goings-on of other people, easily passing time in the realm of gossip—as entire programs, magazines, and websites are dedicated to learning about what others are doing socially, how they’re doing it, and perhaps why. We may have also found ourselves talking and arguing about various issues in politics—policies, agendas, procedures, and the like—that are philosophically curtailed and delimited to the status-quo framework. Moreover, we may have found ourselves talking about ideas that don’t really question the central aspects of systemic coercion either.
Ideas are of course a scaffold to greater understanding and integration. When aligned with reality, they can be used to further our lives and well-being. Empirical investigation in scientific endeavors is but one example. Ideas matter a great deal on the philosophical level, given that they’re used to explain and justify many of the things we do and believe.
Whether or not we know their origins, and regardless of how much we focus on them, philosophical ideas profoundly shape our lives. Thus, to have a logical understanding of the nature of reality, the nature of knowledge, the nature of flourishing, the nature of human interaction, and the nature of inspiration and beauty, helps us function optimally, in ways that can greatly enrich our lives.
Psychological ideas are highly connected to these memes, especially regarding how to live well and interact with others in functional, enjoyable, and loving ways. This is where nonviolent, or compassionate, or connected, communication enables us to avoid the pitfalls of moralistic judgment, with its accompanying shaming and blaming, as well as its demand-oriented, punishment-oriented, and deserve-oriented thinking, all of which contradict self-empathy and self-responsibility, keeping us disconnected from ourselves and others. Such life-alienating communication definitely reveals the experiences we had in childhood and how we were trained in our culture as we matured. We’ve basically learned how to tragically express our unmet needs, as Marshall Rosenberg aptly put it.
But now is the opportunity to learn a decidedly non-tragic way of living, one that’s truly aligned with our nature as reasoning and emotional beings in a wondrous biosphere. Although dissolving and transforming systems that don’t actually work well can be quite challenging, every bit of effort we expend in this regard can contribute to a new inner reality for ourselves and others.
Across the broad scope of human history, patterns of behavior have influenced future generations. What we’ve explored about the internal world of complete liberty indicates new and significant changes that are possible. Oftentimes, we see only what we want to see about human nature, rather than how things can be different, and how they are different for some people, due to new knowledge and skills and decisions to act on them. Be it with an historian or the next-door neighbor, we can offer views of humans that speak to our heroic and honorable potential, instead of to domination-oriented (or submission-oriented) thinking and actions. Such honest encounters can bolster our endeavors to live in a different human world, and they can also present opportunities to empathize with the inner turmoil that’s oftentimes portrayed as “human nature.” After all, traumatic memories tend to run deep as well as live in the timeless present, and they tend to be used as guides in philosophical views of understanding self and others.
By exploring the nature of complete liberty from the inside out, we can see how humanity has been so constricted and rigid in its methods of functioning in systems. New understandings and integrations of how memes impact our lives entail the process of empathetic reflection, which can dissolve defense mechanisms that try to protect us from challenges to our self-esteem. When we realize that the nature of ourselves involves a persistent pattern of self amidst more or less constant change, we can realize that we need not defend ourselves from newfound truths. We can incorporate them to stay aligned with reality, so that we can experience more joy and more wonder.
A crucial aspect of our mental world is dedicated to observing our thoughts, emotions, memories, and actions. The more we attune to this “sage-self” (as Branden called it), the more we can learn about ourselves and become more integrated. This is the part of us that’s beyond self-distrust and fear of change, the part that’s able to make peace with the pain of the past and the present, and that can calm worries about the future. It doesn’t rely on thoughts and emotions involving shame and guilt, or being “deserving” (or not) of something or someone. Rather, this aspect of ourselves has compassion for parts still in need of healing and growth. To be really in the moment, fully aware of what’s alive in us, is a short step away from to determining what can make our lives more wonderful.
Integration involves being more connected to what’s happening inside us and to the possibilities of further integration. When we maintain a higher level of awareness of such things, we can live with greater reflection and comprehension of the meaning of our actions. The vital advantages of cultivating this process of “mindsight,” as Daniel Siegel calls it, can be explored via this other video by him:
Health@Google: Dr. Daniel Siegel, Taking Time In
Given the nature of this book, we can also make many new integrations about how to live together peacefully and happily. Inner harmony can be reflected in our society, instead of the typical displays of either chaos or rigidity, which are two aspects of the same psychological phenomenon—disintegration, or disconnection.
One of the most detrimental tricks that humanity has played on itself is to conjure up a conflict between the individual and the group: For safety and order to be maintained, persons are supposed to surrender their individuality and sense of independence to various societal roles and rules, in slavish obedience to “laws.” Related to this is the notion that there will always be friction between private, or “selfish,” interests and the “public interest,” “general welfare,” or “common good.”
Of course, when collectivistic systems arise and deny freedom for individuals, they also deny indispensable needs—for instance, autonomy, choice, equality, and respect. We can expect the dire consequences of sacrificing these needs with the intention of meeting others. No wonder individuality gets diminished, even destroyed, in such systems. This of course doesn’t diminish the human need for self-esteem, the need for a firm belief in one’s efficacy and worth as a reasoning and feeling creature. Collectivistic systems just drive the need for self-esteem underground, where it’s viewed as a guilty, unspoken necessity—because allegedly what really matters is helping others, instead of helping oneself.
Yet no one can escape fulfillment of his or her own life processes (at least not for long). And no actual contradiction exists between meeting one’s own needs and caring for others’ needs, which of course is an individual need too. We are undoubtedly social animals in need of connection, and being social animals doesn’t require being sacrificial ones. We are also thinking and feeling animals, ones who can remedy various conflicting notions, for example that thinking and feeling are antagonistic. Paraphrasing Branden, in order to think clearly, we need to feel deeply, and in order to feel deeply, we need to think clearly. 
So, if we think clearly about collectivistic notions, we then see their harm to individual selves, which means to everyone. After all, such notions foster self-alienation and self-denial, as well as compensatory defense mechanisms, attempting to make coercive, self-sacrificial, collectivistic life more comfortable. The beauty of a marketplace of individualism and freedom is that it’s win/win; it honors the needs of each person and in turn fosters a society that’s dynamic, flexible, and adaptive.
Arbitrary rules and punishments attempt to maintain conformity and hierarchies of domination, which are accompanied by demands and rejection of self-responsibility. This ethical and political land of the arbitrary begets more controlling methods and more suffering; chaos and disorder in the realm of humanity ensue. As we’ve explored, when scant trust is placed in individuals to make choices, their choices become less autonomous and less life-enriching; instead, so-called order and control are imposed by various individuals (in acts of irony) to fill the supposed gaps in human nature. Yet this only yields a society built on top of grave contradictions, using propaganda to emphasize its alleged propriety and necessity, which tragically leads to many more graves for human beings.
At this point in our evolution, more and more of us can begin to reject the demands of harmful systems. At any time we can seriously question, as well as humorously question, any system, based on first principles, our love of life, consideration for others, and desire for a better world. Ultimately, our future is contained within the present moments we experience with ourselves and with others. The profound present is all that exists, after all, which includes our memories of past moments and our thoughts, desires, and visions about future moments. If we take care of our connections with self and with others in the present, and if we cultivate a compassionate and loving mindset, then the future will tend to take care of itself. An absolutely amazing and wondrous world awaits us, both inside and out. Let’s make it happen in these present moments.