One of my favorite people in the entertainment industry, as well as just in general as an intelligent voice is Penn Jillette. First off, I love magic, so that aspect appeals to me. However, beyond that, he’s a ballsy, but genuinely nice guy. His show Penn and Teller: Bullshit! is absolutely a must-see. I wish they aired more seasons, but I digress…
He has an interview up posted on libertarianism.org explaining why he is a libertarian. And basically, he espoused my sentiments verbatim. Truthfully, he articulated the very foundation I see for my entire libertarian outlook and my philosophy about life, society and people in general. Here it is:
For Penn, he wants to make a distinction between “telling the truth as I see it and feel it in my heart” and manipulatively trying to persuade someone that the truth that he sees and feels is right. He says, “If I’m thinking in my head, ‘how can I get that person to become a libertarian?’ I believe in that moment I am a pig.”
As he says, if he’s trying to convince them, then he’s essentially going into a discourse with someone with the preconceived idea that they are wrong, he’s right and therefore, he must show them how he is right. Instead, as Penn says, one should entertain the possibility that they are the ones that are right. In other words, Penn is a big believer in skepticism and I think such an idea holds weight here. That is, one should always be skeptical of what is right and what is wrong, even of views you yourself hold. Thus, that means being willing to admit that you are wrong. I find that healthy and a more productive discourse than stringent persuasive endeavors.
I often like to think of my arguments with people of differing views as “discussions” because argument seems too harsh. I never go into a discourse with trying to show that I am “right.” Rather, I think of it is as two people trying to figure out what the truth is. From which, then, things like compromise and (going back to it) admitting you’re wrong manifest. I have no interest in “winning.” I just want to discover the truth.
Penn also goes after some within the an-cap (anarchism-capitalism) movement that are interested in “burning down the system.” As Penn says and this is getting to the heart of my own philosophical underpinnings, “I believe that you just keep saying the truth as you see it, as often as you can, and you change your mind every time you see yourself as being wrong and you hope that truth wins out in the end.”
He goes on to say that the main quality he thinks libertarians and atheists ought to have is optimism and trust and love of people.
I am of the same persuasion. I don’t really care to get into the in-fighting that often permeates libertarianism, but I do disagree with the strategy of “burning down the system.” I much prefer the optimistic, trusting, loving and truth-telling style that Penn offers up.
Essentially, humanism backs up my outlook on life, politics, social issues and so forth. I trust that humans will get this “living together” right eventually. In that, we will discover the truth and maybe, just maybe, that truth won’t be the truth, as I see it, but it’ll be the truth, so that’s okay. Too often I feel like those within libertarianism come at Republicans, Democrats, socialists, whoever, condescendingly with remarks like, “They’re so stupid; they just don’t get it.
I disagree with the Republicans, Democrats, socialists and so forth on many issues and perhaps there’s common ground somewhere, but I don’t think they’re stupid or just “not getting it.” They genuinely believe what they are saying is the truth and do so with the best of intentions. (Certainly, there are those that don’t so with good intentions and act to mislead others.)
Truth will win out in the end; it always does.