The Constitution of the Individual was written by author, classical composer, pianist, and singer/songwriter, Joshua Emmet.
To mark its beginning, a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Constitution-of-the-Individual/104947142911564?ref=tn_tnmn), was set up for the Constitution of the Individual on November 24th, 2010. Approximately one year later, on December 15th, 2011, this website (constitutionoftheindividual.com) appeared online.
The Constitution of the Individual also appeared in the coda of Joshua Emmet’s literary fiction book, Celestial Kings and Queens. The book was released on January 1, 2013. Celestial Kings and Queens can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/Celestial-Kings-Queens-Joshua-Emmet/dp/1481897462/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358086537&sr=1-1&keywords=celestial+kings+and+queens
Here is an excerpt from the coda where the Constitution of the Individual is mentioned:
One human being, whom we shall call James, felt something in the air,
Perhaps it was a long-travelin’ seed
the banned page of an author
the fire spark of a non-conformist
the sweat of a peaceful protestor
the blood of an intellectual dissident.
Perhaps it was only himself . . .
James wrote the “Constitution of the Individual.” He also enjoyed walking on the brass tacks of Earth.
NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening, America; we are here to discuss the Constitution of the Individual. It is an attempt to promote individual freedom and sovereignty. This constitution also attempts to lessen tyranny. Is that a correct way to characterize it, James?
JAMES: Yes, that is correct.
NEWS ANCHOR: I’d like to discuss the concept of the individual in broad terms. Frankly, most people don’t identify themselves as individuals first. They instead identify themselves in terms of a particular nation, religion, political party, or organization. What is the reason for this?
JAMES: I’m sure that each individual has his or her own reasons for what you described. From my own perspective, I felt that if I adopted an outside edifice created by someone else I would be doing so in order to cover up my own beliefs and faults. I’d rather stand naked to the world, for better or worse.
NEWS ANCHOR: Is the Constitution of the Individual directed toward any one particular governing authority?
NEWS ANCHOR: Could we lessen tyranny if individuals have legislative control over issues pertaining to their personal freedom and equality?
JAMES: Yes, because from a theoretical standpoint, individuals are unlikely to place tyranny upon themselves.
NEWS ANCHOR: What is tyranny?
JAMES: Tyranny exists when an individual has not directly and intentionally harmed another, yet an authoritative force finds this individual’s speech, identity, or lifestyle choice(s) to be an issue. In response, the authoritative force denies rights, imposes fines, tortures, levies imprisonment, or carries out execution.
NEWS ANCHOR: Your constitution begins with a preamble where you state a commitment to the principles of freedom, equality, peace, nonviolence, love, forgiveness, charity, and true democracy.
JAMES: That is correct.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why a preamble?
JAMES: Well, I think it’s important to let others know where you’re coming from.
NEWS ANCHOR: What was the reasoning behind placing equality in your constitution’s preamble?
JAMES: I don’t believe that the minority should be stomped upon.
NEWS ANCHOR: Would you violate another individual’s equal rights because of your personal beliefs or as an expression of your personal freedom?
JAMES: No, I would not.
NEWS ANCHOR: Does the coarse, undignified individual pit his personal beliefs and freedom against equality?
JAMES: I just know that for myself, I would never disregard equality because of my personal beliefs or as an expression of my freedom.
NEWS ANCHOR: Which principle in your constitution’s preamble is the most important?
JAMES: Love. If you have a strong capacity to love, then seeing the truth in freedom, equality, peace, nonviolence, forgiveness, charity, and true democracy comes naturally.
NEWS ANCHOR: I’d like to turn to another subject, James. I’m sure you’re aware that the individual sovereign movement in the United States is sometimes associated with violent extremists.
JAMES: This is unfortunate. If you look at origins of the individual sovereign movement, it had its beginnings in ancient Athens. Ancient Athens, of course, was the site of the first true democracy known to Earth. Athens was a place where civilized philosophical debate and persuasion were valued over the more barbaric methods of violence and force. (pauses)
I should also mention that modern-day Switzerland’s government―a government based on peaceful neutrality―has made measurable strides toward implementing individual sovereignty; a very humble maneuver by their government, is it not?
NEWS ANCHOR: That’s ancient Athens and modern-day Switzerland, but what about America; specifically, what’s the history of individual sovereignty in America? Are there, for example, Americans who championed individual sovereignty?
JAMES: Your question touches on a subject unknown to many. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Miller―three great American authors―all championed individual sovereignty in their own way. Importantly, however, these men were also pacifists.
NEWS ANCHOR: (smiles) I actually did my master’s thesis on Thomas Jefferson, and I also believe he is an American figure who embodied individual sovereignty and pacifism. On the side of individual sovereignty, Jefferson once said, “I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.”
As far as pacifism is concerned, Jefferson whittled the American military down to about half its original size while president. He also believed there should be no standing army on American soil. Both of these anti-militaristic positions today―especially the first one I mentioned―would have labeled Jefferson as an extreme pacifist.
But Jefferson was a contradictory and complex figure. He was a war revolutionary and a slave master, which meant that Jefferson was not an advocate for nonviolence. Related, Jefferson placed this statement in the Declaration of Independence, “as free and independent states we have the full power to levy war.” James, would you place a statement like that in your constitution?
JAMES: No, declaring a right to war would contradict with peace, love, and nonviolence.
NEWS ANCHOR: Is it odd to pair individual sovereignty with pacifism?
JAMES: Well, if you think about it, the opposite of respecting individual sovereignty is to behave in a controlling and authoritative manner toward others. Controlling and authoritative behaviors are subtle forms of violence. So I see a clear relationship between individual sovereignty and pacifism.
NEWS ANCHOR: Wasn’t Gandhi also a believer in individual sovereignty?
JAMES: Yes. Gandhi might not have specifically mentioned the term individual sovereignty, but he believed that the best form of government was a government in which individuals possessed full, independent legislative rights.
NEWS ANCHOR: Switching back to the Constitution of the Individual, are you the only one who can use it?
JAMES: (smiles) No, other individuals can use this constitution if they wish to do so. But I cannot pretend to know what is in another person’s mind and heart. I wrote the Constitution of the Individual based on my own personal knowledge and experience; it is what I believe to be the truth.
NEWS ANCHOR: I’d like to ask you a question about how you deal with others in your personal life. What if someone you have a personal or business relationship with is mean-spirited―the opposite of your stated constitution’s principles―how would you deal with such a person?
JAMES: I would be accepting of this person and give him or her unconditional love.
NEWS ANCHOR: And what if this person, down the road, committed a tyrannical act toward you.
JAMES: I am inclined to think that if I had influence over this person’s life, the hypothetical you stated would not occur. Love does remarkable things to cure tyrannical designs.
If, however, this individual―as you hypothesized―committed a tyrannical act toward me, I would not resist with violence. I would also grant this person forgiveness.
NEWS ANCHOR: James, there are those that say that violence is an integral part of life; it’s unavoidable. What do you say to that?
JAMES: Life is what you make it. For example, if you’re an individual who wants to continue with violence, you will search out examples in life that support that position. If, however, you want to continue with nonviolence, you will search out examples in life that support a position of nonviolence.
NEWS ANCHOR: I’d like to turn to another topic, James. What elements determine the legitimacy of a constitution?
JAMES: Virtue and truth.
NEWS ANCHOR: You wouldn’t consider military or financial might as contributing factors to a constitution’s legitimacy.
JAMES: No sir.
NEWS ANCHOR: What is truth?
JAMES: First, truth must have love as its supreme commandment. Second, truth must be relevant in both finite and infinite settings.
NEWS ANCHOR: You have written about metaphysics in the past, so let’s go deeper into that subject. In infinity―or eternity, as some may say―do armies, militias, bullets, missiles, bombs, or gallows exist?
JAMES: No, those in eternity have no need for such things.
NEWS ANCHOR: What advice would you give to a young person who is seeking more knowledge about metaphysics?
JAMES: First, think independently. Secondly, search for the truth.
NEWS ANCHOR: Let’s talk about virtues and how they relate to individual constitutions. If I understand you correctly, if someone demanded individual sovereignty for the purposes of greed, or wanted to obtain individual sovereignty with violence, that person is weakening his or her position.
JAMES: I cannot speak for others or be their judge. I can only answer your question from my own personal standpoint. If I demanded individual sovereignty for the purposes of greed or wanted to obtain individual sovereignty with violence, would I not be teaching that greed and violence are acceptable tactics? Furthermore, how could I raise objection to a particular power’s greed and violence if I embodied greed and violence as well?
NEWS ANCHOR: So, I’m assuming that you don’t see greed or violence as truth?
JAMES: Yes, that is correct―and is there not a hidden violence in greed?
NEWS ANCHOR: I’d like to change course here and talk about art for a moment. Did your experience in music composition help you with writing the Constitution of the Individual?
JAMES: Well, I have written instrumental works for the piano, and as Kierkegaard correctly pointed out, instrumental music is very abstract. Now, some have suggested that an artist who deals with abstractions, such as myself, has very little to communicate to society. (smiles) In a way, there is a point to that, because abstractions are complex and difficult to understand. Yet there is another side to this. Thinking about complex abstractions leads us to higher levels of intellectual and philosophical understanding, and these higher levels of understanding create a direct path to the truth. Now here is where the irony occurs: when the truth ultimately arrives, it is actually quite simple and straightforward! So I am most grateful that art has shown me the value of abstractions.
NEWS ANCHOR: Because you are an artist, are you more willing to use metaphysics in philosophy rather than logic?
JAMES: Your question alludes to an important point: there is a strong artistic side to metaphysics, not just a spiritual one. As far as how metaphysics relates to logic, I think both are equally important. Historically, of course, if we go back to Plato, or even further back, to ancient Indian philosophy, we find that metaphysics played a much larger role in philosophy than it does today.
NEWS ANCHOR: Let’s take a further look at how you define some of the terms in the Constitution of the Individual’s preamble. What do you mean by nonviolence?
JAMES: No exceptions for violence.
NEWS ANCHOR: No violence, even in the event of self-defense?
JAMES: Yes, no violence in all instances.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why is so important to recognize violence of all sorts?
JAMES: Violence is one of the major causes of our immaturity. Even subtle forms of violence that linger within us can hinder our intellectual, psychological, artistic, and philosophical development.
NEWS ANCHOR: What do you mean by charity?
JAMES: Taking care of the poor, needy, and the sick.
NEWS ANCHOR: How would you define true democracy?
JAMES: True democracy means that individuals have direct legislative control, particularly with issues related to their personal civil freedom and equality.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why is it so important to respect civil freedoms?
JAMES: If we don’t respect civil freedoms we violate an individual’s essence.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why even bother to supply definitions in your constitution?
JAMES: Definitions pay homage to the practice of philosophy.
NEWS ANCHOR: What was the thought behind defining some terms in your constitution, but not others?
JAMES: I thought it would be best to define the terms in the Constitution of the Individual that would help determine where tyranny exists.
NEWS ANCHOR: You have decided not to define the word, unbound. And for those who are unaware of your constitution, the word “unbound” appears in this sentence, “I am an individual, and, therefore, unbound by tyrannical laws of any governing authority.”
JAMES: Well, how one decides to unbound oneself from tyranny is a personal decision. The interpretation of unbound would also depend on the possible tyrannical circumstances one would face. For myself, I would express unbound in an intellectual, philosophical, artistic, moral, or metaphysical manner.
From a historical perspective, it is useful to see how Socrates, Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King choose to unbound themselves from tyranny. Socrates, in the book, The Apology, employed lengthy philosophical discourse; Jesus, during his trial in the gospels, employed spiritual proclamations coupled with silence; Gandhi employed civil disobedience, intellectual reasoning, and fasting; Martin Luther King, public speeches, marches, and boycotts. None of these individuals, however, resorted to violence when confronted with tyranny. They all understood that it was best to confront the violence of tyranny with nonviolence.
NEWS ANCHOR: In a larger sense, does your constitution speak mainly to the struggle between the individual and government?
JAMES: I see this constitution more as a struggle between moral and physical power.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why is physical power so much easier to grasp than moral power?
JAMES: Physical power is visible to the eye. Moral power is certainly real, but we have to go beyond the sense of sight to grasp it.
NEWS ANCHOR: Before we went on air, we were discussing the political implications of the crucifixion of Jesus. I’d like to ask you a couple of questions regarding this, if I may.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why did Jesus clash with the Roman Empire?
JAMES: Jesus clashed with the Roman Empire because the Empire (under the local direction of Pontius Pilate) could not match Jesus’ virtue of nonviolence. The Romans believed that as the most powerful empire in the world, they needed to resort to violence in order to keep their stranglehold on power. Jesus’ absolute position on nonviolence, therefore, was seen as an embarrassment to the Roman Empire.
NEWS ANCHOR: But aren’t you now admitting that violence by empires or superpowers is a necessity.
JAMES: No, I didn’t say that, I said that is what the Roman Empire believed―but let me please clarify this issue. When the Roman Empire was conceived in 27 BC, did it place value on the principle of nonviolence? Or, did the Roman Empire begin with the principle of gobbling up as much territory as possible through the use of violence? If it was the latter, then is it not true that the Roman Empire was caught up in the cycle of violence where eventually “they who take the sword shall perish with the sword?”
NEWS ANCHOR: But wasn’t the Roman Empire progressive in its governing philosophies, such as freedom and diplomacy?
JAMES: Well, on that point, Jesus saw through the hypocrisy of an Empire that on the one hand claimed to support the virtues of freedom and diplomacy, but on the other hand, always had military or police action ready if it felt threatened intellectually or if it didn’t get its way.
NEWS ANCHOR: Before Jesus’ execution, the gospels tell us a vote was taken to decide who was to be crucified, Jesus or Barabbas. The crowd votes to release Barabbas, thus leading to Jesus’ crucifixion. James, when people vote in large mass for the purposes of a majority result―as was the case in the story of Jesus and Barabbas―is this an exercise in true democracy or individual sovereignty?
JAMES: No. We shouldn’t confuse mob rule with true democracy or individual sovereignty.
NEWS ANCHOR: James . . . is the term “the people” a nice way to phrase the term, “the mob?”
JAMES: Unfortunately, yes. I mean, when most of us hear the term, “the people,” we automatically think that it means each one of us directing our own personal lives. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
NEWS ANCHOR: Was Jesus for true democracy?
JAMES: Well, Jesus was a law unto himself; he was his own authority. Jesus also championed the cause of the individual over the more powerful ruling elites. Furthermore, Jesus believed in loving your neighbor rather than behaving like a tyrant toward him or her.
All these philosophies are at the heart of true democracy.
NEWS ANCHOR: Was Jesus a pragmatist?
JAMES: I am inclined to say no. Jesus had little concern for his physical safety while on Earth. He also aimed for eternal victories rather than earthly ones. This is not the territory of a pragmatist; this is the territory of an idealist.
(pauses) If, however, pragmatism means that you must first test out an idea before it is put into action, then your question takes on an entirely different metaphysical dimension. Was Jesus’ recommendation of nonviolence something that he had already witnessed? If it was, then Jesus was a pragmatist. He had already witnessed a place where nonviolence existed (in the Kingdom) and he therefore knew that a nonviolent ethos for Earth was both practical and true.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why wasn’t Jesus obsessed with safety as so many of us are today?
JAMES: Jesus mainly knew that an obsession with safety would lead to further violence. But there were other reasons as well. First, focusing on safety is an obvious, inartistic impulse and Jesus was a teacher of alternative wisdom. Second, an over-focus on safety demonstrates weakness and cowardice, and Jesus was very much the opposite of those traits. Third, is there any ultimate safety for us on mortal Earth? Jesus knew that the end of his life on Earth would come eventually, if not today, then tomorrow. Therefore, he didn’t compromise his principles or beliefs for the shortsighted goal of personal safety.
NEWS ANCHOR: James, let’s say a friend comes to you for advice. This friend already believes in well-established religious or political systems. Unfortunately, however, these well-established systems have mixtures of violent and nonviolent messages. Would you insist that your friend drop out of those particular systems in order to adopt a complete nonviolent lifestyle?
JAMES: First, I would never insist anything upon another. It is up for each one of us to make decisions regarding our own personal lives. (pauses) I can only pass on what I have learned. From my own personal experience, I have found it necessary to stay detached from any religious or political system that embodies mixed messages on violence. Now this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to learn from well-established religious or political systems. If, for example, these systems have some messages of nonviolence, then we can certainly embrace those nonviolent features and use them for our own concepts of religion and political science.
NEWS ANCHOR: James, I see the American character as a hard one to pin down. On the one hand, the American people seem have a gentle nature, which would lead you to believe that they are nonviolent. On the other hand, there seems to be an equal amount of nastiness along with highly judgmental nature in Americans, which would lead you to believe that violence resides within them. Remarkably, this odd mixture of violence and nonviolence often occurs within the same individual. James, is this muddleheaded thinking and behavior toward violence―where the American people appear to be both nonviolent and violent―due to the influence of religious and political systems that embody mixed messages on violence?
JAMES: The issue of why violence resides within us is very complex. Along with the influence of religious and political systems, we also have to look at culture, tradition, diet, parental philosophies, the history of humankind, educational philosophies, how we act and speak toward one another, and so on.
NEWS ANCHOR: James, if I understand your background correctly, you are not a member of any particular organized religion or established government, correct?
JAMES: Yes, that is correct. I am more of a student of established religions and governments.
NEWS ANCHOR: Is the path to complete nonviolence a difficult one? What I mean to say is this: (pauses) Is it more difficult to choose a path of complete nonviolence rather than to fit into all the well-established religious and political systems that society largely accepts.
JAMES: Well, I agree with the premise you suggested― adopting a complete nonviolent lifestyle is more difficult then choosing a well-established path.
NEWS ANCHOR: So the true student of nonviolence must be willing to be a bit of an outcast on Earth.
JAMES: Well, the true student of nonviolence must be interested in finding the truth, and then living it, however difficult that process may be.
NEWS ANCHOR: Returning to definitions, you have decided to leave the word love undefined in your constitution. Why?
JAMES: (smiles) I think most people understand why I left the word love undefined.
NEWS ANCHOR: Would you ever kill another out of love for someone else?
JAMES: No, I would not. If I would agree, in the first place, to do something so unloving as killing another, what good soul would want to possess my love?
NEWS ANCHOR: Would you take a bullet for another?
JAMES: Yes, that I would do.
NEWS ANCHOR: Do you support the death penalty or life sentences for murderers?
JAMES: No, I do not. How could I believe in forgiveness, and then demand the eternal damnation of others by means of the death penalty or life sentences?
NEWS ANCHOR: Because of your commitment to equality, I’m assuming that you would not discriminate against one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
JAMES: Yes, I would not discriminate against one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. I believe in celebrating uniqueness, not ostracizing it.
NEWS ANCHOR: This next question might strike you as humorous. (smiles) I understand that you are not a nation, you are, of course, an individual. Still, I would be curious to know, would you ever claim that someone is inflicting treason upon you?
JAMES: (laughs) No, I would have to be incredibly arrogant, possessive, and egotistical to claim something like that.
NEWS ANCHOR: Along similar lines to my last question, would you ever demand that others pledge allegiance to your constitution?
JAMES: No. I’d like to see the world inhabited by free and curious individuals who are eager to explore all the intellectual, philosophical, and artistic possibilities of life. I’m not interested in demanding allegiance of any sort; that would cultivate a world of obedient robots.
NEWS ANCHOR: Could you talk more about obedience? I’m sure you realize that most people believe that obedience is beneficial, while some, like yourself, believe that obedience is cruel.
JAMES: Well first, I want to separate voluntary obedience from compulsory obedience. An example of voluntary obedience is when a couple lives together and they both pledge fidelity to one another. I don’t see voluntary obedience as something we need to be concerned with because voluntary obedience is within the realm of freedom. Compulsory obedience, however, is another matter. The part of your body that is the most godlike is your brain. To limit the brain, to attempt to control it, or to prevent the brain from expanding its intellectual, artistic, and philosophical potential is very cruel indeed. Furthermore, scientists have recently discovered that the brain’s neurons grow and strengthen when we think in a fruitful manner. With this in mind, commanding compulsory obedience limits our brain growth and makes us dull-minded; it is an attempt to stop us from thinking; it is an attempt to prevent us from becoming godlike! And this is why I say (metaphorically speaking) that compulsory obedience is the tool of the Devil.
NEWS ANCHOR: Would you ever spy on another?
JAMES: No, I would not.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why not?
JAMES: Well, first, I respect the right to privacy. Secondly, if I would spy on another I would be a troublemaker, would I not? I mean, why does one spy in the first place? It’s to gain an advantage over another in order to bring about a future confrontational situation. Oftentimes, this future confrontational situation involves turmoil and violence.
NEWS ANCHOR: So, I’m assuming that you’re also against entrapping another. In other words, setting up a situation where someone is enticed to commit a crime.
JAMES: Absolutely. And related to the subject of spying, a true democracy makes the concept of trust amongst civilians viable because there is a diffusion of power.
In government structures other than true democracies― where you usually have centralized power―you not only have the infrastructure in place for spying, but you’ll also find these type of governments openly encouraging their civilians to spy on one another.
NEWS ANCHOR: Is there a relationship between love and trust?
JAMES: Yes, in order for us to be loving individuals, we must trust one another.
NEWS ANCHOR: What were some of the concerns you had when writing the Constitution of the Individual?
JAMES: I’ve touched on this earlier. One of the things I wanted to avoid was to have principles contradict one another. So, for example, I didn’t want to claim to be for freedom, but then deny true democracy. I didn’t want to claim to be for peace, but then state the right to engage in violence. I didn’t want to claim to be for love, but then deny equality.
NEWS ANCHOR: If you are able to spot contradictions in constitutions, you must have surely spotted similar contradictions in religious texts. I know we spoke about this earlier, but I’m curious to explore this further. Did you, for example, ever say to yourself while studying a religious text, “Ah, here is an obvious moral contradiction; this must be a sign that we are dealing with a false God.”
JAMES: Moral contradictions are important to spot. I never wasted my energy, however, contemplating on who is a true or false God.
NEWS ANCHOR: How does freedom relate to true democracy?
JAMES: In a true democracy, you are your own master, thus, you are truly free.
NEWS ANCHOR: Could you expand further on true democracy?
JAMES: True democracy is the government system that provides the most respect and dignity for individuals. Contrarily, when we create governments where authoritative figures are our masters, we are not only demonstrating a disrespect toward individuals, but we are also introducing a hidden form of violence into our society.
NEWS ANCHOR: So you believe that true democracies promote peace and dissuade violence?
JAMES: Yes, I do. There’s something else to consider regarding violence. Something that might not seem readily apparent. Governments have one of two choices to make. Either they can encourage the intellectual and philosophical development of their citizens by granting them individual legislative rights―the true democratic model―or, they can discourage the intellectual and philosophical development of their citizens by denying individual legislative rights. Let me ask anyone who is listening out there: Are not citizens who have their philosophical and intellectual skills sharpened, less violent?
NEWS ANCHOR: How do true democracies differ from other government systems in their approach to the rule of law?
JAMES: A government other than a true democracy will first stress obedience to the rule of law, regardless of the rule of law’s potential conflict with tyranny. Contrarily, a true democracy will first stress the elimination of tyranny well before any discussions about the rule of law can commence.
NEWS ANCHOR: So you seem to be suggesting that in a true democracy the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law.
JAMES: That is correct.
NEWS ANCHOR: I’m curious about what type of individual is attracted to following the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. It appears to me that one who believes more strongly in the spirit of the law would have to possess a high level of artistic and philosophical maturity. It also appears to me that one who believes more strongly in the spirit of the law would have to carry ideas of his or her own.
JAMES: I think your analysis is correct. I would also add that an individual who feels more strongly about the spirit of the law is obsessed with finding the truth.
NEWS ANCHOR: James, what about the notion that Americans―in a general sense―are too immature to handle a true democracy.
JAMES: Well, that notion is a catch-22, is it not? I mean, if that notion is correct, if Americans are largely immature, isn’t that partly due to not having a true democracy? Wouldn’t you agree that the items a true democracy requires―individual responsibility, decision-making, introspection, philosophical reasoning, intellectual debate―increases one’s maturity?
NEWS ANCHOR: Once a true democracy is set up, should we have voluntary or mandatory participation?
JAMES: This would be a decision that others would have to make, not I; but I would prefer to see voluntary participation. The reason for this is that I respect others freedoms. I mean, some people don’t want to be bothered with the process of individual legislation, and that’s perfectly acceptable and understandable.
NEWS ANCHOR: If you look around America today, you’ll find that many young people don’t believe politics is . . . and excuse me for this colloquial term, “cool.”(smiles and pauses) Then there’s all the screaming that American politics seems to bring . . .
JAMES: (in a joking manner) Oh, I haven’t noticed all that screaming.
NEWS ANCHOR: (smiles) James, what will make young people believe that politics is “cool” and not such a source of great frustration?
JAMES: Well, I don’t blame young people for currently feeling that way about politics. I mean, why get frustrated about something that’s out of one’s hands?
NEWS ANCHOR: Is true democracy part of the political science solution to help make young people interested in politics once again?
JAMES: Well, first, any political science solution will never achieve absolute perfection. But, let’s say you have two political science ideas. One idea is usually better for individuals than the other is. That’s the attitude one should have toward political science. So with this in mind, yes, true democracy could certainly make young people interested in politics once again―and this is because under a true democracy, all of our political voices have a real impact.
NEWS ANCHOR: Do you have any children, James?
JAMES: No, I do not.
NEWS ANCHOR: If you did, how would you raise them with a nonviolent ethos?
JAMES: First, from a diet perspective, I would feed my children vegetables, fruits, and seeds such as rice. If I instead raised my children as carnivores, I would be providing this example to them: It is acceptable to harm a living creature that is less powerful, intelligent, and resourceful than you are.
Second, I would not impose an authority figure over them in order to replace their individual conscience. This means that as a parent I would not present myself as an authority figure. This also means that I would not get my children involved with religious or political systems that compel them to obey authority figures. The suggestion or the direct imposition of authority to replace an individual’s conscience―in most instances―is violence.
Although it would be difficult to understand this nuance, I would teach my children about the difference between respect and obedience. First, I would tell them that they should always respect everyone, even their enemies and those who do them harm. I would explain to them, however, that when someone commands obedience from you because they want you to support violence―or worse, engage in an act of violence―you must always disobey that command. By disobeying the command to support or engage in violence, you are actually demonstrating more respect for others; moreover, you are breaking the cycle of violence, which benefits present and future generations.
Additional issues surrounding violence contain nuances. Competition and comparing would be examples of this. On the one hand, competition provides entertainment, and sports in general, where much competition takes place, allows an outlet where consenting individuals can exercise their aggressive tendencies in a non-harmful manner. Competition also gives us an indication of how well or poorly we are performing at certain skills. But an over-focus on competition can foster spite, which is a hidden form of violence: ”Ha, ha, I won, and you lost,” or, “I am much better than you are,” and so on. Therefore, although I wouldn’t ban my children from participating in competitive sports or contests, I would certainly try to explain to them about the possible dangers that come from an over-emphasis on competitiveness.
Likewise, comparing has a good and bad side. Comparing is essential to gain a higher understanding of items such as art, psychology, and political science. If, however, I would use comparing in this manner with a child: “What’s wrong with you, your grades are not as good as your sisters,” then this type of comparing would introduce a form of violence to my children.
There are essentially two ways to teach children, through love, or through intimidation. Teaching through intimidation would introduce both overt and subtle forms of violence to my children, and that harsh example is something I would avoid. So, in this area, I would be mindful of things such as my grammar and tone of voice.
Impatience and anger are also hidden forms of violence. Therefore, I would be patient with my children and refrain from anger.
I would give my children freedom, even at an early age. I would respect their wishes, even if these wishes went against my best advice.
Finally, I would accept and love my children, regardless of their personal character.
NEWS ANCHOR: My guess is that at least 99% percent of American families do not raise their children with all of the ideas and principles you stated. Is this one of the reasons why violence continues to be such a problem in America?
JAMES: Again, I am not here to judge others. You asked me how I would raise children with a nonviolent ethos, and I answered your question.
NEWS ANCHOR: How do true democracies differ from other government structures in educational theory?
JAMES: Generally speaking, true democracies value a broad-based liberal arts approach to education rather than one that’s skill-based. Another educational difference is that true democracies favor uncensored speech, books, knowledge, history, and ideas.
Ultimately, the goal of a true democracy is to have all its civilians become great men and women who are capable of formulating legislation. In order for this to manifest, education centers on intellectualism, philosophy, art, and psychology. The subjects of history, literature, ethics, civics, and law take on an added importance. Analytical essays and creativity are favored over testing and memorization. Also, the teacher and student do not have a traditional master-servant relationship; instead, the teacher and student work in partnership to achieve whatever educational pursuits the student favors. This partnership makes the student feel comfortable with the process of decision-making, which he or she will do plenty of in a true democracy. (pauses) I should add that self-education, particularly after a student graduates from college, takes on a more significant role in a true democracy.
NEWS ANCHOR: I’d like to return to the topic of religion again. Some suggest that because most Americans―in a religious sense―believe in a single God as their master, they are unlikely to see the wisdom in true democracy. There was a different religious dynamic in ancient Greece, where the first true democracy developed. Instead of one God, the ancient Greeks believed in many gods. Therefore, the ancient Greeks could envision a political structure that had many masters. Will America ever become a true democracy given its monotheistic bent?
JAMES: I’ve found that once Americans discover what true democracy is all about, they become very excited about it. America has two things going for it. First, America has a great tradition of freedom―and once you’ve tasted freedom, you want more of it, not less. Second, America has demonstrated a willingness to experiment politically. These two items bode well for the prospect of true democracy.
NEWS ANCHOR: Continuing with the thought of my last question, parts of the 21st century world are turning toward atheism, including America (although America’s turn toward atheism is at a slower pace than Europe’s.) Does this bode well for the future of true democracy, given that atheists have no prior religious belief in a single authoritative figure?
JAMES: I don’t believe that one’s religion―or lack of religion―are necessary requirements to appreciate true democracy.
NEWS ANCHOR: Would you ever present yourself as an authority figure or savior to others?
JAMES: (smiles and shakes his head) No, I’d like to see others become their own masters and saviors.
NEWS ANCHOR: James, millions of religious-minded people in the world (of many different faiths) have an obedient, robotic posture toward their religious texts. Therefore, when these texts say that God approves of the death penalty, carnivore diets, and violence, these millions firmly believe that the death penalty, carnivore diets, and violence are ethical and justifiable. Unlike yourself, these millions do not see love as the primary tenet of truth; rather these millions see obedience to religious texts as the primary tenet of truth. What do you make of all this?
JAMES: People are entitled to believe whatever they want. It would be arrogant of me to expect others to see truth in the same manner that I do.
NEWS ANCHOR: And on this issue of truth, James, many religious people believe that only God can call the time and place for war. What do you think of that specific belief, James?
JAMES: I can’t speak for how others view God. All I can tell you is what I believe in―killing is never a good idea.
NEWS ANCHOR: James, let’s say that one personally restrains from acts of violence against others, but one still believes that a nation, religion, or transcendental power will and should inflict violence upon others when necessary. Is that a pacifist position?
JAMES: Well, I believe a true pacifist position means that every core of your belief system is rooted in non-violence. So, if I, for example, refrained from violence on a personal level, yet I still welcomed violence from a nation, religion, or transcendental power, then unfortunately, violence would still reign within my heart and soul.
NEWS ANCHOR: In America, I’ve noticed that most people have a revulsion toward serial killers or random acts of outlawed killing. On the other hand, I’ve also noticed that “legitimate” killers (killers operating in compliance with the law) are viewed in a different manner. In America, the so-called “legitimate” killer is treated with great honor and respect. (pauses) So, here’s my question, James. Would you ever take on the role of a legitimate killer in order to obtain notoriety, honor, and respect from the public?
JAMES: No, as I just stated, I don’t believe in killing under any circumstances.
NEWS ANCHOR: Let’s change the subject, James. (pauses) Would you favor prohibitive legislation that keeps one’s behavior in check―and I’m specifically thinking about consensual or self-initiated items such as whom one decides to marry or sleep with, narcotic use, one’s dress and grooming, prostitution, speech, gambling, birth control, etc.
JAMES: You mean, would I take on the role of a behavioral terrorist? The answer is no. If I would take on the role of a behavioral terrorist, I would be in direct conflict with the principles of freedom, love, and nonviolence.
NEWS ANCHOR: Why do so many favor jail time for personal lifestyle choices or for events where there are no direct or intentional harms to others?
JAMES: I think what attracts us to this over-zealous policing is that many of us want to play God. But in order to play God, we must be wise, loving, and certain of the results of our actions. Unfortunately, imprisoning an individual for personal lifestyle choices or for events where there are no direct or intentional harms to others causes chaos for that individual and makes whatever situation he is dealing with twice as worse.
NEWS ANCHOR: Could you talk more about the psychological perspective of over-zealous policing―because many believe that a good portion of tyranny exists in this area?
JAMES: Well, one of the reasons that over-zealous policing exists is that people fear. When you fear, you feel threatened and you respond in a violent manner. Think about this scenario. You spot a spider in your house. Someone in your house fears, and then, as a reaction to that fear, you kill the spider. Now this fear may have many different angles. You might be afraid of the very spider. You might be afraid of how your house may look if others find bugs such as spiders crawling around. If you are married, you might be afraid that your spouse will think that you are weak because you didn’t kill the spider that was discovered. (smiles and pauses)
But there’s another side to fear with regards to the subject of over-policing. In order for us to find our true destination, we must experience life, we must experiment and engage in self-testing. The fearless are unafraid of these aforementioned items, and, thus, they are more inclined to oppose the practice of over-zealous policing.
NEWS ANCHOR: Is fear a hidden form of violence?
JAMES: No, fear is not a hidden form of violence. Fear, however, can lead to a violent reaction, as we just discussed.
Fear is more of a focus on the finite rather than the infinite.
NEWS ANCHOR: We’ve talked about many hidden forms of violence this evening such as anger, one’s grammar, one’s tone of voice, and even one’s belief in transcendental violence. Would you favor jail time for these hidden forms of violence?
JAMES: (laughs) Absolutely not. I believe in persuasion as a way to convince others, not jail time. I mean, what type of message would I be sending if I favored jail time for such things? First, I would be telling the world that it’s acceptable to behave like a sadist. Secondly, I would be demonstrating impatience with others, which is a hidden form of violence. Thirdly, if I would favor jail time over the art of persuasion, I would be showing that I care little about communication, philosophy, and intellectualism.
NEWS ANCHOR: James, when I look around the world today, I don’t see many that would be a friend to your Constitution of the Individual’s nonviolent approach. Terrorists have a violent ethos; they certainly won’t go for a message of nonviolence. Nations, although they don’t officially claim to have a violent ethos, are heavily invested in militarism, tyranny, and authoritative power. On top of all that, we have people around the world who seem to be trending toward violence, rather than nonviolence. How does it feel to live in a world where the position of nonviolence seems so unpopular?
JAMES: First, I would respectfully disagree with the last portion of your statement. I think most individuals are fed up with violence; they see all the havoc that violence causes and they would like to see it end.
Second, I’m optimistic to live in the world today―and I know it sounds strange to hear that―but I’m optimistic that the compassionate example of nonviolence will persuade us.
NEWS ANCHOR: In the 20th century, governments were largely viewed as the greatest threat to the individual. For example, R.J. Rummel, a political scientist from the University of Hawaii, has estimated that governments have killed 262 million individuals between 1900 and 1999.
In the 21st century, although governments are still in the business of killing (as well as incarcerating innocents on tyrannical charges) many now view terrorists as an even greater threat.
James, whom do despise more, nations or terrorists?
JAMES: I have no time for hatred of any sort.
NEWS ANCHOR: Given the violent history of nations that I just described, do you think it’s hypocritical for nations to portray themselves as harbingers of peace?
JAMES: We should welcome all overtures of peace, regardless of their source. We should also carry the spirit of forgiveness within us.
NEWS ANCHOR: One last question on this topic. Terrorists command us to follow their way of life, or else. Nations, likewise, command us to follow their laws and pledge allegiance to them, or else. What do you make of all this?
JAMES: I can’t speak for others motives, all I can tell you is that I’m not in the business of commanding.
NEWS ANCHOR: I sort of asked this question before, but let me ask it in another way. If I am an American government official or citizen who wants to continue with violence, it appears that I’m better off to hedge my bets with the present-day U.S. constitution, rather than with your constitution. What do you think of that, James?
JAMES: When I wrote the Constitution of the Individual, I was interested in expressing the truth, which, for myself, means nonviolence.
NEWS ANCHOR: But there are those who say, you are taking away my freedom if I am unable to be violent toward another.
JAMES: Well, this is where philosophical definitions can help. The definition of freedom is the ability for an individual to do as he or she wills as long as no direct or intentional harms are present to others. So, within the very definition of freedom is a provision against violence― “no direct or intentional harms.” Therefore, if I wanted to commit an act of violence against another, and at the same time claim that I am expressing my freedom, wouldn’t that be extremely hypocritical?
NEWS ANCHOR: Generally speaking, what is the psychological appeal of a constitution that creates easy avenues toward violence?
JAMES: Well, most of us have some type of violence within us, especially in a subtle manner. If we are inquisitive enough to recognize this violence within ourselves, we have one of two choices to make. Either we can attempt to root out this violence, or we can attempt to justify it. So the psychological appeal of a constitution that allows for easy avenues toward violence is rather obvious, is it not?
NEWS ANCHOR: James, many people who believe in the concept of nations would think that it’s absurd to suggest that some relatively peaceful modern-day nations should have their sovereignty denied because other modern-day nations are bad actors. Let’s carry this thought over to individuals. Should peaceful individuals have their individual sovereignty denied because there are some bad individuals out there?
JAMES: No, peaceful individuals should not have their sovereignty denied because of other individuals who might act poorly.
NEWS ANCHOR: You once wrote that a nation never appears at the gates of heaven because a nation does not have a soul.
JAMES: Yes, I did write that. That statement does not mean we should be hostile toward nations; I was just stating a fact about the soulless quality of nations. Nations, of course, consist of individuals who agree with some, none, or all of the principles that their particular nation represents. Yet to suggest that a nation is an individual with a soul is a bit of stretch, is it not?
Individuals, however, do have souls; they do appear at the pearly gates, so to speak. Individuals can speak for themselves, both now and in the afterlife. So the fact that we would―without hesitation―grant sovereignty, respect, and the benefit of the doubt to soulless nations, and then not grant the same sovereignty, respect and benefit of the doubt to individuals who have souls. . . well . . . I’ll let others make their own conclusions about that.
NEWS ANCHOR: Do you see your Constitution of the Individual as an effort to incite real political reform or is your document more of an individual artistic statement?
JAMES: It’s more of an individual artistic statement.
NEWS ANCHOR: Don’t you think that others would want to use this specific Constitution of the Individual for the purposes of lessening tyranny?
JAMES: Well, you have forced me to admit something that is hopefully not too contradictory or big-headed. On the one hand, I don’t expect every individual to adopt my version of the Constitution of the Individual; I actually expect and encourage many different individual constitutions. On the other hand, I am aware that many individuals are currently suffering from tyranny. This specific Constitution of the Individual that I wrote could provide these individuals with dignity, it could make their lives count; it could help them in their fight for justice.
NEWS ANCHOR: How would you define justice?
JAMES: Well there certainly is a primitive notion of justice. There is a line from the song “The Pacifist” that I wrote, “Justice is a fool’s desire.” That particular line referred to a primitive notion of justice based on revenge, spite, control, and punishment. It took me a while to become aware of all the negative implications of primitive justice―I feel like a fool for not recognizing that sooner!
Anyway, I now believe in a new idea of justice. For example, when an individual is able to free him or herself from the chains of tyranny―this is a moment for celebration―an example of how I would define the term “justice.”
NEWS ANCHOR: If a U.S. government official is listening to this broadcast, what would you like to tell him or her?
JAMES: If a U.S. government official is listening―as you hypothesized―I would first say that your nation has a great history of progressing freedom and equality. Moreover, I would say that America’s Founders were equally passionate about eliminating tyranny. I have―through the years―put much thought into how to strengthen freedom and equality and lessen tyranny. I would therefore like to collaborate with you (or anyone, for that matter) toward these worthy causes.
Furthermore, I have given much thought on how to implement the principles of true democracy in a peaceful, easy manner. I think all of you will be pleasantly surprised. The future is very exciting, indeed!
JAMES: Finally, James, I would like to give you the opportunity to address everyone listening out there.
JAMES: Thank you.
First, I’d like to say that individual constitutions are without borders. Any individual, no matter where he or she resides in the world, can use them. (pauses) So just to be clear, geographic location does not limit a person’s right to use an individual constitution.
Second, I’d like to pass on something that I’ve learned from experience. True democracy is not solely about being an island unto oneself. I have learned that true democracy means that I must be ready to compromise and work with others, I must be sensitive to others needs. My guess is that you will find out the same thing when you go down the path of true democracy.
Third, on a more personal note, I have made many mistakes along the way, particularly during Act I of my life. Although I have never committed a direct, intentional act of violence against another, I was largely unaware of all the hidden forms of violence that existed, particularly in the area of communication. At any rate, during Act II of my life I began to put down the swords of egotistical bitterness and disdain. I am presently in the coda of my life, and have taken an oath to live by the principle of love. I don’t know if I am all the way there yet―in my understanding of love―but I think I am making progress.
Lastly, my friends . . . for you are all my friends! (smiles and pauses) Will you eventually arrive at the same conclusions I did? Well, truth is unique to all of us, I suspect. Just be honest with yourself, put forward an effort, and you will find the journey of self-discovery and truth-seeking quite exhilarating―and humbling!