The “Constitution of the Individual” was written by author, classical composer, pianist, singer, and songwriter, Joshua Emet (born James Greiner).
To mark its beginning, a Facebook page 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 Emet’s literary fiction book, Celestial Kings and Queens. The book was released on January 1, 2013. A second edition of Celestial Kings and Queens is due out in late 2018.
Here is an excerpt from the coda of Celestial Kings and Queens 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 . . .
After many years of self-reflection, James wrote “The Constitution of the Individual.”
NEWS REPORTER: 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 for worse.
NEWS REPORTER: Is your “Constitution of the Individual” document directed toward any one particular governing authority?
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: Why a preamble?
JAMES: Well, I think it’s important to let others know where you’re coming from.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: Are you the only one who can use the “Constitution of the Individual?“
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 thoughts; it is what I believe to be the truth.
NEWS REPORTER: How is your vision of true democracy different from other modern thinkers?
JAMES: Well, a central tenet of true democracy, as I see it, is that one is not allowed to be tyrannical toward one’s neighbor. Or, put another way, one is allowed to be their own ruler, but not the ruler of another.
NEWS REPORTER: There is a split amongst individuals who favor true democracy, as far as how it is implemented. Some believe that you must first protect minority rights before a true democracy can begin, while others believe that this is not necessary. Which method would you prefer?
JAMES: I would prefer to see an initial protection of minority rights. If, however, a society has a true democracy for a prolonged period of time, the protection of minority rights becomes a natural understanding amongst the population. For this type of society, laws of any sort become practically unnecessary.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 militants.
JAMES: This is unfortunate. If you look at origins of the individual sovereign movement, it had its beginnings in ancient Athens. Ancient Athens 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: (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 (shakes his head), declaring a right to war would contradict with peace, love, and nonviolence.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: Is your vision of true democracy different from that of ancient Athens?
JAMES: Yes, for example, I believe that everyone can participate in a true democratic system regardless of their age, gender, gender identity, nationality, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. In ancient Athens, participation in democracy was limited to adult males only.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 seek out examples in life that support that position. If, however, you want to continue with nonviolence, you will seek out examples in life that support a position of nonviolence.
NEWS REPORTER: Along this same thread, James, there are those that say that situations are complicated, and therefore, there are times one should choose nonviolence and other times one should choose violence.
JAMES: Yes, I am aware of that position. I contemplated that position when I was younger but ultimately rejected it. Here’s why. If I choose that position I would be reactive rather than proactive. So in other words, I would be subject to letting others swing my position on violence. As I came to understand the issues of philosophy much better, I came to the conclusion that it would be much better for me to emphatically state the position of nonviolence right from the very beginning.
NEWS REPORTER: So the reactive position that I spoke of is for one who is immature philosophically and uncertain of his or her principles?
JAMES: Well, when I was younger, I was certainly more unsure about which philosophical principles I believed in. So in my case, what you said is correct.
NEWS REPORTER: I’d like to turn to another topic, James. What elements determine the legitimacy of a constitution?
JAMES: Virtue and truth.
NEWS REPORTER: You wouldn’t consider military or financial might as contributing factors to a constitution’s legitimacy.
JAMES: No sir.
NEWS REPORTER: What is truth?
JAMES: Truth must have love as its supreme commandment.
NEWS REPORTER: You have written about metaphysics in the past, so let’s go deeper into that subject. In infinity―or in Heaven as you call it―do armies, militias, bullets, missiles, bombs, or gallows exist?
JAMES: No, those in Heaven have no need for such things.
NEWS REPORTER: Are there nations in Heaven?
NEWS REPORTER: So then there are no national flags in Heaven?
JAMES: (laughs) For what purpose? I mean, each individual carries his or her own flag, in a figurative sense.
(pauses) You could also say that each individual is his or her king or queen, so to speak.
NEWS REPORTER: Are there pets in Heaven?
JAMES: No one is on a leash or in a cage. No one is removed from their family or natural environment unless they so desire. No one is under the control of a master who decides when one is allowed to go outside. Everyone is free.
NEWS REPORTER: Are animals hunted for food?
JAMES: No, this is one of the ways that Heaven is different from Earth. On Earth, one’s happiness often comes at the expense of another creatures’ happiness. In Heaven, however ─and as elementary as this may sound─one’s happiness comes from simple acts of love.
NEWS REPORTER: Does one have to believe in a particular religious figure in order to enter Heaven?
JAMES: No, that’s irrelevant.
NEWS REPORTER: Is there mandatory worship required toward any one particular figure in Heaven?
JAMES: No. (laughs)
NEWS REPORTER: Does the opposite of Heaven exist―Hell?
NEWS REPORTER: Why?
JAMES: Isn’t it punishment enough to suffer mortal death on Earth?
NEWS REPORTER: Does everyone have the keys to Heaven?
JAMES: Yes, Heaven has an open-door policy. But not everyone wishes to reside in Heaven.
NEWS REPORTER: Please explain more.
JAMES: Imagine that you are a hunter who lives on a planet where killing animals is allowed. After you pass from that planet, you visit Heaven. In Heaven, however, you are unable to kill animals because the natural power of love prevents you from such an activity. I don’t think it’s hard for us to imagine that this hunter may wish to return to the planet where he can kill . . .
NEWS REPORTER: (interrupting) So those who have an unloving manner will feel uncomfortable in Heaven.
JAMES: No one enters Heaven unchanged from their previous destination. Your inner self remains intact. Moreover, you have the right to stay or go.
NEWS REPORTER: Is there some type of ultimate judgement facing one who enters Heaven?
JAMES: No. One’s entrance into Heaven is a natural process. Likewise, one’s decision to exit Heaven is also a natural process.
NEWS REPORTER: Are Heaven’s ideals attainable on Earth?
NEWS REPORTER: (pauses) Let’s change course and 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?
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: I’d like to change course and talk about art again 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 REPORTER: 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 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: No violence, even in the event of self-defense?
JAMES: Yes, no violence in all instances.
NEWS REPORTER: 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, emotional, and philosophical development.
NEWS REPORTER: What do you mean by charity?
JAMES: Taking care of the poor, needy, and the sick.
NEWS REPORTER: Do you believe in the concept of free health care coverage for lower income groups?
NEWS REPORTER: Why?
JAMES: If free health care is not provided for the poor or even for the lower middle class, you essentially have a tax that is levied upon these income classes. This tax, or burden, if you will, lessens the freedom of these lower income classes.
NEWS REPORTER: I’m curious as to why you have come to a different conclusion than many economic libertarians in the United States. For those who are unaware, economic libertarians do not believe in free health care coverage because they believe that it will result in higher taxes for the wealthy. They say these higher taxes will violate the wealthy’s personal freedoms.
JAMES: Let me ask you a question. Do economic libertarians in the United States accept the concept of taxation?
NEWS REPORTER: Yes, most of them do.
JAMES: Well, if one takes taxation as a given, then the next question is which income group has their personal freedom impacted greatly by taxation, and which income group has their personal freedom impacted hardly at all. If one is wealthy, is there truth to the fact that one’s personal freedom is impacted by heavy taxation? There might be truth to that─but only a grain a truth. Perhaps this wealthy individual will buy ten yachts this year instead of eleven if he is taxed heavily.(smiles) This wealthy individual is still able to take vacations, pay for his medical expenses, pay for his children’s education, and so on. He will still be able to enjoy his personal freedom, and then some. If however, you have a lower income individual, there is considerable truth that taxation of any sort will lessen this individual’s personal freedom. This lower income individual might not be able to pay for his rent, clothing, and food bills, if taxed. In addition, if this lower income individual is faced with severe medical issues, his medical costs will often be unaffordable without the policy of free health care coverage.
NEWS REPORTER: I agree with what you said, James. I would even say that denying free health care coverage to lower income individuals is a form of authoritarianism, because in authoritarianism, not only is one’s mind and soul repressed, one’s body is also repressed. (pausing)
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 REPORTER: Why is it so important to respect civil freedoms?
JAMES: If we don’t respect civil freedoms we violate an individual’s essence.
NEWS REPORTER: And would a true democracy, as you see it, also pertain to economic freedoms?
JAMES: Yes. For example, once a government decides how much taxes you owe, it should be the individual who decides how their tax money is divided toward various budget items.
NEWS REPORTER: And how would your vision of true democracy work with regards to legislation? Let’s take the issue of health care coverage in the United States, for example. The enactment of health care coverage for all, or perhaps just lower income individuals, would currently require the federal governments support, although some states have begun to implement partial health care coverage themselves.
JAMES: The legislative power on this issue should not reside with federal, state, or local governments, nor the judiciary, for that matter, rather the legislative power should reside with individuals. So under a true democratic system, if an individual wants free health care coverage for himself, he votes yes, and thus, he has free health care coverage. This vote only applies to himself, not his neighbor. Likewise, if an individual does not want free health care coverage for himself, he votes no. And once again, the individual in this example who voted against free health care coverage for himself cannot take free health care coverage away from his neighbor who voted yes.
NEWS REPORTER: And the process you just described would be the same for issues such as food stamps, marijuana use, and marriage equality rights?
JAMES: Yes, all three of those issues you just mentioned would likely pertain to personal freedoms.
NEWS REPORTER: From a theoretical standpoint, is it true that representative governments sow divisions in society, because individuals must worry about how their neighbor’s vote might effect their personal lives?
JAMES: Yes, unfortunately this is the case.
NEWS REPORTER: And once again, from a theoretical standpoint, is it true that a representative government that does not grant direct individual legislative rights to individuals should be considered authoritarian, or at least partially authoritarian?
JAMES: Yes, a reasonable argument could be made for that case.
NEWS REPORTER: Can elected representatives still survive under your vision of true democracy?
JAMES: Yes, for example elected representatives might suggest a total budget amount for taxation. There are also items outside the scope of personal freedoms, such as what date should daylight savings time be enacted, or who is the best engineering firm to build a particular bridge. These items could still be decided by elected representatives.
NEWS REPORTER: Why even bother to supply definitions in your constitution?
JAMES: Definitions pay homage to the practice of philosophy.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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, 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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.
The history books tell us that Pontius Pilate ordered his Roman soldiers to dress as civilians in order to assault peaceful nonviolent Jewish protestors. Prior to this, Pontius Pilate knew his soldiers couldn’t assault these protestors effectively. Pontius Pilate, of course, was afraid of bad publicity. Many are unaware of this next point: Jesus was the lead spokesperson for the Jewish nonviolent movement, and this means that his crucifixion was no accident. Pontius Pilate knew exactly who Jesus was and what he represented.
NEW REPORTER: So Jesus’ absolute position on nonviolence was seen as an embarrassment to the Roman Empire. (pauses)
NEWS REPORTER: But aren’t you now telling us 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 please let me clarify this issue. When the Roman Empire was conceived in 27 B.C., 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 REPORTER: 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 philosophically or if it didn’t get its way.
NEWS REPORTER: Before Jesus’ execution, the New Testament tells 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 REPORTER: James, throughout history, the crowd or mob is often portrayed negatively in literature. Crowds are typically characterized as being ignorant, asleep, cruel, or perhaps a mixture of all of these things. This is actually why that story that I just mentioned from the Bible is one of my favorites. If you read between the lines, you can sense the disdain the author has for the crowd, but this is expressed very subtly. James, what is to be done with the crowd?
JAMES: (laughs) Nothing. I mean, no one should be punished because of their ignorance. But let me offer a solution. Why not reduce the numbers of the crowd in the most natural way possible. Provide free public education and offer financial incentives for those who self-educate.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 as he called it) and he therefore knew that a nonviolent ethos for Earth was both practical and true.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: The idea that the Jesus’ teachings revolve around nonviolence is not a very popular sentiment today. Instead, the crucifixion, with all its gory violence, is the main feature. One only has to look at movies about Jesus to see that this is so. Why isn’t Jesus remembered as essentially a nonviolent figure?
JAMES: Well, if you set out to make a movie about a figure who is nonviolent, it would probably be a pretty boring movie, right? (smiles) I mean, could you imagine a movie about someone self-reflecting, participating in peaceful protests, avoiding fights, as Jesus did while here on Earth? Although an accurate portrayal, this type of movie about Jesus would revolve around dialogue rather than action. But throw in a violent element such as a gruesome crucifixion, and then you have a more entertaining, action-packed movie.
On a more abstract level, stressing nonviolence allows for vibrant life to thrive. On the other hand, stressing violent acts encourages the concept that life revolves around death. So the danger of stressing violent acts is that we could become as silent and obedient as the tomb, therefore turning our lives into a “living death.”
(pauses) If I could, I’d like to return the story of Jesus and Barabbas you just mentioned, because it highlights something about this topic we’ve been discussing.
NEWS REPORTER: Certainly.
JAMES: New biblical scholarship has recently pointed out that the Greek word used to describe Barabbas actually means one who is a mercenary soldier, not a criminal or a prisoner. So the crowd in the biblical story you mentioned had a clear choice. Either release Jesus who was committed to nonviolence or release Barabbas who was committed to violence because of the very nature of his soldiering. The crowd had no use for Jesus. Jesus couldn’t defend them because of his position on nonviolence, at least this is what they were led to believe. Barabbas instead was seen as someone who would be much more helpful to the crowd because he would not hesitate to take up violence.
Additionally, and this places a whole new angle on the story, Pontius Pilate once again employed Roman soldiers disguised as civilians to intersperse with the crowd. He had them start chants for Barabbas’ release over Jesus. The crowd, unfortunately, was susceptible to the message of these chants for reasons I stated earlier.
And this gives new insight to the story where Pontius Pilate washes his hands of any wrongdoing. Pontius Pilate was primarily concerned with bad publicity; but it was he and his Roman soldiers who were directly responsible for Jesus’ death, not the Jews. The Jewish people were the victims.
NEWS REPORTER: And what eventually happened to Barabbas?
JAMES: Pontius Pilate eventually had his Roman soldiers execute Barabbas. His plan all along was to have both Jesus and Barabbas executed.
NEWS REPORTER: What do you think of the New Testament’s, Book of Revelations, where Jesus is portrayed as returning as a violent and militant figure?
JAMES: (laughs) Let me put it this way. Imagine that if I wrote a book about Gandhi and Martin Luther King coming back from the dead. In this book, both figures set out to destroy the Earth by strapping nuclear bombs on their backs.
NEWS REPORTER: (laughs) Well, I think most would find the book ridiculous and inaccurate because both Gandhi and Martin Luther King were champions of nonviolence during their lifetime. (pauses) James, I think I see your point on this matter.
NEWS REPORTER: 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.
NEWS REPORTER: James, I see the American character as a hard one to pin down. On the one hand, the American people seem to 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 a good deal of violence resides within them. Remarkably, this odd mixture of violence and nonviolence often occurs within the same individual. James, is this muddleheaded disposition 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 humans, educational philosophies, advertising, how we act and speak toward one another, and so on.
NEWS REPORTER: James, if I understand your background correctly, you are not a member of any particular organized religion or established government, correct?
JAMES: (smiles) Yes, that is correct. I am more of a student of religions and governments.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 on Earth is more difficult then choosing a well-established path.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: Would you take a bullet for another?
JAMES: Yes, that I would do.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: Would you make distinctions between citizens and non-citizens as many nations do?
JAMES: No. Every individual is entitled to equal rights.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: Do you favor militarism or nationalism?
JAMES: No, for me, there is violence in both of those ideologies.
NEWS REPORTER: And patriotism?
JAMES: Well, the violence in patriotism is more subtle than militarism or nationalism, but it still exists. Patriotism, in many ways, is the fuel for both militarism and nationalism.
NEWS REPORTER: So you personally reject patriotic sentiments?
JAMES: Yes, I do.
NEWS REPORTER: And this would be true no matter which country you resided in?
JAMES: Yes, that is correct.
NEWS REPORTER: Are militarism, nationalism, and patriotism antithetical to true democracies?
NEWS REPORTER: James, in the United States there appears to be at least three forms of patriotism: conservative patriotism, moderate patriotism, and liberal patriotism. Conservative patriotism is very close to nationalist ideologies, in that it largely demonizes foreigners and praises the current ethnic, racial, or religious majority. A conservative patriot believes that his or her country has rarely done anything wrong. When a war comes, regardless if it is a just or unjust war, the conservative patriot is more than willing to kill for his country. Blind obedience to authority is, of course, one the central tenets of conservative patriotism.
A moderate patriot is largely absent of the nationalistic ideologies that the conservative patriot embodies. He may criticize his country at times, but only to a moderate degree. Like the conservative patriot, however, the moderate patriot will kill for his country regardless if it is a just or unjust war.
A liberal patriot is completely absent of nationalist ideologies. He tends to be critical of his nation’s past more frequently. However, if there is a just war, the liberal patriot will also kill for his country, or at least support the cause of killing. James, which form of patriotism would you subscribe too?
JAMES: None of the above. Notice that in all forms of patriotism you just described, killing is the end result.
JAMES: I’d like to take a different angle now. Since the 1980s, the United States government has spent a considerable amount of advertising money promoting militarism and patriotism. American citizens are bombarded with militaristic and patriotic messages on a daily basis, particularly if they listen to radio or television, or even if they go to sporting events, where of course, many children and teenagers attend. The drumbeat of patriotic and militaristic advertisements in the United States is pretty steady, so to speak. Some would even go so far to suggest that all this violent advertising has injured the American soul.
When people in the United States speak of patriotism, most speak about it in a very generic and robotic manner, regardless of their political affiliation. Most have absorbed the government’s three decade marketing campaign quite well. So James, considering all that, there are those who believe that one must play the game of patriotism in order to be relevant politically in the United States. Would you ever make that concession, in other words, pretend to be patriotic?
JAMES: No, I would be a phony if I did that; would I not?
NEWS REPORTER: And there are some who say that patriotism is a moral virtue. Would you characterize it as such?
NEWS REPORTER: Why?
JAMES: Why would I characterize something which ultimately provides reasons for killing as some type of moral virtue?
NEWS REPORTER: So you don’t see patriotism as something that embodies love because it ultimately provides excuses for killing.
JAMES: Yes, that is correct.
NEWS REPORTER: Is it possible for individuals to be legitimate ethical authorities if they don’t accept nonviolence?
JAMES: I can only answer this question from my perspective. How could I talk about truth to others while at the same time making excuses for violence?
NEWS REPORTER: What would you suggest as a replacement for patriotism, because it appears to me that you see patriotism as something which is completely unnecessary?
JAMES: I would suggest honesty, nonviolence, and individualism.
NEWS REPORTER: James, I fully understand why militarism, nationalism and patriotism thrive in dictatorships, but I have a hard time understanding why militarism, nationalism, and patriotism can thrive in less harsh forms of governments such as constitutional representative republics. Could you shed some light on this?
JAMES Well, unless a nation declares peaceful neutrality, such as modern-day Switzerland has done, it will always run the risk of militarism, nationalism, and patriotism running rampant.
NEWS REPORTER: Changing topics, would you ever spy on another?
JAMES: No, I would not.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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: Yes, I’m against entrapping another.
NEWS REPORTER: Is there a relationship between love and trust?
JAMES: Yes, in order for us to be loving individuals, we must trust one another.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: If you are able to spot contradictions in constitutions, you must have surely spotted similar contradictions in religious texts. 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 REPORTER: How does freedom relate to true democracy?
JAMES: In a true democracy, you are your own master, thus, you are truly free.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 concerned with finding the truth.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: What is the one thing we can do to begin the process of worldwide individual sovereignty?
JAMES: Set up a philosophical court made up of philosophers mainly, but also artists, and thinkers from all over the world. If an individual feels that he or she is the victim of tyranny, give that person the ability to petition the philosophical court, so that the philosophical court may potentially confirm their claim.
NEWS REPORTER: Changing topics, 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 REPORTER: (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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: Do you have any children, James?
JAMES: No, I do not.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 child’s conscience―in most instances―is an introduction to 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 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: So just to be clear, James, you would not raise your children with the ideologies of militarism, nationalism, or patriotism because of their inherent violence?
JAMES: That is correct. Children are beautiful, gentle, and peaceful, they do not need all the ugliness and violence that us adults dwell upon.
NEWS REPORTER: Given that America has a unique problem with violence, and I’m referring to school shootings in particular. . . (pauses) should Americans be having a conversation about the marketing of militarism and patriotism in our schools, religious institutions, radio, television ads, and sporting events?
JAMES: Yes, at the very least, I would strongly recommend a conversation about this topic.
NEWS REPORTER: You’ve run public speaking events and concerts in the past in which there were children and teenagers in attendance?
JAMES: Yes, that is correct.
NEWS REPORTER: Would you ever think of interspersing messages of patriotism or militarism in these events?
JAMES: (shakes his head) Absolutely not. That would be the last thought to ever enter my mind.
NEWS REPORTER: James, 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 REPORTER: Is love an important educational concept in a true democracy?
JAMES: Absolutely. Without love, many of the subjects I mentioned such as civics, law, and philosophy would have little meaning.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 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 REPORTER: Would you ever present yourself as an authoritative figure or saviors to others?
JAMES: (laughs and shakes his head) No, I’d like to see others become their own masters and saviors.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 nonviolence. 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 reside within my heart and soul.
NEWS REPORTER: 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―or 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 stated before, I don’t believe in killing under any circumstances.
NEWS REPORTER: I think I know what your answer will be to this next question, but I’ll still will ask it. (smiles) Would you ever put yourself in a position where you are ordered to kill?
JAMES: No, I couldn’t think of a position more depressing and weak than what you just described.
NEWS REPORTER: And weak because?
JAMES: Weak because I would also be allowing myself to be controlled by someone else for their violent purposes.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 some of 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: Tell me more about fear.
JAMES: Well, fear can lead to a violent reaction, as we just discussed.
Fear is more of a focus on the finite rather than the infinite.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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, patriotism, nationalism, 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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. The reason I state this is that the U.S. constitution does not list nonviolence as one of its values. 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 certain individuals who might act poorly.
NEWS REPORTER: 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. 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 REPORTER: 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 say this. (pauses) Through the years I have put much thought into how to strengthen freedom and equality and lessen tyranny. I would therefore like to collaborate with you―or anyone else, for that matter― toward these worthy causes.
NEWS REPORTER: 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 suppose time will tell.
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!