Mrs. Westerholm is a Registered Nurse, housewife, and student of liberty of San Pedro, California.
Your voice sounded so woe-be-gone that I think I must do the unforgivable — offer advice! This advice, you understand, has neither authoritative backing nor proof of efficacy; but it is honestly offered by one who has found it personally helpful through long usage. It contains only five words:
"Proceed, with Faith and Patience."
I recall first hearing these words when I was about five years old, and the speaker was my beloved great-grandfather. A dearer, wiser man I have never known —but one such is richness enough for a lifetime. He was a poet — by desire; a philosopher of strength and depth — by intellectual circumstance; a minister of the Methodist Church — by conviction; and the administrator, in later life, of a church-supported orphanage —both by reason of choice, and the simple fact that it was there to be administered.
He usually lived at the orphanage, as did his good wife, instead of at his comfortable home, because he "could not expect the children’s needs to follow a nine-to-five schedule." This was an example of his creed in action; and he followed this creed faithfully in every other situation I observed. He was a lover of freedom, long before it became apparent to most that we were beginning to lose it. He fought quietly for freedom when the Sixteenth Amendment was brewing. He had spoken out firmly (although ineffectively) against the opening volleys of statism’s attacks in the instance of the Spanish-American War.
He was quite sure that a major financial collapse was inevitable and that the steps which would probably be employed to deal with this crisis would carve away great chunks of individual liberty. He did not think the people would heed the warnings given to them, but he kept right on quietly writing and working, anyway. He proceeded, with faith and patience.
He proceeded; he did not stop. Why? Why would a man of realistic intelligence persist in apparently throwing away his efforts, his words, and his beliefs? Because it also was his belief that words of truth, if clearly and logically expressed, are not wasted. They will live on, in some manner, somehow, whether on the printed page or through the efforts and thoughts of some other individual who hears, heeds, understands, accepts, and then in turn passes the idea along. A truth is no less the truth because few believe it, nor is this a reason or excuse for the withholding of truth.
Great-grandfather always hoped that he might be wrong, because he genuinely loved people and did not wish to see them hurt themselves — even by way of their own cupidity or sloth. But he was pretty sure they would be hurt, simply because they probably would learn in no other way.
In short, he was in harmony with most of the freedom philosophers in believing that freedom would most likely have to be lost, or nearly so, before most people would awaken to either the fact or the depth of their loss. He further believed that it was the duty as well as the nature of philosophers and true historians to keep alive the knowledge of freedom throughout these dark periods, so that it would be serviceable, available, and up-to-date when eventually called for again.
He held no rancor about this blindness to the obvious. Never did I hear him express the all-too human reaction: "It jolly well serves ‘em right!" He simply accepted people for what they usually are: lazy to react even to the obvious, and much more interested in today than in tomorrow. Not that he was incapable of anger, for the scars of impatience were apparent in his earlier writings; but he was much too intelligent (and as he would have it, much too lazy !) to harbor emotions which would produce only negative results. Anger alone would not live, however justified it might seem. Truth would live. And so he kept proceeding, with faith and patience — and a hearty chuckle at frequent intervals. Not derisive chuckles, please understand; just amused and warm expressions of delight at the utter predictability of mankind in general.
Pressure for Progress
His predictions have nearly all been realized (and, of course, he was far from alone in these predictions) . Socialism, and statism—in case you do not yet consider these two terms synonymous — are becoming truly the ends to their own destruction. Circumstances apparently had to reach at least such a critical point as we have at present before most people would begin to awaken, but they seem now to be awakening. We are now seeing what appears to be the cresting of a resurgence of freedom — awareness, thought, and activity.
It has taken patient, long-sustained effort to overcome the apathy and neglect in order to start this great wave; but the crest, the visible portion, is now forming, too. We can see more evidence of it every day. It hasn’t gained a great deal of momentum as yet —but it will. It cannot escape it, for that is the nature of the thing. And, of course, once momentum is fully gained, no one can stop it. In fact, the problem then will be to guide and direct it in such a way that an inundating tidal wave does not occur — which could be quite as destructive in its own way as was the former apathy! The tendency to produce just such a tidal-wave potential, as I conceive it, is the main reason I am wary of "Hurry, hurry, hurry" organizations. So, we must still proceed, with faith and patience, and with a sound grasp on our precious sense of humor.
An Irresistible Urge
As I see it, the only thing which might cause this newly churning mass not to crest into a beaching-wave of major size would be for all freedom workers simply to quit cold and say in unison: "It can’t work . . . I quit." But we will not stop, of course, because in a sense we cannot. We must speak the truth when and how it is shown to us, and speak more loudly, more logically, more appealingly than do the destroyers of freedom.
As for individual freedom workers, some of them may stop —certainly — but not all of them. Never. For it is the thoughtful man’s nature to seek ever after freedom; and in order to gain it for himself, he must necessarily gain it for others as well. So, he will speak out; even in the teeth of a gale of pessimism and misunderstanding and in the sickening calm of apathy.
Each Does What He Can
Now, I myself can do little actively to assist the cause of liberty; my tools are too small, weak, and fallible. But what I can do, I will do, always with the help of Divine guidance, and constant less glorious reminders. And with the strengthening thought of our old friend, proceeding, with faith and patience — and humor. So, you see, my grandfather’s words were not lost after all. They are being carried on by others, of which I am but the very least. And so it is with all of the solid freedom philosophers of yesteryear.
So, too, with all who truly love and thus must speak the truth. If it takes catastrophic events to let the truth be recognized, then so be it. As we so well know by the most casual study of history, unhappily enough for mankind, it has invariably been so. The catastrophe must then be the only finally effective catalyst — and wise freedom workers will follow through in the path of this catalytic reaction, regretting that such a painful stimulus was necessary, but recognizing also that man is simply what he is; and recognizing, further, that trying to force any man to be more than he is, spiritually or intellectually, is virtually impossible. Man must always choose his beliefs for himself. He cannot be forced in matters of conviction — only in matters of the body is force effectual. I think that this is probably a very necessary protection, given us by our Creator, as a safeguard against our being forced to accept that which is morally bad, including those things which someone may mistakenly, though sincerely, believe is "for man’s good." It is in this recognition that perhaps the biggest portion of the "patience" is necessary.
The "faith" is best used to hold to the belief that freedom can still be salvaged when we are so perilously close to the brink. But then, that is precisely what makes a brink catalytic: that one can only see it as one nears it. And, of course, it must be actually seen by those who are otherwise unable intellectually to conceive it.
Working with Children
Now, Priscilla, let me try to answer your question about why I seem to limit my "freedom activities" to the children, directly or indirectly, instead of joining political organizations, doing public speaking, and the like.
There are several mingled reasons, of course. One is that our actual family unit — the children, my husband, myself, and our home — constitute my primary basic responsibility. It was a voluntarily assumed responsibility — a contractual one, if you wish. To fulfill it to the best of my ability consumes the major portion of my waking hours. There just isn’t enough time, physically, for much more than that in the way of outside activities — unless I renege on some part of my primary duties; and I very seldom feel justified in doing this.
Second, I have so darned much self-improvement to accomplish, I can’t very well run about telling other people how to improve their organizations or themselves without appearing as idiotic as the stable-boy who was always telling the jockeys how to ride the
And third, this great-grandfather of mine passed on when I was only 14 years old. In those few early years he managed to teach me lessons that I am only really beginning to understand now — yet they persisted, clearly, all these years. My slowness to implement the lessons was no fault of his. With such an example of pedagogical faith —backed up solidly by my parents as well — could I do less for my own children? I think not.
Oh, sure, I get carried away sometimes, and start thinking I’m a graduate student instead of a freshman; but invariably some-thing comes along to pop that ridiculous balloon!
This happens to be my own way of looking at it. It may make no sense at all to someone else. I’m not saying it’s the right way, only that it is my way. About the biggest waste of a precious lifetime, I should think, would be to spend that lifetime trying to live in a fashion other than that which seemed right to me. This does not mean that I am unwilling to learn new ways, to accept new tools, or even to change my plotted course — but it does mean that the acceptance must be mine, completely. For only then can I proceed, with faith and patience.
Path to Survival
We need a restoration of our faith in liberty, our faith that free men can and will provide for themselves and their society the good life which no other concept of man and government has yet produced. Our path to survival lies in removing the restraints to the creative and productive energy of a free people….
Let each believer who has faith in the freedom formula advance this objective in whatever way his best judgment dictates, and let each of us who has this faith at least help others understand the simple truth that Socialism can’t work and never has worked, that no person living or dead knows how to make Socialism work, but millions of Americans left to work out their own economic well-being in a free market can and will, with the help of God, repeat the miracle that is America.
WILLIAM A. JAHN
From an address, "The Free Market"