In high school I took a senior humanities class worth 6 college credits that met 2 hours every day and intensely studied philosophy, literature, and art. A 10-14 page tutorial was due every two weeks and it remains, eleven years later, the most challenging and rewarding class I’ve ever taken. The Credo was our final project as seniors: a ten-minute presentation in front of 50 classmates and teachers with no limits. It was your chance to explain your personal beliefs, worldview, and ideals after spending a year writing about everyone else’s. Time to lay it out on the line.
I’ve joked many times to others that my worldview and philosophies were established around age 16 and haven’t changed much since. I hadn’t seen this document in over a decade (I’m going through old papers for experiential learning credits at Reinhardt). I’ve matured, changed, and gained more knowledge (I hope) but my fundamental beliefs remain the same. So here is an unedited snapshot of what I believed in at age 18, and still largely believe in today approaching 30. It’s a long document written to be delivered as a speech rather than a formal essay, hidden behind LJ due to its length (7 pages).
A lot has changed for me this past year, and a lot hasn’t. I grew a beard, I shaved it off. I had long hair, I cut it off. I gained ten pounds, and I still have it.
Physical changes aside however, I have not changed very significantly as to where I stand in my beliefs. I came into this class with some very definite preconceived beliefs and ethics. Although my beliefs were always challenged they were never shaken, always questioned but never fully eliminated. This class helped me better explain my beliefs, installed new confidence in me, but it did not change what I believe in. What I believe in is what I believe in.
The past two days we have had numerous Credo’s where it appears that the student is afraid to actually take a firm stand on an issue, perhaps this is because they are afraid of exposing their true self to their classmates, maybe they just don’t have real strong beliefs. Whatever the case, I have thought about it and decided that this speech will contain only what I believe in, and believe in fervently.
I have attempted to eliminate all bullshit and just present the facts about me, and yes I am afraid to do this, but I feel that I must. Some of the things I will say today, won’t sit well with certain members of this class and I hope to leave enough time in the end for plenty of questions, so here goes.
I believe that all men and women are born evil. I offer one simple proof of this. If we were born good, then our natural inclination would be to do good, but this is not the case. Examine as you walk through the mushroom; how many make the effort to throw their trash away in a trash barrel, count how many people donate to charities, tally up how many give a damn about their fellow man. I believe all humans have the potential to do good, it is that they just start out evil and must work from there.
It is much easier for one to say, as Aquinas did, that all are born good, and only a few slip into evil, than it is for us to admit that we are born evil, and only a few can challenge themselves enough to strive for good. It is not a pleasant feeling to admit that people, myself included, are born nasty scum, and only through self control and rigorous attention can we attempt to do good, or just break even. This self control leads to my second belief.
There are no intrinsic, physical, natural rights. We are not born with the right to bear arms, the right to be happy, or the right of free speech, none of those exist. Any right which attempts to assert itself on the physical world can be affected by others, and therefore neutralized. Take for example, the recent riots in Los Angeles. John Locke says man is born with the natural right to property. Think about how that right was affected in Los Angeles when the rioting took over. The physical realities of the situation neutralized an abstract right.
The only true, natural, inborn right humans are born with is the right to think, and as Victor Frankl says ‘The right to choose our attitude to a given situation.’ In the physical world, might does make right, or better yet, might makes the rights.
How are the rights of the ‘Bill of Rights’ maintained? By violent detention of those who try to impinge upon those rights. In Yugoslavia at this very moment, who is deciding who has the right to political autonomy and who doesn’t, the biggest guns are deciding and the rest of us are listening.
Who told Iraq that it doesn’t have the right to invade Kuwait, the armies of Saudi Arabia, Britain, and the United States did. However, in the world of the brain, it is not the might, but the mind that makes the rights.
I can be tied down, blindfolded, tortured, put in total sensory depravation, you can take away every aspect that makes me human, and yet I can still think. Ryle may contend that the mind is not separate from the body and whine and cry about the lack of a ghost in the machine all he wants, the point is, humans think, and wherever that thinking takes place wether in the brain, the mind, the soul, or as Mrs. Newman believes, in the pants, that thinking does exist.
Therefore the right to choose, mentally, is the most important and cherished right we have. So why do some give up this most precious of rights to, not their parents, not a loved one, but instead to chemicals produced by those who don’t even give a damn about wether you live or die. Taking drugs affects your thinking, and by doing so, takes away the one right we are born with.
You have given up the only right you have, and for what, for an artificial high. I am not just talking about crack, heroin, or other ‘bad’ drugs. I am also talking about alcohol, cigarettes, these are drugs that affect your mind to. They, through addiction, take away the right to choose.
So often I hear friends who smoke say “Golly gosh darn, I wish I could quit.” They typically say this right as they are lighting up. I do not drink, and I do not smoke. I never have, and hopefully I never will. Besides being a very expensive habit, I know that because of the actions of those in my family, I am genetically inclined to the point that it is ten times more likely for me to get addicted on the first or second usage of the substance.
Since I have already stated that we are born evil, and only through self control can we do good, I refuse to give up that self control even for a second. I’m afraid of what I might do, should I lose control, and I still must bear responsibility for whatever I do. Only through self control of ourselves, can we as humans get anywhere. That is why, although we are born evil, we can choose to do good.
Wether we actually do good is up to a hundred factors influenced by those around us, but the action must start in our thoughts, and those thoughts should not be the thoughts of chemicals, but our own.
That thought must be brought out into physical form to mean anything. Thought alone is great, but we must translate thought and intent into action. The right to choose is the start, first we must choose, then we must act. An action can exist neither solely in the mind nor in the physical world, it must be a blending of the two, and action must have a consequence.
Hume is wrong. An action without consequence is not an action at all, it may as well have never even existed. It is all swell and nifty to say ‘I tried my best’ and satisfy one’s so called ‘self-esteem’ but if the action does not accomplish its goal then it is a worthless action.
An example, if I want to run a mile, a fact which is looming in my face a period from now in PE, and I run it but only get three laps done and then quit; I can pat myself on the back and say ‘I tried my best’, but I still haven’t run that entire mile, the action was worthless.
One cannot make excuses for ones actions, once one acts, one must accept responsibility for those actions, wether they go according to plan or not. It is so easy for all of us here to make excuses about this or that, but excuses are nothing more than wasted breath, they don’t accomplish anything, they don’t help anything, and no matter how many people believe your excuse, you still know yourself that you are lying to cover up the fact that you failed. I personally attempt to take responsibility for each and everyone of my actions, it is not easy and I do not always succeed, but I make the attempt. One cannot blame anything else except oneself for the way they act. I cannot claim I had a bad childhood, blow away with a shotgun everyone in this room, and then say it wasn’t really me, it was my bad childhood.
The hot topic of conversation these past few credos seems to be on God. We have had few direct stances taken on God so far. I’ve even heard one young gentlemen say that he believed in God 80%, didn’t believe in God 20% and that those numbers were subject to change. Not for him to take offense, I’m just using that as an example of the inability of many to decide where they stand.
In the movie Dead Again, Robin Willams sees the main character fidgeting with his cigarettes and says ‘Are you a smoker?’ The hero replies, ‘I’m trying to quit.’ Robin Willams argues ‘Bullshit, one is either a smoker or a non-smoker there is no in between. You must decide for yourself what you are, and then act upon it.’
This is exactly what I’m talking about, one either believes in God; Hindu, Judaic, Christian or otherwise, or one does not. I have very high respect for those who do not believe in God, a higher being, or even life after death. It is their, pardon the pun, God given right to choose that.
I myself did not believe in the existence of a higher power for much of my life, but since the way I now believe in that higher power is so very radically different from others we’ve heard so far, let me try to make a point. Judaism is only a few thousand years old, Christianity slightly less, Islam only a thousand or so.
Yet man has lived on this planet for millions, hundreds of millions of years. Has God existed all this time? The same God for every single man and woman who has walked on this Earth. The ancient Egyptian Kingdom lasted for over four thousand years, longer than any in the western world, longer than England, France, and the United States combined. During this time they had a set of Gods which they fanatically believed in. Their belief was on the scale that those today believe in their own religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism.
However the Egyptian Kingdom was conquered, corrupted, parceled out, and eventually did not exist. Where are the Egyptian Gods now, do they still exist? Whose to say that three thousand years into our future, Christianity will still exist, or Judaism, or Islam, or any religion we now know.
I propose that it is not God who creates man, but the other way around, it is man who creates God. I do not mean that we project our fears and hopes and faiths onto some archetype we call God, I mean that man creates God. Kierkegaard says that God does not exist for the individual until that individual has had to make a tillielogical suspension of ethics and has leapt into the absurd for that God.
This sacrifice of faith, as Kierkegaard proposes, brings God to the individual for the first time. So you see, God is dependant on humans to come into existence. It is this sacrifice of faith that creats God, or possibly even Gods. That’s right Gods, where does it say that God must be singular. Last Friday you heard Alexander Molnar, and she did give me permission to use this example, say that she did not believe in God before this year. But something happened to change that, and now she believes in God. Yet her God is like no other God that we have studied this year, it is not a Christian God, nor a Hinduistic God, so does that mean that her God does not exist. Or that her God cancels out the existence of all other Gods? No it simply means that she has created a God singular to her. Her God exists for her. Any others who decide to believe in that power, and put their sacrifice of faith in that power, that God will exist for them too.
This is why the major religions have survived; thousands of believers have made sacrifices of faith and put their faith into the Catholic God, Allah of Islam, or Judaism. So to summarize on this point, I believe there is no one singular God, and people can create their own Gods if they are willing to make a sacrifice of faith to that Being.
That stated, what role does the Higher Being I believe in play in this world. Is It responsible for creation, will It provide an afterlife, can It accomplish miracles? To quote someone famous, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’
Since the God I believe in was created by me, and did not exist until the moment I made a sacrifice of faith to it, then it could not have been responsible for creation, either through evolution, creationism, big bang whatever. It would be great if the God I believe in can provide me with an afterlife where all one does is sit on a cloud and dodge halos, but I can ahem, live without that. It would also be nice if I could ask, and receive miracles performed by this God, but again, I can live without that too.
You see the God I believe in is very unconcerned with this planet. We are not worthy of its consideration. So many of us come and gone and so few do anything that we individually hold no worth. I will not blame anything on this God, I will not ask for It’s help, and I will not credit this God with what I do. What I accomplish is what I accomplish, the power I believe in has nothing to do with it, it just is there to observe.
The only people worthy of its attention, I would propose, would be the ubermanch’s the Overmen, or as this is the PC nineties, the Overperson. The Overperson is one who lives in defiance of those around him or her. The Overperson determines for themselves what their life will be, they are not bound by conventional rules of what is right or wrong. They have definite world changing goals and plans, and they will not stop until those goals have been achieved or they die in the effort. By this definition a true Overperson comes only once in a blue moon.
They are not judged by their goodness, nor evilness, but what they did. Alexander the Great is an Overperson, so is Cleopatra, Napolean, Peter the Great, Ghandi, and Hitler.
Finally today I will talk on the topic of relativism. There have been some, and Mr. Wall himself has put forth this claim in seminar, who say that relativism is a wishy washy view of the world where one allows anyone to do anything they want at anytime because after all, isn’t it all relative.
This is BS.
Relativsim is the ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that anyone might do anything at anytime, but it is not the acceptance of it. I realize the world is evil, I realize that people are for the most part out to make a fast buck and get away with what they can, but that does not mean I give in to it.
If right now as I speak, a man in the hall outside starts beating someone senseless, I’m going to ACKNOWLEDGE he has the right to choose to act that way, but I will not sit on my ass and allow him to continue to act in that way. All relativism gives me is the viewpoint that there is no universal truth, no single one way to act, everything is subjective, and acknowledgig that fact, I can act to change it.
That is the paradox we live in, we must defy what is, to make it into what we want it to be. Living in defiance, you live to defy the wishes of others. My speaking to you right now is defying your desire to be elsewhere or even asleep. My going out into the hall and stopping that man from beating up another is my defiance against his will.
This is what Sartre meant when he stated we live to resist. Defiance can be as simple as finally saying no to your parents, or as difficult and life endangering as saying to the man holding a gun to your head; ‘No I will not allow you to control my life.’
And now, as Dena did before, I will give in the remaining minute or so rapid fire shots of what I believe in.
I believe in the use of justified force. If someone holds a gun to my head, or threatens those I care for, I am going to do whatever it takes, if necessary killing him, to stop him from harming those I love.
I believe that Machiavellian politics are the only way to gain, and maintain real power.
I believe in not letting others push you around. Any of you who have witnessed what happens when Mrs. Newman and I are in the same room at the same time during seminar, will attest to that.
I believe that 90% of all people in this world are fake, and that the remaining 10% try so hard as not to be fake, that they seem to be fake anyway.
I believe that Mr. Snyder, is not in fact my good buddy.
I believe that America is on a crash course for revolution within the next fifty or a hundred years if conditions do not change.
I believe that the Ozone hole, Global Warming, and Aids are all very scary statistics, but I also believe that ten out of ten people die, and wether you die from an old heart or getting cooked by an ozone hole, your still dead.
I believe that anyone who wants to, should be allowed to take their own life if they wish to.
I believe that this list is getting very depressing so I shall end it with two more notes.
I believe in myself, and I believe in my friends, thank you.