Over the course of five years I walked over 4,000 miles through the woods, studied dozens of trout streams and largely found my own path. I answered to no government official for what I was doing or why (well, almost never). America is one of the only places where this could have happened.
Thirty eight years ago I won kind of a great human lottery when I was born an American. I started with all the advantages in life that most humans can only dream of. Our markets are stable here, in as much as financial markets can or should be stable. We don’t see violent regime changes. Food is beyond plentiful. Things are so easy that we can set aside vast swaths of our country just for plants, wildlife and fish. Primarily though, I was born under the best constitution ever envisioned and its bill of rights.
Artists, Bohemians and writers benefit more from the American way than anyone else, I think, and yet this broad group often seems little appreciative of American stability and protections. And this seems odd because it was American prosperity that afforded them the luxury of not laboring twelve hours a day to put bread on the table. We host a wide array of venues for the publication of writing and display of art here in America, also made possible by that same prosperity. And the prosperity wasn’t an accident – not the result of a great lottery of nations.
I guess classical liberalism isn’t really taught in schools anymore (it would take too much time from art and writing, I guess). We are the beneficiaries of the world’s greatest intellectual tradition, a tradition that came to place the protection of individual liberty above all else. The United States happens to be the best expression of that tradition remaining on this earth. And sadly, we’re unwittingly throwing it away I’m afraid – maybe because we favor anything-but-white-Patriarchy in our history lessons over classical liberalism. Today’s generation just doesn’t know any better.
What about Europe though? Europe is a home to artists, Bohemians and writers. Have I forgotten all of Europe? No, I haven’t and Europe is a fine demonstration of the value of the liberal tradition and why it must be preserved. Painting here with a very broad brush that doesn’t necessarily fit all European people in all situations, Europe at large has placed aesthetics above liberty. And they’re finding out presently that there are real-world limits to this ethos. National and E.U. debt is skyrocketing even as currencies inflate. People riot in the streets when nations (and you “nations” know who you are) begin to impose even minimal austerity measures to rein in their welfare class of artists and Bohemians. And that’s the worst of the slow European meltdown we’re witnessing in our time – the people have been trained to live as dependents of the state and any departure from this norm results in panic. They’ve been told that they’re entitled to create art and write (within censorial parameters) and wander, and that money is an abstract thing too that we can always print more of – not something integrally tied to the value you provide to others in society. They asked for aesthetics by mandate and now reap the real-world costs.
I could probably describe myself as artist, Bohemian or even writer as well and I must say that I do appreciate the luxury of being able to sit here at a computer and compose whatever words I find most meaningful today. I appreciate the liberty to write opinions that dissent from the mainstream and the freedom to associate sometimes with fellow radicals and free-thinkers. And perhaps the very highest goal of my art must be to perpetuate the principles that allowed me to enjoy all of this today.
As an afterword: My own purposeful project, the Eastern Brook Trout Solo Adventure, was paid for through months each year of maintenance work, and the squirreling away of dollars to by food through the lean months. I’m able to photograph and write these days because I continue to hold down a job. I’m certainly not entitled to live the life I dream for myself.