One night in New York City, I watched Walter Block debate another libertarian personality at the invitation of Gene Epstein from Barron’s as part of his SoHo Forum. There was such determination from Block to get at the truth, and there was such glibness from his debate partner. It was painful for me to watch his debate partner be so glib. Beyond a few articles and a few conversations, I barely knew the debate partner’s work, but to see him have the treasure of libertarian thought in front of him and such a coveted place in the community, and to treat the search for truth like that verged on the nihilistic. In his attitude toward Block, he rebuked so much of what I love, and he did it wearing a leather jacket, as if that made him
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One night in New York City, I watched Walter Block debate another libertarian personality at the invitation of Gene Epstein from Barron’s as part of his SoHo Forum.
There was such determination from Block to get at the truth, and there was such glibness from his debate partner. It was painful for me to watch his debate partner be so glib. Beyond a few articles and a few conversations, I barely knew the debate partner’s work, but to see him have the treasure of libertarian thought in front of him and such a coveted place in the community, and to treat the search for truth like that verged on the nihilistic.
In his attitude toward Block, he rebuked so much of what I love, and he did it wearing a leather jacket, as if that made him the cool person on stage. Block wore a goofy hat.
Though Block was likely frustrated by the exchange, the debate partner did Block a favor that night by being Block’s foil. In being the foil, he did me the favor that night of so definitively drawing a dichotomy between two approaches to the world.
Robert Bly, writes about this dichotomy in his book Iron John, citing the Greek god Hermes.
Hermes is the god of the interior nervous system. His presence amounts to heavenly wit. When we are in Hermes’ field, messages pass with fantastic speed between the brain and the fingertips, between the heart and the tear ducts, between the genitals and the eyes, between the part of us that suffers and the part of us that laughs.
Hermes is Mercury, and we know that mercury cannot be held in the hand – it rolls everywhere, separates into tiny drops, joins again, falls on the floor, rolls under the table, moves with amazing quickness. It is correctly called quicksilver.
This mercurial energy is called, among other things, Odin in Northern Europe, Mercury in Italy, Hermes in Greece. Its day of the week is Wednesday (Odin’s Day) and mercredi in France.
Sometimes when friends are talking in a closed room, the heat of the conversation begins to increase: witty things are said; contributions flow from all sides; leaps of imagination appear; the genuinely spiritual follows an instant after the genuinely obscene. Hermes has arrived. At some beautiful moment of the conversation a silence falls that feels mysterious; everyone hesitates to break it. In Spain until the fifteenth century that silence was called “Hermes’ silence.” (So Lopez-Pedraza says in his fine book on Hermes.)
The old tradition maintains that true learning does not take place unless Hermes is present. That is depressing, because university English departments, and sociology departments, and religion departments usually get rid of teachers with Hermes energy first. The whole Ph.D. system was created by Germanic Hermes-killers. Hermes is magical, detail-loving, obscene, dancelike, goofy, and not on a career track.
Hermes slips in true information in that split second between the moment your tongue starts a word and the moment it finishes. You plan to say “This is my mother” and you say “This is my wife.” I did that. My mother looked very pleased. You plan to say “farther” and it comes out “father,” because Hermes moves faster than our thought. What people call a Freudian slip is really a Hermes precision. Hermes punctures pomposity, piety, sureness, and self-satisfaction.
Though I think the man in the leather jacket might imagine things differently, from the point of this onlooker, Block was the “Hermes energy” and the man in the leather jacket that night was the embodiment of the very opposite — the Germanic PhD system that has such cynicism built into its roots for that passion for life and passion for truth that Block embodies.
Some People Are “Offended” By Hermes Energy, Others Find It Inspiring
I’ve always loved Walter Block’s work, but that night something even more meaningful to me was on display. This was someone who was so in touch with himself and his dogged drive for truth. It was a confidence and sincerity that the world hardly deserves and hardly knows how to react to.
It can be no surprise that a petition is being circulated calling for the dismissal of Walter Block as a teacher. The only surprise is that the mob took so long to circulate such a petition.
It can also be no surprise that a competing petition was issued to give Walter Block a pay raise.
The petition calling for a raise has seven times more signatures than the cancel petition. I encourage you to share this with your circle and make that eight times.
What Will Walter Block Do?
At the root of our often negatively connoted English word “crisis,” is a Greek word of neutral connotation meaning “crossroads.” It’s a place where one must make a decision. One could even say one “gets” to make a decision. Certainly not inherently negative, a crisis is an opportunity to decide.
Who knows what Walter Block will decide. Perhaps the distraction of the cancel mob will leave him reflecting on the many reasons the academy doesn’t deserve him. Or, if his school’s administration is invested in the long term success of their institution, perhaps Block will feel compelled to stay in exchange for a raise.
Whatever he decides, and make no mistake, for such a talented person, the decision is always in his hands, the world is lucky to have as much writing from Walter Block out in the world as it possibly can.
I interviewed Walter Block eight years ago when it was libertarians and conservatives who wanted to silence him. Hermes energy is always ready to make the self-certain uncomfortable, regardless of their allegiance.
An Appropriate July 4 Tradition — Civil Disobedience
Fireworks or obeisance to the flag do not hit at the heart of what July 4 is. The spirit of 1776 is very different from the spirit of 1787. One was decentralizing and about individual autonomy. The other was centralizing and about governmental power.
The US Constitution (1787) is nearly the opposite of the Declaration of Independence(1776). As such, it is certainly not the Constitution that makes America great. That tension between the two is constantly at play in American society.
One is the embodiment of that Hermes energy that makes America so great. The other is some poor attempt at being a German PhD program seeking to restrain the massive and seemingly limitless magnitude of human potential for the benefit of the few.
Earlier this year, as the early stages of corona communism began descending upon us, Gary Barnett, reminded his readers of something written by the brilliant Henry David Thoreau in all of his Hermes energy:
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
Cited by Gandhi as a text of inspiration, cited by King as a text of inspiration, I read Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” each July 4th aloud. It was given as a speech and takes less than an hour. It is ideal reading on the 4th of July and rewards the reader many times over. Here’s a PDF of “Civil Disobedience” from my own website, formatted to be easy to read from a screen, if you don’t already have a print copy in your family library.
Another Fourth of July Tradition — Jefferson’s Third Draft
In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, writing passionately from Paris about a tax protest, commonly referenced as “Shay’s Rebellion” commented in a letter to William Stephens Smith:
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants”
Jefferson was not always so encouraging about upending power. Once he stepped into the role of president, he too had his moments of tyranny.
The third draft of The Declaration of Independence does not show a tyrannical Jefferson. It is a more intellectually consistent document than the one that we commonly know of. In it, Jefferson called for an end to slavery. But like many great documents that end up processed through committee, it got stripped of some of that Hermes energy, though thankfully, much of it remained. A little editing, some might say, added to the stylistic flourish of the document we know today.
Each July 4th I read that third draft of the Declaration of Independence. I find it a more beautiful document than the final draft that we know. Though it appears in some anthologies, few people know the wonderful document. Here’s a PDF for you, formatted to be easily read from a screen.
A New July Fourth Tradition?
The cancel mob, imbued with that censorious German PhD energy, has reminded me how much Hermès energy exists in this era and how lucky we are, for the first time in history, to have so much of it at our fingertips.
The mass censoring that took place early this week as social media channels updated their terms of service to redefine peaceful and rational discourse as “hate speech,” reminds us that this ease of access to hard hitting ideas is not forever promised to the world.
I’ll be paying honor to the Hermes energy of Walter Block this July 4th. I’m going to start with his first LewRockwell.com article on 6/28/2001.
Some titles I am looking forward to are “Ideas Rule,” “Don’t Take Your Daughter to Work,” “Four Firemen Die in Socialist Fire,”, “Is There a Right To Unionize?”, “Term Limits Hurt Female Politicians,” “Ayn Rand Was Wrong,”, “Gentrification Makes the World a Better Place”, and “I’m Ruled by a Left-Wing Jesuit”.
No More Mental Masturbation — Let The Great Minds Inspire You To Act
A day of reading and mediation about revolution written by men who refused to be anything but free is a reward of its own. A day like that can be treated as mental masturbation, or it can be channeled into action, which is what I ask of you. Let this special day be a day to reflect on how you will act, to make commitments to yourself and others, and to act.
The forces supporting a communist and globalist takeover of the United States are coalescing. On a weekend like this, consider what role you will play moving forward.
If we look to the example of formerly prosperous, democratic, and relatively free Czechoslovakia after World War 2, we can find an option of what the future could hold for the United States.
Other Countries Have Travelled This Path
Moscow’s intelligence bodies meddled significantly in internal affairs of post-war Czechoslovakia. The 1948 elections were stolen and the communists came to power, descending the country into some dark years. The US doesn’t need Russian or Chinese intelligence meddling in our internal affairs. American intelligence does the job just fine. One has to wonder if Russia or Chinese intelligence would even represent a drop in the bucket in our rigged system.
Though the system was rigged, many in Czechoslovak society called for the communists to come to power and called for some of the evil that followed. I’ll recount but a few examples.
Housing — Rather than offering any protection of property rights, a morality of thrift was encouraged as being socially just. People with too few family members living in their homes were removed from their homes, sometimes in the middle of the night. The neighbors might hear a commotion that quickly died down and the next morning woke up to find farm workers from some far off village moving their possessions into their neighbors home in the city. There was little logic as to why a person should be moved in the middle of the night other than the fact that the middle of the night provides for less community resistance and greater likelihood of compliance.
If one was lucky, rather than being confiscated, family homes were merely subdivided to allow others to move in. You could then at least still live in a corner of the home that you grew up in and were raising your family in, though that too brought insult on top of injury.
Education — Education was politicized. You needed higher education to get a career. You might be denied higher education to prepare for that career if you were from a privileged segment of society whose parents and grandparents had not bowed down by joining the Communist Party, which incidentally seldom had more than 10% of any communist controlled society in its membership.
Movement — Though I can’t know a person’s thoughts, right now Trump is likely attempting to build a southern border wall, both physical and electronic, in order to stop America from growing so increasingly destabilized socially and politically through unchecked mass migration. That border wall may be used one day to keep Americans in.
Though it is no longer fortified or guarded the way it once was, to the keen eye, a no man’s land exists to this day between Austria and Slovakia where shootings took place to prevent a person from leaving Czechoslovakia surreptitiously. Seldom was that needed though because it was known that the family you left behind would be so horribly treated after your departure. Guilt kept many from sneaking out of the country and inflicting that on their family. They might be closely watched by the contact tracers of their day to make sure that they were not afflicted with the same social contagion that the emigrant was. The family member’s career, education, and ability to travel could all be impacted by someone leaving.
The Pervading Sense Of Fear Demands Courageous Action
Everywhere a culture of fear and compliance reigned. Ten years after the end of communism, it was still uncommon to see a person smile in public. It was just too dangerous to show your emotions. To this day the compliance taught during communism weighs heavy upon that society.
Every day, American society steps toward that future. Every day your actions become less and less consequential to that outcome as society grows increasingly locked down and compliant. Tomorrow’s action means less than today’s. I can no longer envision a future where that is not the case. I beg of you to decide where you stand and to act decisively today.