I’ve been writing articles about self-defense and the threats we face in today’s society not to frighten anyone, but (I hope) to inspire action and impress upon readers the core philosophies and skills to which our nation and its citizens must return. In one of my first columns, I wrote about the continuum of self-defense — and I now wish I had included on that continuum the important foundation of self-reliance.
Put simply, self-reliance is the best self-defense — greater than any law or weapon. It is a mindset and an approach to life that underlies all other successful forms of self-protection. We need to look at how to recover this most valuable personal and national characteristic.
In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1841 essay, “Self-reliance,” he described self-reliance as a kind of individualism and the need to avoid conformity and follow one’s own ideas and instincts. He penned a great phrase: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” This “foolish consistency” is the enemy and opposite of healthy self-reliance.
As our national and individual sovereignty is attacked, I’ve been reflecting on what must have disappeared decades ago for the entire world to be subject to tyranny now at the hands of a global cabal of elites and oppressively bloated governments. That missing element is self-reliance. If we are weak and dependent, without original thoughts or robust skills, we are easy to dominate and control. This leaves us vulnerable to becoming subjects of tyrants and wicked, criminal men. I agree with Emerson and think the truth is actually more complex. In his time, he saw the rise of conformity, but I don’t know that he could have imagined how useless the individual would become in modernity. Self-reliance is not rugged individualism but strength found through upright personal character, and through families, tight communities and our God. To be self-reliant is to be capable, not to be alone.
So, how did we get here? The answer is, in part, a whole lot of outsourcing.
First, we outsourced our morality.
Our culture was built on the bedrock of morality with a core Judeo-Christian heritage. This set standards for individual behavior, interpersonal relationships and even business dealings. In short, it covered everything. Dennis Prager, in a PragerU video introduction to the Ten Commandments, stated simply that the Ten Commandments are all that’s needed to make a good world. Morality must be supreme because you cannot possibly create enough laws to cover every scenario. Moral law gives birth to civil law. And this is where we have gone wrong.
Society-wide, we have replaced morality with legality — and this has made us less safe. The familiar saying that “we are a nation of laws” has actually pried us away from self-reliance and sown the seeds of our possible destruction.
In a society where politicians attempt to legislate everything, the question moves from “Is this the right thing to do?” to “Is this legal?” or, even worse, “Can we argue this and win in court?” Ethical considerations have given way to legal arguments. This is why we have a mind-numbing number of laws, millions of unknowable regulations and 1.3 million lawyers running around looking for work.
Excessive lawmaking erodes self-reliance: the more laws, the less morality. We need as few laws as we can get away with, not as many as we can get passed.
Secondly, we have outsourced our thinking.
In a digital age fraught with corporate media manipulation, we are told what to think and not encouraged to scrutinize what we consume. We no longer read books or write down our ideas. Everything is a text, a meme, or a 15-second video. Self-reliance requires the ability to consider, understand and disagree. That ability is reaching generational lows, it seems.
Thirdly, and dangerously, we have outsourced our labor.
We have failed to teach our kids basic living skills, and now they often accumulate mountains of higher-education debt yet come away with few skills and zero job prospects. We have more knowledge workers than ever before — and not many can change a tire, find their place on a map, start a fire or cook a meal. Worse, we now lack tradesmen and suffer from a shortage of skills that actually keep our communities functioning. We have outsourced basic skills to others and cultivated low expectations of our young men and women. This is a national tragedy which rises to the level of a national threat.
Fourthly, we have outsourced our self-defense, and here is where trends in society converge with the purpose of this column.
In days past, Americans had to fend for themselves. The strong banded together naturally to protect the weak and keep wolves at bay. Our communities had to be tight to survive. Volunteers responded to emergencies, like fires, because there were no formal emergency services on which to rely. People took self-defense and community protection in their own hands, mostly for the better. This created strength through trust, relationships and the development of basic abilities which are lacking today.
It all adds up to what we are presently witnessing — the disintegration of self-reliance in most arenas of life.
What do we do? Ronald Reagan said that freedom is only one generation away from extinction. I strongly hope and believe that we are also one generation away from a potentially massive awakening and renewal of our republic. Self-reliance will be restored to our foundations, again defining the character of citizens and their communities. This is an exciting prospect.
Self-reliance starts with you. What can you do today to increase your self-reliance and readiness for the days we are in and the days ahead? Let me suggest a few things:
— Take time to get away from your screens and learn basic skills. Take a class and work with your hands.
— Learn a set of emergency skills. Get familiar with life-saving medicine. Be prepared with first-aid kits and a “go-bag.” Consider how you would contribute in a positive way in the event of an emergency. Become the capable person your neighbors will look to when an emergency occurs.
— Take stock of the flashlights, survival foods and extra water in your home. Check batteries and expiration dates.
— Come up with a family emergency plan.
— Read classic books instead of internet news. Engage your mind with a more complex form of communication than videos, social media posts and memes.
— Cook a meal or three a week.
— Think long-term and learn how to grow food and raise chickens.
Self-reliance won’t happen overnight, but we can grow into it by working at it. We can do this as families, friends and neighbors. Let’s make it part of our parental mission to equip our kids — and nieces, nephews and so on — to live self-reliantly. Let’s be part of this great societal awakening. Let’s do it for ourselves, our community and our country.
Bryce Eddy is an executive at Covered6, a physical security services and vocational training school. He is also co-founder of 805 Combat Sports/ 805 Machado Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the training company www.JoinTheRatio. com launching in early 2022.