In my decade plus of activism, I’ve been constantly dismayed and discouraged by drama and infighting within the freedom movement. I’ve been physically attacked, slandered, libeled, and been the victim of rumor campaigns and character assassination attempts. I have even personally contributed unnecessarily to the public criticism of other activists and been involved in disputes that never should have gone public. The message of freedom is founded in love, but we don’t always live up to the message that we advocate. If we want to succeed as a movement, we must continue to bring our culture in line with our ideals. As it pertains to interpersonal conflict among activists, (“movement drama”) I have found a solution that works for me, and I would like to share it with as many people as possible so that we may all join hands (or at least be able to concentrate our fire) and be a part of this beautiful dance forward for humanity.
While a certain amount of conflict is inevitable in any cooperative human endeavor, sometimes it seems like we have more than our share. This is understandable, and not to be resented or resisted. We have more than our share of passionate, driven, and victimized people in our movement. Oftentimes, it is our victimization by the state that drives us to freedom activism.
We also have a certain amount of conflict that comes from the nature of what we are doing by challenging existing power structure. Some of this is overt in the form of supporters and beneficiaries of the status quo opposing us directly. Some of this is indirect in covert efforts of sabotage, downvoting, trolling, and of course, disruption by the government itself. COINTELPRO is the infamous FBI program from the 60s aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting activists. If you’re not familiar with COINTELPRO, please at least read the Wikipedia article on it. When you consider what has been revealed about government interference with activism historically, it would be incredibly naive to think that their tactics have gone away instead of evolved.
It is critically important that we continue to develop an approach to conflict to minimize its effect on ourselves and our work if we are to succeed. At a recent speech in Philadelphia at the Free Your Mind Conference, I asked an audience of several hundred people, “How many of you have been regularly involved with an activist group that you were passionate about, but quit because of drama within the organization?” I was shocked when I saw a third of the hands in the room go up. I wanted to cry. Think of all the loving energy robbed from humanity! Regardless of the source of conflict, whether organic or manufactured, the answers are the same: Be loving towards everyone. Be as forgiving as possible. Be accepting and understanding. Take responsibility for your actions. Live by your values. Focus on the positive. Don’t be distracted by drama. Don’t let anyone throw you off your game. Never push people apart when you can bring them together. Be willing to work with people you disagree with to achieve a common goal. Are you noticing a theme here?
Regardless of the source of conflict, the response must be to move past it, or else we condemn ourselves to be forever drowning in it. If we allow ourselves to be divided, surely we will be conquered. This is even more critical when you understand that in order to succeed, our movement needs to grow and we already have the most radically-minded, anti-authoritarian, freedom-loving one percent of the population on our team. The next wave of libertarians are going to be a bit more … normal – and that’s ok! But just thinking of people in general who are more practically-minded than ideologically minded, are they going to want to join a divided movement or a unified one? Are they going to want to join a debate club or a cause that will forever change the world? Are they going to … ok, you’re smart. You get it. Flies and honey and vinegar and all that.
To go one step further, I would like to address what has been a focal point for our movement and an unfortunate focal point of several enduring ideological conflicts: The Libertarian Party. Whether you like it or not, most people who will hear about libertarianism in the foreseeable future will hear about it because of the efforts of the LP. While many of us complain that the party doesn’t perfectly represent us as the face of the movement in the political realm, most don’t bother to do anything constructive about it. So what I am proposing is a formalization of the approach that I have outlined here. In the 1974 Libertarian National Convention, there was an informal agreement called “The Dallas Accord,” that sought to unify the factions of the party by keeping divisive points out of the platform and making the LP the party of “big tent, smaller government.” It’s time to bring back The Dallas Accord as a formal affirmation of a working attitude based on our values. Let’s make the LP the biggest freedom funnel possible! Let’s welcome everyone who is “freedom-curious” with open, encouraging arms! Let’s have a motion to bring back The Dallas Accord at the 2018 Libertarian National Convention!
Of course, this is much bigger than the LP and much bigger than what we normally think of the freedom movement. If we want to render government obsolete, it has to be about more than politics. It has to be about moving humanity forward in terms of how we relate to people. It has to be about unifying around the core principles of our message and living by our values! So please support this effort in your attitude, communication, activism, how you talk to statists, and hopefully in joining me as a delegate at the 2018 Libertarian National Convention!
***If there is a positive response to this post, I will reach out to other party activists to craft the exact language of this proposal and see how many people we can get signed on before releasing it. Please support this effort by sharing this post with anyone who cares about freedom and encourage those who you think should be involved to email me at [email protected] to share their input.***