Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 723, June 2, 2013

I have sworn upon the altar of god,
eternal hostility against every form
of tyranny over the mind of man

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The Joy of Air Plants and Other Thoughts for Memorial Day
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

[ This arrived too late for last week—Editor ]

I was on the front porch setting up used teabags in jugs of rainwater to make Jerry Baker's weak tea solution for house plants when the mail truck rolled in. The postman had two packages. The first one he brought out was Tropiflora. The second was CTS Air Plants—aka Coastal Tillandsia Supply. Just getting them was a joy! Saturday morning on a holiday weekend. Had recieved the heads up that the CTS Order was shipping day before yesterday and expected it sometime next week. And Tropiflora I figured would ship next week.

Opened the boxes and spread them out. Everything looked good—though I was disappointed that the clump of grassifolia from CTS was not as big as the one I got previously. The Aechmea nudicalis from Veracruz Mexico which I ordered as a potted specimen was sent as an offset. My guess is that they ran out of potted ones. There was an adjustment made on my order. Overall it was a very satisfying experience.

And I was very busy that day wrapping the bromeliad offsets in damp sphagnum moss and coconut husk fiber and stuffing them into pots and strapping Tillandsias onto sassafras rounds and hanging them up in my greenhouse. Also a very enjoyable experience.

By now I can imagine some readers beginning to wonder; what does this have to do with Libertarianism?

Much like many years ago when I cross posted something from a reptile hobby forum to the PA Libernet and got a similar response. It was about rare turtles and the miracle of captive breeding that could help reduce demand for wild caught animals. And bio politics and the politics of contraband which make wildlife smuggling almost as lucrative as drug smuggling. And even more important—the personal freedom aspect of it all. You see; hobbies of which I have several— fall under the "Persuit of Happiness" category of those certain inalienable rights that were endowed by our creator and specifically mentioned as such in our founding documents. Despite what I was told by someone on a native fishes forum: that fish keeping was not a right—but a privilege granted at the behest of our wise and noble minions of government—subject to revocation as they see fit when necessary. The typical authoritarian mindset of Progressives who see everything as a privilege subject to revocation when it serves the convenience of the State or the axiom of the greater good. In most cases, these are just excuses for getting to do what they have always wanted to do but could not justify under ordinary circumstances.

So you see; our harmless—or in the view of the authorities—not so harmless hobbies—have everything to do with libertarianism. The right to engage in horticulture, herpetoculture or fish culture or whatever subculture that floats your boat is definitely a personal freedom issue. It in many cases enhances psychological well being—which in turn is life enhancing. That does not go over well with some of your hard core "Save the Planet types" who would rather you not be alive— let alone happy. One of those death by a thousand small cuts that the radical left is inclined to inflict upon us all under the guise of world saving humanitarianism. Like the Ellsworth Monkton Toohey character in Ayn Rand's Fountainhead who was infamous for the quote to his acolytes "Man must not be allowed to be happy"—essentially as the speech goes on; a happy man is a free man who has no use for the likes of them and their sad and sorry ass shopworn agenda that only people who are looking for power or a free ride—or idealistic fools have any use for.

To tell you the truth—I don't have much use for those kind of people— other than the amusement I get from some of their outrageous reasoning. Some of them are hung up on the notion that wildlife must be kept wild, and belongs to everyone and must not be reduced to private ownership. For as long as I can remember it was illegal to keep raccoons and wild birds as pets but until recently nobody gave a rat's ass about turtles or snakes, lizards and frogs. Then sometime beginning in the 1970s the authorities slowly became concerned about the lesser critters that had up until then been regarded at best as something of minor value—or worst—vermin that feed on more desired game or domestic species. They began passing laws to protect the rare and endangered ones and learned there was much political hay to be made—as well as using them as tools to block development projects and control land use. One of the best sources explaining this phenomenon is a book called "Progress & Privilege: America in the Age of Environmentalism" by William Tucker sometime in the 1980s. It is an excellent exposé of the agenda driven aspects of environmental politics and the often less than altruistic motives of people who often just wanted to block other people from moving in on them.

This book btw was part of the reading material for a sociology course on technology and social change I took back in the 1980s. Taught by a professor who was overwhelmingly in favor of technological progress and very critical of environmentalism. Imagine that if you can. At times I suspected he might have been a closet LaRouchite—because much of what he said sounded like the views reflected in various publications by the Lyndon LaRouche organization. Which is not exactly what you would call Libertarian -—but you have to admit they sometimes nail some of the things wrong with this country—especially pertaining to energy policy and what happened to our space program. The other book that I kept from that course taught by the renegade professor was Julian Simon's "Ultimate Resource". The author of yet another book that changed my perception of the world for the better and may yet change the world for the better as well. It is a work that reaffirms the value of human life as a source of creativity and problem solving. It's author—who unfortunately is now among the departed is a mind in leagues with the visionary Freeman Dyson mentioned in a previous article on space colonization.

But like many other writers often say—I digress.

As for all things hobby related down through the years I have found many examples of the above reflected in the things that like minded people have done to enhance their own pursuit of happiness. Often just for simple gratification. Sometimes they turn it into a commercial enterprise much to the chagrin of the powers that be who absolutely loathe the idea. And some of course even loathe the idea of doing it for pure pleasure. From time to time I have heard reptile hobbyists and others compared to the likes of greedy tomb robbers and drug addicts. The people that propagate those notions are often tenured professors, curators of zoos and museums and professional wildlife people who have come to view animals and plants not only as "specimens" but "their specimens"—like the medieval concept of wild game belonging to the king or barron of a feudal estate and woe to the insolent serf who dare lay a hand on "their specimens"!

Insolent serfs.

In our case—despised amateurs. That's how they see us. If only they had a better idea of what we think of them and their arrogant ways. I think the best example of what constitutes the stereotype of a snooty PHD herpetologist by many in the reptile hobby can be found in the Otis Beals character in the graphic novel version of "The Probability Broach". I could just see that guy lecturing on the evils and potential ecological catastrophe in the inter-generic hybridization of colubrid snakes at a Penn State herpetological symposium—like one I attended many years ago. Or if you want really snooty and arrogant; a museum curator who not only has little time to speak to amateurs but to his elderly predecessor from the old school of herpetology—of the generation who pioneered the discipline and wrote the first field guides. A generation of amateurs who often pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and earned honorary credentials later in life. Maybe even more deserved than some of today's grant money chasers.

Many so called amateurs—myself included are motivated by our love of animals, plants and nature in general. Our efforts are often labors of love and passion for the things we value. You would be amazed by the creativity that goes into designing cages, aquariums, ponds and other habitats. One of the greatest pleasures of mine is visiting fellow hobbyists and seeing their accomplishments. Or seeing the fruits of other's accomplishments on display at a garden center or reptile show. Many of the ideas for habitats in zoos and public aquariums derive from that kind of creativity. Husbandry techniques for propagating endangered fish and herptiles were pioneered by private collectors who made a cottage industry out of breeding these creatures in their basements.

There is also cause for amazement in the fact that you can order a bunch of air plants, a Central American Wood Turtle or a batch of Blackbanded Sunfish from an online dealer with your iPad on a Sunday evening and have a box sitting on your doorstep later that week. The culmination of human creativity that is cause for tears of joy—or tears of sorrow when you consider that the likes of Ellsworth Monkton Toohey are still legion and have managed over the years to worm their way into the bowels of government. They are far worse than the man in the Oval Office or the idiots in congress or your state capital because they are much harder to get rid of. Intractable parasites which cause much of the problems in our world. On the positive side of the equation is human creativity and "Liberty"—which I have heard a local talk show host—Jim Quinn refer to as "The Solution to the Human Condition" many a times in my years of commuting to and from work.

He certainly has that right. Liberty solves or I should say empowers people to solve every problem known to man—from food and sustenance as evidenced by the many choices of brand names of bread or frozen vegetables you see every time you walk down the isle of the despised Walmart or whatever supermarket you choose to shop for groceries. Choices that have caused immigrants from various Soviet bloc nations to be overcome with yet again; tears of joy. From food and sustenance to pursuit of happiness in the way of hobbies—the simple joy of air plants that someone else propagated from specimens collected over the years in South America or Mexico—sparing me the perils of dealing with guerrillas, drug smugglers, drug warriors, crocodiles, poisonous snakes, piranhas, scorpions and other jungle perils. A safe way to obtain a sense of enchantment and a vicarious thrill of the Indiana Jones aspect of plant collecting in the Third World.

At least until it becomes illegal or impossibly expensive to maintain a greenhouse in a cold winter climate. And they are working on it.

As they are working on making it illegal or impossibly expensive to mow your lawn. Which brings to mind yet another example of joy brought by the miracles of human ingenuity and Liberty. My brand new 17 HP Troybilt garden tractor that I ordered from a prominent hardware chain store earlier this week and delivered this morning. Talk about a miracle! A miracle that some would have outlawed by a government that seems to be in the business of outlawing miracles—perhaps out of a sense of sheer envy being that most of its minions are often short on the talents and abilities—let alone the kind of imaginative original thinking that makes the working of miracles possible to begin with. All in the name to address the threat of global warming—aka climate change these days as the climate does not seem to be warming much lately.

Yes—I had to cover some plants last night and move others back inside the house and greenhouse because of a frost advisory the last two nights! And it's Memorial Day Weekend for Pete sake!

Which brings me to my final reason for this essay. Memorial Day is for remembering the lives of our troops who were sacrificed in time of war. For better or worse, wars have shaped our history and many times for the worse. Especially when you consider the waste of human life and resources at the behest of people who should have known better. While it is necessary to maintain a defense against aggression—indeed; self-defense is an inalienable human right recognized by Libertarians in our belief in the individual right to keep and bear arms—we rightfully question and criticize the nation building schemes that have become the altruistic rationale for many of our recent and ongoing wars. It seems less evil because we have a volunteer military—so no one is being drafted as was the case in the Vietnam era. At least not yet. But give it a few more years as our nation continues to plunge ever deeper into debt. When it is no longer possible to pay the kind of wages and benefits that makes recruitment of quality people possible and good warriors do not reenlist or are killed in action—the temptation to reinstate the draft becomes stronger. Since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan I have been hearing various democrats in congress complain that the current system was unfair to the poor and minorities and that a draft would distribute the burden of the common defense more equitably.

This complaint seems somewhat ignorant of the actual demographics of the military.

Regardless, we are approaching the point where we as a nation must make hard choices on many things. It really is time for seriously rethinking our national defense. Aside from the sheer destruction and loss of life that goes into war—which is less noticeable when it is waged in someone else's backyard and we or our loved ones are not being forced against our own free will to go; there is the waste of resources that war—like most government functions diverts away from more constructive things. Also the altruistic motive of nation building puts our military personnel in harm's way and burns through money that really belongs to future generations while the actual objectives become obscured by political infighting. Our troops die— often in vain trying to rebuild nations that don't want rebuilt—being shot by enemies or stabbed in the back by the politicians on the home front who sabotage their mission which they originally voted for before they voted against it. Sacrificed for political gain.

And those who volunteered out of a sense of patriotism or dedication as professional soldiers and survive—are now coming home to a country that is fast becoming less and less like the one they thought they were serving when they volunteered to fight in the streets of Baghdad or the mountains of Afghanistan. I cannot help but wonder what they are thinking when they hear that in addition to being denied the right to keep and bear arms, that it might become illegal to cook meat on a charcoal grill or plant a backyard vegetable garden. They didn't get shot at or watch their buddies die to make the world safe for the likes of Seven Bullets Cuomo and Nanny Bloomberg!

Or even Weiner Man who might in some ways be an improvement over the nazi nanny running NYC!

Which brings me to the epiphany I had today while composing this text. Is it any small wonder the DHS secretary would have cause to be afraid of returning war veterans when she decided to profile them as potential terrorists along with the Tea Party, Pro-Life activists and conservative Christians and anyone in favor of limited government? ie Libertarians, or potential future Libertarians which pretty much makes up the enemies list of the radical left and the not so radical minions of the government bureaucracy who have grand designs on the lives and property of others. People who would jump at any opportunity or excuse to exercise the power of the government in violation of their own oath to uphold the constitution ; to suppress political enemies as it appears has been the case in the recent IRS scandal and a number of other debacles coming to light this spring. Which may be cause for hope in stemming the tide against our remaining liberties.

So don't let the enemies of Life, Liberty and most importantly; the Pursuit of Happiness mar your joy on this Memorial Day Weekend. Or this coming summer season.

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