My journey to libertarianism is as unique as every individual’s journey to any philosophy, but it also shares a common thread with many other millenials adopting this worldview.
I lost my mother at a young age; when most children were still learning to read, I had to accept the permanence of death. This caused me to ask questions. I soon learned that many authority figures from school teachers to Sunday School teachers found my questions threatening.
My questions were answered with vague non-answers or met with outright hostility because I dared to ask. I am not the only one in my generation who was discouraged from asking questions. Many young people were told (and are still told) to stop questioning. My peers and I were told that if we went to college and made good grades then we would all get jobs, and then we could achieve the “American Dream.”
We found out that it was all a lie, and we are angry. Last year, about 260,000 college graduates worked minimum wage jobs. Granted, that number has decreased from 2010, but those numbers do not add up to what we were told. As my generation questioned things like the obnoxiously high interest rate the government is allowed to charge for student loans, we were told we were whiny, entitled, and that we should “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.”
We are still being told to stop asking questions and to stop trying to open up a dialogue for real reform by the powers that be. However, many of us have adopted a libertarian philosophy, we are fighting back, and no, we will not stop asking questions.
Throughout my childhood, I read anything I could get my hands on. I was amazed at the wealth of information in the world, and I wanted to know as much as possible. In schools, both public and private, I was mocked for this. Fellow students called me a bookworm and a nerd. (I think this is partially due to a growing anti-intellectualism movement, but that is another article for another time.)
However, the teachers’ reactions were even more disturbing. Instructors at my fundamentalist Christian boarding school did not want me to read certain books exposing myself to other worldviews. I certainly learned about other worldviews, but only from biased authorities, who taught me what and how to think about those worldviews.
I was also sheltered from secular influences. We were taught that the secular world was evil, and that “liberal” colleges would try to twist our mind against God. Once I graduated high school, I again absorbed as much knowledge as I could. I read books and articles, I researched, and I attended college.
As I learned more about other views objectively, I realized that there was an agenda in place at schools and churches to force their beliefs on others through misinformation. That struck a nerve with me.
Others in my generation have also seen through misinformation. The Age of the Internet has put a plethora of knowledge at our fingertips. Ideas are freely exchanged like never before in history. Through this exchange, the libertarian philosophy is growing among millennials. One in five millennials identify as libertarian, according to a recent study.
I often recall the sermons and Bible Studies classes I had to attend, which promoted a clearly political agenda. Once, I was seriously taught that Obama was the Anti-Christ. Seriously. I was also taught that through politics we could return America back to “a Christian nation.” What was left implied, but unspoken, is that change would happen through government force and the violation of others’ rights. I intrinsically believed this was wrong.
As I became more aware of my rights as an individual, my path to libertarianism, oddly enough, circled right back to the beginning.
Most libertarian millennials say their first exposure to libertarianism was through Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, or philosophy. My introduction to the philosophy of libertarianism came from a more non-traditional approach. My sophomore year of college, I returned to my musical roots. My father is a die-hard Rush fan, so I was raised listening to their music. During my childhood, I never paid close attention to the lyrics, and instead I just enjoyed the music.
Reflecting on this time, I now realize that my first seeds of libertarianism were planted as a child. My father always encouraged me to pursue knowledge and achieve success. I could determine my own path in life, and no one had the power to stop me from chasing dreams.
I forgot those lessons occasionally along my life’s journey, but I revisited them with zeal, as I listened to Rush’s lyrics. Their songs had lessons on the dangers of ignorance and lack of skepticism in “Witch Hunt,” narratives of the individual against the collective in “2112,” (as influenced by Ayn Rand’s novella, “Anthem”) and, of course, the free-spiritedness of “Tom Sawyer.”
I learned more about the band as I listened more, and I found that the drummer and songwriter of Rush, Neil Peart, is a libertarian. His lyrics inspired me to learn more about libertarianism, and I found so much value in it as I studiend.
I am an individual, who has rights; no one can force their will on me, as long as I respect the rights of others. I found incredible self-worth in this message. All human beings should pursue their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As individuals, we make our own purpose.
I realized that I could choose my own path to achieve my dreams, but I also became inspired to help others realize their individual potential and make their own journey as well.
I have chosen to fight back against the status quo, which strips people of civil liberties and encourages systems of oppression, keeping people from living their life as they see fit, so long as they do not restrict the rights of others.
Like many millennials, I am tired of having to bear the burden of years of corruption, wastefulness, and illogical policies made by previous generations. We are tired of being told how to live our lives. More and more millennials are questioning and fighting back. Collectively, we are using our individual skills to raise awareness and institute change.
Older generations criticize me, my libertarian peers, and others who think like us, as a threat to “how things have always been done,” and they choose to be blind to the damage their policies have inflicted. More millennials adopt a libertarian philosophy every day, and together we want to find answers to our skepticism and questions.
I have chosen to be a part of this movement of liberty, and I am not sure where this journey will take me or where it will end. That remains to be seen and will be my choice.
All I do know is that I will live by the words of Rush: “I will choose a path that’s clear; I will choose free will.”
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