Liberty is the Sworn Enemy of Titles by Benjamin Tucker 1881
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The most deadly enemy of human progress is authority. It is incarnated in a million forms in every sphere of social growth. It arms itself with position, with titles, with heraldic emblems, with superstitions, lies, tricks, and trappings of all sorts Its source is human ignorance and credulity, and it is fed by the organized frauds who fatten on the spoils.
And yet authority, in itself, is not necessarily a dangerous principle. The great element of despotism in it lies in that false education which ignores the natural source of all true authority. The authority into which it is the purpose of Liberty to pour havoc and destruction is always an authority outside of the individual, never subject to his unconditional veto. To come to the point at once, the individual, and the individual alone, is the only true and inalienable source of authority, but can never assume to be authority to any one but himself without becoming a despot.
The first and foremost great fraud set up for purposes of plunder and slavery is God. Generally speaking, God is all things to all men, but, locally speaking, he is the particular thing for the particular field where the masses are to be gulled, robbed, and enslaved. Once settled that he is authority,—that his word is from the beginning and infallible,—and the theological putty-workers easily mould him to suit the various natives.
Now, nothing permanent can ever be accomplished in reform until this central figurehead, posited beyond the veto power of the individual, is demolished. If any man wants a companion God for his entertainment and instruction., let him have one. It would be a denial of Liberty to interfere with him. But the moment he attempts to set that God up as unquestioned authority for others, he becomes a public enemy and a spiritual pirate.
God himself, being a pure fiction, is of course harmless in himself. But the practical power for despotism lies in the theological putty-workers who lobby around the throne for office. These fellows are something tangible. They can kick, bite, scratch, handle a rack, play sleight-of-hand tricks with wafers, and extort at wholesale. They become sacrament-grubbers (spiritual landlords), pew-rent sharks (spiritual rack-renters), and despotic fee-fiends (spiritual "gombeen men") The success of the great spiritual steal is due largely to the decoration of their names with titles. It is Father A., Rev. Mr. B., Rt. Rev. Mr. C., his Reverence Mr. D., the Rev. Dr. E., Rev. Mr. F., D.D., etc , etc.
Chiefly from the fact that the central figure, God, overshadows their ecclesiastical petticoats, but largely from the mysterious trappings and titles with which they endow themselves, these fellows become recognized as God's cabinet. The pope is the Almighty's secretary of state. He is prime minister of the spiritual kingdom. The Catholic clergy may be said to be the religious stalwarts, and the Protestant pastors the half-breeds. Enough, these ecclesiastical office-holders become authority, but, nevertheless, s kind of authority that can be reached and made to earn an honest living, if their victims can be induced to abolish the bogus fiction, God, behind them.
But it is by no means in the theological field alone that authority suppresses progress. We have a mental hierarchy in society scarcely less dangerous than he spiritual, and generally in alliance with it. This intellectual popery has its headquarters in the colleges, and illuminates its tricks to stultify with that professional whitewash known as scholarship. By a skilful use of titles, scholarly uniforming, and learned posing, mediocrity, narrowness, and hypocrisy manage to usurp the places of the world's truly great thinkers and broadly-educated men. The colleges, and the tilled numskulls who run them, become authority, and the average man or woman who visits those public ignorance-nurseries called libraries must needs first consult the title-page of a book in order to gauge the depth of thought in it by the length of the author's titles and the standing of the college which endowed him with them.
Liberty is the sworn enemy of titles. It demands their immediate and unconditional surrender. Not that we deny the right of an individual (for himself) to carry as many titles to his name as he chooses; but no man who attaches Rev., D.D., LL.D., M.D., or any other heads and tails to his social kite has the right to ask anybody else to use them in addressing him. When the social heresy and mischief of such priestly and scholarly tricks become evident in the light of Liberty, these mental popes and priests will find it difficult to steal into the popular mind without paying Nature's required admission fee of merit.
Even outside of recognized orthodoxy in religion and education there is a numerous set of quasi liberals, who attempt to steal the livery of authority through what they choose to Call "culture." Abbot of the "Index" became so puffed up with culture that he finally went up and drifted away. Many of the present participants in the so-called Free Religious movement have culture on the brain, to an extent that renders them quite as worthless as, and vastly more contemptible than the learned dolts whom Wendell Phillips called to order last summer at Harvard College. The spirit of popery among professing liberals is more insulting than in any other place. This eternal harping on culture which has been the key note of the "Free Religious Index" since its rise is simply a surreptitious attempt to make culture an authority in the place of the D.D.s, LL.D.s and other devices of the orthodox. Abbot's attempt to organize his culture into a "consensus of the competent" was proof plain and palpable that he simply served the papal system of authority in the livery of a liberal.
Liberty insists that the individual is an authority greater than gods, hierarchs, professionals, culturists, purists, and all the other pretenders who, under one guise or another, attempt to steal into the human mind and soul through some scheme independent of their true merits. Whoever attempts to make a petty God, even out of so great a sham as Abbot's "culture," is an ally of the pope and a follower of his methods. Ho who sets up a "consensus of the competent," deifies purity, virtue, yea, Liberty itself, to the extent of making an authority of it, is an enemy of his kind. Purity, virtue, culture, — all these half-breed petty gods of the Free Religionists,—what are they more than somebody's undefined ideals, binding only upon themselves as individuals? This humbuggery of setting up ideals as authority was disposed of by Plato over two thousand years ago, and it is a poor comment on the "culture" of these theoretical purists that they have profited so little by his immortal dialogues.
No, there is but one way to Liberty, and all the other shifts of "advanced culture" are sure to lead to despotism in the end. That way is to accord to the individual full discretionary power in all matters of opinion, conscience, and the conduct of life. And that power is not accorded to him, when, by any means, fair or foul, he is asked to subscribe to any god, scheme, ideal, or fiction, with the implication that the given machine is in any sense authority. All we ask of God and all his hangers-on is to get out of our sunlight, mind their own business, pay their own bills, and save their own souls, so that we can save ours,—if we choose to. But even the right to go to hell, at our own cost and on our own merits or demerits, is a sacred prerogative of Liberty.
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