Saturday, June 28, 2014


The Irreconcilable Conflict Between the Concepts of Liberty and Equality
Voltaire (1694-1778)

What has been lacking all along is the EQUAL DEGREE of RESPECT and APPRECIATION all of us owe each other for the various roles we play, however humble, –– ALL of which are necessary in order to maintain a flourishing society.

Any way you choose to view it, "government" always has –– and always will -- function as an agent of FORCE –– i.e. COERCION.

The very fact that most acknowledge a need for SOME form of government constitutes a tacit admission among those capable of thought that the vast majority in any given population can NOT benefit from LIBERTY, because they have neither the wisdom, the knowledge, the moral fiber, nor a sufficient degree of piety to prevent themselves from abusing freedom, thus making a travesty of Liberty.

The Achilles Heel, as it were, in our Founding lies in the unfortunate, ill-consiered phrase "all men are created equal."

What the Founders might have meant there was either lost, ignored –– or deliberately thrown away long ago –– in a series of willful, agenda-driven populist-socialist-communist, utopian, pseudo-egaliarian initiatives.

The Ascent of the Common Man has brought little but Grief, –– escalating conflict on a formerly unprecedented scale, and ever-increasing carnage to this always troubled sphere.

It should be painfully obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence that the populace in this ––and every other society in recorded history -- is most decidedly NOT comprised of individuals of equal beauty, brains, talent, motivation or animal magnetism, better known these days as "charisma."

In Auguries of Innocence the eighteenth-century poet, artist and mystic, William Blake observed:


... Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born. 
Every morn and every night 
Some are born to sweet delight. 
Some are born to sweet delight, 
Some are born to endless night. ... 

Of course, he was not content to leave it at that, and went on to urge the pursuit of a more perfect understanding of God to find peace in the reconciliation of one's true place in the Universe with one's dreams and desires. Salvation –– better understood as Fulfillment of one's potential –– may be achieved NOT through obtaining the mythical state of literal "EQUALITY" for all, but through Understanding, Acceptance, and dutiful Performance of whatever role one is best suited to play in The Great Scheme of Things.

In plain English it would be preferable for all concerned to be a good trash collector than a bad bank president or a corrupt mayor.

What has been lacking all along is the EQUAL DEGREE of RESPECT and APPRECIATION all of us owe each other for the various roles we play, however humble, –– ALL of which are necessary in order to maintain a flourishing society.

Voltaire got it right in Candide when he claimed it would be better for each of us to tend his own garden than to try to change the world to suit our peculiar notions of what may be right, good and true.

Voltaire seems to have had a lot in common with Bilbo Baggins here, doesn't he? ;-)

“Life is too short, 
and time too valuable 
to spend it in telling what is useless.”

François-Marie Arouet(1694-1778)

30 comments:

  1. Neither salvation nor fulfillment of one's potential, which I don't agree are the same thing (salvation means to be rescued in some way, no?), are the proper business of government, which is broadly speaking the protection of natural rights. I put it to you that equality (in certain senses eg. before the law) is a brilliant idea for that.

    As for coercion and lacking piety etc., you may be overlooking some categories of law. Consider: you drive on the right, we drive on the left. Left to individual preference, equally wise, moral etc. people could disagree, so we must pick one, and that choice must be enforced.

    Your main point, that we should respect the humble, is well taken. I have long held the view that society's greatest achievement is not the bridges or cathedrals, nor the sonnets and symphonies, but the sewers.

    However, I believe that social mobility is an important indication of the health of a society. I appreciate trash collectors, but I don't begrudge those who move into other work if they want to; and I stand firmly against such roles and status getting passed down the generations, becoming entrenched. I disapprove equally of underclass and aristocracy. You have overlooked this danger (if you consider it one) IMO.

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  2. Dolores Heinlein-Paine said


    Bravo! Bravo Mr. FreeThinke!

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  3. All things are open to interpretation right? Is it not true that no two people are created exactly alike?

    It seems in that regard "all men are created equal." Al have, or should, equal opportunity to choose their own path and all should be treated as equals under the laws of the society in which they live, without regard to their station (economic, political, religous, race, sex, disabilities, ect.) in life.

    An opinion, one of many no doubt.

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  4. FreeThinke, my friend, you have a gift for expressing things clearly and your precise word choice shows your erudition.

    "Irreconcilable conflict"

    Indeed. Life is full of them, and the enlightenment thinkers knew that, as did our founders who read their works.

    This is the problem I have with progressives, as well as the Johnny-come-lately neocons. They hubristicly crow that they will "solve it."

    Fools!

    Nothing is ever solved. We can ameliorate situations, placate people, give them latitude to go destroy themselves, and we can erect guardrails for the reasonable and the prudent, but shit will always happen.

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  5. @ Jez: Your main point, that we should respect the humble, is well taken. I have long held the view that society's greatest achievement is not the bridges or cathedrals, nor the sonnets and symphonies, but the sewers.

    There's a lot of wisdom in that statement. Before we can reach for the sky and advance our culture, we must first deal with our shit. Literally and metaphorically.

    Sanitation and the baser aspects of human existence must be taken care of first (Echoes of Mazlow here).

    We are spilling over with arrogant dullards blissfully ignorant that not only are they standing on the shoulders of giants, but that there is a complex apparatus delivering them amazing services so routine and taken for granted now that they have become transparent.

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  6. PART ONE

    JEZ: Neither salvation nor fulfillment of one's potential, which I don't agree are the same thing (salvation means to be rescued in some way, no?), are the proper business of government, which is broadly speaking the protection of natural rights. I put it to you that equality (in certain senses eg. before the law) is a brilliant idea for that.

    FT: I’m glad we agree that neither Salvation [I use the term in its usual religious context, where I believe it’s been widely misunderstood and misapplied for centuries], nor personal fulfillment should fall under the aegis of government. However, if as you say, “salvation” implies “rescue” from some presumably hideous plight, I can’t think of a better way to effect that rescue than by fostering the fulfillment of human potential. The satisfaction gained should be enough to neutralize nagging doubts and fears concerning one’s own worth, and rightful place in society, etc.

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  7. PART TWO
    JEZ: As for coercion and lacking piety etc., you may be overlooking some categories of law. Consider: you drive on the right, we drive on the left. Left to individual preference, equally wise, moral etc. people could disagree, so we must pick one, and that choice must be enforced.

    FT: I am and always have between much in favor of the free exercise of Choice in so far as i may be practicable. I can’t imagine anyone who would be so foolish, however, as to imagine he had the “right” to disobey the custom of driving on the right in your country or on the left in mine. I’ve always been a firm believer in th adage “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and all it implies. I’m much in favor of laws that reinforce the dictates of common sense and common decency -- as understood by the majority in any given population group. What I deeply resent is the presumptive tactics of “Social Engineering” programs, and all attempts to narrow the scope and variety of available choices in one’s private, personal life -- “for the greater good.” Needless to say aggressive, anti-social, “personal choices” disruptive to good order adversely affecting the quality of life of others must be subject to restrictive legislation.

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  8. PART THREE



    JEZ: Your main point, that we should respect the humble, is well taken. I have long held the view that society's greatest achievement is not the bridges or cathedrals, nor the sonnets and symphonies, but the sewers.

    FT: I would disagree with you there. because for me Beauty and the brilliance displayed by creative artists is of paramount importance. I have been in close personal touch with family members and their friends who lived with outhouses and chamberpots, and the like, and they lived very well, indeed. All had lovely houses with beautiful custom millwork, panelled wainscoting, libraries with built-in shelves and cabinets with raised-panel doors, etc. Their rooms were handsomely filled with hand-crafted furniture made of solid mahogany, carved walnut, cherry, birds-eye maple and pine. They had good orental rugs on their highly polished floors, lamps made from antique chinese and Japanese porcelain, cut crystal and cloisonné. And yet they lived with outhouses, chamber pots and washstands in their bedrooms with basins and pitchers filled with water drawn from the artesian wellhead that served the kitchen sink. Having experienced their pleasant, well-ordered, rather charming, aesthetically pleasing way of life in my young years, I’ve never been overly enchanted with all the advances in modern plumbing and kitchen equipment, etc. For me Beauty always has and always will trump convenience. Let you get the wrong impression I hasten to add that my relatives and their friends were not rich, highly placed members of society. They were just middle-class, but they knew better how to live fully than anyone I’ve known frim subsequent generations.

    In my view that which stimulates the imagination, feeds the soul and is apt to induce feelings of awe, wonder, enchantment, and fervent yearnings for Something Higher, Better, Deeper, More Rewarding, etc. is the summum bonum -- the highest good -- not more efficient forms of sanitation or greater personal convenience, although I’m not opposed to either.

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  9. PART FOUR

    JEZ: ... I believe that social mobility is an important indication of the health of a society. I appreciate trash collectors, but I don't begrudge those who move into other work if they want to; and I stand firmly against such roles and status getting passed down the generations, becoming entrenched. I disapprove equally of underclass and aristocracy. You have overlooked this danger (if you consider it one) IMO.

    FT: I hope you don’t believe I would disagree with the first part of your statement? Freedom to pursue Upward Mobility unhampered is one of the hallmarks of American Conservatism -- possibly its chief tenet.

    As for the rest, I can’t say I advocate a return to the Feudal System or ANY sort of rigid caste system, BUT the old saw still obtains: You can’t have an army staffed entirely with officers, you can’t run a business with nothing but high-level executives, etc. so it’s inevitable that SOME sort of stratified, hierarchical society is bound to emerge. For all its obvious faults and innate cruelties and injustices the prevalent atmosphere in the Old World -- as evoked by the better known English novelists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and our Henry James and Edith Wharton, who very frankly functioned as quintessentially British authors -- especially Henry James -- was far more pleasant than the brash, harsh, abrasive, aggressive shrieking, roaring, clattering, banging, dull-witted vulgarity we live with today in all but the most privileged sanctuaries.

    The society I imagine you may idealize strikes me as a place filled end-to-end with the post-war “counsel-houses” famously denigrated by Dame Agatha Christie and other writers of her generation in so much popular fiction of the day.

    SO, I suppose you could say I favor the trappings of aristocracy without necessarily a return to its former rigidity. I do love Privilege. Why? because it gives us poor peons something to admire, to long for, to look up to, to emulate as best we may. In other words the privileged status of royalty, the aristocracy and to a lesser extent that of the captains of industry, et al. is -- as Shakespeare put it -- "the stuff that dreams are made on."

    And as Bloody Mary said (in South Pacific), "If you don't have a dream, how're you gonna make a dream come true?" .-)

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  10. Les, you'll get no argument from me regarding your second statement. That is precisely in line with the thinking of our Founders -- at least as I understand it.

    Equality of OPPORTUNITY -- not artificial constraints put on the use of talent, energy and ambition for any reason whatsoever -- YES, of COURSE!

    What I most strenuously object to, however, is the notion that somehow the government should be in the business of assuring equality of RESULTS for all citizens regardless of the quality or extent of the efforts they may-- or may not -- have made in their own behalf.

    What is that but a reworking of the infernal notion that a "just" society rewards all equally -- i.e. "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need."

    That one phrase alone defines the murderous, soul-deadening sickness responsible for the gruesome deaths of well over 150-million innocent souls caught in the crossfire of brutal ideological warfare waged by fanatical disciples of a depraved, highly-seductive-but-ultimately-demonic totalitarian philosophy.

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  11. As for dealing FIRST with the fecal matter surrounding us, Silver Fiddle, I would remind you that we, as Christians are advised, "Seek Ye FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all .. shall be added unto you."

    I'm sure you know what that means as well or better than I, but I'd like to see your interpretation articulated for the benefit of others, even so.

    In the welter of Sound and Fury that rages all around us, we too often forget to listen for "the still, small voice that comes from God."

    We might do well to review Psalm 46 (I think!) -- the one that begins "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore will not we fear, though the mountains be moved and carried into the midst of the sea, and the waters thereof roar and be troubled ..."

    I never think of those words without getting goose bumps, even after first hearing them recited during opening exercises in my fourth grade class by a little blonde girl named Elaine who since passed away of cancer in her early fifties.

    The past is alive and stays with us as long as consciousness lasts, thank God.

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  12. FreeThinke,

    As you know, I'm not a moral philosopher, so I reach out to the thinking and writings of others, as do you.

    As you prefer Oswald Chambers, a brilliant and pious man who writes with great clarity, I look to Soren Kierkegaard.

    Here is a snippet from his Upbuilding Discourses (I have the collection). Archbishop Fulton Sheen and C.S. Lewis are wonderful as well.

    Kierkegaard - Seek Ye First

    As does the Bible passage this comes from, Kierkegaard first addresses at great length the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, holding them up as an example for us.

    Man can only take himself so far, and he can only do so in this vale of tears, a mere pinprick upon the span of infinity.

    I was speaking of purely earthly matters and referred to Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the most basic of which concern the proper functioning of the human body (air, water, food...)

    We have to take care of the lower needs for people of a society to produce great art and scientific achievements.

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  13. @silverfiddle --- This is the problem I have with progressives, as well as the Johnny-come-lately neocons. They hubristicly crow that they will "solve it."

    ---
    That is an absolute pant load.

    Progressives would like to do a couple things.

    Disabuse the right of the absolutely asinine idea of "natural rights". You have the natural right to die a brutal death in the social Darwinist hell hole. Now let's improve on that.
    We can but we also have to eliminate the neoliberal idea of man's decision making being subservient to "the market".

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  14. FT,
    What has been lacking all along is the EQUAL DEGREE of RESPECT and APPRECIATION all of us owe each other for the various roles we play, however humble, –– ALL of which are necessary in order to maintain a flourishing society.

    I can't tell you how many people look down upon those who do any kind of physical labor.

    For example, not long ago, one of my friends opined that truck drivers shouldn't get paid much at all "because they don't have my level of education."

    My response: "You'll feel differently if all the trucks stop running and you can no longer pluck gourmet foods from your market's shelves."

    ------------

    When I was growing up, many of my schoolmates, a snobbish bunch, made fun of my father's choice of work -- that of master mechanic. Over and over again, I was taunted with "Your father's a grease monkey."

    But when their cars broke down, they showed up at our door. They wanted the car repairs done for free. I guess that these people felt even then that they were entitled to be serviced.

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  15. Was Gardiner right?

    A lot of experts say that they believe so, but those same experts are often snobs to the extent of being obnoxious.

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  16. AOW asks:

    "Was Gardner right?"

    The short answer: YES! ;-)

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  17. Academic theoreticians love to talk ABOUT things that matter without direct participation in the tasks, deeds and activities they sedulously analyze -- often to the point of stultification -- the "analysis paralysis" referenced with too much frequency.

    Of course there are many different kinds of "intelligence" -- or APTITUDE, as I prefer to call it. The Perfect Person would possess all of them in copious abundance. Most have strengths in several of the areas outlined in varying degrees. There's a good deal of overlap in most we'd regard as "accomplished."

    An interesting question few ask and none have ever attempted to answer in my experience would be

    "Why do many who qualify as "polymaths" -- protean individuals extraordinarily gifted and capable in several divergent areas -- often fair poorly in adulthood?

    The world treats its geniuses with harsh indifference at best and fierce -- even murderous -- hostility at worst.

    Emily Dickinson adresses the subject eloquently with characteristic brevity in "Much madness is divinest sense ..." -- a poem I quote fairly often.

    The world does not WANT distinguished, high achievers. It eschews challenge and innovation as it embraces the comfort of dull, unquestioning obedience to the dictates of Conformity and bland Mediocrity.

    ... Assent -- and you are sane
    Demur you're straightway dangerous--
    And handled with a chain.


    Beware neither the Left nor the Right, the Atheist nor the Religious, instead steer clear of those who believe they Know it All and have nothing to learn.

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  18. Ducky:

    Progressives deny human nature and promote the silly idea of the perfectibility of man.

    Your entire comment is a pantload, but predictable coming from a Strong-Man worshiping progressive statists who believe our rights are whatever the Daddy Dictator in charge says they are.

    Man's decision-making subordinated to the market? I don't know who is preaching that. Sounds like one more marxist strawman to me.

    Unlike with government services, in a free market, the vendor must satisfy his customers, or they go somewhere else.

    In a free market, the desires of each individual consumer feed into a complex system that produces goods on the other side.

    With government, we get police abuse and the VA.

    The progressive solution?

    More Government!

    The pantload you smell is your own.

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  19. In a TRUE free market system -- i.e. one unfettered by government intervention and the inevitably corrupt defensive strategies "vendors" then must adopt in order to try to defend themselves against the depredations of government -- the market is governed by the people not the other way 'round.

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  20. There is no conflict between liberty and equality. In fact, there can be no liberty for all without equality for all. Liberty without equality is a misnomer.

    JMJ

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  21. Jersey,

    There's no one like you. You're in a class all by yourself.

    KINDERGARTEN! };-)>

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  22. It is because of such conflict both the inevitability and incommensurability of it—that Berlin views many choices between conflicting values as inherently tragic. Hegel considered the essence of tragedy as a clash of right vs. right. Such a thing happened in the trial of Socrates, in Hegel’s view.4

    But Berlin is no Hegelian. For Hegel, when right clashes with right, a dialectic produces synthesis and ultimately progress: a step towards a better world and closer to the end of history. For Berlin, choices between incommensurable values will always result in a feeling of loss and no such Hegelian progress. George Crowder says that a value pluralist will argue that this feeling of regret for lost value is further evidence of value pluralism (Crowder 131). However, though some choices may be painful, Berlin believes that the ability to choose is a paramount value for men. “Indeed,” he argues, “it is because this is their situation that men place such immense value upon the freedom to choose” (Liberty 213).

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  23. Denied the power to choose, Thersites, Man becomes a mere automaton -- a robot -- a puppet-- a plaything or a tool whose only function would be either to serve or merely to amuse the powers that be.

    Because of [generic] Man's innate curiosity, boundless creativity, and questing nature the desire to better himself -- and to know Truth (God) -- is paramount regardless of the tremendous risks and inevitable wrong turns and disasters bound to occur.

    "Men become heroes, because they do no traffic with inevitables."

    ~ Horatio Wirtz

    "Security is mortals' chiefest enemy."

    ~ Shakespeare, tHecate, Macbeth, Act I

    One might want to review The Parable of the Talents as well in any serious discussion of the merits in risk taking.

    What is philosophy but an endless reshuffling of ancient ideas on the Truth of Being and the basic principles supporting or denying them? Religion is the basis for Philosophy not the other way 'round, unless you count Marxism (a perversion of Hegel's Thought) s a religion, which I believe it is, but inherently false and doomed to fail, because it emanated from Wishful Thinking, is entirely materialistic in nature, and based on Envy and the desire for Revenge and the subsequent destruction that implies.

    WHERE we get our wisdom from is of little importance as long as we GET it, bu I'd be wil
    ling to wager that true wisdom has come from whatever it was that inspire Holy Writ -- never mind the toxic hash men riven by FGreed, ear and Ambition made of THAT.

    "There is nothing new under the sun ..."

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  24. Mainstream Christianity teaches that humans are fundamentally incapable of self-salvation.

    "You can't run a business with nothing but high-level executives" -- depends on how large the business is. Would you call a sole trader a high level executive?

    A while ago you prompted me to think about who my role models are, which I found a difficult but rewarding exercise. I see you accept the aristocracy as yours. Fair enough, but other aspirations are available.

    The trend for automation makes us ever less reliant on armies of mass labour. First in agriculture and then in manufacturing, one sector after another is becoming less labour intensive. What effect do you think this should have on the stratification of society?

    I do not idealize uniformity -- granted, in a flatter society, instances of opulence are less extreme, but there are other dimensions to life, and it is there that I hope variation would still flourish.

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  25. TO JEZ PART ONE


    Hi, Jez, glad you returned.

    For many centuries both the Church the Aristocracy fostered projects and works of creative genius of exquisite refinement and unparalleled excellence. Without those influences Civilization, as we know it, would never have come into being. So, of course, I am most grateful to them. That does not mean, however, that I see either aristocracy or Ecclesiastical Authority per se as my role model.

    If forced to choose only one as an ideal to emulate, it would have to be Johann Sebastian Bach. You see it is the HIGHEST QUALITY in Music, Art, Architecture and Thought (meaning Literature, Poetry, Drama, Seminal Essays, etc.)that I regard as the most important redeeming factor in humanity's checkered history.

    BEAUTY is equated historically with TRUTH. Items developed for mere practical convenience and greater material well being are of secondary importance at best. I realize there is Beauty in higher Mathematics and in the reserach and discovery aspects of Science. There is even beauty in Engineering -- the Brooklyn Bridge alone testifies very well t that. Unfortunately for me, I have little knowledge and no expertise in those areas, which is why I say so little about them. Please don't take that as a sign either of disrespect or lack of awareness.

    CONTINUED)


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  26. TO JEZ PART TWO


    I think you are correct when you say that increasing automation has reduced the need for manual labor, but it has hardly eliminated it, and I doubt that it ever shall -- at least i hope not. There is much to be said for "the beautiful dullness of long labor."

    The Machine Age and the Electronic Revolution have brought many undesirable consequences. In fact I would daresay they have created more problems than they may have solved. [Read E.M Forster's the Machine Stops (1909), Huxley's A Brave New World, Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale -- all wrks of the Imagination that have proved chillingly prophetic, if you don’t believe me.]

    So wat are we to do with the masses?

    I don’t know, I wish you’d tell me. I’m fairly certain that the majority are dullards and therefore incapable of high achievement and therefore benefitting from high culture. The notion that because of this sad patently obvious truth all must be reduced to the lowest common denominator in order to be “fair” to the less fortunate is bhorrent. It’s tantamount to telling the guys with nine or more inches they must forever hide their assets or submit to reductive surgery. And yes I know I’m being silly. The [rpblem is I doubt very much if the proponents of modern egalitarian ideals realize that it's highly likely they may be even sillier.

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  27. I believe that high culture has mass appeal, and the sorry state of mainstream entertainment and communications is a market failure, not an genuine reflection of human taste in aggregate. Even dullards enjoy opera, when given the right sort of permission (eg. What's Opera, Doc).
    Technology has been disrupting the arts by allowing us to record, broadcast and distribute since before you were born, and it hasn't finished yet. I remain hopeful.

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  28. Hugh O'Brian (TV's Wyatt Earp):

    I do NOT believe we are all born equal. Created equal in the eyes of God, yes, but physical and emotional differences, parental guidelines, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual's development. But I DO believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize their potential, regardless of background, has the freedom to choose in our world. Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream? I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose, to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.

    —Hugh O'Brian, "The Freedom to Choose"

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