The Dirtiest Word
July 12, 2010
By Humphrey Stevenson
The late comedian George Carlin used to do a bit about the seven words you can’t say on television, the seven dirtiest words. However, I think Mr. Carlin forgot one. He probably overlooked it because you can say this word on television; it is no “four letter word.” In fact, it is held up as possibly the greatest of words and it only has two letters. It is nonetheless the dirtiest (or at least the most damaging) word in the English language. The word is “we.”
I love our Constitution but I question the opening phrase of it. I’m not the only person who has a problem with the phrase that opens our Constitution. No less than Patrick Henry questioned the phrase in 1788 during the Virginia Ratification Debate when he said, “My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask who authorized them to speak the language of ‘We, the People,’ instead of ‘We, the States’?”
Patrick Henry was pointing out two facts. One, the states were being asked to ratify the Constitution and thereby join the Union, not the people and two; our Union is a union of free and independent states and not a nation of people. The people are citizens of their state. Henry thought of himself as a Virginian much more than an American.
Back during the Barack Obama campaign for President, there were mindless chants of “Yes, we can!” That phrase did not mean “Yes, this group of free thinking individuals can!” It meant “Yes, the collective can!” or “Yes, the State can!”
When used in this way, “we” destroys individual responsibility and thereby individual rights and freedoms. In the mind of the collectivist there are no individual rights, only collective rights. The needs, wants and desires are of the individual no relevance. They are to be subjugated to the good of collective.
My father, a World War II veteran, once told me that when the bullets start flying, you’re not fighting for your country anymore; you’re fighting for yourself, for survival. General George Patton expressed a similar sentiment when he said, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”
My dad and General Patton’s wisdom has application to undertakings other than war. You don’t improve your country by giving up your personal ambitions for the collective. You improve it by unapologetically working toward your own accomplishments and success.
You think Henry Ford developed the assembly line because he was altruistic and just wanted to provide good paying jobs to thousands of unskilled workers? Maybe he did it so he could make the automobile affordable to the common man and improve the lives of millions of average citizens. No, these laudable results of Mr. Ford’s work were incidental to his actual motivation; to sell cars at a profit and become filthy rich. You want solar energy? Great, figure out a way someone can get rich off of it and you will have it.
There is nothing wrong with that motivation. However, the collectivist has no regard for individual accomplishment. He would agree with “the Scholars” in Ayn Rand’s great novel Anthem when they said, “What is not done collectively cannot be good.” To a collectivist, all must be done by “we.” It matters not how long it takes or how much it cost or how shoddy it is once done. What is accomplished by the individual is fraught with danger or greed or racism or any other manner of evil but that which is done by “we” is pure and good and right and when it fails you are not to question the results, only praise the intentions.
I have great faith, not in the American people (as harsh as that may sound) but in the American person, the individual. I believe that individuals pursuing the betterment of their own lives, unencumbered by the burdens of the collective, results not only in the improvement of the individual, but society as well.
On that final day, when you stand before the Judge of the Universe, you will stand there alone. You will answer for your actions as an individual. He will care little (and maybe not at all) about the collective.