As should be apparent to people who read this blog on a regular basis, this bunny and several of our contributors are politically what could be described as Libertarians. What is a Libertarian and what do they believe in? Libertarians favour small government, taking the view that the 'tax and squander' policies of Statist politicians lead to less prosperity for the general population along with a catalogue of economic anomalies. Allied to this is an equally firm belief in social and constitutional liberalism, that the state should stay out of people's bedrooms and personal lives, while being extremely careful with regard to eroding civil liberties such as free speech in the names of 'diversity' or 'security'. The typical Libertarian could best be described as someone who possesses liberal instincts on all issues at all times, while holding prejudice, discrimination and its 'foe' of political correctness in equal contempt.
Unlike many Libertarians, I also believe in the man upstairs, a higher authority and creator who clucks his wise tongue at our many forays into the realms of sin and vice. This of course is not the same as being a member of an organised religion, which from a little period of 'try before you buy' I found to be an expensive and soul-sapping business where fellow human beings appeared determined to deprive you of the ability to think for yourself. Like in any large organisation, those possessed with authority in the world of mass religion appear to want blind faith not to the man upstairs or his word, but themselves. Drawing on life experience, people who demand such a precious commodity on a no strings attached basis tend in reality to be the least worthy of it.
However, if you believe in God and hold liberal instincts, then there might appear on the surface to be a clear contradiction at work. How does one tie in the notion of fate (ie 'God's plan') with a belief that we as individuals both own and are responsible for our own lives? Many of the Libertarians I know are both very intelligent and confirmed atheists, and one supposes the answer for them is very simply:- they don't - you own your life and are responsible for the successes and failures within it, so leave God out of the equation since he's about as real as Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. For an atheist Libertarian, it's far more simple on face value to square that particular circle, but I would naturally and fundamentally disagree with them that the notions of Christianity (which I wear more lightly than most) and instinctive liberalism are mutually exclusive.
The first point worth making is that freedom and responsibility are mutually inclusive, so perhaps the conversation only applies to those who are truly in possession of free will. I can certainly recall occasions during my formative years when life took a turn for the worse because of the inadequacies of others who made decisions on my behalf - I'm sure many of you will be able to relate to that. Now, can I seriously be held responsible for the negative consequences of other people's decisions? Methinks not, but whatever holes I found myself in as a result were, I believe, part of the preordained element of this bunny's timeline. At some point in the future I would of course have a greater degree of free will to either 'right the wrongs' or make things a whole lot worse (as I and many of us often have, but hey that's how we learn, yeah?).
A key part of this reconciliation is the understanding that there is both a fated and controllable element to most real life situations. We have all seen in our own lives how bad things happen to good people and vice versa, despite the best (or otherwise) endeavours and deeds of those involved. This may involve a significant turn for the better or worse that was entirely beyond the immediate control of the individual, but then how they either appreciate the unexpected opportunity to improve their lives, or revive themselves from an undeserved moment of disaster, is indeed a question of free will. One of the reasons this bunny is passionate about personal liberty is precisely because without the ability to (lawfully) get on with their lives unimpeded, it becomes very difficult for individuals to 'take responsibility' in the true sense.
Freedom - Responsibility = Anarchy
Responsibility - Freedom = Slavery
In time, I've come to view life as something resembling a game of snakes and ladders, with the caveat being the ability of external forces to either give one an undeserved but welcome break, or put the individual back where they started. I'll give you a very good example from my own life - I'm distinctly uncomfortable with being bossed around and have little time for people who are instinctively authoritarian (statist) by nature. While I was still professionally ambitious in rat race terms and clung onto the possibility of encountering 'the one', then this issue naturally brought about some deeply unhappy situations. However, once I came to the realisation that this was life's way of presenting this bunny with another choice, then the picture became a whole lot clearer. The rat race and its triumphs of obedience over ability can go to hell, while marriage is something they rightly refer to as an institution (see the slavery equation above for further details!!).
Someone who I talked to about this put the concept of a 'screwup timeline' far better than I could ever have done. She likened the fate/responsibility reconciliation with those ghost story books where one faces a string of choices, followed by several possible endings for which you would flick to a different page. If you end up dead in the book, then it is possible to trace your bad calls back to a point where things went seriously wrong. This is often the case in real life too, and I don't believe for a second that it is a mere accident or fluke. Perhaps life will throw another wannabe traffic warden at this bunny, or render him the smitten kitten to one temporary angel or another? Naturally, I sincerely hope that this does not happen!!
Of course, some truly dreadful and inexplicable things happen to people for which I could offer no rational explanation, but I know from personal experience that most of the time the source of our woes owes itself to a period in which we perhaps could have handled the free will element of a situation better than we did. That is not to say that it is or was entirely within our control, since there is likely to have been a preordained element too. However, having made more mistakes than most, I can cite plenty of situations where although there were aspects beyond this bunny's immediate sphere of influence, those that sat within it were not played particularly well.
God bless those that believe and take care all who don't - I'll see you tomorrow...