Welcome to the Los Angeles Free Press!
The Original, 1960s, Counter-Culture Icon, and
still the Best Alternative to the Corporate-Controlled Media.
The LA FreeP~ A Real Head Trip for Smart Minds.
For a work written in the late 1700s, Common Sense has an uncanny ability to render information incredibly accurate and insightful to our present situation. Why, if I didn’t know better I would swear we were living at this very moment in time under a monarchy subject to the whims and wishes of an evil and often insane brutish with no respect or regard for his citizenry despotic in that all roads lead to his happiness, not ours, deranged and strangely gelatinous to be boiled in a bag for five minutes, chicken stock and sock puppet.
But this is where Paine gets, shall we say prescient, in a manner seemingly as if he gazed upon a crystal ball and saw the face or an eerie and awful orange daemon from either Queens, NY or the caverns of hell, take your pick.
For his first stroke of genius, Paine points out what should be the obvious. The strength of a legitimate government depends not on the personality of, or the good, or bad, works of one individual, or even upon the component parts, good or bad, of the government itself, but upon the overall happiness of the people. He points out therefore, the only true legitimate government is a republic with frequent elections whereby the elected are subject to the will of the people. If the public is pleased, the officials are re-elected. If not, they are removed from their position of authority and replaced by one more in line with societal goals and future ambitions. You know, happiness. Or to be more precise, the pursuit of happiness. Get it?
Then, he makes an astounding assertion combining both sectarian and secular arguments for the rejection of all things royal. Firstly, that mankind is tasked with relying on their proper sovereign, the King of heaven and that failure to do so is a sin. THE LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU. What could be more explicit?
Furthermore, any act of “ascension” where an individual is placed above or agrees to be put above the flock is a variety of idolatry. An act of worshiping another god than the true Lord is indeed a sin. A transgression of both the people, those who wish to bow to a false idol, and of the subject of their misplaced piety, a usurper of the crown of heaven. But here’s the best part, you know what happens when you ignore the prerogatives of heaven? That’s right, you get what you deserve. And right now, regardless of your religious or non-religious views, we in America have the wages of our sins in lightning bolts, plagues and spades.
Here is what TP described as the ultimate, be it in the originator or his hereditary offspring, which Paine also identifies as an additional act of blasphemy, result of the anointments and appointment of a king:
“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.” – Thomas Paine
And let the record show it is how the House of Trump doth reign. I don’t even want to think about what fresh new hells his sons, or daughter might bring. I mean, we’ve already had the Covid-19 Virus, an economic meltdown into recession, perhaps soon to be depression, an astronomic level of corruption, massive civil unrest (the people are clearly not happy) and an invasion of murder hornets. Like I said, do you really want to consider what might come next? I’m hoping for frogs. At least they’re cute. Unlike Jared. How do you suppose he gets his face to shine like that?
Time for a Re-Phil?
Now that the reader of this column learned a little bit about the man and author, Thomas Paine, let’s give a little attention to the contents of the pamphlet that helped spark a nation to declare and eventually attain its independence as the free men (and women) of a free country. Common Sense (CS).
Written in the late 1800s, CS should still be essential reading for all persons in the USA who want to understand, at least from the governmental/constitutional level, who we are as a people. And, too, what we have done to effectuate our ideal of what we refer to as the Social Compact aka the “contract” between a legitimate government and the people it claims to, but in the end, must serve.
The first chapter, Of Origin and Design of Government in General. With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution begins with an essential overview of the differences and interplay between a society and its government. “Society” refers to the positives of life. The wants of people and their efforts to unite and accomplish tasks that are either easier or impossible with the aid and intervention of additional participants.
As an extension, it is fair to consider America as a nation of individuals possessing, inherently, the Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. But we are also capable of making the decision not to “go it alone” and that the aid of those similarly-minded may be not a necessary evil, but a sane and rational decision to accept help in times of benefit and need. As further illustration and with apologies to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when society does better, it means we are all doing better (and vice-versa).
Paine calls society the positive, a patron and a blessing. It promotes co-operation, teamwork and a sense of individual and civic pride. It is the reason to go forward, succeed or fail, and to try and try again, as need, or need not, be.
On the other hand, Paine describes government as evil, albeit a necessary one for its primary function is as the restrainer of vices. It is a negative force, a punisher, for it is produced by our wickedness. As opposed to unity, it promotes distinctions, creating persons whose actions constitute the necessity of re-classification, from a good, upstanding citizen, to persons who so lacking in self-control and awareness must be stopped, separated and, if necessary, sliced and diced. Remember, back in the 1800s, long-term imprisonment wasn’t usually available as a remedy, so to “warn” potential unsuspecting persons of this stranger’s true personality and self, branding and maiming were the methods of first choice. Not quite as Biblical as an eye for an eye, or as Sharia-adjacent as the loss of a hand for a theft, but whippings were quite common for minor acts of stealing, a rather large needle through the tongue of one who repeatedly took the name of the Lord in vain and (my personal favorite) the cutting off (or cropping) of the ears while nailed (the ears, that is) to the pillory.
Branding, usually in addition to some other form of maiming, nose slitting comes to mind, was also widely practiced with the initials of the offense burnt into the skin, usually on some part of the face. “M” for manslaughter, (murder was an early felony punishable by death), “T” for thief and (again a personal favorite) “R” for rogue… smugglers they be.
In fact, smuggling was so pervasive in some colonies, particularly in Rhode Island, that the other 12 colonies would routinely refer to RI as “Rogue’s Island.” Cruel and unusual punishment indeed!
So much for chapter one, page one. Next week, page two?
Time for a Re-Phil?
Who was Thomas Paine? He was an Englishman born in 1737 to a Quaker Father, and an Anglican Mother. What passed for a mixed marriage at the time. His father was a stay maker. A stay being the heavy ropes used on sailing ships. There are those who believe his father was a corset maker, but this is likely a work of slander by his enemies. Making corsets apparently being in its day a less than honorable profession.
Paine himself worked as an excise officer, a fancy word for tax collector although in his day he was required to chase after smugglers and pirates if the situation so demanded it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good at it and was eventually given the sack, Jack, never come back attack.
During his tenure as an Excise Officer, his wife and child died during childbirth. He was alone, and stuck in a dead-end job waiting for the axe to fall. His future was shall we say a bit bleak? If you were Thomas Paine what would you do? What he did was start writing about politics. This was a bit of an odd choice as he had little to no formal education and absolutely no experience in politics. His first book, really more of a pamphlet or, clocking in at 21 pages, long article, “The Case of the Officers of Excise” positing and defending the positively thrilling contention that Excise officers needed a pay raise, had a limited audience and did not make the yet to be invented New York Times’ best-seller list.
As it turns out, the pamphlet changed his life. Paine handed out roughly 4,000 copies of the now, I imagine, properly categorized as a “handout” to the general citizenry, including the members of Parliament. For this, he was fired, while the joint Houses of Lords and Commons alike ignored him. But one person, who was a hanger on to the swinging London scene at the time, Benjamin Franklin, did not.
Ben invited his new friend Thomas to move to America. Thomas I imagine, broke and a widower, said something along the lines of “Sure, why not?” And so, with Ben’s personal letter of introduction in hand, TP sailed across the pond to the New World to start anew.
Upon arriving in America, he landed his first writing gig as an editor for the Pennsylvania Magazine. It was 1775 and revolution was in the air. It could not have been a better time of environment for Paine. He began writing under the pseudonym “Justice and Humanity”. A good fit as that is essentially what he wrote about. That and revolution. And how the British sucked. Then came the battles of Lexington and Concord. Then came his most famous work, a pamphlet entitled “Common Sense” that, in a nutshell, argued it was merely an act of common sense to declare independence from England. When it hit the streets, the colonists loved it. Not sure sales were brisk at first but there’s little doubt enlistments in the Continental Army went up. By time America won the Revolutionary War, Common Sense had sold roughly 500,000 copies. Surely a best-seller for its day.
What is the lesson we learned today? I’d like to think it’s when in doubt, write it out. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? For you never really know what’s going to happen, now do you?
Time for a Re-Phil?