I posted the above a little more than a year ago and I wanted to revisit it. I mostly still agree with what I said then, but some other thoughts have developed that I wanted to pair with my thinking on Frontier Spirit.
In the post, I suggest that among the many things we can learn from our forebearers are four ways of thinking that I believe helped make our frontier settlers successful.
These principles are:
1.) Do More With Less
2.) Truly Work Hard
3.) Build Communities
4.) Rely on God for Everything
In the remainder if the original post, I outlined some further thoughts in each of those principles.
For items 3 and 4, I attempt to repurpose the concepts of ‘rugged individualism’ and ‘self-reliance’.
I would like to modify that line of thinking slightly.
So, mea culpa. I valiantly attempted to redefine those ‘American virtues’ and have pushed back against those who saw something wrong with these two phrases. However, as a matter of rhetorical correctness, I am finally willing to part company with rugged individualism and self-reliance.
I still believe that those phrases have been bastardized in modern times and have come to mean something completely different than when they were originally applied. But, instead of trying to reshape the accepted understanding of those phrases, I now see it best to simply denounce them as they are.
Since Christianity is the basis of the Conservative tradition, rugged individualism and self-reliance (as they are currently understood) are therefore anathema to traditional Conservatism. Rugged individualism works against the Conservative principle of community. Self-reliance does indeed bring a humanist view into play, and so has no place in Conservative thinking.
So, slightly modified, here is my idea of the American Frontier Spirit:
Do more with less –
This is very simple, common sense thinking… but’s it’s effects – if actually applied – are quite life-changing. Doing more with less accomplishes the following:
- Addresses the economic realities we face
- Gets people away from the “Credit-style” of consumer thinking
- Starts the process of shunning the hyper-materialism we’ve grown accustomed to
- Has the added benefit of encouraging ingenuity
Truly work hard –
It may be cliché, but the Protestant Work Ethic was a major factor in what helped America to grow and prosper. Further thoughts:
- Our extreme Leisure Culture leads to laziness
- Entitlement has replaced Merit as a mode of thinking
- Sometime in the late 40′s, the American Dream was corrupted to simply be a pursuit of Material gain.
- The true American Dream – or as Jefferson called it, the Pursuit of Happiness – is the opportunity to better yourself and your community. This actually has little to do with financial wealth.
Leading in from the last thought, no man is an island unto himself. So says John Donne, and who am I to argue with an Elizabethan poet?
- The clearest analogy to point to is Barn raising
- It doesn’t take a village to raise a child (rather, an intact family and God will do the trick nicely) but, a common striving towards mutually beneficial goals within a small community is an amazing and important way to teach a child.
- Coming together at the local level forces a terribly needed de-centralization of power
- The idea is that we come together to promote the general welfare in our communities
Rely on God for everything –
- Understanding our place in the whole scheme of things helps to curb narcisistic and egotistical thoughts
- Man can do no good outside of God
- In the context of the Frontier Spirit, this means that we place our burdens at the foot of the cross
These are the seeds of some thoughts that perhaps need to germinate more… but I think it is a powerful rhetorical approach: Recapture the American Frontier Spirit.