He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. — Thomas Jefferson
Over the last few days, I’ve been dealing with some severe back pain. During this time, I just have not been present for other people as I tried to find a place of comfort. I changed the way I was sitting, sleeping, and standing. I tried squatting more often to relieve the pain. I even found that playing ping pong relieved my pain temporarily. But ultimately, it came down to my old mattress and I realized that it was time to retire it.
I went to the doctor to get some relief, and they prescribed muscle relaxer. I got a shot of some before I left the doctors office, and got some more at the pharmacy. While I was waiting for my order, I looked at the magazines and the books, noticing how happy people can be just buying stuff.
Then I went back to the counter to check on my order, and I talked to the pharmacist.
“That’ll be 77 cents.” Wow. They must be having a sale. No, wait.
I said, “77 cents? No patents, right?”
“Yep. This is a generic.”
So I told her that we spend an estimated $380 billion on drug patent costs alone, ever year. “That’s money we could surely use on something else, right?” That really got her attention. Once I knew that I had a willing ear, I then told her about economist Dean Baker’s work on patent costs. I also pointed out Baker’s research that shows that the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative research model is far more efficient than the patent supported research model.
This is just one example of the many ways that I promote issues that are important to me. In my short discussion with the pharmacist, I found myself talking to someone who has personal knowledge of the industry I wanted to discuss. She was also in a position to do something about it since she works in the industry. I gave her enough information to do her own research and come to her own conclusions. I assumed that she took the job because she believes in helping people. Lowering the cost of life saving drugs is another way she could help people.
Now I wasn’t planning on any of this when I walked into the store, it was total improvisation. When I saw her eyes grow wide with interest, I took the opportunity to give her more information. And I kept going until I could give her a sense of closure, of having enough information to work with. She had a name she could look up. She had an organization or phrase she could look up. She had a number, a dollar amount, to look up. In a few searches on Google, she may find information on her own to confirm what I was telling her.
I am agnostic in my personal activism. I don’t worry about what people will do with the information I share. I am only concerned with planting the seed, for I know that it is not possible to unlearn what one has learned. I don’t need to follow up. I don’t need to check on anyone. I plant the seed, give it a little water and walk away. That’s all I do.
I am an activist in philosophy, economics, and human relations. But I only work with willing ears, so I check to see if the person is willing to listen, and if not, I let it go. For no one likes a frontal assault on their intelligence, and that is something I am not interested in, anyway. I just want to make a friendly suggestion. I want to let their imaginations do the work.
I am an activist with my writing, too. Everything I write, I write with passion. Everything I write and publish, I do so with the hope of planting the seeds for a better world, a more peaceful world. I want to live in a world where no man or woman must believe that in order to survive, they must build and assert an advantage over others. I’m a personal anarchist, and I want people to be free. So I plant the seeds of ideas in the hopes of setting people free.
I do this not because this is how the world is. I do this because this is how I want the world to be. One idea, one seed, one person at a time.