The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays

The Myth of Natural Rights

Yes, I’ve been very much wanting to say something about this volume published by Nine-Banded Books. I kept putting it off, because I read “The Myth of Natural Rights,” which is the anchor of the collection, a few years ago, and there are notes somewhere. Also, my Must Read stack is a couple of feet tall. And too much time has passed. So, it’s come to where I’ll do what I can now, and add more when the other stuff turns up.

And besides, I already know what I think about natural rights. In both nature and science, a law can’t be broken. If it can be broken, it isn’t a law. It’s only a law if it can’t be broken. If it’s breakable, it is neither natural nor law. “Law” is a description, not a prescription or a proscription. Natural rights are like natural law. It’s only a natural right if it’s incapable of being violated. If it is amenable to violation, it’s not a natural right.

I have no idea how closely this resembles the thought of L. A. Rollins on the subject, because I don’t remember what those notes said, that I took so many years ago. I might have bought the Rollins party line wholesale. Or maybe he said something completely different. So I urge you to have a look at it yourself.

There is more between these covers, including “An Open Letter to Allah,” which has got to be ten times worse than anything Salman Rushdie ever wrote. And “Lucifer’s Lexicon,” which is like Ambrose Bierce’s “Devil’s Dictionary,” a very subversive work in its day.

Also, here’s the sarcastic “Ode to Emperor Bush,” which I believe I first saw in manuscript form. I used to have quite a lively correspondence with L. A. Rollins. (I heard from elsewhere that he also corresponded with Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of the Illuminatus trilogy, which put me in very distinguished company.) This was back in the day, when people wrote by hand or typewriter. Which Rollins probably still does. It takes guts to so thoroughly resist the computer era. And he was able to resist it despite working in the publishing business, as proof-reader and copy-editor for Loompanics. You have to be really good, to get away with computer refusal. Rollins is, in general, one of those people I learn from; admire for their wit; recognize as very, very smart; and enjoy arguing with. I also disagree with a large percentage of what he says…I think.

I’m not the only one who sometimes doesn’t quite comprehend L. A. Rollins. In the Preface, publisher Chip Smith talks about Rollins’s study of Holocaust revisionism.

It seemed at times as though Rollins was in the revisionist camp himself. At other times, he seemed to hold revisionists out for wicked ridicule…I just couldn’t get a fix on it.

Well, that’s L. A. Rollins for ya, an ornery SOB if ever there was one. And a fair one. In one of his pieces on the topic, he invites anybody with better evidence to send it to him, saying,

‘Revisionism’ is sometimes defined in terms of setting the record straight. Thus, I see no reason why the writings of avowed revisionists should be exempt from revisionism.

The Preface also states that works by L. A. Rollins appeared in the zine I used to publish. They did, and I was honored to have them there among the pages of Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics.

Along with lengthy letters, he supplied examples of truly disturbing literature, the likes of which I had not imagined. Or we’d be wrangling about something, and he would send me news clippings that supported my side, in case I’d missed them. You gotta respect that. He’d rile me up by claiming, for instance, that Dalton Trumbo abandoned his anti-war stance in the 1940s. The revered author of Johnny Got His Gun, the blacklisted screenwriter, one of the Hollywood Ten, – according to Rollins, this hero of free speech rolled over, but people didn’t know. They still perceived him as one of the great pacifist voices of the age, and sent fan mail, which he turned over to the FBI. Well, hell!

This was long before I ever had Internet access, and it made me crazy, but I had no way of cross-checking that information, and in fact I forgot about it, up until about ten minutes ago. So now I’m gonna consult Wikipedia. Which says, Johnny Got His Gun was published in 1939 and won the National Book Award. Then in ’41, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, so Trumbo and his publishers decided not to print any more copies until the war was over. But people sent him letters asking for copies, and he gave the letters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That really sucks!

This article says he regretted it, but seems to imply the regret was only because it focused the attention of the Communist-hunters in Washington on him. He ended up being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and served almost a year in federal prison – even though he had cooperated by turning in the people who were trying to buy copies of his anti-war book. Bummer.

Anyhow, never think that L. A. Rollins is not a nice person. In the book’s Acknowledgements pages he thanks about a hundred people, including Ace Backwords, Mike Hoy, Jim Hogshire, Adam Parfrey, Bob Black….. and me.

You’re welcome!

*****

Short Takes from “Lucifer’s Lexicon” by L. A. Rollins

Vain, n. A foreign domain in which many a soldier has died.

Transubstantiation, n. A supperstition.

Labor Union, n. An association of workers organized to advance the interests of union organizers.

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About Pat Hartman

Before publishing the two books "Call Someplace Paradise" and "Ghost Town: A Venice California Life", my main project was "Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics. " I wrote extensively for "Scene," a monthly arts and entertainment magazine with a circulation of 25,000. Also proofread, sold ads, put together the music calendar and, for a couple of years, served as editor. Presided over a couple issues of the local NORML newsletter, as well as being featured speaker at chapter meetings. Wrote a complete screenplay; collaborated on another one; worked on a couple of scripts (additional dialog and general brainstorming) with an indie film producer. Booked the talent for a large music festival. Wrote, designed, illustrated and produced various catalogs and brochures for small businesses. Spoke at a high school as a panelist on Women in the Professions; was a featured speaker at the 1991 Women in Libertarianism Conference; presented public programs on "Success in One Lesson" and "The Bloomsbury Group: What's It To Us?" Created the website VirtualVenice.info and wrote many politically-oriented pieces for Earthblog.net
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One Response to The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays

  1. Ken Gage says:

    Now I wanna get some of those L.A. Rollins titles I recall seeing in the Loompanics catalogs. Great stuff, Pat. Thanks for the insight.

    For the record, I don’t think a writer avoiding computers is any better or worse than a smoker who prefers rubbing two sticks together for a light. Then again, I mow my lawn with a 1950’s era human-powered reel mower, so I’m a bit a Luddite myself.

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