This post was originally published on November 17th, 2014 at studentsforliberty.org.
In a recent Students For Liberty blog post, my fellow campus coordinator and close friend, Wade Craig, wrote of how the torch in SFL’s logo represents “love, liberty, and change.” He referenced the closing remarks I gave at the 2014 New Orleans Regional Conference, in which I compared the spirit of that day to fire, and asked the attendees to “burn it all down.” The phrase “burn it down” became popular among many members of SFL this year when another close friend of mine, Cory Massimino, wrote the phrase in big letters on one of the white boards at the campus coordinator retreat. By the end of the weekend, it sort of became an unofficial mantra—we said it often, even chanted it. Will Smith, another campus coordinator, suggested having t-shirts made using the phrase. Although it started as a joke among friends, reading Wade’s description of the conference and of Students For Liberty caused me to reflect on what it really means to “burn it down.”
Burning it down has a destructive connotation. The phrase may cause the unfamiliar ear to picture rioters dressed in black with their faces covered, throwing Molotov cocktails and raiding defenseless shopkeepers. However, fire is not that simple, and neither is revolution. Fire can be beautiful or it can be terrifying. It can warm a house in the winter or it can turn the same house into ashes. Fire has played an extremely important role in human history. The ability to cook food completely changed the way our primitive ancestors lived. Fire revolutionized transportation, blacksmithing, and landscaping. Fire gave humans the ability to live almost anywhere on earth. Any time you use a household appliance, you probably have fire to thank for it. Fire takes many forms and serves many purposes.
When I think of fire, I think of Fawkes, the phoenix from the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling, of course, did not invent the phoenix. Phoenixes are mythological birds that live long cyclical lives, catching fire when they grow old, and rising again from the ashes. The fire of the phoenix, therefore, does not represent death; it represents another chance at life. When we speak of burning it down, we are not advocating destruction, but new life: a chance for humanity to flourish in freedom and love, born again out of the ashes of oppression, the refuse of the State.
As advocates and activists for freedom, we have a lot to learn from fire. Fire is bright and full of power. Fire is ungovernable and unafraid, passionate and even angry. Perhaps most importantly, fire has no masters. To become truly free, we lovers of liberty need to push for radical, meaningful change. We must channel our inner fire to burn down that which keeps us from living as freely as possible.
Burning it down means freeing oneself from the chains of the State and the culture that allows it to thrive. It means questioning everything, not accepting things as they are, but trying to discover what they shouldbe. Burning it down means challenging oppression, rejecting the idea that people need masters, and taking control of your own life. It means loving fiercely, living virtuously, and speaking out against injustice. Burning it down means taking the rage that you have at those that steal, murder, and enslave without recourse, and channeling that rage into something constructive. It means innovation, learning, and even a little dancing. Burning it down means spreading liberty like wildfire.
Forest fire, though it may seem vicious, is an important ecological process. It destroys the old and the outdated, and makes room for succession forests, which become vibrant ecosystems, full of new life. So too must we destroy the State, eradicate oppression, and make way for complete liberation. The time has come for liberty-lovers to shift their focus from policy-making, getting out the vote, and cautiously stepping towards small government. Let’s burn it down already!