If you are on the Path, and see the Buddha walking toward you, kill him.

– Allen Greenfield

This last weekend was the 8th annual International Students For Liberty Conference. During the conference many big name speakers, including Ron Paul and Judge Napolitano, were present and gave speeches. Such speakers draw attendance and get media attention, and give attendees the chance to meet some of the people that brought them into the movement.

Unfortunately, as with any movement, there can be a tendency to idolize some individuals and to place them beyond reproach. For this reason, many attendees at ISFLC started sharing the quote above (or some version of it), a phrase that got so powerful that some people even wore signs saying “Kill Rothbard”. It was a simple idea, challenging the building up of idols and reminding us that no one is above reproach. The phrase Kill Your Buddha was on just about everyone’s lips by Sunday afternoon and it got me thinking; how can we apply this idea, not only to our activism, but to our lives in general.

First and foremost, we must avoid building idols out of people. Yes Ron Paul has done a lot for the movement, but he has also said some pretty questionable things about the LGBT community and Crimea. Yes Ayn Rand did a lot for the movement, but she was kind of a jerk. Hell many those founding fathers so many are such big fans of had slaves. My point is that everyone makes mistakes and says things that the movement should at least question. If we deify a person just because of all they have done for the growth of the liberty movement, we place them beyond questioning which can give the movement an image of being uncritical and can really harm a movement when the idol invariably says or does something you wouldn’t otherwise support.

If a movement refuses to question, or even renounce when necessary, any leader, it will stagnate and will start to lose all credibility. For example, when some students at ISFLC questioned Ron Paul’s stance on Russian aggression and racist comments from the past, they where met with boo’s and people calling for cutting the mic. No matter where you fall on the issues, boo-ing and silencing people doesn’t help us reach a consensus, it certainly doesn’t help us grow.

Idol worship doesn’t stop with people either, ideas can be so invested in that any questioning of them is beyond comprehension. I was raised conservative, in my house questioning the ideas of the republican party was practically heresy. When I became a libertarian, it was impossible for me to question the necessity of government for protection or the near godhood of capitalism. My evolution from conservative to market anarchist has been a constant story of examining my deepest held beliefs, and casting them away for better ideas.

Holding to tightly to any idea, refusing to even entertain the possibility that you are wrong, means you have stagnated; and stagnation is the cancer of a movement. As it turns out, we don’t have perfect knowledge, and as new information and ideas are introduced to us, we must be willing to reevaluate everything we believe to find out what is true. Any idea that can’t be challenged, has already proven itself to be weak and frightful of scrutiny.

The most fundamental idol we build in our lives isn’t our ideas or others, it is ourselves. We come up with an idea about who we want to be, or (more often) what others want us to be; and then identify as that with little question or second thought. These views of ourselves are rarely the authentic representation of who we are, but what we think will make life easiest. If you can’t sit down and examine your life, and honestly say that you are completely content, then you are living for the idol of your own life.

In order to live authentically, to achieve our own happiness and fulfill our goals, we must be willing to examine our lives; and if necessary start from scratch. We must realize that we aren’t perfect, that there is always room for improvement and change; if you refuse to do it for yourself how can you expect to change the lives of others?

Participating in, and helping to to grow, a movement is hard. It requires constant vigilance against stagnation, unending willingness to question everything we hold dear, and the understanding that we must even be ready to change ourselves. We must be willing to question and even reject those that brought us into this movement when necessary, must be willing to go against the grain and rethink our deepest beliefs; we must be willing to smash our idols and to kill our Buddha.