I am reading “The Compleated Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”, which was compiled and published by Mark Skousen, Ph.D. The book is fascinating and picks up where Ben Franklin’s own autobiography left off in 1757, when he was just 51 years old and before all the events of the American Revolution. Franklin wrote many thousands of letters and documents, and Skousen put them together and came up with this “compleated” autobiography, which is in Franklin’s own words, but with many footnotes and explanations. As I say, it is fascinating.
Ben Franklin worked diligently in England to try to prevent Parlaiment from passing the Stamp Act, which was Parlaiment’s attempt to wring income from the colonies, to cover their expenses in defending it during the French & Indian wars. A rumor spread in American newspapers that Franklin had been instrumental in writing the Stamp Act, which was intensely unpopular. “No taxation without representation” was one motto of the revolution, and the Stamp Act was the Act that implemented that “taxation without representation”.
So Franklin had been unjustly accused of having written the very Act he was trying to stop through every means possible.
This section early in the book has often been quoted and misquoted:
Enemies Do a Man Some Good
“As to the reports that spread to my disadvantage during the Stamp Act affair, I gave myself as little concern about them as possible. I have often met with such treatment from people that I was all the while endeavouring to serve. At other times I have been extoll’d extravagantly when I have had little or no merit. These are the operations of nature. It sometimes is cloudy, it rains, it hails; again ’tis clear and pleasant, and the sun shines on us. Take one thing with another, and the world is a pretty good sort of world; and ’tis our duty to make the best of it and be thankful. One’s true happiness depends more one one’s own judgement of one’s self, on a consciousness of rectitude in action and intention, and on the approbation of those few who judge impartially, than upon the applause of the unthinking, undiscerning multitude, who are apt to cry “hosanna” today, and tomorrow, “crucify him.”
I thank God that I have enjoyed a greater share of health, strenth and activity than is common with people of my years. As to the abuses I have met with, I number them among my honours. One cannot behave so as to obtain the esteem of the wise and good without drawing on one’s self at the same time the envy and malice of the foolish and wicked, and the latter is testimony of the former. The best men have always had their share of this treatment, and the more of it in proportion to their different and greater degrees of merit. A man has therefore some reason to be asham’d of himself when he meets with none of it. And the world is not be condemn’d in the lump because some bad people live in it. Their number is not great, the hurt they do is but small, as real good characters always finally surmount and are established, notwithstanding attempts to keep them down. And in the mean time such enemies do a man some good, while they think they are doing him harm, by fortifying the character they would destroy; for when he sees how readily imaginary faults and crimes are laid to his charge, he must be more apprehensive of the danger of committing real ones…”
When I look at the current feeble attempts by Anonymous to stop the Church of Scientology, I see these truths elucidated by Franklin in action. Real Scientologists are fortified in their character by exposure to the lies and harrasment of the creeps in Anonymous.
For example, it explains “the envy and malice of the foolish and wicked” bloggers and commenters who are ready to villify John Travolta because his son Jett died of injuries sustained when he had a seizure in the bathroom, because they deliberately misunderstand the nature of John’s faith, Scientology. The truth, that Jett Travolta’s anti-seizure meds were causing organ failure, so they took him off of them, is masked by lies that John’s blind faith in Scientology would cause him to neglect his parental duties to see that the health needs of his son were met.
I’ve met John Travolta several times (although I doubt he would remember me). I had a chance to talk with him for a few minutes about ten years ago, while we smoked cigars outside of a party in the Hollywood hills. My thumbnail assessment: he’s an intelligent man and a responsible man, trying to use his celebrity and wealth responsibly to get done projects that he wants to do.
The great thing about the internet is that you can find all kinds of data on it.
That’s also the worst thing about it, because there is no Google filter you can set for stupid, wicked, or envious slander and lies.
That’s a filter one has to supply, oneself.