by Rick Thompson/from The Rolling Paper November 2021
American historical figure Thomas Paine, called The Father of the Revolution, authored what were considered to be two of the most important written works of wartime colonial America. Paine’s journey to historical significance was filled with attacks on his work, attacks on his person and threats to his freedom. Through it all Paine’s effort was recognized, somewhat during his lifetime but moreso afterward.
In early life Paine was a privateer, a pirate of sorts, and a shopkeeper. His wife died during childbirth, his shop was lost, he became a teacher and then remarried, became a shopkeeper again, lost that business, separated from his wife and lost his government job inspecting goods for tax purposes. Benjamin Franklin helped him get to America, and helped Paine take a job as editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine.
While in England Paine had authored a politically-charged pamphlet, which was the accepted way of the times to get many people to hear your words. After war broke out in America he authored another, Common Sense, which threw him into the public eye.
Being such a public figure was rough on Paine, as the Loyalists attacked him for trying to sever America from England. John Adams is quoted as saying Paine’s work was a “crapulous mass,” meaning crafted from a drunken state. Those already in office benefitted from his riling of the masses but didn’t deliver any credit for it to Paine. The people loved him, and his pamphlet was circulated widely and reproduced freely.
Thomas Paine refused to confine his criticisms to the King; he took shots at fellow revolutionaries, appointees to the new government (while still at war) and was indiscreet with the information he published. His popularity waned and his politics made enemies. He proved to be an effective negotiator, author, advocate and speaker but his rhetoric landed him in jail and without support.
When Thomas Paine died in 1809 only six people attended his funeral, for he’d attacked his way out of all the friendships he’d known his entire life.
In the cannabis community we have many who pretend to be Paines. They speak out and have some success but their desire for more is their undoing. They seek attention, seek individual glory, seek to force their opinion on others when others are not interested in hearing their opinion. In other words, they get a little success, let it go to their heads, and then they go too far.
The lesson of Paine’s life might be stated as, let others help you define what’s right and what’s wrong. Paine believed his version of proper and improper was so obvious and clear that any who heard it would instantly believe the truth of his words. In actuality, Paine’s attacks on the Church and the American and French governments did the opposite of their intentions: instead of moving people to oppose the Church, for example, they moved people to oppose Paine.
When those around you say, you’ve gone too far, listen. When your friends stop returning your calls and texts, ask them why. When those around you stop being around you, take a clue. The pursuit of your personal goals has to be done in a way which binds people together in a group effort, not in a way which sends all living things running away from you.
Leadership is about setting the example, being the change, staying engaged. Those going ‘rogue’ and priding themselves on it don’t last, their impact is minimized and their future is filled with loneliness. How you treat others in life is sometimes measured by how many people attend your funeral. Don’t argue yourself into a cold, isolated life. Especially not over a peaceful thing like the cannabis plant.