Way back in the dawn of the Internet, say around 1998 or so, I inherited a work email address that got a lot of odd junk mail. The previous user had apparently signed up for every crank and nutcase mailing list he could find. I never unsubscribed, because I like free comedy, too.
So it was that I learned that black UN helicopters were irradiating cattle with fluoride, or that alien reptiloids were constructing concentration camps for Christians.
One frequent missive told me that the requirement for a driver's licence was a myth. Also: you didn't have to pay taxes if you didn't want to! These emails were coming from a small subsection of the right wing fringe in the United States, so I just rolled my eyes.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that this myth had taken firm root here in Canada.
This week, we heard about a Fort Langley man who was stopped in Chilliwack for driving without a licence.
Tyler Olsen of our sister paper, the Chilliwack Times, relayed the strange series of rationalizations the man gave to a very perplexed judge: he was a "natural person" and, as such, didn't have to get a driver's licence.
Chilliwack must be a popular spot for these guys, since it was earlier this January that a Chilliwack man, Russell Porisky, and his wife Elaine Gould had been found guilty of failing to pay tax on $1.12 million of income, and of counselling his students to commit fraud.
Porisky, now appealing, was running the Paradigm Educational Group, which ran seminars encouraging folks to consider themselves, you guessed it, "natural persons."
Porisky's philosophy, whether spread by him or others, has led to a scattering of tax prosecutions around the country, from B.C. to Manitoba.
The natural person movement is a weird cross between a political philosophy, a scam and a cult.
There are plenty of people who believe in less (or no) government, or radically different forms of government. But libertarians, anarchists, and radical socialists all recognize that the government, you know, actually exists. They don't pretend that it can't throw you in jail.
Natural persons nuts seem to believe that a few semantic tricks -one website on the Canadian movement had an extensive, baffling section on grammar-can make you invisible to the taxman and other authorities.
They believe that a natural person is distinct from a legal person.
If you don't get a driver's licence, don't sign contracts, and don't use your SIN card, you have a kind of magical get-out-of-jail-free card, they will tell you.
The thing that offends me the most about these guys isn't that they believe they shouldn't have to pay taxes.
It's that they're amazingly, stag-ringly lazy.
A real revolutionary tries to free everyone. They kick and bite and claw and scream and try to do something about the state of the world.
The Occupy Movement and the Tea Party come from very different places, but they have passion in common.
By contrast, "natural persons" are happy to drive, unlicensed, on roads paid for with someone else's taxes. They're happy to put one over on the government, and to think themselves smarter than the rest of us, who are clearly idiots and dupes.
They're pleased to have the benefits of a largely tax-paying society, which they believe they can opt out of whenever it suits them.
They don't want to really change things for anyone else.
It's a sad, strange little world they inhabit.
? Matthew Claxton is a reporter with the Langley Advance.