A huge focus of my life’s work has been identifying and rebelling against individual control systems – while this may not at first be apparent when looking at the parts of my work – when taken as a whole – the message is clear.
My goal has always been that of maximizing human individual freedom. I have always been my own test subject.
To begin – we need to agree on some definitions for words that get thrown around carelessly in the modern world: freedom, liberty, and independence. These are important words that have (frankly) lost a lot of their power through misuse – so let’s reclaim them.
FREEDOM – this has nothing to do with governments or flags or warfare. True freedom has to do with individuals – freedom is the ability to act, think, feel, and speak as one wants. Are you expressing freedom when you go to work because you have to pay your rent? Are you expressing freedom when you have been conditioned by a bell and an industrial workforce school system? Are you expressing freedom when you have been psychologically manipulated to feel as if material possessions will fulfill you? None of those are freedom. FREEdom is the opposite of SERFdom and if you are forced to work by a master (even a government master) then you are not free, you are a serf (which is essentially a slave who works for wages, rights, or privileges provided by a master).
LIBERTY – this has nothing to do with statues or eagles or other symbolism which has subverted it to a nationalist patriotism – Liberty is the when you are not constrained by oppressive restrictions in movement, thought, action, or belief. Liberty is individualistic. Liberty is taking a walk (literally and figuratively) and not being fenced onto your course by walls, fences, or barriers. Walls, fences, and cages are the opposite of liberty. Liberty is essentially, the ability to make one’s own decisions. It is the root of Liberal as in Liberal Society and Liberal Arts which both posit that a person will have more liberty if they have more education – i.e. knowledge/education increases liberty.
The difference between LIBERTY and FREEDOM is important – Freedom is the ability to do what you want while Liberty is not being constrained in what you want. For example- Freedom is deciding to take a walk and Liberty is no one telling you that you cannot.
INDEPENDENCE – Here’s a big can of worms. Independence is the state of not being controlled by others and most importantly not relying on or needing assistance from others – it’s both, not just one. The U.S. founding fathers broke with England so that they could make their own political choices – they were able to do so because they did not need assistance from England to govern themselves.
All three of these concepts get thrown together into a mixture of bad definitions that muddy the waters and make it difficult to consider these important questions with clarity – but once the concepts are defined – the essential questions suddenly take on a much greater amount of meaning.
Who is free?
What are they free to do?
What forces constrain them?
At this point, I would like to introduce the most important concept I have ever come across – to me – it supersedes Liberty, Freedom, and Independence. I would aruge that without this – all three are impossible.
AUTONOMY – There is no concept more important. Autonomy is the ability to make an informed and un-coerced decision. There are two key parts – informed and uncoerced. If you go walking in the park because you think you have to – you are not exercising autonomy. If you go walking in the park because you don’t know any other place to walk (but other places exist) you are not exercising autonomy. Without autonomy there is no independence. Without autonomy there is no freedom. Without autonomy there is no liberty.
Autonomy is the mother of all three. To achieve autonomy you must shake the shackles of conditioning – you must be willing (and able) to look outside of the box that has been constructed around you. The box around you is built over all of human existence – societal roles, religion, politics, laws, culture – these are the invisible control systems that limit your choices. Education gives you the opportunity to learn about the walls. Travel gives you the opportunity to see the walls. Philosophy gives you the tools to think about the walls. Art, literature, and music are the tools that will help you to shatter the walls.
At the beginning of 2019 there were approximately 1/2 million U.S. workers who worked for the government and were not getting paid. I have great compassion for the suffering and hardship that they went through. In our world, in this country, there is not much that is more stressful than being faced with the prospect of not being able to pay your bills, not being able to take care of your responsibilities, and possibly even being faced with homelessness.
Many workers have been painted into a corner where they are not allowed to quit or leave work, even when they are not getting paid. Essentially, the limited definition of slavery. It is my hope that these workers can break their dependence on the enslaving jobs, and thrive. I hope that they are able to find enough autonomy to declare their independence, enjoy their freedom, and exercise true liberty in the process.