Do We Want to Escape from Freedom?

Erich Fromm, a social psychologist of some renown, researched and wrote his book, Escape from Freedom, in the years between WWI and WWII. He  was watching the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany and he was shocked and puzzled by what he was seeing. He was seeing people who had just fought a consuming and destructive war being swept up in a fury of national fervor and ready to go to war again. The first war lasted four years and was seemingly triggered by the assassination of an Archduke, but was most likely caused by simmering resentments about national borders and national slights among powerful European nations. World War I changed the configuration of European and Middle Eastern states forever. People had difficulty adjusting loyalties to nations that held no history in their hearts. Many people were liberated from Empires that had governed their lives for decades or even centuries but they were not prepared for the political changes that resulted from the war.

https://voanews-vh.akamaihd.net/i/Pangeavideo/2014/08/1/16/16199b35-4022-4d10-b56c-3287414c6600,_mobile,,_hq,.mp4.csmil/master.m3u8

In his book, Fromm explores the conundrum that, although people long for freedom in the abstract, they often feel more secure under authoritarian rule by one person or one ruling party. When the leader is benign people tolerate authoritarianism well, but we know that power corrupts. Leaders find it difficult to remain benign. They get greedy and their people become more critical and must be squelched to justify the power of the leader. When people cannot speak freely, freedom is gone and rebellion grumbles in the villages, towns, and cities.

By the time Erich Fromm wrote his book, which was published in 1941, the same people who had lost so much in World War I were tuning in to the voice of a new, arousing, madman who offered the German people a restoration of national pride and the boundaries of the old Germanic Empire, shrunken by the Versailles Treaty and the end of World War I. (National boundaries and national pride cause most wars, both large and small.) Hitler was also tapping into the jealousy and hatred people felt towards “others”, non-Arians, and he was beginning his campaign that would eventually lead to the murder of 6 million Jewish people and the eviction of many more.

In the second Forward to his newest edition of Escape from Freedom, Fromm writes:

“After centuries of struggles, man succeeded in building an undreamed-of wealth of material goods; he built democratic societies in parts of the world, and recently was victorious in defending himself against new totalitarian schemes; yet as the analysis in Escape from Freedomattempts to show, modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”

He cites three trends that may contribute to our fear of freedom. First he mentions the development of atomic energy and nuclear weapons. He says, “Yet only a relatively short time ago, during the Cuban crisis, hundreds of millions of human beings in America and in Europe for a few days did not know whether they and their children were ever to see another day…” This anxiety is still with us.

“Aside from the nuclear revolution, the cybernetic revolution has developed more rapidly than many could have foreseen twenty-five years ago. We are entering the second industrial revolution in which not only human physical energy – man’s hands and arms as it were – but also his brain and his nervous reactions are being replaced by machines.”

And third, he says, “Another danger has increased, rather than diminished: the population explosion.”

“The giant forces in society and the danger for man’s survival have increased in these twenty-five years, and hence man’s tendency to escape from freedom.”

He says, “[T]he drive for freedom inherent in human nature, while it can be corrupted and suppressed, tends to assert itself again and again.”

“[T]he development of man’s intellectual capacities has far out-stripped the development of his emotions. Man’s brain lives in the twentieth century; the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age. The majority of men have not yet acquired the maturity to be independent, to be rational, to be objective. They need myths and idols to endure the fact that man is all by himself, that there is no authority which gives meaning to life except man himself.”

So here we are, 73 years after World War II and after the man who almost succeeded in turning Europe into an empire ruled by the most dangerous dictator the modern world has seen so far. Yet we are once again seeing people vote for dictators to head their nation and then reelecting them again, even after they have proven to be suppressive. We see a Chinese dictator getting his people to make him President for life. We see Duterte more popular than when he became the leader in the Philippines. We see Erdogan reelected by a pretty big margin because he promises to keep Muslims from a Middle East in disarray out of Turkey. We see a significant group of Americans treating our President like the authoritarian leader of a cult of loyalty and backing his most undemocratic policies with a mysterious fervor.

(Perhaps there is a democratic – authoritarian cycle just like there is an economic boom – bust cycle. Maybe the universe of human governance is simply ruled by physics and perhaps sine waves rule. In America we produced a straight-line of democratic rule for almost 250 years. I was hoping that we could defy the physics of governance (if there is such a thing) and extend that out for at least another 250 years. We could bust the hegemony of the sine wave or make those sine waves intervals so long that the line became, for all  practical purposes, essentially straight.)

So a book that seemed passé might offer insight into current events. What social psychological research backs up Fromm’s claims? His premises strike a chord with us, and this very inexpensive book may provide us with some answers that will have relevance here at our current moment when we are experiencing our own “fear of freedom”, here at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Is what we are experiencing a case of the fear of freedom that prompts humans to give up freedom whenever they win it, or can we save our democracy/republic and harness intellect and rational thought to keep hard-won freedoms and make them so attractive that other nations want to join in. Can we stop America’s descent into authoritarianism or even nouveau serfdom and take the planet into a positive new world order that is humane and believes in the future rather than the apocalypse?

I realize it is boring to say these things over and over, I realize it is repetitive, but until #hope and #freedom and #equality are, once again, subjects that are understood and embraced, rather than contested ground, we, who think humans can be free, will keep bombarding the universe with this message. #Make it So.

On May 6, 2010, I wrote “Let Freedom Ring”, also about this book, Escape from Freedomhttps://www.thearmchairobserver.com/let-freedom-ring/

 

This is Not Nation Building

This group attempting to strike terror in our hearts
– this group with all the names (ISIS, ISIL, and more) pretends that it wants
to build a nation in the ancient style of a Caliphate called the Islamic State.
If their intent were to actually build a nation to take its place among the
other nations of the world they would hardy expect to succeed by using the
intimidating tactics they employ. They would not expect to win good neighbors
with brutal executions and by appropriating the wealth of those neighbors. A
nation does not usually dictate who can live in the nations next door and set
out to destroy neighbors whose traditions vary from theirs unless they are bad
actors. If they were nation building they would not call themselves the
“Islamic” state when they want to annihilate others who consider themselves
Islamic because they are not “pure” enough. They have invented a test for
membership in their “Islamic” state that they know all Islamic people cannot
pass. This is not any part of nation building.
No – what these religious fanatics are after is
world domination. They are on fire to create a planet that contains only those
who can pass their religious tests. They don’t value freedom. They value
submission through fear. They are the Roman Emperors reincarnated. They are
Genghis Khan back from the grave –
Hitler – the Popes of the Crusades – the Inquisitors in Spain or any of a long
procession of powerful conquerors who murdered, tortured, maimed and raped and
pillaged over the face of the earth until someone figured out how to stop them
or they were destroyed from within.
Perhaps it was easier to deal with these power
hungry, self-righteous war mongers in the days of the Roman Empire when there
was no media to announce their progress and their possible next moves. I’m sure
many folks were taken unawares by their conquerors, but today we know they are
coming, although not knowing exactly when, where, or how is disturbing in its
own right.
Just don’t be fooled when these killers try to sound
like they are simply building a new nation to house a homogeneous religious
community. That would not create the fear and loathing we are feeling right
now. You don’t build a new nation by inspiring these feelings in fellow
inhabitants of this small planet.
I don’t want to go to war but let’s not let these
fighters get too far in their jihad. I believe the nations that actually do
exist on our globe will cooperate and act if this situation begins to look like
it has legs. (It’s looking sort of like that right now) I guess we will find
out how long those legs are.
Sadly they remind me of folks in our own country who
want to be sure that true patriots can parrot certain ideologies and can pass a
religious litmus test. Our power-seekers are not as cruel, one hopes, and not
out to punish people with a more liberal, less religious bent, but they surely
would like to force us to be submissive to their governance, which would make
the idea of freedom sort of meaningless. 
Freedom is difficult. Bad people find
refuge in freedom and threaten to place limits on the freedom of people who
strive to let morality guide their freedom. But I value our freedom above almost
all else and I think if it is truly challenged then we must fight to keep it.
By Nancy Brisson

Conflicting Freedoms

Our culture is moving forward very rapidly in some
areas; zip, zip, zip, and especially in the new Supreme ruling on gay marriage.
And in many ways most of us feel that it is about time. I think many of us
became convinced when someone we knew who was LGBT? had to be treated in a
hospital and their partner, no matter how long they had been together, could
never have the solace of being considered a family member.
Many same sex couples wanted to raise a child,
having worked hard and built a good life and a stable home, and yet the child
could not be adopted by both partners regardless of how long they had loved
each other. Situations like this also forced us to sympathize with colleagues
or friends. If a couple was paired female-female, one or both of the pair could
be artificially (or naturally) inseminated. But could the child ever really
belong to both parties in the eyes of the law? I think that has been
problematic. For couples paired male-male a surrogate probably had to be
involved if they decided not to adopt or if the option was not available where
they lived. And once again I am guessing there was no legal right to shared
parenthood.
So what may seem like it happened zip, zip, zip to
some Americans probably feels like it took forever to others. That Supreme
Court decision to uphold marriage for all American couples regardless of gender
(and also race just in case it ever came up again) took a certain segment of
America by surprise, although it is sort of nice to think for once that “love
wins”, as the current meme goes.
So, my questions are many. What do we do when
granting the rights of one group of Americans seems to curtail the rights of
another group, no matter how intolerant and unenlightened that second group
appears?
If we separate government and religion, but live in
a government that believes people are free to pursue the religion of their
choice, does that mean that equal rights to your own religion suddenly do not
count because of the court’s decision? How can we tell if someone’s objections
truly are religious in nature, or if religion is just being used as an excuse
to deny someone else a right because their expression of that right makes you
feel uncomfortable? How would a system of exceptions work? Is there a chance
that gay couples might be willing to steer clear of enlisting the services of
someone with a genuine religious issue to wrestle with?
Obviously public servants should not be able to opt
out, but what if every private business in a given state wanted to opt out?
That would look an awful lot like that state’s refusal to obey the law of the
land. In the case of Roe v Wade, we already know states that try to get away
with taking away a legal freedom from everyone in that state simply because
they say it is against their religious views. And in the case of abortion we
are not forcing anyone to anything but mind their own business. How would this
not be the same?
When it came to a celebration like a wedding I would
want to hire someone who was enthusiastic about making my day wonderful. I
would feel terrible asking someone to perform services they did not want to
perform. But, again, suppose you encountered someone who did want to opt out?
Will exceptions take the teeth out of the law? Would a business just put a
cross (or other religious emblem) in the window so people would never be
embarrassed? Would they have to go before some kind of board to get an
exemption?
Equality and freedom are great concepts in the
abstract, but they are hardly ever absolute in reality. One person’s absolute
freedom can often run afoul of another’s. How do we offer the maximum amount of
freedom to each party while granting an equal amount to both? We would need a
full-time referee. Obviously that is where the courts come in, but we will have
some very busy courts and people will have to wait a long time for decisions.
It seems to me that this is a thorny issue that we
need some guidance on from our philosophers. I have no problem fighting against
the establishment of a theocracy in America, but individual rights are a
different matter and are protected by our Constitution. Fundamentalist
Christians are unhappy and likely to make the rest of Americans quite unhappy
unless we can strike a balance somehow.
Perhaps we have made such a giant cultural leap that
some have genuinely not caught up, or maybe there are some who are quite
disingenuous and are just using religion as an excuse to prevent changes they
don’t personally like. I don’t know how to solve this argument over conflicting
freedoms, but I hope everyone will give it some thought and discuss it with
respect until we can reach some form of agreement that allows all groups to
feel somewhat like they won, or that creates two camps where almost no one
feels like a loser. Am I nuts? Well, perhaps that is another question for
another time.
This is the view from the cheap seats.
By Nancy Brisson

Is God Running on the Republican Ticket in 2016?

The Republicans have the Democrats going up against
God in the 2016 election. How is that a fair fight? They seem to be convinced
that they have read the Book, they have studied the Book, and they know God’s
will. In fact they are so confident that they are God’s messengers in America that
they believe that anyone who argues with them is Godless, a nonbeliever.
We are astonished as we see Muslim nations trying to
live out a literal interpretation of the Koran. We perceive the Koran as being
out-of-step with a world that is populated by over 7 billion people. We cannot
see how the people in 2015 could live by rules written in ancient times and for
a desert people.
However, isn’t it true that Fundamentalists in
America expect us to do the exact same thing? They expect us to live out a literal
interpretation of the Bible, which was also written in ancient times and for a
desert people. The Jewish people also, in orthodoxy, live as if the world is
unchanged since well before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. (There is, in fact,
no truly literal interpretation of any of the books that are sacred to any
of these faiths. All contain passages that are open to more than one meaning
and all have been studied by religious scholars for centuries.)
As the Evangelicals would have it America is on the
path to losing its religion. Our moral fiber is being tested and we are
definitely being found wanting (yes, I’m quoting A Knight’s Tale). The Bible tells us that homosexual love is wrong,
they say; it tells us that gender differences are mistakes that one must battle
in one’s soul. I’m not sure where the Bible says this, as many commenters say
that the Bible does not address these issues directly, although in the Old
Testament, God did wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah. Was it ever made clear what
kinds of sins were being committed in these two places?
Perhaps Evangelicals can ignore science, but I (and
many others) cannot. There is evidence in people’s genes that we are born as we
are born. Do Evangelicals believe that birth is a gift from God? Do they
believe that God makes mistakes? Does he have lots of “oops” moments?
Evangelicals do not put their faith in science. So how do they explain the
evidence before their eyes that some people cannot change to match a norm that we have perhaps outgrown. Will God wreak his vengeance on us because love
won?
Can a culture be moral even though it decides to
separate religion and government? Evangelicals seem to believe that it cannot.
I don’t believe the true issue is necessarily about religion. It is really
about freedom. Are we just as free to make bad choices as we are to make good
ones? Should our love of freedom force us to tolerate things like hate speech?
What if, at some future moment, people define ordinary speech as hateful? If we
curtail freedom of speech to try to shut up negative messages will those laws
turn around some day to deny us the right to say things we now perceive as
positive speech? If we allow Evangelicals to decide what is moral and what is
not, then what happens to our freedom? What happens to our equality?
Republicans are angry about many things that are not
about religion also. But the issues around women’s health and those around
gender and marriage freedom are the two issues where they invoke God and
morality.
Morality has to do with how we treat each other.
Isn’t it enough to follow The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have
others do unto you)? Do we require a religious moral leader at the helm of
America making laws based on the Bible (or someone’s interpretation of the
Bible)? In so many ways America is still a moral nation. We do strive to
consider equality. We do strive to understand and respect differences. We do
try to legislate fairness to the best of our abilities in any given moment.
Are there strains present in modern culture which
test our moral behavior? Why are our children bullies in our schools? Why don’t
children have more tolerance for our differences? Is it because they were just
born and are therefore closer to knowing God’s will in these matters? Or is it
just that they are little magnets who pick up on how those around them feel and
then, because they have no filters yet, sometimes use what they have learned to
hurt other children? Our children should not be teaching us; it is our job to
teach them the values that help keep society civil.
Does killing people over and over in video game
rooms inure our young people to killing or make them insensitive to the idea
that when you die you are dead, forever, the end. Do young people have enough
judgement, especially given the effect of video killings, to be trusted with
guns? Should blind people have guns? The Bible doesn’t help us here; it does
not clearly spell out who should own a gun, because there were no guns when the
Bible was written.
Republicans want some religion back in our nation.
They want us to declare ourselves a Christian nation and they believe this
would be fine with our forefathers because everyone in America in colonial
times belonged to a sect of Christianity. They want to legislate morality and
they want to legislate genetics. Where do our ideals of freedom and equality
fit into their view of America’s future? These changes in our culture are not
necessarily easy for any of us, but they are consistent with what we believe as
Americans and these beliefs are the very things we love most about America.
Republicans don’t want to take back America. They
want to rule America and they are staking the claim that God is on their side.
How far are we willing to let them go?
By Nancy Brisson

Secrecy is Powerful

Secretive nations get a lot of power from conducting their
business in the dark. Their citizens are not allowed to publicly criticize
the laws or policies or the tactics of their government in order to insure
privacy. Guests are not allowed free access to all or any locations within
these countries but are conducted on official visits to only the sites their
hosts wish them to see.
Such countries can let rumors circulate about the weapons they
stockpile, what technologies they have mastered and about their military
capabilities in general. It is almost impossible to establish whether these
rumors are true or not, although we always must believe the worst of the rumors
could possibly be true.
It puts the rest of the world on an unsteady footing with regard
to nations that maintain high levels of secrecy. There are plenty of questions
and very few answers.
Does Iran have nuclear weapons? Do they have a program to
produce nuclear weapons?
How large is North Korea’s nuclear arsenal?
Is Russia planning to restore the boundaries of the former USSR,
or is Putin’s goal world domination?
What goes on in China that we are not supposed to know about or
see? Are they just hiding their “failures”, are they hiding things we would
consider human rights violations? Do they worry that the Chinese people will
learn too much about how other nations are governed, or are they hiding
military build-up? (China has not been thought to have imperialist leanings
until its recent activities in the South China Seas and current objectives in
space exploration and settlement.)Has China surpassed us in computer science
and internet innovation or are they still basically dependent on the advances
made by other less secretive nations?
Whatever is going on, these four nations alone, Iran, Russia,
North Korea and China keep us in a state of nervous speculation and
apprehension because we are left to imagine what they might be up to and our
imagination probably is far worse than the reality.
However, it is entirely possible, and we all believe this, that
these nations enjoy keeping us guessing about whether or not war is imminent.
It gives them a sense of power and, in fact, it gives them some actual power
among the world’s nations.
So why don’t we do the same thing – why don’t we do as some suggest
and become a more isolationist, secretive nation with its lips sealed (by
loyalty or coercion)? For one thing America could never keep a secret about
anything. Even if we wanted to throw a surprise birthday party for our
President (OK, highly unlikely right now because of the GOP) the information would squish
out of a million different sources. If you have enjoyed freedom for a couple of
centuries it is irrepressible. Perhaps if we had to keep a military secret we
might be able to, but I doubt it. There would be some free thinker (or traitor)
who would spill the beans because s/he felt the policy was wrong.
The key differences between these nations who are able to
inspire dread through secrecy and America (and other nations like America) is
that these are all nations where citizen lack freedom of speech and other basic
human rights. These are nations where government carefully controls everything.
Transparency is not a goal of any of these nations. They are secretive because
they cannot allow their citizens to experience the freedom people have on much
of our tiny planet these days. Each nation has its own reasons for “protecting”
its citizens from outside influences, but the overall effect is the same.
Only by clamping down on every kind of media and controlling
interactions with people from freer cultures can these nations maintain control
over their oppressed people. If a sort of ersatz power is conferred by this
very secrecy then so much the better. It can be exploited. When someone
confronts your carefully controlled tyranny and threatens to expose it or to
end it you need only raise a fist, stamp a foot, threaten a nuke, real or
imagined, and the world, which basically treasures peace, and which has no way
to evaluate your actual strength, backs off. As people who respect the human
rights of others we also grudgingly accept the rights of other nations to rule
themselves as they see fit.

Alas, we cannot get that power of secrecy that authoritarian
nations are awarded without losing the things we value most. Freedom is a
relative thing, so we know that we don’t possess perfect freedom, but what we
do have should more than make up for losing the terrifying power of the threat levels
that we imagine to be present whenever there is a nation that maintains a level
of obfuscation that we do not.
By Nancy Brisson

Your Freedom, My Risk – Inoculations

Opting out of inoculations is all the rage in West LA and
probably a few other places in America. It tends to be most popular among very
affluent people who can afford to send their children to small private schools
where they are less likely to be exposed to infectious diseases.
These parents believe that they put their children’s health at
risk of serious mental disorders like autism and from allergies and asthma when
they allow them to be immunized. They contend that the risks from inoculation
are worse than the contagious diseases that inoculations protect against; such
as smallpox, diphtheria, polio, measles, tetanus, and whooping cough.
Smallpox in America has almost disappeared, as has diphtheria
and children don’t usually die from polio, measles or whooping cough. However,
in the wide world (globally) these diseases have not been wiped out and they
still take their victims in poorer, less well-fed, less hygienic locales.
Why should any of us care what these parents do, even if they
seem a bit delusional? This is one of the key push-pull arguments of recent
times; which do we judge to be more important, protecting our individual
freedoms or protecting the safety of the majority of people? Wealth,
apparently, carries with it more freedom than is enjoyed by the less wealthy,
at least in the arena of vaccinations.
Those who must send their children to public school accept that
there is lots of risk in large groups of children brought up according to
varying lifestyles and even sometimes in homes which might not be clean and
orderly. These parents see mildly annoying diseases passed around at schools,
such as influenzas, colds, Coxsackie virus, parasites, etc, and they know that,
from time to time, there will be outbreaks of more severe contagious diseases
like mumps, measles and whooping cough. There are still cases where children
die from these diseases. Parents with children in public school cannot afford
to opt out of inoculations and, in fact, schools cannot allow them to exercise
that freedom.
It would be fine, maybe, to allow wealthy people to opt out of
vaccinations without any pushback as our children are not hanging out with
their children. But it’s scary and we are possibly one epidemic away from
tragedy. If the risk these wealthy parents are taking comes back to bite them
in the butt (as in, make their unprotected children very sick) then I hope they
exercise their freedom to take responsibility for the role their own decisions
have played in this.
What if smallpox began to make a comeback through these
unprotected Americans? Would our traditional smallpox vaccine be effective
against modern strains? If there is a tragedy because of this parental choice,
which is backed up by no science there will be hell to pay, or, more likely,
lawsuits.
In the meantime I hope there are studies underway to offer us
data about whether or not the negative mental challenges these parents have
blamed on these inoculations disappear when the inoculations are discontinued. While
it is considered unethical to set up a treatment/nontreatment group study (like
the polio studies in my childhood)for inoculations, with this exclusive group
to study scientists could mine some valuable info so parents will not have to
use magical thinking to draw medical conclusions.
Suggested reading:
By Nancy Brisson

Trivializing Freedom

 
I spend
quality time thinking about freedom. I wake up in the middle of the night, 2 am
or 3 am, and I am trying to grasp what freedom means. Freedom is a word that
contains so much sweetness. It is an ideal to strive for, never to be reached,
but it is also real, real because it has relative reality. We know what freedom
is when we see those who are not free.

I believe
our forefathers had it right when they put freedom of speech at the top of the
list. The mind is what must have freedom. Of course, it is true that even when
the body is shackled the mind may be able to roam free, but obviously, although
freedom of the mind may come first in the hierarchy, freedom of the physical
self, our corporeal person must be present as well. Our American freedom, I
believe, is where our true “exceptionalism” lies; it is the heart of our
democracy.

But many
philosophers have written about how difficult freedom can be; to define it, to
hold it, to keep it, to live it. Where do the limits of our freedom lie? What
if having our freedom serves to curtail someone else’s freedom? Are we free to
be bad, evil, immoral? Apparently we don’t believe we are and that’s why we
form a government and become a nation of laws.

In real
estate they say that ownership of property allows the freedom for the “peaceful
enjoyment” of that property. Suppose you have a neighbor who likes to party,
who has vehicles parked all over his lawn, who blasts loud music day and night.
He is always nice to his neighbors, always helpful. He is a happy man enjoying
his freedom. Are his neighbors free? Are they happy? Free to move perhaps;
happy when winter comes perhaps – but if the quiet people ask their neighbor to
enjoy his freedom a little less so that they can enjoy their peace a little
more and if he agrees, then no one has the same degree of freedom or of the
deprivation of freedom as they previously did. One neighbor has gained freedom;
one has lost some freedom.

I don’t
think freedom means absolute freedom. It looks like freedom is always a
relative construct. Perhaps we should not be free in some of the ways Americans
have come to interpret freedom. We may not be entitled to the longer and longer
childhoods some people in America experience. We are not really free to swallow
as many alcoholic beverages as we do or spend as much time as we do getting
high, or partying. An addiction is not freedom – it is another way to be
chained. It interferes with the freedom of others. It costs others money and
time and anguish and it sucks other people down with it. What you are free to
do is take care of your body, feed it properly, i.e. exercise it, feed your
brain, i.e. educate it. Otherwise you are actually restricting your freedom and
that of others. There is no freedom in wasting or being wasted, but in a free
society these decisions, in spite of the weight they place on others, are
freely made (although illegal). If you take a moral approach to freedom you
cannot choose these things because freedom should lift you up and these things
keep you (and your culture) down.

In America
these days we are like children who just discovered their freedom and want to
be as naughty as possible. We are wasting freedom, mistaking freedom for
hedonism. With freedom there is responsibility; there is gravitas. Look what
our obsession with mindless stimulation is doing. We end up having a group of
people who are in the virtual mosh pit, just throwing themselves onto the arms
of the rest of us to float above life’s realities (realities like the need to
eat, to earn a living, to contribute of your free will to the society in which
you float). How naïve and self-destructive is it to get so wasted that you
throw yourself on the trust (mercy) of your fellow peeps, who are often as
wasted as you, or who have often declared that they will express their freedom
as predators? You are perhaps assuming that you will be rescued by someone who
mixes some values in with their freedom, who uses some of their precious
freedom to rescue drunks and druggies, extreme partiers, and gang bangers.

The very freedom
to be a criminal that is exercised so often these days in America is actually
freedom to become extinct. It is not the freedom that soars and that is worth
fighting for and that sets us apart. We need you imbibers, and ingest-ers, and
indulgers to stop. You’re killing our buzz. Our America is becoming sleazy,
disgusting, adolescent, mentally unbalanced, wasted and unsafe. We already did
the tune out and drop out thing; now we ought to try the tune in and stay with
it thing to see if it’s better. I have a feeling it will be.

I don’t
think we are free to stop being our brother’s keeper and I don’t long for the
freedom of anarchy. I grew up in a family with eight children. Mom was anarchy;
Dad was order; we benefitted from the mix. I don’t want to stop all programs
for the least fortunate among us. I would rather see us create a strategy to
gradually nudge those hedonists among us to find satisfaction in a deeper form
of freedom, as opposed to that mindless interpretation of freedom so many seem
stuck on now. Some need is real; some is self-inflicted.

The very
drugs that were supposed to deliver our citizens from mental illness are, when
taken for recreation, destroying us. We can’t afford to give Americans the
freedom to be self-destructive because it ends up ruining us all. We are
certainly not making freedom look as appealing to the rest of the globe as we
should be. People must just shake their heads and decide that if this is where
freedom takes a nation, then perhaps they don’t want to drink that Kool-Aid. In
fact, this is not where freedom should take us. What good does it do us to be
free to puke in an alley? Freedom is a lot, and I really mean a lot, more wonderful than that.
 
This is the view from the cheap seats.
This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com
 

A Sublime Legacy

The New York City fireworks over the East Vill...Image via WikipediaIt is the 4th of July and sometimes I think a lot about independence and freedom on this day and sometimes not, but this year, with all the courageous demonstrators in Northern Africa and around the world, I can’t help but give the condition more attention. These countries may not win their way all the way to a democratic society, but they are experiencing a measure of freedom which they may not usually enjoy. However some people are dying to do it. I wonder if I would risk dying to protect my freedom. I treasure it but I am also a great big chicken. I am in awe of these people who stand up against tyranny, who risk being mowed down like a blade of grass. How long would I have to be oppressed before I would rise up? How much oppression would it take? Would I want to wait until we had a plan for the future? Would we have enough freedom to have the luxury of planning for the future? I hope I don’t have to find out.

We worry that our own freedoms are eroding and that our government is trying to regulate every aspect of our lives. As world populations grow we may experience an even greater diminution of our freedoms; but we still have so much more freedom than so many millions of people around the world. Just the freedom to read what we wish to read and the freedom to speak what we wish to say (political correctness and appropriateness aside). We have the freedom to come and go as we please and the freedom to study what we wish as long as we do not seem to be contemplating terrorism or criminal activity. Obviously the current state of domestic and world affairs has also acted to curtail some of our freedom, but Americans have always had many ethical concerns that constrained total freedom. I try not to take our freedoms for granted and I worry, along with every other American that if we lose our ascendancy among nations it will be the death knell of our both our independence and our freedoms. How will we find the right path through our modern minefields and safeguard the sublime legacy of our forefathers and our predecessors?

Enhanced by Zemanta