Find Freedom Friend

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January 1, 2007

'The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool.' ~ Richard Feynman

There are levels of and paths to freedom that are not visible to the naked eye. But before we start looking for them, let's first define exactly what it is we are looking for. What is freedom? Wikipedia calls it, 'the absence of restraints upon our ability to think and act.' That has a nice ring to it!

The trouble is, there is no shortage of tyrants determined to attempt to inflict restraints upon us. Even worse, most sheeple are more than willing, yea, crying out for more stewardship. Basically, liberal leaners want politicians to enforce controls in hopes of making everything fair and nice for everyone. Unfortunately, they are too blind to see just below the surface of such claims. Tyranny isn't nice for anyone, not even those getting handouts. They become handout junkies. Rightie-tighties also want controls, as long as it's their brand, because they take other people's choices personally. Basically, conservatives are egomaniacal busybodies who are afraid of their own secret desires and find other people's liberty frightening. They take it personally and badly. (How dare we mention that they also profit from the political process!)

Money provides freedom to act. If you have it, you can pay other people to do things you'd rather not do for yourself, either because it's too complicated or you simply don't enjoy it. Money will also allow you to do things you want to do, such as read, travel or practice a sport or an expensive hobby, simply because you enjoy it. Generally, the more money you have, the more at liberty you are to act as you like. Paris Hilton is a good example of this.

Unfortunately, today in America too many consumers pretend to enjoy financial freedom by using their homes as an ATM. They borrow against it to consume things they don't need, in hopes that this somehow makes them happy and therefore, free; that it somehow compensates for the tyranny we live under and pay dearly to export it to other nations. (Support the troops ' they are defending your right to borrow yourself into debt slavery.)

Artistic creativity ' writing, painting, baking, pottery, gardening ' this is a kind of freedom (except where such expression is prohibited.)

Honesty is a most certain means of freedom. There's nothing I can do about tyranny until I have met the tyrant within. Power is seductive. Even a pure soul like Tolkien's Frodo had some trouble resisting the temptation of the One Ring, along with literally everyone else. Many conspired to get their hands on the one ring of power even though they knew it would enslave and destroy them. Given opportunity, is the average, non-fiction man any different? Here's a simple test. Have you ever said to your children 'because I said so.' I think we've all met bureaucrats with this attitude. A little power is heady stuff and almost completely irresistible.

If you can face the truth about yourself, your shortcomings and human frailty, the fact that power is tempting, and be honest about these with others, then you don't have to live in fear of anyone discovering your secrets and making them public. The thing is, we're all made of the same stuff, clay feet and all that. Carl Sagan said it best: "It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Is living honestly easy to do? No, honesty is humbling, and humility is not a sought after quality in our culture. Young men today want to be 'pimps,' their women 'bitches and ho's.' Honestly, I'm glad my husband opens doors for me. He doesn't do this to subjugate me or remind me that he is stronger than I am. It's a throwback to another era, to be sure, but he likes to do it as a gesture of respect, and I appreciate it for that reason. It doesn't mean anything about either of us. We both know I'm capable of opening a door, and if I weren't, it still wouldn't be a psychological crime to open it for me. It's just nice when he does. He usually gets a smile for his trouble. I guess he likes that.

Not only does humility make you more free, it draws others to you, because it's very hard to be a pompous know-it-all when you go around being honest about yourself. It is also the best incentive for living with integrity, because actually, we all live in glass houses anyway. Will you be taken advantage of from time to time? Certainly, but this will happen sometimes anyway. We're much more likely to draw good things to ourselves by putting good things out into the universe, casting our bread upon the water, if you will.

Please don't think for a moment that I'm knocking privacy ' there are few things more sacred. Privacy is different from secrecy. Privacy is assumed innocence. It's what the Constitution was meant to guarantee to the people. Secrecy implies wrongdoing and it's why government does more and more snooping into the private details of our lives and becomes more fiercely protective of its dirty little secrets. As it grows at an ever-increasing rate in size and despicability, government must guard its secrets more and more. (No photos of the caskets of dead GI's, no political T-shirts except in free speech zones, no embarrassing questions for the Decider-in-Chief, secret tribunals and military prisons. The list of abuses is endless. Expect it to get worse before it gets better.)

Honesty is also an invitation to others who have yet to awaken to the tyranny this nation is living under. Honesty is a non-threatening way of opening other people's eyes. It builds bridges. When I encounter people with confidence, I'm drawn to them. I want to get to know and emulate them. I want to know what they're about. Is a confident person someone who has managed to evade reality? No, a confident person is someone who has met fear and the myriad other demons which oppress humanity and learned to shoulder them. I'm sure confident people have felt fear, but they didn't allow it to paralyze them or cause them to flee. When I exhibit self-confidence and freedom of thinking and living, thinking people are also drawn to me and want to know what I'm about.

There's a tremendous temptation to falter in the face of the truths of life in America today. Some days it's almost more than I can bear. It's painful as hell to see the rule of law disintegrate and the erosion of our civil liberties march off like buckets of water that the sorcerer's apprentice put irrevocably in motion. It can be overwhelming to consciously consider the wheelbarrows full of dollars one has labored for, which the state carts off every year through taxation. Those who object are dealt with harshly, severely and most publicly. In fact, millions of Americans see nothing wrong with state-sanctioned torture or the killing of women and children by the thousands. 'Collateral damage,' and 'It was worth it' are the responses. If it were one politico's child, would they be yawning so?

What is one human being to do in the face of such oppression? Reach for another cold one, turn up the volume on the plasma TV, cross your fingers and hope it all works out without hurting you? 'Jesus 'gone work it out' as the song goes. My Dad used to say, 'If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.'

I'm convinced that the greatest freedom lies in holding our own feet to the fire, facing reality, no matter how awful it may be. When we face the truth about the nature of government, about the state of our nation, when we face the truth about our own human nature, only then can we do anything about it. Freedom can be had in the most oppressive circumstances because it's an inside job. You don't have to wait for anyone to give it to you. Chances are, if you wait, it will never come. If you choose to face the painful truth, only then are you free to choose your actions rather than be driven by a thousand forms of fear.

I always used to hold the notion inside that life was dangerous, a veritable tightrope walk. One false move and I was dead. I thought I might die if I tried something new and different and failed. But doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different outcome is an insane waste of existence. Every time I try something new and scary, I'm amazed that, not only do I not die, but I learn something and often gain tremendous returns, even when I do technically fail. My options improve. My horizons constantly expand, even if only in my own thinking. My confidence in my ability to meet life and to talk to people about liberty improves. I encounter new friends who also love liberty, but were afraid to say so. I am free.

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Retta Fontana's picture
Columns on STR: 53

Retta Fontana is an atheist, anarchist, baker, potter and parenting teacher.  Children are her favorite people.