Friday, July 4, 2008

¿Dónde está la freedom?

Freedom...Lately when I hear that word, it comes out in my head in a thickly Te-jas-accented George W. Bush voice, which is sad. I don't want to make a political mockery of such a fine word.

I also think of fierce survivalist types who use freedom to mean more of an anarchical state - no rules, no taxes, the ultimate survival of the fittest (in a heavily armed little shack in the woods).

Then I think about when I was a little kid and freedom was more innocently connoted in my mind. Freedom meant George Washington, and Fromseatoshingingsea, and the Civil War that emancipated slaves.

In A Language Older that Words Derrick Jensen said that with increased awareness comes decreased happiness. When we know too much, it's hard to recapture the easier, blissfully ignorant stage of ourselves that believed in over-arching concepts. I'll show my jaded side and state that the idea of freedom in the US seems skewed to me. So many people hold the idea that we are a meritocracy and that with enough work or sweat equity anyone can do anything. Well, I don't necessarily think that's true - we don't all start out on an even playing field. If we did, I might believe that. But some people grow up in urban wastelands dodging bullets and dropping out to help feed the fam by age 12. Some people have parents who beat them or severely neglect them. Can some people rise out of these circumstances and make something of themselves? Absolutely. As a law of averages, though? No way.

And then, of course, there are a multitude of other freedoms that escape the working class but are the birthright of the wealthy...there are freedoms that are curtailed by political machinations and behind-closed-door-deals with multinationals...there are freedoms that are lost whenever any form of civilization of society is reified in our minds. We've all collectively agreed to play a game and (largely) abide by the rules. Is that freedom?

So maybe I'm trying to go too broad with the idea of freedom. Since I'm having trouble "feeling the freedom" on a national or international scale can I localize freedom? What does local freedom look like? Am I referring to local rules and regs as impediments to freedom or to the freedom I have within my personal sphere of influence or relationships? (I don't know!)

Maybe freedom is a state of mind. Maybe freedom escapes dogma and a rigid set of rules. Maybe freedom is a worldview.

I'm free to love, laugh, garden, kick my heels up, follow the rules I agree with and gently break those I don't (with an understanding of the potential consequences involved...). I'm free to get the sort of education I can afford. I'm free to give the finger to the corporate machine. I'm free to disagree with a political machine (hallelujah, now that's a freedom! I loved the bit about the American flag sticker on Tara's blog).

In that spirit, I'll close with this quote that I saw on the Urban Homestead blog - it's great.

"Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being."

Mohandas Gandhi

To celebrate our freedom, we're doing the most Okie thing we can think of - going to the lake to grill out. Food, family, and fun - that's freedom.


Hausfrau said...

We have wonderful freedom here in America, but still the freedoms you exercise are largely the freedoms you can afford.

Lewru said...

Yep! I think having spent six years abroad really opened my eyes to what we have here. And there are wonderful things about living in the US - but I still think freedom is a state of mind rather than a list of rules. I saw that play out in other countries, as well...