Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Thoughts of a Free Man

All people who participate in national politics actively these days (e.g. by voting for Republican or Democratic candidates for president) are socialists.  They believe in the power of central planning.  They give strength to bureaucracy (which works the way it works, the whole world over: there is no vast different between American bureaucracy and Soviet or Chinese bureaucracy; all the bureaucracies are more similar than different, a fact that our obsession with ideology tends to obscure).  Instead of reading polemics by strident partisans (arguing for or against some -ism), read novels.  Standing in a bread-line in Soviet Russia is not that different from standing in line at the DMV in the good old USA.  Prisons in the USA are not that different from prisons elsewhere.  WMDs here are like WMDs there.  Armies here are like armies there.  Police here are like police there.  Stupid polemical arguments here are like stupid polemical arguments there. 

The kind of freedom that I care about is not a word in a particular language.  It does not depend on how a bunch of robed dudes interpret an arcane document.  It does not depend on you or me or any of us.  It is bigger than everyone, individually and collectively.  You cannot control it, no matter how many bombs you make or laws you pass.  I don't have to fight to protect this freedom from you or anyone else because it doesn't need protection.  In fact, to protect this freedom is to lose it.  It is not secure.  It is not securable.  You can worry about it obsessively or pay it no mind, and it doesn't give a damn.  It just goes on existing, enabling your life and everyone else's, until some unforeseen moment when it decides that someone or something stops living.  The market drops.  Cancer appears.  A tsunami strikes.  An earthquake hits your nuclear reactor.  Lights out.  No time-outs.  No instant replay.  No referees.  No rules.  No closed system to game.

Freedom is embracing this reality--knowing that you don't know reality, that nobody knows it, and that this moment of ignorance is unexpectedly, inexplicably sweet.  How delicious that we are all alive!  How wonderful that we can speak, think, and even move with purpose every now and then and accomplish things (not because we have any right to them, but because luck conspires to enable our feeble gestures toward purpose and meaning).  Why ruin this blessing by attempting to muzzle it?  How can I drag myself away from the joy of my own experience long enough to ruin yours (by trying to make it just like mine)?  How does it build my delight in life to deny yours (or vice versa)?  Live and let live (and die) is the credo of the really free man.  I am not threatened by your happiness, even when it is not mine.  I know that I am dying.  I embrace death with the same joy that I feel for life, since life and death are really the same thing (life is built out of death: every step away from one kind of death draws me that much closer to another one).  Freedom is knowing the outcome (I must die) and not caring (I shall make a beautiful death, whenever my moment comes).  Freedom is not giving a damn whether other people are capitalists or communists.  Freedom is not giving a damn whether gays marry or not.  Freedom is not giving a damn whether the Constitution says this or that.  Freedom is not giving a damn whether God did this or the devil that.  Freedom is not giving a damn (not because you are an angry nihilist who rejects all meaning in life, but because you are a realist who sees that your personal happiness does not have to depend on outcomes outside human control).

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