Robin Olsen has lived for half a century. No experience is a bad experience unless we learn nothing from it.
We Live in a Free Country
At least this is what we have been told right? We are told we are free because we get to vote. We are told we are free because we can choose what store to make purchases in, because we can choose which airline to fly on. We are told we are free because we have health care choices. But do these things really represent freedom? We are told that our men and women in uniform are bombing other countries for ‘our freedom’. How do they defend our freedom by bombing a country on the other side of the world that never threatened our freedom? Or by intervening in some other nations civil war, which is a war fought internally and certainly would not threaten the freedom of anyone not living in that particular country? During war time a nation’s citizens are required to surrender their freedoms ‘for the good of the nation’ so what good is freedom if you are forced to surrender it whenever the government tells you to? Are we really free? Or is it just a big game of deception we all live under?
What do you think?
What Freedom Is Not
Capitalism is not freedom. Capitalism is an economic system. Freedom is not defined simply by our ability to choose between Target and Walmart. These are not choices that define our freedoms. Freedom comes from having the opportunity and ability to choose neither and produce your own. In many areas of our society this is simply not allowed at all or is discouraged by interfering by-laws and other pieces of legislation that restrict our ability to produce for ourselves. In some areas such initiatives even carry certain social stigmas attached to them. In fact if we look at Walmart and Target specifically and remember all the ‘Mom & Pop’ organizations put out of business by Target and Walmart we see that we have even less choice in this area than our parents had. Not that it matters as such choices do not represent freedom.
How do you see it?
Financial freedom is another misconception although this one deals more with what financial freedom should look like. Most of us think financial freedom is having more money than we could spend. This is actually the exact opposite of financial freedom. Money is an artificial construct of human society and banks and all money ultimately belongs to those banks, especially in a society that has a central bank. The money can be taken from you for a variety of reasons from taxation to outright seizure of your savings accounts during times of national financial stress. Pension accounts are drained over the years, negative interest savings are applied in many countries that are having financial difficulties. There are literally all kinds of ways your money can be ‘legally’ taken from you by your government. Financial freedom is not defined by having a ton of money. It is defined by not needing that money to begin with. In western societies this is actually an impossible place to get to as not even property you own is actually yours and if you think it is then stop paying the property tax and you will learn fairly quickly who the real owners are. The government ultimately owns all land everywhere within the borders of your nation. You are only ‘leasing’ that space, and if you don’t pay the lease (property tax), you will be removed from that land, by force if necessary. This does not mean that you cannot get fairly close to financial freedom but you won’t get there by saving money. In a way you are just stock piling that money is one spot so the government could potentially come along later and help themselves to it. Financial freedom, as it is popularly defined today, is not freedom. As long as you need money you will always need to work for someone else or play someone else’s game to get it. Even if you work for yourself, you have to deal with banks and other institutions to finance your business and that leads to debt and no one who is debt is free. To me most rich people are actually more stressed out and less happy than your average middle class family is under normal conditions. The more you have the greater the stress levels. The less you need it the happier you are.
Does democracy equate to freedom?
Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply a method used to select government officials to represent you. It is not a system, it is a method. Any country that selects their representatives by voting is using a democratic method. Regardless of what format that government may take afterwards. A full blown communist state can be a democracy if that is how the government representatives are selected. In any democracy the candidate list is restricted to those some person (usually rich) thought should be on that list. Democracy does not require grass roots participation. The most glaring example of this is the Democratic Party of the United States. This party has ‘Super Delegates’ whose job appears to be to ensure only the ‘approved’ candidate gets the nomination. Approved by whom? Well, if this last election is any indication approval certainly does not come from the grass roots. Very few democracies are actually grass roots, in fact, there may even be none at all. So democracy, in the end, does not represent freedom and most of us who want freedom would be just as happy if we lived under a King that governed according to a Libertarian constitution as we would under some elected president who governed under the same constitution. In America and Canada, the fact that we live in a society that uses the democratic method for selecting representatives has not ensured the protection of any of our freedoms. I think by now we have learned that any representative, be they Kings or Presidents, will take your freedoms from you in a heartbeat if it is allowed to happen. A simple method for selecting representatives in no way, shape or form protects freedom.
How do you see it?
What Freedom Is
Freedom is the application of free will. It is as simple as that. It is the ability to dictate your own destiny if you want to call it that. Believe it or not there is nothing at all that can ‘take your free will’ from you and as such it is not possible to have your ‘freedom stolen’. You can only surrender your free will it cannot be seized by force. Even the citizens of North Korea have free will. They have the right to choose to follow along or not. There are consequences for specific choices but these consequences by themselves do not take away free will. So as long as you have the power to choose your own path in life, you are free. This is true even if your choice leads to your death.
So then what is meant by ‘stealing our freedoms’? Well, to me this is not an attempt to restrict the application of free will but rather an attempt to steer your decision making process in a very specific direction. To ensure that when you do exercise your free will it will be done in such a way as to endorse what direction your government wants to go in. We can see this when we carefully watch the political game play out in front of us. When a government is interested in ‘public opinion’, for example, it is not because they want to create laws and mandates that satisfy public opinion, it is because they want to know what public opinion is now so they know how much they need to manipulate public opinion until it closely resembles the representative’s opinion. In the end we make decisions based on that manipulation and most of us do not even realize that our opinion on the matter has been altered. This is only one way to steer the decision making process. Fear is another useful tool for restricting or guiding if you want, your decision making process. This is accomplished by stating that magnificently bad things will happen to you if you do not choose to follow along with your government’s choices. If we go back to the North Korean example we can see how fear is used to manipulate, but did you notice that it is not fear of reprisals so much that manipulate? It is fear of the enemy in North Korea’s case. The North Koreans are told daily that they face a threat of nuclear obliteration at the hands of the USA if they do not allow for a massive army. This fear is used to endorse everything from food restrictions to conscription of soldiers. Without this fear North Korea would not last a week before internal free will tore it apart at the seams.
Deterrents are another form of fear used to manipulate the application of your free will. This does not take away your freedom to choose, but it does infer that a severe penalty will ensue if you do not exercise your free will in the government approved manner. Mostly this applies to criminal behavior and how well it works is a subject for another debate.
What do you think?
If you want to protect your freedom then you need to control your emotional state first, especially where fear is concerned. Fear will sap your free will faster than any mandate from the government will so it is critical that whenever you are exercising your free will that you take a moment to relax and control your emotional state.
Anger, fear, hatred and other negative emotional states will all lead to us making decision we may not want to make or may regret later. We can see this again when we watch the political game play out in front of us. When a government wants to go to war and needs the support of the people to do it they promote hatred and fear against the targeted country or group of people they want to be rid of. They glorify any attacks by said group or nation not because they actually like the attacks but because this helps build the anger and resentment in the society. If the targeted nation or group will not attack then one will very likely be staged. Pictures of the attack are shown over and over again, the more horrific the picture the better the effect. Anyone who resists this type of manipulation is called a traitor or a weakling, unpatriotic, the latest term today is ‘snowflake’. All this is done to discredit any counter argument and to ensure the free will of the people (and the individual) is steered in the proper direction as mandated by the government. Those who resist the social stigmas attached to them for their disagreements and continue to disagree will eventually be locked up so society cannot hear their message, or, in some cases, simply killed.
So, in the end we can see that freedom is simply the act of us, as people, using our independent free will to guide our own lives. This freedom cannot be taken from us by force and can only be influenced by deception, not taken from us. Freedom exists inside all of us, we are all born this way. We surrender it as we go through life by allowing manipulation to direct how we think and feel, and ultimately, what we do about a given situation. If you want to protect your freedom, then control your emotional state and don’t allow yourself to be manipulated and you will always be free. Be advised though, in my personal experience most of your fellow humans will not appreciate your freedom being displayed in their presence. You will face insults, social stigmas, banishment, confinement, violence and even death just for not allowing yourself to be dragged along with the rest of the crowd. Every human has free will but it is the least appreciated aspect of human nature in today’s world.
Religion and Freedom
This one will be touchy. First, there is no such thing as ‘religious freedom’ in the individual sense. Religious freedom refers to the ability of one specific religion to practice the faith within one specific region of the world. For example, the USA has religious freedom in that you are free to follow any religion you want as long as it does not interfere or harm your neighbor, but you are not free to start your own, this would be referred to as a cult. Within that religion you are under many restrictions to the proper exercise of your free will. Many religious people do not mind these restrictions and follow the faith voluntarily so to say that religion ‘steals’ your freedom is not relevant. Most of the faithful surrender their free will to a religion it is not ‘taken’ from them. When religion becomes a problem is when that religion feels that it has the right to dictate to the entire society how to live. This is an attempt to manipulate the free will and control the decision making process for everyone in the society regardless on religious affiliation or not. Most of those reading this are probably thinking about Islam at this point but Islam is only one of the religious groups that try to dominate the entire community regardless on religious affiliation. Here is the western world we see many religious groups trying to apply their religious laws to everyone else around them. Hutterites, Amish, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, as well as Islam try to control every aspect of community life even for those within the community that are not of the same religious beliefs. But in the end an individual exercising his or her free will can choose to join any religious group they want. Religious groups do not ‘steal’ freedom and those who join are fully aware there will be restrictions as to life style choices and these restrictions are accepted freely so it would be invalid to say that a religion ‘steals’ freedom unless that religion is trying to forcibly convert people against their will.
Is it even possible?
The end goal of all of us is to control everything and everyone within our sphere of influence. Control mechanisms come in many forms. 'Tradition', for example, is a control mechanism in that it attempts to limit free will by specifying what is and is not acceptable based on tribal or cultural association. Many units and sub units within a society are influenced by this. There are family traditions for each family, cultural or tribal traditions followed by everyone in the tribe and even individual traditions that each of us may or may not follow on a individual basis and all of it is nothing more than a control mechanism that limits the application of free will. And all of it is an illusion. Controlling an individual’s behavior is utterly impossible in every sense of the word. It is actually manipulation of the other’s free will. You can force this manipulation with threats but the ‘control’ is gone as soon as the one making the threat is gone. Traditions and other more 'covert' forms of control are a little longer lasting but in the end can be pushed aside by a simple display of free will on the part of the individual. There is no force in the world that can control you. Your free will is going to always rise above the control and in the end you will be the master of your own fate. This is why the excuse of 'just following orders' is chronically rejected during any war crimes trial that I have ever seen and the excuse of 'someone else told me to do it' is also rejected in any civilian court of law. Only proven insanity has ever released anyone from personal responsibility, and this is done only because the insane person has no concept of right or wrong, not because they are not responsible for their actions. The only thing in this world you have any valid control over is yourself. If you follow one direction or another is a result of your own decisions.
You are Responsible for Your Own Free Will
Freedom is misunderstood in today’s world. Capitalism, democracy, financial security, constitutions, none of those things ‘make’ us free as we were never anything else but free. We were born free. Even a slave can choose to simply not be a slave. The consequences of that choice can be pretty severe but the choice is still theirs to make. If the consequences of choice scare you off then remember what Mark Twain said; “A man who lives his life fully is prepared to die at any time”
Even if you choose not to decide, you have still made a choice. No one can ever take that from you.
So when you are worried about your ability to exercise your free will and are wondering if this or that law will 'take it from you' just remember that no one can actually take your free will away and you can only surrender it. If it is surrendered then you did that, not some law or mandate by some far away person, but rather you and you alone surrendered your free will. If I may preach a little of my own personal spiritual beliefs here I would say that God has given us one gift and one gift only and that gift is Free Will. I would think long and hard before surrendering that gift and basically tossing it out a window. Perhaps this is the only sin we are capable of committing...
© 2017 Robin Olsen
Dianna Mendez on January 04, 2018:
Very challenging post on freedom. There are so many threads to consider, hopefully not to tangle.
Robin Olsen (author) from Rural Canada on October 30, 2017:
i think you are referring to the 'freedom to do what you want without consequences' rather than just 'freedom' - every decision we make in life has consequences but those consequences do not make decisions for us, they simply are considerations when it comes to making our decisions... you are still and always will be free to choose what ever you wish to choose
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on October 27, 2017:
You have written a very interesting discourse on the meaning of freedom. Sadly, I think freedom is an illusion. Life constricts are freedom. (I'm not actually free to jump off a cliff.)Society, government, organizations all place limits on our freedom. The important thing is balance. Enough restrictions to make life possible but enough freedom to make life worth living.
Robin Olsen (author) from Rural Canada on May 05, 2017:
S. Maree - you were never without that freedom... don't let anyone tell you any different... you were born free ... I'm glad it got you thinking...
S Maree on May 05, 2017:
Wow! A LOT to think about! Thankful for the opportunity to read this. Mind, I'm not saying "freedom" to read. Still trying to wrap my head around many of the points. Been letting my brain atrophy. At least we HAVE the freedom to think the way we want!