Wednesday, June 15, 2011
As conservatives start looking towards the 2012 election, the word "liberty" gets used a lot. But people forget that true liberty is taken, not given – and trying to "liberate" America from the ballot box is like trying to liberate Paris while still stuck in a German POW camp.
First, Americans have to liberate themselves.
As I wrote a few days ago, both the Republican and Democratic party work hard to create a culture of dependency. The first step towards "liberty" is to escape those shackles; and that's done at an individual level – not at a tea party rally. The first step towards collective liberty is individual freedom, and freedom means not being dependent on others.
To be free, you have to objectively examine your own life and identify areas in which you are dependent on others. For most Americans, these are most frequently work, wealth and health; but can extend to less tangible areas like happiness and satisfaction.
If there's one obvious area of dependence, it's our job. We are dependent on our jobs to pay our rent, supply our health care and give us our sense of purpose and identity. We might think that we're in an equitable relationship – receiving payment for services rendered – but far too often our jobs are little more than indentured servitude.
Think about it: Americans are working longer and longer hours than ever before – plus taking work home, even on vacation, thanks to smartphones and Blackberries.
Yet we're not receiving any more money for this increased workload. In fact, wages haven't gone up since 2000 (even though the cost of living has.) Americans put up with the increased pressure because they're scared of losing their jobs. Too many of us have become utterly dependent on our work.
The first step to liberty – to true liberty – is to stop being dependent on work. That doesn't mean to quit your job (but it doesn't mean not to, either.) It means to reexamine how you approach your employment and put yourself on a level footing with those who sign your paycheck.
Stop thinking of yourself as an employee – somebody who is lucky to have a job - and start thinking of yourself as an independent contractor instead: Somebody your employer lucky to have working with (not for) them. Cultivate the skills, experience and contacts you need to be a desirable talent; and make your job anxious to keep you, instead of being anxious to keep your job.
Or, even better, start planting the seeds of true financial independence. Find clients and side jobs so you have more than one source of income. Act like you're a business, not a worker. True independence is having the confidence to walk away from your current job and know you'll still be able to pay your rent. That is liberty worth fighting for.
For decades, they've been selling us on the American Dream – a big house, shiny car and all the gadgets a credit card can buy. The price of this dream, however, is slavery. If there's one dependency almost all Americans have, it's debt.
Whether we're talking credit card payments or a mortgage, most Americans are leveraged to the hilt. The bank might not literally own your ass; but it does own your car, your house, your TV and anything else you bought on credit.
All these shiny things Americans were desperate to own actually ended up owning them. How many thousands of dollars do you pour into interest payments each year?
True independence is not driving a car, or living in a house, or watching a TV that belongs to somebody else. Real freedom comes from buying a crappy car in cash, knowing that the car loan company can't repossess it. True liberty comes from knowing the bank can't foreclose on your house when the rate of your adjustable mortgage shoots up 300%.
Sadly, in modern America, there's only so much financial freedom many of us can aspire to. If it wasn't for mortgages or loans, many of us might never own a house, or even a car.
That being said, real liberty starts by not being enslaved by your possessions or your debts. Liberate yourself by living debt free whenever you can, however you can.
It might mean you don't have the latest shiny gadget, or biggest TV, or smartest car – but it also means that what meager possessions you do have you own outright. Nothing you buy with the somebody else's money ever truly belongs to you.
Health care costs in America are absurd, and millions of Americans are working jobs they hate simply because they cannot cover themselves or their families except through an employee-sponsored plan. This is perhaps the greatest indenture in America today – and one that's not within the power of most of us to solve. Liberty will only be achieved when Americans have access to truly affordable, truly portable health insurance.
But, in the mean time, there are things you can do to make yourself less enslaved by the shackles of the "free market" health care monopoly. You won't be able to cure yourself of cancer or diabetes, but the health benefits of regular exercise or losing weight are incredible.
When I moved to America, I was suffering from chronic acid reflux. I spent hundreds of dollars on over-the-counter medication, which would treat the problem - but never cure it. When I went on my diet and shed 30lbs, though, something amazing happened: My acid reflux stopped, and I've been pill-free ever since.
Same thing with my bad back and high blood pressure. What lifestyle changes can you make to improve your health? Make them, and keep your money instead of handing it over to drug companies that would keep you dependent on their pills and potions for the rest of your life.
Happiness & Satisfaction
Millions of Americans are miserable because they won't take responsibility for their emotions. They allow their mood – happy or sad, satisfied or needy – to be defined by the behavior of other people. They make expectations of how other people should act and then get huffy when those people fail to meet those expectations.
This is absurd, and true emotional slavery. If your mood is dependent on another person acting a certain way (and often without them even being told about how you want them to act in the first place) then your chances for lasting happiness are nilch.
The only actions and behavior you can control are your own; and emotional freedom comes from accepting that you have no power over the behavior of other people. Therefore, you shouldn't let your mood be dependent on what they do. Only when their actions directly influence your life should you grant them any power over your emotions at all; and even then, only grudgingly.
That's an excellent personal philosophy, and it's also true in the political sphere.
Think of all the ways in which people make themselves miserable because of the way other people behave; even though such behavior doesn't effect them.
Some real life examples from the headlines? Same sex couples wanting to get married, religious parents wanting to homeschool their kids – even fetish groups hosting a private party in a reserved hotel.
It seems even though these are decisions being made by adults which have no impact on anybody else, everybody expects and demands their say in them.
Perhaps the truest form of liberty is to untangle yourself from matters which don't concern you.
If two men you'll never meet want to get married in a state you don't even live in; let them.
As long as they're not abusing them, let parents raise their own kids exactly how they see fit.
As long as they're all consenting adults, and it's done behind closed doors, let hotels host invitiation-only, "naughty" parties all year round.
Give strangers power over your emotions, and you give strangers power over you. Deny them that power and you become that much more free as a result.
The desire for American liberty is an honorable one; steeped in the same spirit which founded this great country over two centuries ago.
However, nobody can aspire to that freedom until they become free themselves. One of the reasons the tea party movement has become so popular in America is because so many people identify that they're shackled and enslaved; but how much of that can they blame on the government, and how much should they accept responsibility for themselves?
If you're in debt or on welfare, or working a job you hate to pay the bills, or enraged at gay marriage, perhaps you're the one who needs to change – not America.
This is the land of opportunity and there are a million opportunities to free yourself from whatever is holding you back. That's not the job of the government, nor is it the job of anybody else. Take responsibility for yourself and you become master of your own destiny.
You have to remember that eternal truth – freedom is taken, not given.
No mayor, or congressman, or senator or president will ever truly grant you 'freedom' - you have to do that for yourself.
Then, only when you've throw off all the chains of personal dependence and become a truly free individual, can you come together with other individuals to achieve what liberties you couldn't on your own.