It’s a two stage question. Before we decide whether we are free individuals within our society, we have to ask ourselves whether we are free in our own minds. Are we prisoners of what William Blake called “the mind-forged manacles”? Is there a division in our psyche itself? Are we at war with some aspect of our own nature?
Often we look only at external social and political factors when considering the question of freedom. But whether we can be controlled or exploited by others depends on the vulnerability or otherwise of our psychological state. Divide and conquer is a basic principle of warfare, and, in the same way, if our psyche is divided then we become much easier to control.
The less we need, the freer we are. We only need to take a look at the life of any drug addict to see that where there is absolute need there is also absolute slavery.
The psychological foundation for any kind of meaningful state of social or political freedom is self-sufficiency in the area of personal esteem. If we really don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks about us then not only are we freer economically ? not having a need to make any kind of statement of self-worth through ostentatious material goods ? but we are much harder to intimidate.
The route to this kind of freedom is radical self-acceptance.
If we consider ourselves as we are at this moment, we know these things :
- The past cannot be changed, so anything which has happened to us in the past or which we have done in the past is best accepted without regrets or guilt.
- While our actions may harm others, our thoughts and feelings, in themselves, cannot. So we might as well accept those thoughts and feelings unconditionally.
One of the great ironies of life is that we spend so much effort on trying to improve ourselves, struggling with our feelings or trying to censor our thoughts. And yet, if we can learn to accept ourselves as we are and allow our thoughts and emotions absolute freedom to go where they will, we find that these thoughts and feelings ? even the most shocking and frightening ones ? are part of a movement towards wholeness in our being.
We are born with a capacity for unconditional love for all of our fellows. It never goes away, but only becomes subsumed by our struggle against accepting ourselves.
What would it be like to live in a world where nobody had anything to prove? Left wing politics, right wing politics, religions of various stripes… All dogma is a defense against free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place.
The world is a mirror in which we see ourselves reflected. Those of us who are greedy think the government is greedy and wants to tax us too much. Those of us who are full of hatred see enemies everywhere. Those who have a hard time repressing their sexual desires see “sinners” on every side.
But freedom exists in the hearts of those who, unhampered by self-obsession, are open to love, that force of attraction which draws the individual to find his or her fullest meaning within a freely unfolding society which cannot be controlled by those in the grip of closed-minded insecurity.
This is already happening. The old dogmas are dying. In the middle ages you could be tortured to death for questioning the concept that the sun revolved around the earth. Today you can say pretty much anything you like on the Internet.
We live in the latter days of civilization. Civilization is socially-enforced repression. Anything which threatens its cohesive structure has to be made civil, that is tamed or repressed. This is what civilization means. So what is it which threatens the cohesion of society? Mainly two things ? sex and violence. If we were to act on all of our sexual desires or give our feelings of anger uncontrolled physical expression it would be very hard for society to keep functioning.
Of course, even without any externally imposed repression, each of us restrains those impulses which we recognize as being potentially dangerous to society. For various psychological reasons some have more to repress than others. The more someone is struggling to repress something within himself the more its expression by others seems to threaten that struggle. So, while the initial reason for social repression was to avoid forms of behavior which might be directly destructive to society, later the need to protect the feelings of the most repressed also became a factor.
And since the desire to control others arises in the struggle to control oneself, it follows that the members of society who most commonly sought power were also the ones who were the most repressed, and thus the most insecure or neurotic. As a result, civilization became patriarchal, sacrificing the freedom of women and children and homosexuals to avoid disturbing the fragile psychological state of the male hierarchy.
Will the collapse of this kind of sick civilization mean a descent into violent chaos? I don’t think so. While these structures were repressing our scary aggressive and sexual desires, deep below those impulses our profound capacity for unconditional love has also been laying dormant. Wars, terrorism, riots, etc. These are eruptions from this stockpile of repressed hostility, but they are the exception, not the rule. Often we see the dramatic, the violent, but not the gentle and the creative. But we have a medium now ? the Internet ? for voluntary global cooperation of an anarchistic rather than imposed variety. Our society has, historically, been a hierarchical one, and hierarchy is an attempt by the most frightened and unimaginative members of society to keep love and creativity from expressing themselves freely.
Set free that which is within you!
About the Author:
JOE BLOW is the author of the ebook How to Be Free. Find Joe’s ebook at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/88690
Photo Credit: Image: Chaiwat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net