Monday, August 27, 2012

Living Free in an Unfree World

The title of this post sounds like a paradox. How can you live free if the world is unfree?

But, even before I address that idea, what do I mean by an unfree world? Don’t we live in a free country? Aren’t we free to do anything we want to? Doesn’t the U.S. Constitution (for those who are U.S. citizens or residents) guarantee our freedom? Even if you live in other developed countries that claim to be open and free societies, are you really free?

Here is a hard fact. If you live in any society with any kind of governance: democratic, parliamentary, republic, monarchy, dictatorship, socialistic, communistic, totalitarian or any other form of governance you can name, you are NOT free. As long as there is any kind of authority that prescribes laws, regulations, rules, restrictions, limitations, covenants, constraints or any other form of control over your thinking and/or actions that you must subscribe to, you are not free.

So, is it actually possible to be 100% free? From what I can tell, as long as you live on this planet and interact with other people and live within the borders of any area that is considered a jurisdiction under some organized, societal structure, I would have to say no. It’s not possible to ever be 100% free.

Actually, it’s my belief that there are only two instances during your natural lifetime that you might say you are 100% free. The first is the instant you are born and take your first breath and the instant when you take your last breath and die. Between those two instants in time numerous individuals, organizations and governments, in one form or another, control you.

I just finished reading a book titled, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne. I read the 25th Anniversary Edition of the book in Kindle format. The original book was published in 1973, the year I was discharged from my “supposed” voluntary enlistment in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. I wish I had known about and read this book back then. It certainly would have changed my thinking drastically for then next 35 years or so. Interestingly, as I read Browne’s book, I realized that a lot of the philosophy and points he was making brought many of my own thoughts and philosophies to the forefront of my thinking. Even more interesting was that these were ideas that I was wrestling with through the end of my high school, through college and graduate school and certainly through my brief, four year Air Force career.

While I thought I was free, I knew that I was far from free. All through my Air Force enlistment, while I had a fantastic job and was certainly quite a bit freer then the vast majority of my military comrades, I was, on my own level, protesting a system that, ultimately, had complete control over my life, even to the point of giving me a direct order that might require the ultimate sacrifice of my life. I was considered a “personnel problem,” but only on a minor scale, as I challenged the authority over my life and pushed the boundaries of the envelope to see how far I could go in asserting control over my own life.

Even though I was a minor personnel problem, my skills, talents and performance still made me a valuable asset to the Air Force. At the end of my enlistment they offered me a very generous reenlistment bonus (for that time) and a rapid promotion to the next enlisted rank of E6 or a Technical Sergeant. I, of course, was required to sign another enlistment contract for an additional four years. I was also offered an almost unheard of direct commission to the officer rank of 2nd Lieutenant. I declined all the offers because, once again, I realized that I felt the least free I’d ever felt in my life up to that point. I wanted to leave the Air Force and be in control of my own life by running my own business.

Where am I going with this idea of Living Free in an Unfree World? Simply put, this is the beginning of a new series of posts I’ll be expanding over the next several months. Many of Harry Browne’s ideas and philosophies on freedom struck me as being outside my own, sometimes by mainstream standards, outrageous ideas. His book really made me think. Living Free has become a passion for me, but I realized I had so much more to learn about freedom and what it truly meant to me after reading Browne’s book.

One thing that struck me was the estimation of how free people are. Browne estimates that the average person, on a scale of 1% to 100% free is between 10% and 30% free. That set me back on my heels. Basically, anywhere in that 10% to 30% range doesn’t sound very free to me at all. He further went on to suggest that those who actively pursue personal freedom might realize between 30% and 60% freedom. Only a very few people attain levels of freedom above 60% and there is no one who attains 100% freedom. Actually, in today’s world, it seems to me that even attaining 60% freedom is an accomplishment to be envied.

In earlier posts I presented my 12 Steps for Living Free. I never thought about what percentage of freedom you or I might achieve by adopting and following these 12 steps. I would make a very wild estimate that we might approach the 60% degree of freedom if we rigorously followed these 12 steps, but I can’t truly quantify the results at this time. So, at best, this is an assumption.

In the book, Browne pointed out 14 traps we all are susceptible to and likely, in varying degrees, are entrapped by. He suggests there are others, but these were the main ones he felt the largest percentage of the population fell into. After reading them, I had to agree. And, actually, I just took an action to free myself from one of those traps based on reading and discovering that I was in the trap. Additionally, he outlined 11 ways to attain more freedom. Some of them are similar to some of my 12 Steps. Others are ideas I hadn’t considered before.

So, here’s the plan. My 12 Steps for Living Free are in the process of becoming my first book on the subject of living free. Browne’s book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World is ultimately going to be the basis for a future book of mine. I certainly don’t need to write Browne’s book again, he did a fantastic job with his version. However, his book will be 40 years old next year. Our world, our country, our governments and every facet of our lives have changed exponentially over these 40 years.

Browne’s book will be a launching point. I’m going to examine how his ideas relate to personal freedom in the 21st Century. Most of the basic foundation about freedom that he wrote from is unchanged. I have to wonder, though, if those who were living close to the 60% freedom on the scale are still anywhere near that 60%. I also wonder if those near 30% freedom on the scale are still near that 30%. But, most interesting is how many of those who were at the 10% level on the scale are now down in the single digits.

Have we sold out? Have we bought into the charismatic leaders, the corporations, institutional organizations and most of all, the many levels of governance to such a degree in search of happiness, security and peace of mind that, in reality, we are further from true personal freedom, happiness, security and peace of mind then ever before?

I hope this topic will stir something inside you. I hope you’ll want to share it with as many others as possible who, like you, are not satisfied with where your lives are now and where you all see your lives going in the future. I also hope to stir up enough controversy to generate plenty of interactive comments on the various posts. I’ve said this before. Life is NOT a dress rehearsal. You are only going to have this one chance to live this life. What do YOU want out of it? How do you define happiness for YOURSELF? How much personal freedom do you require to live your dreams and be truly happy? Everyone is different. So, I expect many different opinions and ideas on this topic.  

"Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility." 
                              Sigmund Freud 


biofilopanclasta said...

I read Harry's book a long time ago, and it did help more with the mental aspects of freedom, but Bill Kaysings really started Me down the road, as He had wrote about the many ways to pull out of the system and still survive. I would encourage anyone thats interested to read some of bill Kaysings works also.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Thanks for that insight and recommendation. I'm going to check out Kaysings' works and add them to my reading list. The system is the issue. It has become far to complicated and engulfing. We become indoctrinated at a very young age and just accept that this is the way life is and this is what freedom is. Most folks just go along with it because it seems harder to simplify and downsize one's life and accept the "less is more" concept when it comes to personal freedom than to remain with the status quo and just accept the system.