The title of this article 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 claiming 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 and adhere 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 considered to be some form of jurisdiction under some organized, societal structure, I have to say no. It’s not possible to ever be 100% free.
Actually, it’s my belief there are only two instances during your natural lifetime when you might claim you are 100% free. The first is the instant you are born and take your first breath. And, the second is the instant you die and take your last breath. Between those two instants in time numerous individuals, organizations and governments, in one form or another, control your life in numerous ways.
I read 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. That was 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 dramatically for then next 40+ years. Interestingly, as I read Browne’s book, I realized a lot of the philosophy and points he was making brought many of my own thoughts and philosophies into focus. Even more interesting was that these were ideas I was wrestling with through the end of my high school, through college and graduate school education and certainly through my,what now seems brief, four year Air Force tenure.
While I thought I was free, somehow I knew, subconsciously, I was far from free. All through my Air Force enlistment I had a fantastic job and was certainly quite a bit freer then the vast majority of my military comrades. However, on my own level, I was protesting a system that, ultimately, had complete control over my life. This control even went to the degree I might receive a direct order requiring the sacrifice of my life.
I was considered a “personnel problem,” but only on a minor scale. 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. As the end of my four year enlistment drew near, the Air Force offered me a very generous reenlistment bonus (for that time) and a rapid promotion to the next enlisted rank, E6, a Technical Sergeant. I, of course, was required to sign another enlistment contract for an additional four years. I was also offered a, almost unheard of, direct commission to the officer rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
I declined all the offers because, once again, I realized I felt the least free I’d ever felt in my life up to that point. I wanted to leave the Air Force. I wanted to be in control of my own life running my own business. I believed being an entrepreneur was the path to personal freedom. I had another series of surprises in store for me in the future as I pursued that path.
Where am I going with this idea of Living Free in an Unfree World? Many of Harry Browne’s ideas and philosophies about freedom struck me as being outside mainstream standards. Actually, they were very affirming of what I thought were my own outrageous ideas. His book made me really think. Living Free had become a passion for me. But, I then 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 the average person, on a scale of 1% to 100% free is between 10% and 30% free. That set me back on my heels. Anywhere in that 10% to 30% range doesn’t sound very free to me at all.
He 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%. No one 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 articles I presented my 12 Steps for Living Free. I never thought about it in terms of percentages of freedom you or I might achieve by adopting and following these 12 steps. I would venture an estimate that we might approach the 60% degree of freedom if we rigorously followed these 12 steps. I can’t truly quantify the results at this time. So, at the very best, this is an assumption.
In his book, Browne points 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 traps he felt the largest percentage of the population fell into. After reading them, I had to agree. Actually, I recently took an action to free myself from one of those traps based on reading and discovering that I was in the trap.
Browne also outlines 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 a 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 another 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 is 44 years old. Our world, our country, our governments and every facet of our lives have changed exponentially over these 44 years.
Browne’s book will be a launching point for me. I’m going to examine how his ideas relate to personal freedom in the 21st Century. Most of the basic foundation about freedom he wrote about is unchanged. However, I have to wonder. Are those who were living close to the 60% freedom, on his scale, still anywhere near that 60%. I also wonder if those near 30% freedom are still near that 30%. But, most interesting to me is how many of those who were at the 10% level may now be in the single digits or are they freer?
Have we sold out? Have we been 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 actually further from these values than ever before?
I hope this topic stirs 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 their 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.
I’ve said this many times. 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 freedom and 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.
Live free and be happy. EH