Your Freedom Now (Part 1 of 3)
[This three part article is reprised from a (7/11/04) article Freedom Now. The article addresses some of the major mistakes the prevent individual's from pursuing their own freedom.]
What the Free Individual means by freedom is real freedom for real people in the real world, right now.
Most people really do not want freedom. Most people want security. They want guarantees, assurances that nothing will ever go wrong, that they will never be hurt or disappointed, that everything will always be what they like and what they are used to and they will always be happy. In this world there are no guarantees, things always go wrong, there are always changes and disappointments, and those who seek guarantees are never going to be happy.
But those who really do know what freedom is, who want to live their own lives, who want to be responsible for themselves, succeeding or failing by their own choice and effort, who do not want anyone else "looking out for their welfare," (or requiring them to look out for anyone else's), do not usually find freedom in this world.
Many understand, the only thing standing in the way of individual liberty is other men, and those other men are usually the government. The main threat to individual freedom is government interference in our lives and businesses. Government is not the only thing we lose our freedom to. Many enslave themselves to other individuals, organizations, or vices, but government (and other gangsters) are the only thing we lose our freedom to that we do not choose ourselves.
If we are going to be free, it is the government we must free ourselves from. Most freedom lovers understand that, but what they do not understand is that they are not going to change the government, make it less intrusive, or limit it in any way, but that is the very thing most freedom lovers are trying to do, and the thing they spend their time, energy, and emotions on. No one is going to make themselves more free by fighting the government or changing society.
In 2004 article an, "Objectivist," described his vision of a free world. I have summarized that vision as a world where everyone lives their lives as free individuals, exhibiting the following attributes:
- Dedicated to their own personal happiness.
- Focusing on their own lives and their enjoyment of it.
- Not expecting others to take care of them or make decisions for them.
- Practicing the virtue of independence.
- Learning to count on themselves and trust in their own abilities.
- Never trying to live other people's lives for them.
- Living by the trader principle.
- Never seeking the unearned.
- Thinking for themselves, and making their own judgments.
- Realizing their lives are precious, not wasting a minute of them.
- Knowing their life belongs to them, and no other.
That is not how I would describe a, "free society," but, there is no question that a world comprised of individuals who all had those values and lived by those standards would be a wonderfully free world. It would certainly be a world any individualist would like to see, but we know that is not the world we live in, and it is not about to be that kind of world in the foreseeable future.
The article describing the ideal society was posted to an Objectivist forum, and most of the comments to the article expressed the idea that to achieve that ideal, it ought to be the goal of those seeking freedom to first make their society a free one. There was only one lone, very wise, dissenter.
"Sure, it would be nice if everyone dedicated himself to his own happiness. That would make the pursuit of my own happiness all the easier. But mankind will never be rid of its malefactors, so just how much angst, if any, should I rationally generate over the failure of others to make themselves happy?|
"How rational is it to wish for a world that will never be? Especially when the good life is available to me if I take the world as it is, understand the obstacles as they are, and then change what I can actually change for the better?
In fact, that is exactly what this particular individual, whom I know personally, has done. He has actually done all those things listed as the attributes of the truly free, not by making his community, or country, or the world free, but by making himself free.
One would have expected among a group of Objectivists who claim to love freedom above all things that this man and his accomplishments would have been applauded, but just the opposite happened. Like a bunch of socialists and collectivists these "Objectivists" excoriated him, accusing him of being a slave and advocating oppressive government, implying he had no right to seek, much less achieve, freedom until he had discharged his responsibility to seek freedom for everyone.
It does not occur to such idealist Objectivists, there is not one thing they are doing that is going to make the town they live in more free, much less the country or the world, and if anyone is going to see freedom in this world, they are going to have to secure it for themselves. Below is my response to that discussion. I have changed the name of my free friend to Felix.
"One thing that is certain, you are not going to change the minds of 280 million people in the next few years, and right now most of those 280 million think the government is the solution to all their problems. If by, "fighting," you mean attempting to change the way things are and the way they are going, I would like to know how you intend to do it. How much of my time and effort, which I would otherwise dedicate to living my own life for my own "selfish" purposes should I "sacrifice" for the sake of some cause which has almost no possibility of success?|
"Why should someone who is doing all of the things on our list of things people in an ideal world would do, sacrifice some of those things to some other cause. Why should Felix stop living for his own happiness, focusing on his own life, expecting nothing from others or allowing others to make decisions for him; why should he give up his self-reliance and independence, and refusal to change (live for them) other's lives; why should he stop living only as a trader, thinking for himself, not allowing anyone to waste a minute of his precious life pursuing someone else's idea of a way to save the world? Doesn't his life belong to him? Who the hell is anyone else to tell him he's not living it right?
"There are no purposes higher than individual purposes. There is no cause or value that supersedes the causes and values of individuals. Now this may come as a shock to many Objectivists, but the purpose of your life, or anyone else's life, is not to make the world an ideal one. The purpose of your life, and every individual's life, is to enjoy it. Every moment any individual wastes pursuing some scheme to make the world, or their country, or their state, or their neighborhood, an ideal one, is a moment wasted in the pursuit of the purpose of their own life.
"Now here is a secret. If everyone in the world lived their life as Felix lives his, you would have your ideal world.
For this I was presented a moral analogy to teach me, it was said, "that we should act in order to meet our life-term, society-scale self-interests (which, upon reflection, turn out to be the rational self-interests found in the context of a human lifespan)." There was an attempt to explain what that actually means ending with, "it will not involve NOT BEING CONCERNED AT ALL, as Regi [my then screen name] and Felix seem to claim."
So I pressed on.
Not concerned with what? Harebrained schemes for making the world free?|
Now, tell me this, are you going to change the government, are you going to change the minds of most of 280 million people, or are you going to bring a revolution in our time? If none of these things, exactly what scheme do you have in mind, and what is it actually going to accomplish?
Ayn Rand was very impressed by the following:
"God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
She said of it:
"This remarkable statement is attributed to a theologian with whose ideas I disagree in every fundamental respect: Reinhold Niebuhr. But—omitting the form of a prayer, i.e., the implication that one's mental-emotional states are a gift from God—that statement is profoundly true, as a summary and a guideline: it names the mental attitude which a rational man must seek to achieve." [My emphasis]
"Most men spend their lives in futile rebellion against things they cannot change, in passive resignation to things they can, and—never attempting to learn the difference—in chronic guilt and self-doubt on both counts." [The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. II, No. 12 March 12, 1973 "The Metaphysical Versus The Man-Made"]
If you are waiting for society to learn Objectivism, for a new political administration, or any libertarian program to succeed before being free, you will never be free. If you want freedom, you can have it, now, in this world, but no government or movement is going to provide it for you.
Do you really want to be free? Or do you just want to continue complaining and rebelling against that which you cannot possibly change, resigned to living under growing oppression while patting yourself on the back for at least, "being concerned."
Those are good people I wrote those things to, rational, objective, and freedom loving people—sometimes good people become so filled up with their ideals (which we all must have), they tend to be unrealistic.
[Note: If there is anyone with an insatiable desire to verify the facts presented here, the original forum thread referred to is still available: the original article here, "An Objectivist World, and
all the comments are here."]