To Be Free
In what condition is man at his most uninfringed? Unhinged? Chained? In what condition does his or her freedom become consummate to their being? That is the truer nature of the question. J.S. Mill thought that Liberty was to be free within the self and free to act so far as it did not impinge on another’s freedoms under liberty. Freedom was, for him, too dangerous to ever be taken pure. For the many in recent popular movements from the Beats to Punk to Hip-Hop, it is often times personal liberties above all things – including the freedom and rights (or dignity) of others and in many cases, ultimately, themselves. Liberty and freedom are of course not the same. Freedom in its purest sense is primordial, shapeless, a wave both constant and unpredictable. When the wave breaks, it can easily crash down in the fist of a tyrant. Who had more personal freedoms ascribed to himself than a fuhrer? Liberty is the dike against the wave. Water passes, for transport, resource, and commerce, but the storm breaks against its hewn sides. But how tight is too tight and the rights of Liberty simply a moral corset?
There are some who propose that any obligation, any responsibility, is an enslavement, either personal or to convention. That is a dogma its own. Please pass the salt….Here you are….Slave. A little heavy handed even for me. Kristofferson: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” The primal danger is to become slave to oneself, one’s character or act, personal dogmas established in the name of personal liberty of the anarchic libertarian model. There was a musician in the sixties or early seventies, I believe, a guitar player of the avant-guarde who specialized in completely free-form improvisation – no scales, meter, etc. All noises he could provoke were fair game for his music. I think his name was Allan Somethingorother. He supposed that to be free was to not be free of any rules or modes whatsoever but to be free to create those which reflect what you believe in, your own personal values. A personal code, I suppose, if you will.
But liberty and freedom is like electricity; it lives in the wires of our relationships leading both inwards as our consciousness relates to itself and ourselves, and outwards as we relate to our environment and the world around us as a part and a whole within. Freedom is completely arbitrary in a vacuum and so context is everything; as it is for human beings. Even in nurture versus nature – we are parts our living context in the former, how we were raised, our experiences, the material and spiritual conditions of our existence; and the latter upholds we are part our genetic context. It is the play between which defines our conscious and physical framework for navigating the world just as the play between our intra- and inter-relationships which define relative freedom. There are certain freedoms unmolested by law or convention – to enjoy these is complacent with the outer limits imposed upon our civic and moral freedom. Is that bondage? There are absurd laws equally which try and extend the dike, to cut a wall through the self – an iron curtain of cognitive dissonance – such as certain draconian, racist drug laws which could be done without. These stand in the face of an endemic addiction to pharmaceutical drugs with a systemic junkie’s grip on medical science, economics (particularly American), and not least of all those on the receiving end of a scrip. Here perhaps a little more regulation would engender personal freedom, the freedom over one’s own mind and body.
We cannot be free in the vacuum of anarchy. In fact, anarchy is not within the nature of any species. There are levels of understanding, even among solitary animals when it comes to reproduction which, for these creatures, constitutes the entirety of their social structure. Or as I discussed with my friend and colleague, he mentioned the monkey’s understanding of a social contract of sorts: I pick the fleas of your back, you pick the fleas of mine. But I swear to god if I turn around and you’re gone, I’ll fucking murder you. Harsh words, but even those transcendent of the conventions of human society are not transcendent of human emotion. Because love too is the tsunami, apotheotic and crushing, and no sex is meaningless. Human relationships can be sublimation of the same urge that addicts sublimate by means of their addiction. It can be equally binding. The liberty to take drugs and the liberty not to be taken by drugs stem from two loci: law and man. But in real terms, it stems from the self and is a relationship. Just like co-dependant lovers, or the slave-master, or the big boss of the firm herding his lab rats to their cubicles as drugs, are pumped through their food and water, and extra-oxygen is pushed into the air of shopping malls to up endorphins, endurance, and enthusiasm as the acolytes are getting high in the temple of commerce and the drones enter a work-trance. Contact High ensues throughout the social fabric, leeching as the book of lives acts like blotter paper. And, stoned on this reduction, the void swallows the visionaries in the isolation of insanity – the chains of freedom as a vacuum – and the clown’s makeup stains his face, because he himself has become a caricature of dogma and knows not the face below; he has become convinced the façade contains the depths and with it would be washed away – enslaved to context.
Personal Liberty is electric; it requires the poles of Freedom and slavery. Like the political sphere it is a ring and the antipodes are closest at their most radical. Absolute freedom enslaves, and complete dominance will erode submission from the bottom out when there is nothing left to loose and one becomes wealthy in/with desperation. To be free in the human sense is to be a holy man (or woman): both master and slave at once. It is the power and the will to define and redefine our relationships, both interior and anterior, according to our beliefs, values, and conviction. It is amongst the highest acts of personal freedom to freely assume responsibility, to chart a definitive expression of one’s own will. To make the will of the self binding and absolute and then – the second edict of freedom to which your are responsible – to be equally willing and prepared to destroy this act of will, abandon empty form, melt it down it its essence – yourself – and recast it again in your new molten image when it no longer satisfies the unnamed urge.