Man is born free and yet everywhere is in chains.
On this day 238 years ago, we declared our independence from the kingdom of Great Britain. There was a time when the states were recognized as individuals, and people would say “The United States are..”. Now we stand 50 in number and exist in a state of unity, as people now proclaim, “The United States IS..”.
It is an honor and privilege to have won the genetic lottery having been born in this relatively free country. Though this union has its flaws, as all civil states must, in large, life in America is — in a word — opportunistic.
Yes, the odds are stacked against us, as the gravity of the collective values and ideologies pulls on each one of us daily. But, unlike many countries even to this day, we are given the opportunity to resist the natural inclination of the path trodden black.
We, should we consciously choose to, are free to create the life we may lead.
Were we born in North Korea things would be different. Under this totalitarian rule that makes George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 seem near Utopian, individuals (if we can call them that) are by birth right condemned to a life of suffering and starvation in slave camps. With books and websites being banned and even going so far as rewriting the history to their liking, the proletariat of North Korea have only access to media selectively streamed by its “Big Brother.”
This mode of living does not pertain to us, and is a circumstance we cannot conceivably understand. It is our lack of empathic capacity with such suffering that PROVES just how fortunate we are. People often suggest that George Orwell was right, and the “man” is holding us down through fear and constant surveillance. I disagree.
The very fact that we are able to read 1984 is proof enough that we are not living it.
There is, however, another means of control used in modern society.
Aldous Huxley warned us of over-stimulation from the powers at be toward its work force in A Brave New World. Through constant access to pleasure and distraction, Huxley envisioned a world in which through social conditioning so many could be controlled by so few. This, I would posit, is a far more accurate representation of Modern day America.
Everything in modern life is actively trying to push you away from personal growth and self-exploration. We are surrounded by televisions, radios, celebrity magazines, advertisements, and countless other distractions. With a TV in every room and a radio in every car, one must actively seek safe haven away from social propaganda.
You must make a conscious choice and put forth great effort to protect your mind and world view from societal influence. This is difficult and requires you be on constant guard with the powers that be. We no longer have the need to free ourselves of physical chains. That was done for us 238 years ago. The top of the pyramid has grown far more efficient and cunning through time, and now uses unseen mental fetters as control.
But, all is not lost. These mental chains can be broken through the use of consciously directed logic and purposive thought. This means that we are not doomed like so many unfortunate souls residing above the 38th parallel of Korea. We have the potentiality to transcend our chains as they are merely metaphysical.
Yes, America has had its troubles. From civil to world wars and various economic climates, we have been beaten down. But much like Hemingway’s sea-faring man, we have been destroyed, but not defeated. America, after 238 tenuous years, still stands, and its people, still free. This is a testament to the resolve and fortitude of its people and its leaders. We have as a society maintained this freedom so well, that we as a people think our freedom is a guarantee when it is more accurately described as a privilege.
It has been said that with great power comes great responsibility. Our inherent freedoms that democracy provides lays upon our shoulders the burden of responsibility for our very selves. We have the freedom to choose the way in which we live our lives, and this is a freedom historically shared by few. With this freedom, it is our moral and metaphysical OBLIGATION to live a life deserving of such freedom.
The quality of your life is ultimately YOUR responsibility, and not that of your politicians. When you offer up the responsibility of your life to another, you lose the power to change it for yourself.
It is not enough that we are free… We must live free-ly.
There is a vast difference between the two. Through genetic predeterminism and arbitrarily being born in a free state, we have been given the gift to cultivate a life of our choosing.
In a world in which there is currently between 20-30 million slaves, this is a freedom we mustn’t take for granted.
July 4th is a celebration of our Independence day. A day that marks the freedom of a country from tyranny and oppression. I suggest that the true beauty of independence day is not the freedom of our country from another, but the independence of the people from the country itself.
WE are the independent. WE are free. In freeing ourselves from the reign Britain had so many years ago, the United States of America set in motion a chain of events that has led to the freedom of all those who reside within it.
I ask that you take a moment this weekend during your festivities to reflect on just how fortunate you are. When you have a beer in one hand and a hamburger in another, and you gaze across that yard at all your family and friends as the American flag blows in the summer sun, channel Kurt Vonnegut’s famous maxim:
Happy Independence Day. Independence for your country and for your soul.