Thursday, July 3 2008 11:01 a.m.
With the country celebrating its independence, it's a perfect time to talk about about freedom and independence. As you may have overheard in school... America declared independence from tyranny over 200 years ago on July 4th. That was the short-term action. However, America wasn't free on July 4th. Just like in weight-loss, it takes time to reach the goal. It took long term commitment and determination to actually make a free society. A society where personal responsibility is of utmost importance and freedoms for everyone are the ideal goal that we hope to never fall short of.
It's been over 200 years that that long-term commitment to freedom has been declared. How free and independent are you? There's probably an easy way to measure this. Freedom is directly related to responsibility, just as light is related to visibility. The more light there is the more you can see, and so it is with responsibility.
Here's a fictionalized account of the average day of an American which we will call Joe. Joe considers himself to be free, of course.
The average American depends on an automobile as a tool for transportation. Which, in turn, depends on fuel. Joe's not responsible for any of the process of fuel manufacturing. Joe has no idea how it even works. Joe depend on trading in his specialized labor to get this precious fuel so he can commute and trade in his specialized labor. At some point, Joe gets hungry. He trades in some of those fruits of specialized labor and finds the person responsible for creating sandwiches. Joe has no idea where that meat came from in the sandwich. That's not his responsibility. He wouldn't know where to get any meat if he had to. Heck, Joe's never killed ANY of the meat that he's ever consumed. He wouldn't even know where to start! Joe loves his vegetables anyway. However, Joe is not responsible for growing any of his vegetables. It would seem, that the only piece of this feeding cycle that Joe is responsible for is from the plate to the mouth. Would Joe know how to grow his favorite fruits and vegetables? Joe would be surprised how tricky it is to grow a reliable food supply if he's never tried. Can he bake bread? Joe depend on those supermarkets. Otherwise, Joe would probably be hungry very often.
On Joe's drive home, a traffic signal falls in front of him. The fixture it was on is blocking the way. The confusion in Joe's head is that he's not sure who is the responsible government agency. Is it a 911 call or some other city service responsible for clearing the road? Of course, Joe isn't responsible for clearing the road.
Finally, Joe gets home. He finds his door open. That's odd because when Joe called home, no one answered the phone. This is definitely a call to 911, right? He's not responsible for protecting his family. Right? Joe prays that everyone is OK. He has delegated fate, hope and everlasting happiness to a deity.
So far, Joe isn't responsible for very many things. Joe, the American, must not be very free.
How did Joe get this way? Losing all his freedoms. He doesn't know very much is the first problem. Yes, he went to a great university. Yes, he's got an MBA. But, he doesn't know very much. He doesn't know how to protect his family. He doesn't know how to maintain the tools he depends on on a daily basis. He doesn't know how to feed himself. He probably doesn't know basic CPR or how to treat basic medical emergencies. Joe doesn't know how to protect freedom. He only knows how to delegate more and more responsibility to others. This, they taught him in school.
How can you be more independent?
It's a long-term commitment. Overall though, it's very simple. You can take actions immediately to be free. Decide to take some time out every week and learn something new. Learn CPR. Learn to use a gun. Learn how to repair a bicycle and use that for transportation for a while. Upgrade to more complicated vehicles later. Do the math in your head before using a calculator.
Celebrate July 4th as the day you personally declared yourself free. It's OK to delegate responsibility to others from time to time, as long as you know for a fact you could do it yourself. Permanent delegation of responsibility leads to a permanent disablement of freedom. And ultimately, if it's dark enough, it's going to be real hard to find that flash light.
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