Thursday, June 02, 2005

competing views of freedom

Tom Knapp, of Knappster, has a new essay at Strike the Root in which he poses the question: what, precisely, is freedom?
Is it a state of being with quantifiable characteristics? Or is it just an absence – the absence of coercion, the absence of arbitrary, external controls and so forth?

This may seem like a trick or trite question, but it's not intended to be. The answer to it sets the parameters of, creates the context for, and determines the focus of, the struggles to which freedom's advocates dedicate their lives, fortunes and sacred honors (or any portion thereof).
As is demonstrated in eloquent diversity, the ‘blogosphere’ is anything but monolithic. This is not to say that there aren’t clusters of ideological categories. There are categories and subcategories of thought. Even still, one would think that a uniform definition of freedom could be agreed upon. It’s really tragic that such a concept, one that is intrinsic to humanity, could be so amorphous.
For any movement to proceed toward accomplishing its goals, there must be some sort of general agreement on what those goals are. In the absence of such an agreement – and I'm not necessarily talking about a formal instrument or contract, but rather a shared understanding – only single-issue, range-of-the-moment alliances are possible or productive.

A common delusion – which I confess to sharing in for many years – is that any individual or group which, as part of a larger vision, seeks to reduce the power of the state (to elimination or to some point short of elimination) is a natural ally of all other such individuals or groups, right up to the point at which state power has been reduced to a level satisfactory to that individual or group.
Perhaps that’s correct; those of all stripes who fall outside of the ‘main-stream’ of political discourse simply can’t or won’t succumb to the art of compromise. The danger though, is that those who do, for the most part, are less concerned with freedom than security. The typical citizen picks a team and defers to that team’s leadership. To make it even more mindless, the teams have geographical and color-coded distinctions. Those that deign to independently weigh the issues, or God forbid disagree with both of the mammoth parties, are branded with all manor of unsavory labels. The entrenched politicos would have it no other way.

So, what’s the solution? There’s an old saying about the best way to eat an elephant (or donkey)…one bite at a time. Another way to look at it is how Michael Angelo described his sculptural technique. He is said to have envisioned the final product while examining the rough block of marble. Then he proceeded to chisel away everything that was not a part of the finished piece. I believe that freedom is attainable, but not without constant advocacy.