During the last several hundred years the world has been at some sort of stand-off or all out war. This is not unusual for the human experience. War is as much a part of the human condition as the tides are to the ocean. In the general sense then, the big issue has always been about survival, but medical and technological advances have made basic needs so much easier to acquire that we've been able to spend a great deal of our time and energies on loftier subjects.
We're always aware, however, that some people are living without basic needs. Since we are unable to feed and house everyone, especially those living under dictatorships and oppression, the thought that it could happen to us if we're not careful is always on our minds. It provides a kind of awareness balancing act.
Liberating a people from a brute and preventing brute invasions seems to be how we've been passing the time, but we've also talked a great deal about things like freedom and the more difficult to define liberty
We've been busy. We had a new nation to develop. We had laws and the lawless to deal with. We've had industries to build and technologies to invent. And every now and again we've had wars to fight, with plenty of time before and after to discuss the merits of the action, or whether we should have been involved at all.
It is important, every now and again, to pause to consider what it is exactly that we're trying to achieve. In other words, what is the goal?
If we imagine that there would be a time when we have resolved it, that we have achieved the objective of freeing all people living in dictatorships, what will we do then? More importantly, we need to focus on what that might look like and how we'd behave without the drama in our lives distracting our attention.Freedom
is an interesting concept. If we look back a few hundred years, to the time when people took great risk to make the journey to the United States, or cross the plains to a frontier, what is it that a person wanted once they got where they were headed? Why did they do that?
In the simplest terms, they wanted a way to survive. The idea of owning a piece of land that you could work to support your family was a way of providing the basic needs to survival: shelter, food, and safety.
People built their own homes, from the timber and materials on the land they purchased. They grew their own food and traded or bartered for what they could not provide themselves. They were prepared and were often called upon to defend themselves, either from wild animals or thieves. This took a lot of their time.
And they got that. Millions of people in America got exactly what it was they came here to get. Their basic needs were met and they were then able to focus on something else. They lived and died achieving their desires. What next?
I won't go on with the boring details, but suffice it to say that the original goal of basic survival having been achieved, people created new goals, much more difficult to achieve and define, and set about to acquire that something else.
In most cases, however, the new goals required that you get your fellows to get on board with the idea. You needed more than just your own family to take it to the next level.
We've dramatically altered the definition of basic needs. There was once a goal that every house in America have running water and a toilet that didn't cause disease for the family who used it. Then it was electricity and all the assorted appliances that you plugged into it, from simple lighting to microwave ovens. There are some who argue that a child being raised in a poor family
is denied the basic tools of survival if he doesn't have a telephone, a computer to access the Internet, and a television with a cable hook up.
No longer required to build a home, work the land, or defend yourself, it is no wonder that people have become bored and without anything else to focus their energies, turn to petty or nuisance crimes or sloth.
Man is a working dog. And just like working dogs, he becomes destructive if he doesn't have anything productive to do. Also like dogs, man is a social animal, and is in a constant state of assessing his position in the pack, jockeying for better position and respect.
Billions of working dogs without enough activity to keep them drained of nervous energy can become a problem. It is no accident that countries that adopt communism find it necessary to keep their populations working at menial jobs, with barely enough food to keep their mind focused on the next meal, rather than revolution. Are they happy?
But in America, poor people are fat. There is no reason why a child would go to bed hungry. There is always enough and always enough charity to feed everyone who lives here.
So what's left to do in America? There is enough work for everyone to provide basic needs. There is an abundance of food in food banks and welfare for those who want it.
Each person is left to do what they were always supposed to be doing: pursue happiness. If, however, happiness comes at the expense of another, or measured in comparison to how much happiness our neighbors appear to have, we will be unhappy, low pecking order dogs. Someone will always be better off than us. Unless we're in the handful of multi-billionaires or idle-rich on the planet, we're bound to be lower on the pecking order. No matter how rich and idle we become, someone will always be idler and richer. What then?
There comes a point when we must turn our happiness pursuit inward. When we recognize that what differentiates us from beasts, if we wish to make the separation, is our ability to channel our primitive instincts to rule the pack, to rule our mind and conquer our base instincts—when the pursuit becomes more meaningful than the undefined happiness and shifts to a kind of contentment and peace with ourselves.
Other than basic needs and the comforts which afford us the time and energy for reflection and thought, external pursuits of happiness lead to unhappiness. That unhappiness causes us to think that there must be some external force limiting our freedom because, many think, true freedom would lead to happiness and if they're still not happy living in the land of the free, then it must be because they lack freedom. If we could do whatever we want then we would be happy?
More and more we see that trend. More freedom, a complete surrendering of any self-imposed limits on expression, seems to be what results.
We've moved from freedom enough to provide our basic needs, to freedom enough to do whatever we want, without the requisite consequence. The meaning of freedom, the purpose of liberty, has been redefined. It is no longer enough that you may exercise rights, defended by the benevolent state. Now we've moved to a completely different realm of freedom. One, I might add, was never part of the definition--a kind of exercise of rights that has no downside and no risk.
Freedom no longer means to be allowed to take a risk as long as you were willing to accept the consequences. No one was going to stop you from choosing to be an idiot, a cad, or a scoundrel, but there would be consequences (some dire) if you chose to be. Freedom has been twisted to mean something else entirely--that you are free from consequences, risk, results, reaction. This means that people believe they are "free" to be as immoral, selfish, and reckless as they want and cry oppression!
if they are challenged or called upon to deal with the results of their actions.
The cliché of "your right to swing your fist stops at my nose" seems to have been revised to "your right to swing your fist exists without boundary and other folks better move their nose out of the way if you should pass
The goal was pursuit
of happiness. No one ever guaranteed you'd get it. The goal still is the pursuit of happiness, but not at the expense of another's happiness or without risks or consequences, and the individual's inability to achieve it. But if liberty has been proven to be ineffective to the pursuit, with personal responsibility left by the wayside, what then?