“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Kris Kristofferson, Bobby McGee
"Freedom isn't free,"
Any number of right-wing, knee-jerk, reactionaries
I am a member (and VP2012 candidate) of the Peace and Freedom Party.
Although not universally accepted, I think my peace activism is well understood: I was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 and have received many peace awards from all over the world for my global anti-Empire work.
But, freedom—what is that? What does it even mean? Recently, I was asked towards the end of an interview by a Libertarian friend of mine, in Austin, named, Jack Blood, what “liberty means” to me. “Liberty" cannot be defined without using the word “freedom” and I would like to concentrate on the concept of “freedom,” because liberty is just freedom. Anyway, Jack asked me a hard question and before I give my answer, I want to explore what “freedom” might mean to different people.
I went to Dictionary.com to get a working definition of “freedom” and these are the definitions and my thoughts.
1. The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: He won his freedom after a retrial.
No matter how bad I think we have things here in the United Police States of America, there are millions who have it a lot worse—those being held in US prisons as political prisoners, or there for non-violent crimes or non-violent “3rd strike” violations. Torturers of state, murderers in the Military Industrial Complex and banksters who are responsible for collapsing economies roam the planet free, while people like Bradley Manning, the Cuban 5, Mumia, Leonard Pelletier and Lynne Stewart are incarcerated because they dared to speak out against the status quo.
I am a war tax refuser and for about a year now, the IRS and the Department of Justice have persecuted me and I just received another notice today that the IRS has summoned my bank records in an effort to find my millions, I suppose. I feel angry, but at least I am not in prison or in Af/Pak, or any other place where the US is dropping bombs.
To the unfortunate people the US is bombing, freedom may mean the freedom from constant potential obliteration. Kind of makes my problems (recent root canal, infection; and stolen bike) of the past week, or so, pale in comparison.
The next two parts of the definition seem Libertarian in flavor to me and where I think Jack Blood would come from (I am not picking on him—I truly do love him and have a lot of good friends who happen to be either Libertarian or libertarian—Jack is just being used as a catchall person) and I am lumping the definitions together because they sound almost the same:
2. Exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. The power to determine action without restraint.
I have spoken, or written, many times about how my son, Casey’s, death in Iraq resulted in some unintended, but, now I think, positive “freedoms” for me. I left a marriage that hadn’t worked for a long while. I left the church. I left behind the old idea of what being a “law-abiding” citizen meant. I became an outlaw by doing repeated acts of civil resistance and not paying my income taxes to a corrupt and murderous government. I stopped being a debt and wage slave. I freed myself from the ownership mentality and sold my car and gave away most of my possessions. I have become “free” of any institution that thought it had, or wanted control over me.
It hasn’t been easy and, even though I have renounced and denounced this state, I still live here and I would never think of doing anything to hurt any one else. All of that sounds L(l)ibertarian-y, doesn’t it? But even though I do know many L(l)ibertarians, I don’t know very many who practice what Ron Paul preaches (even Ron Paul, himself).
However, I would actively support with my being and with my money a state that put caring for people before killing them. I always wear my seatbelt when I am in a car and I wear a helmet when I ride my bike—not because Big Brother tells me to, but because it makes sense to me. Some strains of anarchism seem so selfish to me and being involved in a caring community where principles of humanism are fostered seems to me to be an ideal way of living and goes with the answer I gave to Jack about what “liberty” means to me.
I choose to live the way I live. It’s on one hand a very freeing way to live and on the other hand, it’s very difficult. I know that many people are in my same boat, not because they chose to be here, but the situation was forced on them by the cyst-em that really enslaves us.
For example, talking about my infection, root canal, and bike—any of these difficulties would not exist in a free society that cared about its citizens.
When my jaw started aching about two weeks ago, my first thought was: “Oh shit! What’s wrong with me? I don’t have health insurance, I don’t have dental insurance, and I don’t have any money.” In a free society that cared about its citizens, my first, and only thought, should have been: “I need to call the doctor and go see him/her in the morning.” After I isolated the pain to a tooth that had a recent crown put on it, my second thought was: “Oh shit! I have to borrow a car, buy gas, pay bridge tolls and go to SF to see my dentist.” I feel fortunate that I have a dentist that will let me make payments to her, but I should have the option for close/free/good dental care in my own community.
The day after my visit to the dentist and expensive root canal (thank goodness, I can make payments!), I needed to go to the Post Office that is two miles from my home. I walked out the door to hop on my trusty bike, Roxy (Schwinn cruiser with a basket, bell, and comfy seat), only to find that someone had liberated her from my ownership! I was devastated and in a free society that cared about people, public transportation that is low cost, accessible, and doesn’t take over an hour to go two miles would be readily available. I can (and do) walk the two miles in less than 30 minutes--but what about elderly or disabled people? What about mothers with young children? Why are our choices so limited--it's not because most of us are "lazy."
So, what did I tell Jack about liberty and its meaning to me?
Liberty, to me is the freedom from daily struggle.
The freedom to raise children in a peaceful world where war is obsolete and the air is clean and water from the tap is drinkable.
The freedom to grow our own food, or medicine, without hassle and, if that’s not possible, to go to the local grocer and purchase food that is free of poisons and GMOs and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
The freedom to seek health care that promotes health and not sickness as a right, not a privilege.
The freedom to an excellent and comprehensive education as a right, not a privilege.
The freedom to housing that is warm and secure, as a right, not a privilege.
The freedom to retire at a reasonable age with a good pension and benefits as a right, not a privilege.
The right to a good and meaningful job with decent wages and benefits as a right, not a privilege.
The above very basic things are basic human rights and should not be only privileges for the 1% and a cystem that denies these rights to most of its citizens is a cystem of chattel slavery and is not free.
The last Dictionary.com definition of freedom puts all the others in perspective:
4. Political or national independence.
Even though, as I have demonstrated, here in the US we don’t have a free society where even our basic Constitutional Freedoms in the Bill of Rights are vigorously protected and not persecuted when it serves the Ruling Class, at least our communities aren’t surrounded by thick steel walls and we aren’t regularly strafed or bombed like the Gazans are by Israel, for example.
However, we are in bondage to the “two” party political system here—where only money and lies are able to “speak” and have power. Elections are about as “free” here in the US as they are in any other one-party political structure.
John Steinbeck said that the reason Socialism never took root in America is because Americans don't think of themselves as "poor" but, "temporarily embarrassed millionaires." We must also break our chains of bondage to this myth that one must struggle with less, because there is anybody out there (including you or I) that deserves more. We are humans, we have an inalienable right to these human rights.
The struggle for a free society belongs with We the People and our victory can only occur when we break our chains of bondage to the murderous Empire and freely build bonds of community with each other.