Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sunday Morning Soapbox: All That Other Stuff

Free speech. If nothing else, preserve it for the LOLs.

My country is great. You know I love it. I love its ideals. I love its freedoms. I love that whenever the world has to drop bombs on some assholes, there’s this moment of “who’s got shit over there to drop bombs,” and while we might sigh and act like it’s really inconvenient for us we know that question’s rhetorical because invariably, “The United States” is the answer. It won’t last forever, but that’s how it is now and I love it.


freedom is sometimes treated by my fellow citizens (including politicians) to act like it’s a golden ticket to believe whatever damned fool thing they want. What’s more, they act like it’s a license to make others behave the way they “should.” Freedom isn’t the liberty to deny or repress, to be irresponsible or complacent. Freedom is an obligation.

It is an obligation to truth, not what you want to believe, but real, factual, critical truth. It’s an obligation to education and making decisions. Freedom is not best served by enjoying the experiences of life in all their real, sensual present glory, or to turn away and hide from the darkest experiences of humanity, but to prepare the mind to understand the world around us, not as we want it to be, but as it is. The ability of those living in a world of comfort and ease who do not understand in the slightest how it came to be or is sustained are doomed to let it fall through their grasp and know only to cry to the heavens like ignorant savages whenever it inevitably does. The conveniences and luxuries in the modern world, indeed are a swirl of leaves in an eddy, a strange island of order between strong gusts of wind.

Freedom is an obligation of character, which is the heart of my statement here. How you feel about a person, how you judge that person, and how you treat that person are all very different things. I try to treat everyone I interact with on a daily basis with the same level of professional service. There may be a few Filipinos who combine a general inability to express themselves with a poor command of English, but I try my best to give their issues the same level of attention as any American, despite the fact that those interactions are often quite frustrating. Sometimes I don’t. It’s not that I’m a bad person, or a racist, or ethnocentric[1], but sometimes I do things that aren’t great. You can get angry at me for that, even if you know that’s not how I act all the time. I get pissed at things my friends do all the time; I’m not pissed at them really, more at what they’re doing.

It's sad I wish I should photoshop this well.

Making people angry on accident isn’t a mark against your character, nor should it be. People are entitled to feel an emotion without feeling that emotion on principle. We’re all just slightly-balding apes here and emotional responses are hardwired into us. Mistaking those knee-jerk feelings for more contemplative ones, or trying to fortify them with reason only makes an irrational response linger and is a mark against your character. Being angry at someone is fine and having someone angry at you is also fine. Those things aren’t judgments; they’re just biology.

Which isn’t to say that judgment isn’t biology or that feelings are divorced from judgment. No, you can, and probably should, hate people who are genuinely bad people. That said, you don’t really have to. I’ve had fine conversations with someone, knowing they’re a reprehensible example of humanity. On the other hand, there are some fine people (like my grandfather) that I almost never talk to.

Back when I was a Nuke, there was an engine room upper level operator that I just could not stand being around. He knew his shit, was generally friendly, and was a good guy. I hated every single watch I had with him and I treated him like the senior enlisted that he was. Life is strange, but there’s a big difference between how we feel about people, how we act towards them, and the kind of person we know that they are. Having character and being able to make these distinctions is an integral part of freedom. You may not like someone or agree with them, but you have to put aside the emotional factors and personal factors to realize that everyone is afforded the same freedoms as everyone else. This bleeds into my next point.

Freedom is an obligation to justice. On the surface, it’s simply a call to treat those as you wish to be treated, which shouldn’t have to be written down but is intuitive. Justice is more than punishment for wrongdoers; it’s ensuring that labors and contributions are rewarded just as much as it fails to reinforce parasitism and inaction. The blatant inability of governments to provide equal opportunities to those they serve is the exact cause of the unrest in the Middle East right now and not, as you might have guessed, overextending their armies for a double-attack into Southern Europe.

I think this is how the DHS runs all of their threat scenarios.

Freedom cannot be a noun. It cannot be something you hold or sit on or keep on a shelf or take out on holidays. Freedom is a verb. It is acted, and perhaps that’s its paradox; it is actions that define freedom, specifically breadth of actions and the broader those actions, the greater freedom is. In fact, freedom cannot obligate a person to anything (by definition). What obligates one is the perpetuation of freedom. If you are free, then you may do as you please. If you wish your children to be free, equal, and rewarded for their labors, then, then you have to curtail your own freedoms.

Then you have to reach out aggressively ensure that justice is carried out, that equality is delivered, that truth--and not some branded version of it in warped service to an ideology--is sought and served, not enforced with harsh words, or batons, or bombs, but with knowledge. You can make every savage on the planet act like a civilized man, but you can never make him understand civilization.You can kill every selfish deviant on the planet, but a new crop will grow up and learn to survive.

The perpetuation of freedom is based on education, and truth, and justice, exclusion, self-righteousness, or force.

[1] Remarkably, I will be surprised if I don’t get labeled as anti-American and ethnocentric for this whole post, but hey, worst case scenario, I’m just a wrong guy on the internet.

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