A friend sent me the following quote about freedom. Back in 1972, Wendell Berry speaks straight to the heart of a problem that’s only intensified since then. When we as people cannot supply our own needs because of man and his system, we are not free. When someone cannot find work from an employer, he feels helpless. Why? We’ve become conditioned to the idea that we must depend on someone or an organization. Very few are free.
A person dependent on somebody else for everything from potatoes to opinions may declare that he is a free man, and his government may issue a certificate granting him his freedom, but he will not be free. He is that variety of specialist known as a consumer, which means that he is the abject dependent of producers. How can he be free if he can do nothing for himself? What is the First Amendment to him whose mouth is stuck to the tit of the “affluent society”? Men are free precisely to the extent that they are equal to their own needs. The most able are the most free.
–Wendell Berry, “Discipline and Hope” in A Continuous Harmony (1972), pp. 124
It seems worth noting that this quote speaks mostly to the temporal freedom we all need, but even that has a lot of idealistic qualities to it. We are always dependent on many things. If not man or a company, we depend on rain for our crops. We hope for good health. We can do our work, but the rest is either chance or the realm of the gods.
What we desire is to be independent, yet not alone. Humans have survived together, not alone. Yet, what could enable us in such a short amount of time to adjust to the huge civilizations that have formed? Most of us are ill-adapted to the complexity of modern life, and we suffer. We buy our comforts, take our pills or drink our beer, watch our TVs, attend our churches and yet we yearn for freedom still. Yet nothing is as merciless as an economic system driven by greed.
Like all creatures, we need a healthy habitat. For me, I seek Nature. It sets me right. Too far from it and humanness is lost. It is with Nature that we can see the reward and responsibility of freedom.