On Freedom

Here in America, we’re ostensibly overloaded with freedom. There are so many choices, so many things to see and do – so many things to be.

Of course, I said “ostensibly.” While in theory Americans are supposed to be able to engage in whatever legal activities they desire, or even reinvent themselves at will, in practice things are more complicated.

Why? Because many, perhaps most, people here only care about the path they’ve chosen. Any other paths people are trekking are viewed with suspicion, if not treated with outright scorn and ridicule. So while you can exercise your freedom whenever you want, it often comes at a price.

This isn’t an issue confined to any one group; the blame can be laid on many doorsteps.

The right wing usually brays the loudest about Freedom, but their freedom exists within the parameters of “work hard and make lots of money.” A homesteader or a person living in a commune, to name two “alternative” lifestyles, is sneered at.

The left wing allegedly wants to enhance freedom by using the power of government, but at the same time wants everyone to know that oppression is everywhere and that we all need to be careful what we say or do, lest we offend a minority. If you’re somehow “privileged” and don’t feel guilty about it, you’re doing it wrong.

The lower class has its own biases, one of which is the glorification of their own labor, as if their work is “more real” than the work of someone who “pushes paper” in an office.

The middle class believes in a College Degree and Professionalism, and wants everyone to acquire these things so that everyone can be like them.

The upper class…well, I don’t really know what they think. They’re probably too busy living lavish lifestyles to worry about what the hoi polloi are up to.

I used to worry about all this. I used to care how these people perceived the choices I made. I wanted to “win over” people so that they could see how cool, intelligent, and generally awesome I was: “Yes, I may have made different choices than you, but when you get down to it, we’re pretty similar – right?”

All that ever got me was fatigue, frustration, and heartache. It was like trying to break down a brick wall with a butter knife. Those people really don’t care about you at all; they only care about the image they have in their mind of how you should be.

What to do, then? Become a hermit and renounce the world?

Hey, I don’t have a problem with that. If that works for you, great. I might end up in a cabin deep in the woods myself one day, happily cut off from civilization.

But for now, my advice is this: find a few open-minded people and befriend them, and remove the naysayers, narcissists, sneerers, and other detriments from your life. You’re not going to change these people; people only change when they’re ready to change.

Obvious, right? Maybe so, but I’ve still seen too many people put up with terrible situations out of some misguided sense of responsibility or need for social stimulus. Namely, myself.

And while this advice may be obvious, acting on it probably won’t be easy. You may lose so-called friends. You may offend people by refusing to march to their tune. You may have to put a distance between yourself and some family members if they’re dragging you down. You may sometimes be lonely.

But it’s worth it, in my opinion. It’s better to have a few true friends than dozens of people floating around your life irritating you because you don’t behave as they wish.

This can tie in nicely to self-publishing as well. Some people say self-publishing is killing literature. Clueless idiotic doltish hacks are flooding the market with crap, and cheap crap at that. Authors are pauperized. Artistic value is depleted. Woe unto mankind.

Yawn. More doom and gloom because people are following a different path. I don’t care what those people think, and neither should you.

“But Matt, aren’t you telling others how to live? I’m calling you a rank hypocrite, sir!”

This is just advice, not a command. If these words don’t resonate with you, that’s fine.

But for those who do feel that something is off, that society isn’t as “free” as American lore proclaims, consider what I’ve written. And for those who have come to the realization, sometimes after years of slogging through the muck, that they don’t need others to validate their existence, I say this: it’s been a helluva journey, ain’t it?

So, until next time: keep on keeping on, and keep the non-keeping-onners far away from you.

Oh, and leave a comment below if you’re inclined. Almost forgot about that.

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