Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony

I'm humbled to be mentioned in the introduction to the February edition of Sunni's Salon, Sunni Maravillosa's monthly online magazine, and it's kind of nifty how my recent e-conversation with her has bubbled over into our respective online musings. Much of what I've written about liberty the last couple of months springs forth from Sunni's marvelous talk at the Freedom Summit ("Things You Need to Know About Freedom - But Probably Don't Want to Hear") and our subsequent back-and-forth on the topic.

I'm touched by what Sunni admits is probably a youthful misreading of the famous Coca-Cola song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," because even if it was a misreading, it's a wonderful way to view what freedom is all about:

I remember as a kid tearing up when those ... commercials played; my idea of perfect harmony wasn't every voice blended in a nice unison with like voices: It was that every voice could be heard, in all its unique glory; and it brought tears to my eyes thinking that someone else thought similarly. It didn't even occur to me until years later that it was probably intended to suggest the boring blandness of sameness or equality enforced by law.

She's probably right about what the song was intended to mean; but I think Young Sunni was on to something especially important. The whole point is that we each bring a different voice to the table. Some blend nicely with others; some are best when they're flying solo; some sound tone-deaf to us.

And in a free society, no one is silenced. And perfect harmony is when every voice can be heard, in all its unique glory.

I'm not talking about a place where every viewpoint is considered equally valid - that leads to classrooms where Hitler's death camps are looked upon as one culture's choice that can be justified in its proper context. But I am talking about a place where every voice is respected and you don't get sent to prison, injured and/or killed for having a wrongheaded or boneheaded viewpoint.

I'm not talking about a place where it's impolite to get angry and argue vehemently. I am talking about a place where sharp or explosive words are the only cutting edges and bombs that get tossed about, a safe place where my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness don't step on yours and vice versa.

Sunni also writes about the human tendency to condescend to those we perceive as wrongheaded and boneheaded, drawing from a very wise line in Orson Scott Card's review of Serenity: "... you can't build a powerful community on a sneer."

When faced with a crowd like the 80 percent of Chicagoans who say they're content and even happy to live in a city where the number of goernment surveillance cameras is numbered in the thousands, pleased to know Big Brother Is Watching, it's almost knee-jerk for those who still love freedom to sneer at the proles who embrace the loss of their right to slip about minding their own business unseen by The Authorities.

But we're not going to teach anyone to love liberty by grabbing them by the lapels and snarling, "Listen, you clueless bonehead ..." And sadly, it's reached the point where we do need to teach folks what liberty is all about, all over again, from Square One.

Our ideas are better than theirs. But we are not better than them. If we start there, the urge to sneer melts away and maybe we can start communicating. Slowly, maybe even surely, we might learn to sing in perfect harmony.


Anonymous John Newman said...

If we are born free, what happens to us that causes us to lose or forsake our freedom? Could it be 12 years of government schooling indoctrinating and inculcating us to forgo the individual and put our faith in the collective? We are taught to work as a team or group and any individualism or questioning is frowned upon. When we leave that arena we are ready for the job world where we work as a team for some corporation or large business that will take care of us. Most people, by the time they reach that point, have abandoned SELF-RELIANCE. They rely on the government and their employer to take care of them. They allow the government and their employer to enslave them through taxes, social security, 401(k), pensions, 'paid' vacations, etc. They want the 'security' and to hell with freedom. Perhaps, for a few, a life changing incident occurs and they realize they are not free, or secure. Then they want their freedom back, but are confused about how to re-find it. They have given up their self-reliance and are weak and lost. But for most, the cameras, the inconveniences at airports, the governments ever-widening snooping and prying eyes are welcome. It is optimistic to think you will ever harmonize with the collective - it is also unrealistic. Everyday the water gets a little hotter, the chains get a little heavier, the freedoms get a little less, and in their 'security' they don't notice, but if you try to tell them, well, tell it to a rock, a dumpster, or a cow, you'll get about the same response.
If you want to be free, the only course, the only path, the only road is SELF-RELIANCE. Working for yourself, keeping what you make, guarding your privacy, living what Claire calls the 'outlaw life.' The choices are, you can pay to be enslaved or cash in on the dividends of a free life. I'll leave it to others to preach the message of freedom to those who are feeling secure with that paycheck minus 40% to Uncle Sam, a 401k that can be depleted with the next Enron scandal, and pensions that disappear. Personally, I don't have the time or the incentive to sneer at the sheep herders' flocks, I have a free life to live.

11:01 AM  
Blogger B.W. Richardson said...

I think these are the two sides of the coin - preaching and teaching the ideal of the free life, and then actually living it. Has it progressed to the point where living the free life consumes so much energy there's none left to tell others there are better alternatives than trusting The Vast Machine to take care of you, and pointing out that the price of its benevolence is to suck us dry? Maybe it is pie in the sky to think a few words can make a difference - on the other hand, tell that to Tom Paine. On days when I'm not rattling the chains and thinking of ways to shrug them off, I'm wondering how much good I could do with the public forum the slaveholders have entrusted me with.

But then, the rocks, dumpsters and cows don't always get it. Last week I wrote an editorial that government should have no role in a company's plans to open a big store in town, neither greasing the skids for them to break ground nor erecting artificial barriers. The first letter that came in response was to the effect of "B.W.'s right, we need to erect artificial barriers to ALL big stores, not just this one." Is the battle lost? Or should those of us in a position to do so keep dropping seeds in hopes a strong forest of liberty lovers will one day get the message? It's a dilemma.

7:31 AM  
Anonymous A Friend said...

If even one seed is planted, the preaching/teaching has made a difference.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Sunni said...

Wow. If snakes' scales were up to it, my cheek scales would be blushing!

8:41 PM  

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