When you jump out of a (perfectly good) airplane, you free yourself from its trajectory, but on the other hand, you are under the pull of gravity.
Freedom is the right to determine what you will be and won’t be subjected to.
I pursued a comment someone made here about religion making a comeback in urban areas in France. It is. Most churches are reported to be standing room only. But it is returning because of something odd.
You see… indulge me. This is a highly abbreviated history of the psycho-social movements in Europe in the 20th century till now.
Europe had just gotten aware enough of the rights of individuals, the idea of individual worth the rejection (to an extent) of classes to be really bothered by WWI which was in many ways an old Europe war.
To make things worse, it was a war you could commute to by train, and a war the press covered extensively.
And what it was blamed on was… nationalism. Which was not precisely incorrect though it wasn’t correct either, precisely. Bloody stupid alliances and the state as a tin god was as close.
Coming out of it, Europe thought that it would replace the feel good of nationalism — humans don’t live of bread alone, and they need to feel they’re part of something bigger, the something bigger being usually a big idea, a big group, a tribe, something that goes on after them — with the feel good of Socialism. Or at least Marxism. The idea of the social good, the inevitable progress of humanity, and the shiny new future took over.
There is a reason in many ways the time between the wars was great for science fiction. In Europe the only time that was good for science fiction.
Like WWI, WWII got blamed on nationalism. It really wasn’t. It very much was about the state as divinity and the infinite improvement of humans as a race. That it took the form of poisonous eugenics was just part of that idea that humans can and should be “perfected” to bring about heaven on Earth.
And WWII should have put paid to that idea. It didn’t. It didn’t because Marxists, by then, had become all the “smart” people and captured all intellectual institutions.
Socialism just went softer in Europe and took other guises. Christian socialism. Democratic socialism. Purple socialism with stripes. Okay. I made the last one up. But it wouldn’t be as crazy as some of the variations I grew up with.
But socialism doesn’t mesh really well with those things, or make them better. Socialism in the end is the drop of sewage in the barrel of wine. Sure, it adds flavor. It also makes i undrinkable. It doesn’t work with humans, and we’ve proved conclusively humans won’t change to work iwth it. Its end stage is a sort of crazy feudalism.
And it fails. Part of the way it fails is making the societies it takes over, those where it’s the only alternative, into what I call “occupied societies.” It — particularly in its international variety. National is stupid, but not that way — turns against its host societies. In the name of eliminating nationalism, and leading things to “progress” towards the perfect and shiny new future, it turns on and hates the societies that establish it, eventually hating humanity itself.
The problem is that we know what happens with occupied societies: the women become whores, the men become craven, and there are very few children, unless they’re the children of the invaders. It’s how the species eliminates the societies and strains that lose a contest. Except that in socialism there is no more successful society invading. To the extent that it was believed in, between the wars, and briefly (until the collapse started being obvious) after WWII, the “progressives” took over the children of others and tried to build their shiny future. Part of that was the baby boom, and the bright new schools and indoctrinating kids to hate the old society and build the utopia.
Only it’s been painfully obvious since the baby boom came of age that the things they were indoctrinated in don’t work. That being “compassionate” to the evil begets more evil. That paying for poverty buys more poverty. That refusing to teach or raise the children doesn’t create noble savages. It doens’t even create savages. It creates neo-barbs simultaneously predatory and curiously helpless.
People know this. They know it even if the cultural outlets are taken over by people who refuse to let it be seen. It shows in cartoons, in jokes, it comes out in off hand comments even by people who would consider themselves devout progressives.
So the end result is that societies feel they’re oppressed by occupiers. Unreasonable occupiers that don’t bring any hope or future. The society, the “something to believe in” is being exterminated.
After the Soviet Union collapsed and this became obvious there was a period of denial and a period that often happens in cults after discomfirmation. A period of trying to silence the opposition super-hard. Now, even harder. We’re still partly in that, or at least segments of society are. They’re trying to silence any dissent with the “occupiers magic words” (And yes, I found hilarious they named their movement “Occupy”) “Rascism, sexism, homphobia.” Or, of course “Nazi” which honestly is the enemy they fear, because they can’t conceive of anyone NOT being socialist. So being international (effectively Russian national) socialists, they fear the national socialists the most. And miss that we’re not even i that spectrum, and that it was Bernie who identified himself as a national socialist. (It’s okay. They know he’s lying, so that’s fine.)
But that’s a side show. It’s a distraction. If the after-effects of socialism hadn’t already turned Europe into a vast old age home, the next thing would already be obvious. Oh, it’s starting here too. Sure it is. And it’s just as crazy and perhaps more poisonous.
The… for lack of a better term call it the culture’s mind knows socialism is poisonous and more importantly socialism is done. It doesn’t bring the shiny. Again and again it brings death, misery and feudalism.
So humanity, which needs meaning beyond our small, restricted individual lives, and people are blindly trying to find it. In Europe, same as it ever was, they’re going back to nationalism, and the traditional religion. They’re doing it for COMMUNITY and common goals.
When I went down that rabbit hole I got a lot about how individualism was wrong and individuals shouldn’t have rights, and the church is about community.
As many of you know, I’m religious. I believe in community, even. But that doesn’t negate the need for the rights of the individual. France is just making the same mistake it made with its revolution, where it took the rights of the individual and made them communal guarantees. Not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but equality, fraternity, liberty. You can’t have liberty with equality and fraternity. Because enacting those requires other people. They think where socialism went wrong was ‘rights of the individual’ when socialism is all about the rights of the group.
Our own manifestation of this is the same, in a different way. Instead of addressing the central hole in socialism, of treating people as widgets, they just want to attribute different values to those widgets, as though that solved anything.
Which brings us back to freedom — or liberty — and the rights of the individual. Individualism versus community.
You can only free yourself so far. At least if you want to be part of something greater than yourself. (And if you don’t you’re either lying to yourself or not human.)
When you let go of the plane, you head towards the Earth.
OTOH sometimes the plane is on fire. Was talking to an about-to-go-indie midlist friend this morning about the endless compromises, kissing up and begging required to stay employed in traditional publishing and how it was like trading in your soul piecemeal. Kind of like the French believe to embrace that old time religion they need to renounce individual rights. (Because apparently they missed the part about INDIVIDUAL free will.)
If that were my choice, I’d be happily d*mned. Fortunately I think they’re wrong.
And fortunately I have other choices than trad pub. I might starve, yes, but it won’t corrode the soul. And hell, with two or three year exceptions, I’ve “starved” anyway, if you take in account the amount of work.
It’s a trade.
Sometimes you have to shout “Freedom” and jump and hope the parachute engages. It beats joining the new cult, same as the old cult.