From the May 2003 Idaho Observer:
What is Freedom?
By Don Harkins
Have you ever wondered how one wire held up by ancient fence posts can keep horses in a pasture even though they could easily jump over or walk through them? Is it possible that walls erected in horses minds are much bigger than the tired, one-wire barrier that stands between them and freedom?
Not unlike pastured horses, people tend to diminish their own freedom by building fences in their minds. Once the fences are in place, they seek the counsel of experts to make decisions for them rather than becoming competent to represent themselves in areas vital to their personal health and prosperity.
Though most people will spend their entire lives romancing the notion of freedom, few actually live in freedom because the price of freedom is responsibility for one's actions. Inseparable from freedom is responsibility -- responsibility for one's spiritual, political, physical and economic successes or failures.
Historically, the bulk of humanity insists upon transferring the individual's responsibility to make important personal decisions regarding spiritual, political, physical and economic matters to organized religions and governments.
Said another way, people beg churches and governments to make decisions for them so they can be absolved of responsibility for their spiritual, political, physical and economic activities.
Said yet another way, people pay tribute to churches (tithes) and governments (taxes, fees, fines, penalties) so that they can be relieved of the burden of freedom endowed upon them at birth.
Throughout history people have demonstrated they prefer to pay churches and governments to take their freedom as opposed to keeping it for themselves.
Rather than accept responsibility for their own spiritual growth, people give their freedom of worship to a hierarchy of elders within their church. The elders, or clergy, commonly preach doctrines that demand their people first go through them to get to God. In this manner organized religion is able to extract immense revenues, compel compliant behavior and thus accumulate political power by conditioning their flocks to fear the wrath of God (or gods) should they fail to follow the church's doctrine of salvation.
Government is as aware of peoples' desire to allow others to make decisions for them as the rancher is aware of the walls in pastured horses' minds. Government meets this demand by legislating regulatory schemes and hiring the government personnel to administrate and enforce them. Government uses these schemes to tell people what they can and cannot do. In exchange for government regulation of our political, physical and economic lives, taxes are levied, fines are imposed and penalties enforced. Similarly to how people adapt their spiritual beliefs to avoid the wrath of God(s), they adapt their political, physical and economic behavior to avoid the wrath of a vengeful state by complying with its regulatory schemes -- no matter how absurd.
Fueled by revenues extracted from the responsibility-abdicating masses, the authority of organized religion and/or government inevitably grows larger and larger in the minds of their people. Eventually peoples' behavior becomes so influenced by the dictates of these outside forces they begin do as they are told. They, in turn, teach their children how to behave in a society that rarely questions the intelligence or morality of the laws under which they exist.
The glue that holds people in this form of bondage is fear -- fear of the unknown and fear their unauthorized actions may prompt punishment from the authorities they themselves have imagined into existence by paying various forms of tribute.
Those who intend to mold peoples' behavior to best suit their greed and power-driven interests teach people to fear the world outside the fences in their minds. However, there have always been those who do not pasture well. History has been shaped by the people who have gone under, over or through fences placed between them and the rest of the universe.
Those people define freedom. Ironically, some of them were slaves. The truth is that no government or religion is capable of keeping people in their pasture -- unless, we build the fences ourselves.
[With thanks from Rick Martin of The Spectrum for asking the right question]
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