Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

The Freedom to Say No

How to do I put this? Hmm…

I loved and hated this book at the same time? No, that’s not right. I agreed with some, disagreed with other parts, sure. I agree on the problem, but not the solution, maybe.

freedom to say no
Photo by Kristina V on Unsplash

While reading the essay Disobedience as a…Problem, I kept thinking about how we raised our sons. The answer “no” was always an option. When I tell people that, their response is usually, “Sure but there are consequences, right?”

Depends on what you mean. Punitive ones? Like, “You have said no, so now you’ll be ostracized or punished?” No. I wouldn’t have asked if you weren’t allowed to say no.

I don’t ask you not to hurt me. I tell you not to and I enforce that. If there is no other option at the moment, like I must stop at the post office and you cannot stay in the car, I don’t ask if you want to come inside with me. Those commands are few and far between.

Just about everything was optional in our family, negotiable. We worked together as much as possible toward a common goal, living in the same house and being happy and comfortable. And they learned to be more and more reasonable as they grew up into adults.

In most families, this isn’t so. Everything is a command from above, in every situation. We raise children as slaves to adult lives, until they are “of age” and then kick them out into the world and expect them to act as reasonable adults without any practice. Like putting a person in jail for 18 years, dictating every move, and then setting them free and saying, “Now continue on your own.”

And most of us do. What we need is to act like independent, reasoning, masters of our own lives, but we don’t have those skills. We only have slave skills, and they don’t serve us well at all. When things aren’t working, we look to government to solve the problems for us, just like our parents and teachers taught us to do.

Seems like a job security thing for politicians and other so-called “leaders.” Independent humans aren’t easily controlled.

In my experience, acting as an adult human is frowned upon. You’re a fool and treated as such, especially if you encourage others to take the reins of their own lives.

Disobedience is the answer, not the problem. We shouldn’t be “obeying” anyone.

I haven’t even quoted this book or presented his ideas to you. I’m not sure how. The book is so short, 91 pages. If I pull any one line out, I’d have to pull the whole page, and then…why not read the book?

There were four essays in this book, all of which I agreed with the premises of, except the last on “Humanist Socialism.” Why? Because I love the goals and principles of socialism, but I don’t see it working well anywhere in the world. And I don’t even have the words to describe why. That’s one of the reasons I keep studying it.

When my first reaction is, “Wonderful fantasy, but how do you get there from here?” I’m reminded of the reactions to my family’s choice of lifestyle and education. They can’t see what we are doing from their vantage point. Is that my problem when I look at socialism? Maybe.

My thoughts always go back to, “If this is so wonderful and perfect, and able to be done without the use of force and coercion, then why doesn’t someone build a working community like this on their own? Why do we have to have it as a form of government?”

Start with your own family, your own community. “If you build it, they will come.” If a socialist utopia works, more people will want to be in it, and it will spread. Right?

I’m not sure, only because of my experience with my sons. Sitting in a karate class, the teacher tells me, “Your sons are focused and dedicated. I can tell you strict with them, no backtalk and video games.” When I told him that our lives are quite the opposite, that we live without rules and they are treated as equals, play video games all they want, and are quite adept at “backtalk,” he just scoffed and walked away.

It feels insane, like everyone around me is seeing the world they want to see, not reality. Am I any different? I don’t believe I am.

To me it seems the best thing any of us can do is live our own lives and leave everyone else alone to do the same. That’s crazy talk to everyone else. When I started this book, I thought the author was headed down that road, but then the last chapter is how we can start a socialist utopia by taking all the power away from whoever has it now and redistributing it.

Whoa…it’s Tolkien’s Rings of Power. I’ll take this power to set things right and then give it back. But no one ever wants to give it back. The power corrupts, always. There is no utopia, socialist, capitalist, industrial, agrarian, or otherwise.

A side note: If you’re curious about the concept of unschooling (life without school instead of school at home), I highly recommend checking out Pam Laricchia’s work. And I’m always open to conversations about our experience, through email or over the phone.

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3 Comments

  1. That was really nice to read, reminds of how I and my siblings were brought up too.

    • Michelle Huelle

      Thanks Mark! I was constantly told that my sons would grow up to be monsters, but that hasn’t panned out yet. I’m sure you’re not either!

      • Haha people have some strange notions! I like to think I’m not, though I’ll leave it to others to judge 😁

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