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

Tag: on disobedience

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.

On Disobedience: New Read

On Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying “No” to Power is the book I started reading on this very blustery Saturday morning. The subtitle says it all. I read Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving back in November of 2020 and loved just about every page of it, so when I saw this small collection of essays written in the early 1960’s, I immediately had it sent to my house.

on disobedience

Disobedience is a major sin in our culture and I’ve railing against that idea for most of my adult life. I am not one with a “rebellious” nature. I do not feel like I must take the opposite stance of whatever authority figure presents as “the rules.” I want to work together and get along. BUT…again with the but…

I do not obey anyone blindly. In fact, I don’t believe I wish to obey anyone at all. What kind of a world could we live in if establishing an authority meant that your reasoning and argument were solid enough to convince others to agree with you, compromise with you, and work toward voluntary common goals?

“If the capacity for disobedience constituted the beginning of human history, obedience might very well, as I have said, cause the end of human history. I am not speaking symbolically or poetically. There is the possibility, or even the probability, that the human race will destroy civilization and even all life upon earth within the next five to ten years. There is no rationality or sense in it. But the fact is that, while we are living technically in the Atomic Age, the majority of men – including most of those who are in power – still live emotionally in the Stone Age; that while our mathematics, astronomy, and the natural sciences are of the twentieth century, most of our ideas about politics, the state, and society lag far behind the age of science. If mankind commits suicide it will be because people will obey those who command them to push the deadly buttons; because they will obey the archaic passions of fear, hate, and greed; because they will obey obsolete cliches of State sovereignty and national honor. The Soviet leaders talk much about revolutions, and we in the ‘free world’ talk much about freedom. Yet they and we discourage disobedience – in the Soviet Union explicitly and by force, in the free world implicitly and by the more subtle method of persuasion.”

Disobedience as a psychological and moral problem by erich fromm

Oh, so dire. Right? Makes one want to give up and run into the forest. End it all.

Or does it?

To me, it’s hopeful. Once again, nothing really changes, so why get worked up about it? Why should I ruin my beautiful day because tomorrow may never come? There’s work to do, there always is, but I’ll do what I can cheerfully and with hope that little individual changes make big progress down the road of time. And leave others to do the same in their own lives.

This book is short, only four essays in about 100 small pages, but it’s chock full of some amazing words, almost every one of which applies to everything we are experiencing now. That is the glory of well thought out work, words that aren’t simply rhetoric glorifying one side of an issue or another.

I’m sure I’ll be finishing the book today, so I’ll have some more words of my own to share tomorrow. See you then!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: