Give me liberty or give me death! – Patrick Henry
Liberty or slavery, it’s your choice.
A free man, or a slave, in what sense?
The stoics define a free man in the only honest way a free man can be defined: A man that owns his will. The only place you are entirely free is in your own self, in your decisions and in your ability to manage how you are going to respond to any given situation.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
When you are uncomfortable, when life is not easy, when you have to figure your own way or collapse to external forces, it’s easy to become stoic, you have no other choice. It’s like religious people that only remember god when they are in trouble.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s SeCarch for Meaning
The Problem With Comfortableness
Flee sloth; for the indolence of the soul is the decay of the body. – Cato
When things are smooth and easy, we don’t think about putting ourselves that makes us uncomfortable. By human nature, we simply run away from being uncomfortable, we run from cold, from hard conversations and from our scary long term goals/dreams.
The problem with becoming comfortable is that you forget where real freedom is in, and you start to become a slave to all those little things that make your life comfortable. Among these I can mention, drinking with your friends/girlfriend/boyfriend, your morning coffees, going out to eat, gorging on social media and sooner than you can imagine, you cannot live without having all of these things. You’ve lost your ability to control your own self and instead become reactive to everything outside that bites you, which often resumes to: money, looks/sex and power.
There is no liberty in pleasures, there is no liberty without purpose and principles. You cannot live a meaningful life without a chore sense of what truly matters.
There is a great buzz around the driver less trucks and cars taking out the jobs of thousands of people. Automation is on the way and it is not going anywhere. Adapt or die, Darwin famously quoted.
We live in an era where education is free, almost entirely. If you go to the MIT website, you can find courses on mathematics and on programming. I’m talking about courses which people pay thousands of dollars for access are now completely free online. High payed skills are available for free, you just need a computer and internet connection.
Being a truck driver is no fun. I’ve had to drive for hours and hours on end and I know first-hand how tiring and gruesome it can be to drive a truck for so many hours. I’m not saying that we need to enforce policies that help people in general and that create new jobs so that people can live better lives, of course not.
What I’m trying to get at is that you are not a slave to your circumstances. You are free in the sense that you can decide how you are going to confront the situations that life throws at you. With automation coming, you can and better try to become proficient at something else, like learning a new language or learning to program. It’s uncomfortable, obviously, but as Cato famously quoted:
Bitter are the roots of study, but how sweet their fruit. – Cato
A free man is a man that chooses for himself, and does not let circumstance or other people decide for him.
Your choice and the falling of a country
Maybe you don’t see yourself as a tiny dot in the grand scheme of things. How can your tiny daily decisions influence your country or the world?
Well, they do matter, everything you do matters, and you have to carry this with you.
When Rome was about to fall. Slave decisions were made in every level of society. Corruption was high, people demanded everything form everyone else and no one really assumed responsibility for anything. Rome was no longer led by their ideals but by the pursuit of power and money.
With this focus, the ideal of excellence and greatness was forgotten and soon society and government started to crumble. Barbarians were no longer fought by disciplined troops but by lazy and leaderless captains. Economy was badly kept due to corruption and lack of finance administration and even their own leaders succumbed to vice.
What happens individually, also happens socially. The life of most citizens and the feeling of a government are always eerily similar.
But with focus and diligence. With the decision only a free man can make, freedom and honor can be regained.
You can either be a slave, or a free man.
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