Sunday, December 28, 2008

the fear of liberty

my better half gave me a book for christmas entitled escape from freedom, by erich fromm. i've started it, but i did not get far before i had to make a move in the glass bead game.

chapter two, emergence of the individual and the ambiguity of freedom.
To the degree to which the individual, figuratively speaking, has not yet completely severed the umbilical cord which fastens him to the outside world, he lacks freedom; but these ties give him security and a feeling of belonging and of being rooted somewhere.

wait a minute. i have found an excellent definition of freedom in butler shaffer's the wizards of ozymandias, and by it, this statement does not pass muster. observe! chapter six, why are we afraid to be free?:
Let me begin by distinguishing the concepts "freedom" and "liberty." Freedom is a state of mind that is not in conflict or contradiction, a mind that has integrity (i.e., is integrated into a consistent whole). Liberty describes a social system in which free men and women live and cooperate with one another. Because their minds are free of conflict, their relationships with others tend to be peaceful and respective of one another's autonomy.

a conflicted state of mind in infant children? children are not awakened to emotional-political forces until approximately the age of two. this is the "no" year; when the child begins to defy authority with infantile rationality (so, by any adult standard, total irrationality) of its needs. the child has become aware of pleasures and pains and means to engage in maximum profit. they're born capitalists, they just haven't been told about the scarcity of resources yet.

well, whatever. let's let erich have a few more words. yes, i'm aware that i get to pick which ones, but i've chosen the rest of the passage.
i wish to call these ties that exist before the process of individuation has resulted in the complete emergence of an individual "primary ties."

he is speaking of the extent to which people cannot be alone. continuing:
they are organic in the sense that they are part of normal human development; they imply a lack of individuality, but they also give security and orientation to the individual. they are the ties that connect the child with its mother, the member of a primitive community with his clan and nature, or the medieval man with the Church and his social caste.

recall shaffer: integrity. how does the collective du jour give the individual any integrity in his or her actions? are they not moral or immoral on their own merit? is this getting fishy yet? continuing:
once the stage of complete individuation is reached and the individual is free from these primary ties, he is confronted with a new task: to orient and to root himself in the world and to find security in other ways than those which were characteristic of his preindividualistic existence.

aha! get this: children weren't free, and to make themselves free, they're going to need to tie themselves to new collectives, in order to validate their emotions, which continue to make them believe they are rooted. remember, fromm says they only seek a feeling of belonging. just a touch more, and:
freedom then has a different meaning from the one it had before this stage of evolution is reached.

you might see now why fromm opens this book, singing hosannas to objectivity.

nonetheless, i submit that this is equally confused. here's why.

children are free. they are the very embodiment of freedom, a total lack of internal conflict. they absorb and nurture this conflict as they "discover" and begin to incorporate the outside world. they fall from grace, and we help them do it.

free from primary ties? new tasks? orwell couldn't have put it better. there are no ties; they don't need to be replaced with better ones. it ain't broke, so don't fix it. but, we do. original sin is remarkably taoist in this light. the trap is words, thinking. see the cat?

see the cradle?

yet fromm laments as the communist might lament of extravagance in materialism: certainly luxuries should be given up, sold off, and the money given to the poor, and might he add the suggestion that he, in his wisdom, happens to know just the pawn shop you ought to patronize. of course.

i will read the rest of the book, anyways.

UPDATE: i lied, i couldn't finish that drivel.