Freedom of action
So in previous writing we’ve discussed freedom of belief and expression. I’ve asserted that a diversity of both is a healthy thing and differences of opinion are a source of strength, that traditions should be challenged and change is always an opportunity to be happier. But what of freedom of action? Can I live however I want? Can I bother someone with my actions? If you think that a person’s actions must at some point be kept in check, you must believe that a person’s liberties must not be utterly unrestricted. In short, under what circumstances can I restrict someone’s liberties? Understand, now we are getting to the main event and the heavy weight bout.
Let be clear at the start, it is never a justifiable act of liberty to intentionally harm someone just for harm’s sake. If you want to go there we need to talk of war and judicial punishment (which is outside the scope of this writing). We’ve discussed that to live in society is to risk harming but to intentionally harm is completely different. But in making the statement that it is never okay to intentionally harm someone, we’ve already committed to the idea that personal liberty is never absolute. That at some point, everyone must accept that we can’t always do whatever we want to do. This is where the concept of liberty gets troublesome.
Think now of a transman or transwoman. In being as happy as they can be, they choose to undergo hormone treatment, train their voice to change and build different muscle groups. Do you have a problem with this? It does not intentionally harm you, but how do you feel about them living differently to be happier? What if the transgendered individual asked you to call them a different name (Christine instead of Christopher) or have as a pro-noun ‘Hir’ instead of ‘Her’? What if you could be sued or fined for using Her instead of the preferred Hir when addressing Christine? Do you feel that this is a contradiction? That Christine can dictate what words she wants but you are not free to use what words you want? Or does it matter that the words you use might be offensive to Christine or harm her (or hir!)? Do we have the liberty to speak however we want or does Christine have the liberty to be addressed as her gender demands? The choices seem incompatible.
I wouldn’t imagine too many people would begrudge anyone living the way they wanted to live, even if you had to address them differently. But let’s take this much further. What if I choose to live in a way that made me sick and a burden on the medical system. What if my lifestyle meant I was not fit for military service during a time when the country I lived in was in desperate need of soldiers? What if I demanded such an onerous use of politically correct language that it led to large parts of the population feeling alienated (aged people or conservatives) or that language itself was forced to behave in ways that it was never intended to. What if I made people feel that they did not belong? What if those that felt that they could not belong regressed from society, and the country became weak? Am I still free to act as I choose to pursue my own individuality? To enforce unreasonably PC language when others talk to or around me? Isn’t all change a nuisance to someone? What if in pursuing our own freedom, we make life less meaningful for everyone else? Where does right action lie when to make one person happy, we make 1,000 nuisances to other people?
Let us just think back to a previous concept for a moment. We established that anyone who does something because it is tradition or custom actually makes no strong choice at all (other than the choice to be traditional or customary). Making a choice from one option is not a choice. Am I really heterosexual? Have I actually tried homosexuality to see if I like it? Can I really be heterosexual until I’ve tried homosexuality? Mimicking is not the same as being. So ask yourself, how much of what you are is the result of making a choice from a smorgasbord, and how much is simply mimicking? The greatest thing a freeman can do is Know Himself but to do this he must live an active life in a diverse society. If he does not consider multiple options and if a diversity of life choices don’t exist can he ever know himself. Diversity is necessary for freemen to be happy. Perhaps in limiting Christine to the gender her birth sex dictated, we in fact harm ourselves by limiting our own diversity of choices? Perhaps we do some harm to society by creating change when people were previously happy with the norm, but perhaps we do greater change by limited our options to the genders we are born with? It could be that harm is minimised by allowing everyone the freedom to be whatever gender they choose. Its a tough question but I think I have the answer.
Building yourself requires stability
Consider this. Many of us will make ourselves happy through our professions and trades by working with wood, music, money or people. But the first work of art we must focus on is ourselves. What makes our work quality is that the raw material had the potential for many outcomes (a good table or a bad table. A pop song or a power ballad) and, with skill, we made it what it needed to be. We must take the same approach with ourselves. We must make ourselves what we choose to be, not simply be content with the one choice the establishment provided nor the choice we inherit from tradition. To make ourselves what we want requires many things (bravery, education, a purpose) and freedom of action is essential if we are to make ourselves rightly.
But if the world is constantly changing day by day, hour by hour, can we really ever know ourselves? If we are all making music in a world where people’s tastes in music change by the hour, will anyone ever take the time to write a great song? If every song but the most basic will be out of style before it is finished we will only ever have basic songs. Will the art of music ever evolve and be a worthwhile pursuit this way? An amount of consistency in the rules of life must occur for life to be enjoyable. To go back to the analogy in the previous paragraph, the table can never be a good table if the customer is forever changing their mind about the style, size etc of the table we are building as the carpenter will not be given a chance to make something good under those circumstances.
Offense prevention harms us all
I believe society is constantly telling boys that what freemen are is wrong. They say we are toxic and our actions in living active lives on the world stage is judged only by the offence that we cause, not by the harm we reduce nor the utility we create. Their judgement fails to acknowledge that leading and achieving in a world where any and every action is bound to offend someone is to deny all leaders and achievers any hope of good action. It is a society that deplores male aggression from safe western countries kept safe by the aggression of men. If we are constantly changing to appease our critics, we will never be anything positive. Change can be a decision to veer left, right or to slow down or speed up, but change can also require the complete restructuring of an undertaking. When that undertaking is a human life and the change is made only to keep an offended human from taking offence, the change should not occur and the offended human will just have to be offended around you. As freemen, once we’ve challenged all customs and traditions, we should not be afraid to be what we are and stay what we chose to be. If we are not harming anyone, have heard all opinions, challenged all customs and thus have the courage of our conviction that we know truth, then we are Freemen. If calling Christine ‘hir’ after she asks you nicely to do so deconstructs you as a human then don’t do it. But remember that you’ll have to reconcile yourself to the fact that you were too fragile to replace an ‘e’ with an ‘i’ and go on with your life.
When we are told that what we are is wrong, we should let our detractor have his or her opinion, listen carefully and understand their point of view, make a decision as to whether we are convinced that they speak truth and are right. Once we have listened, we need to assess if we are doing avoidable harm by not changing. If you can still attain your goal by amending your action but in doing so reduce harm, you should do exactly that. If the answer is no, we should not change and be unashamed in remaining strong. Freemen like this are admirable. This is freedom of action and it results in the freedom to be yourself in society. We must respect that you cannot be yourself in society if you cause reckless harm with every action.
The bottom line
Society has no right to limit your beliefs or expression. It does have a right to limited your actions but only if your action produce avoidable harm. What it does not have the right to do is to restrict those actions that you choose to undertake in living your own life as you see fit whilst minimising harm. This is always true but especially so when the true motives behind its imposed limitations are another individual’s gain under the guise of ‘justice’. It is here that who you are comes under legitimate attack.
Men ask “How much freedom do I have to be myself?” but they are wrong to ask this. The real question must be “why should society let me be myself?” When the answer is “Because as yourself you serve your tribe well” you will find that your actions are rarely limited and you are happiest. This answer will lead to the next question “which tribe will I serve best and thus be left to be my true self?”. Finding this tribe is a big part of life and a key aspect of making freedom make sense. Freedom will forever seem absurd if your tribe is forever censoring your actions. Your tribe will forever be doing this if your actions make the tribe weak. If you find yourself limited at every action, you must either change your actions, or your tribe.
Running question time. Despite high levels of legal liberty women are at record lows of happiness. Perhaps the answer is that they have changed so much in the last 100 years that the constant process of restructuring has left them with no conviction about who they are and what they want. Can a happy generation of women ever come forth in such a scenario?