In both developed and undeveloped countries, the search for freedom and some semblance of control is endemic. It is an increasingly urgent quest at this end of the twentieth century because there is growing recognition that the latest development phases of our evolving society and institutions are redundant. Promises of greater freedoms with less obligation and the utopian illusion of security without effort have not been realized. Instead, we have repression, marginalization and despair. Consequently, most social and economic orders are hollow and (if they have not already done so) beginning to implode.
More restrictive orders such as communism and various dictatorships have been first to decline but the so-called `democratic’ models are rapidly following. The only difference is in the perception of the pervasiveness of the control that the various systems exercise.
Communist and many dictatorial leaders alike came to doom when they created closed economic systems and then deluded themselves and their citizens they had discovered a formula that would provide ultimate sharing: it was only necessary to remove private ownership after which governments would be free to distribute the wealth. Barriers were then built to bar outside influence in the hope that people’s ambitions and desires could be reduced; inside this limited community a country or region might be self reliant. Control then shifted to managerial bureaucracies who `decided’ people’s needs and aspirations. The result was neither self reliance or satisfaction but frustration and insurrection.
Western systems of democracy and free enterprise were originally designed to allow the majority-voice to control the sharing, but what have evolved instead are government structures controlled by political parties, wealthy and powerful influences, radical activists and the bureaucracies hired to manage the affairs of state. The authority of the majority has been usurped by the few in control or by others who influence the media – whereby they are able to establish themselves as the principal advocates of societal order. Resultantly, politicians spend more and more of their energy debating issues of blame and responding to the never-ending volleys of media attacks fuelled and driven by those that have ‘declared’ themselves advocates for the “common good”. Policy making has been abrogated to the domain of the bureaucrats who ultimately decide people’s needs and aspirations through ill-coordinated policies and programs.
Sharing means that someone gives and another takes. The taking, for most, is easier than giving, especially if you are left with less. Controls, restraint and their management are necessary to avoid conflict. In both these systems of government and development, then, under the guise of retaining order, the primary aim is to contain and control freedom, initiative and any creativity which cannot be easily measured or monitored.
Most interestingly, it is the systems of free enterprise that have the most fully developed socialist support systems and wealth-sharing programs. In contrast, the closed economies appear to operate with a philosophy of the strong surviving on their own with provision of support for only the most needy.
Addressing this present world crisis demands that people take on more responsibility. But, because they sense that what they really need is more freedom – freedom to do what their latent creativity urges- they are reluctant to burden themselves with more responsibilities. Most have not even been able to contemplate, much less formulate what their real ambitions are. Many do not even ponder that to search, to seek, to explore, are natural, inherent and human.
The primary reason why these issues are not at the forefront of our thoughts can be partly explained by history. Modern society has been controlled, contained and restricted by those that were readily allowed to take responsibility. It either has not been realized or is not apparent that each time responsibility, no matter how minuscule, is given up, freedom is also diminished.
There have been many attempts by individuals and groups throughout the world to achieve a semblance of control over their lives. Many have been met with opposition and resistance by those in control. These painful experiences result in compound hurts convincing others that only harm will come from such aspirations. Hurt we may tolerate but harm suggests more permanent suffering.
Human tendency is to avoid the hurts which are intuitively stored in memory. Ultimately, these compounded memories stymie quests for freedom – the very essence of life itself. Witnessing another’s pain most often triggers indigenous recall of previous wounds. That is why memories are created that masquerade the hardships of earlier times. People create mystical and romantic images around these “golden eras” and yearn for the good old days, all the while recognizing they were not actually all that good. Nonetheless, masking the real hardships with the glossy veil of memory allows escape to imaginary happiness and avoidance of real and currently painful issues.
Eventually, the realization comes that lives aren’t being fulfilled, desires not being met and that youthful ambitions have been dashed. Rebellion builds against the very systems that people helped to create. Leaders are cast aside with reckless, sometimes vicious carelessness, institutions are destroyed and governments and systems changed. Cynicism abounds and people move to create new economic and social systems. Underground economies become the norm and social unrest prevails.
Thus, the present circumstance of most of the world’s societies. The communist and more restrictive systems have arrived at various states of collapse with ensuing economic and social upheaval. Economic `wisdom’ is being provided by the democratic countries even though their own systems are no longer viable and are verging on disintegration. There is a growing sense of despair and tension because there is the feeling that human existence has reached its zenith and is rapidly declining.
This present development era somehow evolved a belief/philosophy that, if everyone had responsibility then no one would have it. This has been accomplished by rescinding control of people’s lives to the state (government) thus avoiding individual liability. Governments willingly and over time accepted this `obligation’ for the power and elixir it gave politicians and bureaucrats alike.
What really is being experienced is a “system collapse” similar to many others observable in history. When those entrusted with responsibility and those that abrogate it lose perspective, then the framework collapses. There must be an understanding that systems and governments are but enablers of the natural evolution of human freedom.
Maybe this time it will be realized that freedom requires responsibility and that responsibility requires choice and that choice often leads to mistakes. Mistakes ultimately cause pain to someone but, with proper support the hurt can be overcome and lives renewed. Escape from this pain of experience is not possible for life requires endurance and acceptance in order to achieve the fulfillment that true freedom provides.
Yet, through all the despair one can see pockets of hope, the glimmers of light and the radiance of true human spirit. People everywhere are going beyond systems and governments – taking more responsibility for their own lives, striving for greater freedom. This can be seen in the growing concentration of entrepreneurial activity in all countries. It can be witnessed in the greater appreciation of creative talent and energy. It is what drives the growing underground economies that flourish everywhere to avoid excessive control, taxation and exorbitant costs.
We are experiencing a revolution that is unlike any before experienced. Economic weapons and technological tools are providing non-violent means to collapse systems and structures and to usurp control and power of the present day elites.
This is most evident in Eastern Europe where, despite media hype, most of their economic and political transformation has been peaceful. (This is not to mitigate the hardship and pain that people are experiencing). It is happening also in the United States where the majority of people refuse to participate in elections and consistently have forced governments to reduce or freeze taxation. People in Canada witness the growing underground economy, prolific efforts of tax avoidance and government program manipulations that are causing havoc in government budgets and contributing to economic instability.
As people take more responsibility and achieve more control they experience an excitement and exuberance not before experienced. This leads to more risk-taking, new experiences and a new sense of liberty. Freedom once experienced is much harder to contain and control. It is contagious and grows and expands throughout additional circles and spheres of influence.
What has to be recognized is that with freedom comes responsibility not just to oneself but for others as well. Humans are all intrinsically bound just as the other elements of nature and the universe. What also must be learned is that responsibility doesn’t necessitate control. Caring and sharing for others shouldn’t negate their responsibilities for themselves. In fact, oftentimes by taking responsibility for someone else their freedom is impeded and their pain is deepened rather than avoided. Allowing people their own pain and its subsequent wisdom is a necessary component of a developed society. Reciprocal caring and sharing are the foundations of development and contribution its ultimate aim. These must be the lessons of this last era of progress. This understanding is required because of the growing interconnectivity of economies and social structures and the late-realization that preservation of the environment is imperative. Freedom has been the quest of humanity since the beginning. Responsibility is not only the foundation of freedom but, its quintessence. The acceptance of freedom with its ensuant responsibilities is an essential journey for the human spirit, for its growth and fulfilment. Therefore if an essential part of human spirit is a need for freedom, responsibility and the ability to contribute are fundamental to its fulfilment.
The creation of new structures, new orders and new frameworks for contribution is imperative for the next period of human and societal evolution and progress. The alternative is withering and the imminent destruction of human existence.