“If people base their identity on identifying with authority, freedom causes anxiety. They must then conceal the victim in themselves by resorting to violence against others.” ~Arno Gruen
Freedom is both the easiest thing to gain and the hardest thing to hold onto. We can courageously declare ourselves free in one breath, while in the next breath meekly kowtow to authority. It’s like an Orwellian doublespeak somersaulting through our heads: freedom is debt-slavery, freedom is obeying orders, freedom is paying taxes against our will, freedom is keeping our mouth shut when a cop speaks, freedom is forcing our will onto others, freedom is codependence on an unhealthy authoritarian state. Really?!
Cognitive dissonance is our ego’s saving grace. We convince ourselves we are free, even when we’re not, so that our pride isn’t harmed. We convince ourselves we are free so as to maintain our comfort zones. We convince ourselves we are free because if we’re not free then our existence is null. In the end, freedom becomes a cliché concept we toss around inside of the very box we’re trying so desperately to think outside of.
When it comes down to it, liberty begins within. It begins by first admitting that we must free ourselves from our inner tyrant before we can give birth to our inner liberator. It begins by digging deep and ousting the king trying to rule, decommissioning the commissioner trying to micromanage, and banishing the warden trying to keep order. It begins by not talking like rigid authoritarians to ourselves.
Let’s break it down…
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We live in an age of hyper-conformity. It goes widely unrecognized because it has become the rigid “reality” that modern culture indoctrinates into its members. It’s even considered admirable somehow to be “well-adjusted to a sick society.” Of course, our cognitive dissonance usually prevents us from admitting that such is the case. This is because we are primarily psychosocial animals who create a pleasing-to-others false self in order to alleviate the deep-seeded fear of being hurt or abandoned by others. Which is fine if one lives in a healthy culture. Not so fine if one lives in a profoundly unhealthy, unsustainable, authoritarian culture such as the cultures dominating the world today.
So what does a psychosocial animal that’s raised in an authoritarian culture do? Well, they speak to themselves in an authoritarian voice for one. Their inner tyrant is constantly pushing its authoritarian agenda, keeping the rebellious liberator at bay, lest he rise up and ruin the comfort zone or cultural malaise that has kept the inner tyrant safe and secure within the social milieu for so long.
So even if self-liberation is the goal, the inner tyrant rises up and barks in its best drill sergeant voice,“Stop dreaming, there’s no such thing as freedom,” or “Shut up and obey like everybody else,” or“You’re not worthy of freedom, what makes you so special?” or “This is just the way things are, deal with it,” or “Don’t rock the boat, it’s easier that way.”
The problem with this is that the majority of us cannot distinguish the indoctrinated authoritarian voice from the voice of our own free will, and we then confuse it for our own free will. Out of confusion and fear, we give into the inculcation. We remain authoritarian unto ourselves. We go with the flow, even though the flow is clearly poisonous.
Ironically, the cure for authoritarianism is self-authority, or free will. The key to the cultural prison is realizing that we’re all at once our own prisoner as well as our own warden. Our inner conflict between indoctrinated authoritarian and rebellious liberator is precisely what keeps us unfree. But there is no conflict, really. We imprison ourselves with our own commanding words. We’re always free. Our free will has only to take authority back from our inner authoritarian, by using words infused with free choice, in order to turn the tables on the psychosocial dynamic.
Instead of listening to the commands and authoritarian orders dictated by our inner warden or king, we speak to ourselves in a way that the freedom of choice is clearly paramount. And suddenly we’re able to ask ourselves, as Rumi did, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?”
“The revolution begins at home. If you overthrow yourself again and again, you might earn the right to overthrow the rest of us.” ~Rob Brezsny
So what happens when we begin to base our identity on self-authority rather than on identifying with an outside authority? What happens when freedom of choice becomes paramount, despite our inner authoritarian? Freedom no longer causes anxiety, in this case, because we have liberated ourselves into further freedom. Indeed, we have become Liberty itself. By simply changing our self-speak from a commanding (certain) voice to a voluntary (questioning) voice, we change the paradigm. We become less rigid and more flexible. We become less invulnerable and more vulnerable. We become less fearful and more courageous. We gain authority over authoritarianism, including our own. In short: we take back our own power.
Instead of commands, we issue options: “I can do whatever I want, like break the law or not break the law,” or “I don’t have to pay my taxes if I don’t think it’s necessary,” or “I can live whatever life I feel like living, as a statist or as an anarchist, but I choose to live like an anarchist,” or “I am free to do what I want, and I am choosing dangerous freedom over comfortable safety.” As Robert A. Heinlein said, “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
Also, instead of getting all wrapped up in answers, we are more capable of surrendering to ruthless questioning: “Why do I think the state is immoral, or not?,” or “Would I really rather be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie?,” or “How might I be suffering from cognitive dissonance or any number of cognitive biases and fallacies?,” or “How has my cultural conditioning affected the way I relate to the world?,” or “Do I have the courage to choose truth and speak out against deception?,” or “How can I take personal responsibility for becoming more ethical than the society I grew up in?,” The answers to these questions have the potential to launch our fledging liberation into further, more robust, liberation.
When we free ourselves into further freedom, we allow ourselves to grow. We allow our comfort zones to stretch. We become psychosocially, politically, and spiritually more flexible. We give ourselves permission to authentically live. In short: We blossom into a state of self-overcoming.
Self-overcoming is a Nietzschean concept of transcending ones given standards and values and creating something new out of the ashes of the old. It’s the constant adaptation and improvisation of the self in regards to the world. When we are self-overcoming, we’re too busy flourishing to be bothered with attaching ourselves to a particular state of being. We are shedding, and thus individuating, our “pleasing-to-others” skin. We’re surrendering to growth, to flexibility, to adaptability, and to moral plasticity. The result is a psychosocial animal becoming a freedom unto itself.
A liberated self-overcomer is truly a force to be reckoned with. No authority can command it, not even self-authority, because the liberated self-overcomer is constantly changing. It’s already adapting to, and overcoming, the slings and arrows of vicissitude, whether from the state, from others, or from the self. Indeed, a liberated self-overcomer is Transformation incarnate.
In the end, authoritarianism dissolves into futility under the crushing wave of the liberated self-overcomer. All authoritarian self-speak gets muted under the blaring harmony of self-overcoming. Commands melt into cartoons. Rigid certitude softens into flexible sincerity. Inner freedom becomes outer freedom. The inner voice of the liberated self-overcomer is both self-interrogating and voluntary, thus liberating the overcomer into further liberation, which ultimately leads to the liberation of others. For the liberated self-overcomer, the authoritarian culture has lost its stranglehold. Authentic reconditioning of the cultural conditioning is at hand. For, as Carl Jung declared, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Read more articles by Gary ‘Z’ McGee.
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
This article (Freedom Begins Within: From the Authoritarian Self to the Liberated Self) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary ‘Z’ McGee and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.