The pain of chains

The dearth of responses to our discussion of freedom suggests in part why we are not free. The subject is painful. We are not a pain-seeking species. We want relief from the pain of slavery, but we cannot tolerate more pain in seeking our freedom. It is less painful to sit quietly in our chains.

I have written on the subject in three published books: Give Me Liberty, From Freedom to Slavery, and Seven Simple Steps to Personal Freedom. It must be clear to you that my own sense of enslavement has driven me to consider this issue over and over again. And here I am beginning my blog with this subject as if I cannot leave it for fresher fields.

Yet black slavery was tolerated in this nation for over two hundred years. Two hundred years! How long must we endure ours? And the horrors of that slavery that laid at the foundation of our nation still infects us with its unrelenting misery and hatred.

I had thought that together we might discover new insights. I would welcome yours. But we are not eager to pound against our chains hoping to break them—the pain. And I understand.

I should be writing about growing old, for that is an issue I need to explore with you as well. It is a different kind of servitude–one to Mother Nature who continually replaces us with mutations more likely to survive her tantrums.


17 responses to “The pain of chains

  1. Gerry–I know that I have been thinking a great deal about the topics you have raised and haven’t responded for two reasons: (a) shyness; and (b) confusion. My guess is that others may feel the same way. However, I am grateful to you for raising the issues and to others for their responses.

  2. I second Beth’s thoughts. I’m interested to see how your thoughts unfold on this topic, as you seem to have a lens through the fog that so few of us do.

    I don’t really know what is possible in light of the constraints of modern living – so I’m intrigued to hear what thoughts you have about what all can really be done about it. To me, freedom from financial struggle is the carrot I chase. I understand that may be never ending chase, but it seems quite important to do.

    It does indeed feel like a gift to be privy to your unfolding thinking about this and any of the other issues on your mind.

  3. Gerry- I have read all of your books and enjoyed and learned from them. The subject of slavery is throughout your writings and I have not explored it because of the fear of where it might lead or even more scary is the thought that it may lead nowhere other than to the realization that there is no way to escape.

  4. Nemo (last post here for now)

    I have been reading what you are writing. Just maybe some of your topics are about institutional attitudes, but we must dig deeper past the institutions, and find out if there is more, we must find where the devil is in the details. We are talking about the detail maybe being that there has been an erosion, by corporations and greed, of an entire system of democratic checks and balances.

    In order to fully explain, let me “go long” for just this once, and take a few hours to put something together as an example. Done – Here it is… and in the example used, it only asks a simple question (yet might represent a more global problem about more than just the institutions involved). The example question is this: Is the corporate food industry keeping us as their slaves as well, and by doing so are they affecting our physical and mental health (and what are the news corporations doing to expose it, or are they electing to ignore this news for the sake of profits)?

    Maybe that it is the destiny of the web, to be a democratic instrument used by all in order to keep the truth alive, as some of the news corporations, due to greed, are unable to serve their true free speech functions in society (as shown below)?

    The corporation by design has evolved to be able to outlive morality. Government, and the rule of law, is designed to protect us and to keep the corporation in line (a check and a balance to protect the public from harm done by those who lack morals).
    Sometimes, it seems that both, in a corrupt way (supported by legal advice), will ignore what is right, in order to survive. FYI – The real purpose of the news outlets in our society, is as a dependable source of information, along the free speech aspect of it all. The news outlets act as a a fourth arm of government, ans server as a doctor that can expose the corporation, or the government, when it is ill and has lost it’s way (no longer serving the people, but only serving itself). Aside – By making politics into a profession, we have caused greater harm than good. Let us examine a sample case that is still a mystery today – just to make this point.

    Where is the line where a corporation’s evolutionary destiny, that it serve it’s stockholders, takes a back seat to morality, where it no longer serves the stockholders, and instead does the right thing and serves humanity instead?

    When humanity takes the back seat, then is that a good thing for society? Humanity does sometimes take a back seat to profits. Yes indeed, sometimes this is the case! Evidence of this is below! We will use as our case, a situation where certain chemical corporations have won a political battle at the FDA and in congress as well, and some news corporations are afraid to tell us the truth (because they don’t want to lose the ad revenue). So, they are all affecting us and our children for one reason. For their own political or financial health. ALL it seems are now partners in the mutually beneficial (financial) relationship that has evolved into a very interesting mystery. Remember that Ads sell products, Ad income funds the news corporation, Ads get the politician elected! A politician needs money to get elected, a media outlet needs the politician’s money every election cycle…! Where does this money come from? Well, it irony is that the news corporation in this story is shown to drastically need the chemical or drug corporation’s money (paying for ads) in order to survive as well. So, after reading below this ask yourself, if we are getting the full truth when we switch on the “corporate version of the news outlet that advertises that they give us both sides of the story”? Hmmm, Do the news corporations want health insurance and drug price reforms (that might result in maybe a weaker drug ad budget in that industry)?

    1st See this video, by some Fox News people who don’t work at Fox anymore (fired, because they had moral fiber).

    Preface – before absorbing more, while taking this in… ask this question:

    Since the multi-billion dollar aspartame industry, with all their lawyers, are not in court looking for at least an injunction to force the removal of this information that is found on very public web sites, then maybe they are looking to avoid going to court? Why avoid a process where they could stop this “mis-information” campaign against them?The pro-aspartame corporations, or their Washington DC lobby lawyers, are not in court looking to recover damages, for “libel” and/or “slander”, against these parties that are making such public and damaging claims against them…? What does that say? As the first link above pointed out, it is no mystery as to why the news corporations are not covering this fully.

    As evidence – see these links, don’t forget to ask the question again, again, and again?
    Donald Rumsfeld, when he was the CEO of a chemical company, is highlighted in this one!
    Also with regard to obesity and aspartame, the Trocho Study in Barcelona in l998 showed that the formaldehyde converted from the free methyl alcohol accumulates in the cells and damages DNA with most toxicity in the liver but substantial toxicity in the adipose tissue or fat cells. Further a recent epidemiological study by Sharon Fowler at the University of Texas in 2005 linked diet drinks with obesity.

    In the Congressional Record, Senate, S – 5511, May 7, l985, and part of the protest of the National Soft Drink Assn, now American Beverage, is this Statement:

    “Aspartame has been demonstrated to inhibit the carbohydrate-induced synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin (Wurtman affidavit). Serotonin blunts the sensation of craving carbohydrates and this is part of the body’s feedback system that helps limit consumption of carbohydrate to appropriate levels. Its inhibition by aspartame could lead to the anomalous result of a diet product causing increased consumption of carbohydrates.”

    So as far as product liability is concerned you have companies marketing an addictive excitoneurotoxic carcinogenic drug to the population as a sugar-free diet product knowing full well this is causing obesity. They also know that aspartame is addictive and that the methanol component is classified as a narcotic. Aspartame liberates free methyl alcohol causing chronic methanol poisoning. This affects the dopamine system of the brain causing the addiction.]”

    Dopamine and Serotonin, when they go out of balance in the brain, can cause problems:
    “When you lower serotonin it
    triggers manic depression or bipolar, mood swings,
    anxiety, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, panic attacks, paranoia,
    hallucinations, etc. It also interacts with ALL
    antidepressants. In fact, it interacts with just about every
    drug used to treat the problems it causes”. Now, has anyone asked this question – What was the diet of those kids at Combine High School, who were latch key kids, eating what for food with no parents at home…?

    See this video hosted by Google (on the Google web site, not YouTube):
    Video Title: Sweet Misery – A poisoned world (avi file streamed from google’s web site)
    “In 2002, director Cori Brackett was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis leading her on a journey across America in search of answers. What she discovered resulted in the disturbing and powerful documentary, Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World”.
    Why Hasn’t Aspartame Been Banned?
    “The answer is quite simple. There are thousands of companies using Aspartame in diet sodas, powdered drinks, gelatin, tea, cocoa, juices, frozen desserts, even vitamins and medications. This translates to billions of dollars worldwide. Far more profits than needed to provide agency officials with gratuities and/or very favorable future employment, politicians with campaign funds/PAC money, non-profit foundations with endowments, scientists with research grants, and the media with lots of advertising dollars”.
    By James Bowen, M.D.
    “Aspartame is the # 1 known cause of brain tumors, ever recognized in science! In the Wistar rat, the appropriate rat strain to test for brain tumorigenicity studies, a dose of Aspartame only equivalent to three cans of pop per day, scaled down to the weight of the animals, and given for only sixty days caused the highest incidence of brain tumors, that any chemical ever tested in that strain of rat, ever caused”.
    “There has also been an increased occurrence of glioma among children whose mothers consumed aspartame throughout their pregnancy”.

    According to the pro-aspartame website , the aspartame product is in over 6000 other products.

    Ah, the corporation, and it’s morality? The institution of checks and balances (is that what has eroded)?

    Will a normal news corporation with millions of dollars of income from drug and chemical corporations, in the end, be expected by society to do the right thing, or will it instead be business as usual – profits?

    Maybe the web is an instrument of the public trust?

  5. Not only is it less painful to sit quietly in our chains, it is far easier to envelope ourselves in myths than to confront the reality that our freedom is at risk.

    In his excellent recent book, American Creation, historian Joseph Ellis chronicles that the creation of the American republic had two tragedies amidst its five great triumphs, which were winning the revolutionary war, the concept of a republic that transcended a large geographical space (as opposed to a city-state), formalizing dissent (rather than simply killing the losers), the idea of multiple sovereigns (separation of powers and state vs. federal overlap) and the creation of a state without a state religion.

    On the other hand, the tragedies were slavery and the genocide of the native Americans. Ellis characterizes slavery as a Shakespearean tragedy because it could have been avoided by human agency. He characterizes the genocide of the native Americans as a Greek tragedy because it probably could not have been.

    Interestingly, Ellis points out that none of the founding fathers tried to justify slavery as being consistent with the ideals of the creation of the American republic and that most everyone expected slavery to die a natural death to be followed by the expulsion of the former slaves to Africa or elsewhere. Virtually none of the founders foresaw a multiracial society in the American republic. Ellis contends that that the invention of the cotton gin ignited the Southern economy and increased the demand for slaves, which undermined the founders’ myth that slavery would simply die out over time.

    In the first two books of a trilogy of American history, Throes of Democracy and

    Freedom Right Around the Corner

    ,historian Walter McDougall echoes Ellis’ point and notes that myths have allowed Americans for generations to ignore such grotesque contradictions as slavery, discrimination against women and genocide against native Americans in order to take the risks that produced the largest, richest and most dynamic republic in history. McDougall essentially argues that it’s far easier to engage in such myths than to take the time to assess the cost of confronting reality.

    Sadly, similar myths are deeply engrained within the American soul and re-appear commonly today to justify barbaric use of the government’s overwhelming prosecutorial power against American citizens. In the end, the only way to overcome myths is to confront them whenever they emerge and to personalize their damaging effects. Thomas More stated it wisely during his classic discussion with Will Roper in “A Man for All Seasons” when he explained why he would not abuse the law even to prosecute the Devil himself:

    “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it, Roper! — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

    “Yes, I’d give the Devil the benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

    Good luck in your blogging journey, Mr. Spence. Your voice is an important one.

  6. John W. Schilt

    Slavery must be understood under the more broad context of servitude. You mention acceptance for over 200 years. In order to understand slavery one must view history and the many many people who endured servitude. This country, in an historical context was only a mili-second in the history of servitude. Only when we study it in an historical context can we understand this countries experience with slavery.

  7. Thanks, Tom Kirkendall for your thoughtful comment.

  8. “It must be clear to you that my own sense of enslavement has driven me to consider this issue over and over again.”

    I must say that that is NOT clear. It is hard to imagine a sense of slavery in the great Gerry Spence. Does not the freedom of large awards create the luxury of lazy days painting, choosing your causes and feeling an exhilirating liberation? What could be the enslavement there? Is it just the contingencies of daily living and family and sense of obligation? Are these things to disencumber ourselves from or accept and manage? Wherefore this idea of seeking all freedom all the time. . ???

  9. George Harrington

    Gerry- now we’re moving. In one day you raise the spector of Lear on the heath. Beth hits the right emotional note and Tom Kirkendall identifies
    stars that I believe we will keep refering to as we
    navigate this dark sea. Shakespeare, the Greeks,
    the Founders, right down to that great great scene from A Man for all Seasons. I had to delete my entire comment when saw what he had written.
    You raise an enormous subject that spans from
    the interior life of the worst of us all the way to
    how free men ( or gulled slaves who think that they are free) should have themselves goverened.
    And even thought the sea it dark and frightfull
    we still have the dim light of the stars to show our progress: for instance it was only 130 years before
    the founders considered these questions That the
    correct way for an earthly power to deal with an astromoners observations was to decree that if Galileo ever said that again they would pour molten lead into his anus.

  10. As I read these posts by you Mr. Spence, and the responses of others who have read your work, I am sitting here at my desk. I am buried under more work than I can hope to accomplish in a day, getting consistently farther behind. I use the weekends to dig myself out, only to repeat the process again and again. I’m 29 years old and quitting to start law school in a month. I’ve been working in corporate tax for the last 7 years. Does this blog resonate with anyone else the way it does with me? Because I don’t have a choice to do what I want to do during the day. I don’t have a choice to stop and do something truly important because i feel that it is something one ought to do! I work hard, and do a good job….and I do it to keep people happy with me. And they are happy…everyone that it, but me.

  11. Gerry:consider Columbus’s letter to Queen Isabella upon discovering the new world:

    So tractable, so peaceable are these people, that I swear to your Majestiea there is no better nation on earth. They love their neighbor as themselves, and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, and accompanied with a smile, and though it is true they are naked, yet their manners are decorous and praiseworthy. They are too trusting to resist capture, and too docile to rebel once caught. From here, in the name of the Blessed Trinity, wecan send all the slaves that can be sold!

    We in America have been too trusting, too docile to rebel. Now our factories sit silent, the pension coffers empty while corporate America employs people in Third World countries for pennies and they too are too docile and trusting and simply go along and are mistreated.

    Truly a phenomena of human nature all the way around, I think.

  12. Hi, Gerry-

    Welcome to the blawgosphere. That makes around seven blogging Warriors.

    I’ve included some discussion of the Trial Lawyers College in my blog, including here:

    As to the slavery theme, have you considered Buddha’s approach to transcending the cycle of suffering, including at birth, sickness, and aging? Ram Dass, ne Richard Alpert, also tackles this, as well as Thich Nhat Hanh.

    Concerning this concept, Tibetan studies professor Ringu Tulku writes that the concept “that all phenomena are devoid of coming and going … means that an enlightened bodhisattva sees the truth, the way things are. This is seeing directly without adding any concept or philosophy. Within this clear vision there is not the slightest doubt about anything, so there is no need for clinging or running away. A realized bodhisattva has no dualistic view. Within this sheer and naked seeing, spontaneous compassion arises. Once we no longer feel compelled to cling to ourselves and fixate on our own problems all the time, we can look around and see everything clearly. We can perceive others’ lives and understand how and why they experience their problems. Although we see that others are suffering greatly, we know that their suffering is almost needless. They are not doomed to be in pain, because their suffering just comes from a wrong way of seeing and reacting. If they could see how things truly are, they would not suffer anymore. This is the understanding of an enlightened being.” Ringu Tulku, Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Buddhism at 58 (Snow Lion Publications, 2005). If it were so simple to apply.

    Take care.

    Jon Katz, Underdog, TLC ’95

  13. To jonathan:

    I was around your age when I picked up “How to Argue…” and began law school shortly afterward. Stats show that many more blog readers simply read than comment so it’s a good bet the words are resonating with many besides yourself.

    Your description of a “corporate tax” life sounds a lot like my solo lawyer job: buried and catching up on the weekends. Only, being able to do this, I’m happy so hopefully that’ll be your incentive.

    John Nolte once told me something which seems obvious now that I’ve rolled it over many times but wasn’t at the time. He described happiness as a by-product, as something that’s an effect of the other decisions we make. I’m probably butchering his words, but I think of it now a little like the way Gerry once described trying to fall asleep. Sometimes the more you try to fall asleep the harder it is get to that state that we all strive for, some more successfully than others.

    I’m sleep deprived now from worries about work I haven’t gotten done, but it’s a good kind of tired. I’m sleepy but also happy. So good luck in law school. There are a lot of unhappy lawyers but the ones who represent people tend to be the happiest.

    Keep that in mind and see if you see the same thing in those typically dead hallways…

  14. David:

    Thanks for the kind words. Kinda makes me feel like i’m not the only one whose been down this road ahead. It’s hard to think of a more dead place than the tax dept. of the Fortune 500 company I work for. There are sparks of real emotion and bursts of honest feeling but more often than not they are crushed and replaced with the stoic and mechanical. I’m looking forward to law school in the fall. Your response made me feel not so…I guess separate, and for that I thank you.

  15. Hi Gerry: I worry – I do understand we are slaves but how do I become free in this world without total anarchy? To me freedom is a journey of the mind. It is painful it is full of fear. The corporations, employers, churches can hold us as slaves because we hold ourselves as slaves. If we break free we risk the corporate world, the religious institutions and our own peers, “a pointin a figure at us” and if it doesn’t bother us then we may be on the journey to freedom. Van Morrison, poet, musician and songwriter, released a song in 1969 that I think is a metaphor of the struggles we all have with freedom. He starts out
    “If I ventured in the slipstream between the viaducts of your dream where immobile steel rims crack and the ditch in the back roads stop could you find me? Would you kiss-a my eyes? To lay me down, in silence, easy. To be born again. To be born again. “
    For me he is saying this breaking away is fearful and if I became what I came into this world to become would you still accept me as a human being that has something to offer to the world?
    Later in the song he worries over the judgment the world heaps on us if we are different and don’t become like lemmings following the pied piper to the sea. It is the worry lawyers have when they present the story of their client in a human rather than mathematical formulae dictated by the courts. He says:
    “There you go Standin’ with the look of avarice talkin’ to huddie ledbetter, showin’ pictures on the wall Whisperin’ in the hall And pointin’ a finger at me There you go, there you go Standin’ in the sun darling With your arms behind you And your eyes before There you go Taking’ good care of your boy, seein’ that he’s got clean clothes, puttin’ on his little red shoes I see you know he’s got clean clothes A-puttin’on his little red shoes A-pointin’ a finger at me
    And here I am Standing in your sad arrest Trying to do my very best Lookin’ straight at you Comin’ through, darlin “
    He then ends the song with, what I think, is an “I don’t care–I am free to be myself. I will deal with the world but I am a stranger in this world.”
    “I’m nothing but a stranger in this world; I got a home on high; In another land; So far away; So far away”.
    So the real struggle for me is how do we live in this world once we know we are slaves and want to break free.

  16. The incorperation of every american
    makes us slaves
    birth certificate is the tool
    social security# is the tool
    a failure of leaders to stand for equity and justice
    for the people is the tool
    the tax system it the tool
    fear is the tool
    force against the weak is the tool
    our own ignorance is the tool
    this entire Government has perpetrated a fraud
    against the american people.
    dont get me wrong i believe it should be here
    but not to protect ther rich and wealthy
    but the poor
    Amchel Rothchild stated give me control over a nations currency and i care not who makes the laws
    “silent weapons for quiet wars” its a good read
    “money is the root of all kinds of evil”

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