Have we surrendered too soon?

Some readers have asked that I be more reasonable and in balance. I have replied, “In face of injustice I do not wish to be reasonable or in balance.”

I think of William Lloyd Garrison, the Abolitionist leader on Slavery in America who in 1831 wrote:

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think or speak or write with moderation.

“No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm. Tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of a ravisher. Tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen, but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse. I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard.”

As for me, I do not seek to tear down all institutions, although many need to be discarded as evil. I wish to tear down only those that unjustly enslave our people.

I do not believe all corporations are evil. But the corporate form induces evil because it does not attach human responsibility to the corporations’ immense power. Those who govern the corporate machine must be made responsible for the abuse of its unbridled power. Too often its responsibility to those it injures is as if one shoots a bullet into his neighbor and then blames only the gun.

Bill wrote “Many of us cannot see that we are enslaved. Being told that we are in that state is a foreign concept, one that the brain cannot process. It may take a while for the idea to sink in. It would almost be akin to being told that the people you believe to be your parents are not, in fact, your parents.”

I agree. That is the danger. Unless we recognize our servitude we can never escape it.

We have been told from the moment we could understand the words that there is “liberty and justice for all.” We cannot bear to hear that the promise has been broken, that, indeed, the fruit of the promise was never delivered in the first place.

Yet in America the occasional slave can become the slave master. That is the throbbing, luring advertisement of our system. It is possible, as all things are possible, that the poor kid from the projects can become the CEO of Cornflakes and enslave his neighbors.

The term, “slavery” is too broad to be understood. We are enslaved by religion, by our employers, by the bank, by the credit card companies, by our promises to our spouses, by our duty to our children, by a stale belief system imposed on us by parents and teachers.

We are enslaved by our negligence regarding our health, by our inability to think without the aid of our slave masters, the corporation, that teaches us what to buy and how to pay for it. We are enslaved by marketers, who tell us what we must wear and the car we must drive to be hip, by politicians who themselves are enslaved by corporate money who tell us what wars we must fight and that we must, to be loyal Americans, sacrifice the lives or our children and the lives of those our children are directed to kill.

We are enslaved by unjust laws and a judicial system that will not deliver justice. We are enslaved….I am already weary and I have only begun this bill of particulars.

Slavery is of two types—that which is imposed on us by outside forces over which we have no control, and that which is self imposed. In the end, much of the slavery we suffer has been a matter of choice. Is it not more comfortable to be a slave?

The truth is I have told you nothing you do not already know. Already you know that perfect freedom is perfect nothingness. To approach it is pure terror. We call it death.

We conduct the war against our own enslavement from within. Our freedoms are the spoils of that carnage. Freedom cannot be given except as we capture it in ourselves. May I ask: Do we surrender too soon?


11 responses to “Have we surrendered too soon?

  1. No. We do not surrender too soon.

    The mere fact that we are having this conversation means that not all have surrendered. We may be enslaved, but the desire to escape enslavement still exists.

    At times, though, it seems like a hopeless cause. I look around the room as I type and I see a space full of stuff produced by wanting. A TV, a Tivo, a DVD player, shelves full of books, DVDs, music CDs, the laptop I use to type this, furniture, artwork on the walls, and so on.

    All of this stuff, much or most of it not really needed. The books could have been borrowed from the library. Over 100 DVDs that are rarely watched. Plenty of money spent for minimal value.

    Definite enslavement. But the continuing conversation means we have not surrendered. Hope remains alive.

  2. I would much rather be told a shocking truth than be told a soothing lie.

    A soothing lie may be more palatable to our senses and preconceptions, but in the end the lie will hurt us more than the truth.

    Gerry, those that realize the truth of what you are saying will support you. Those who find the truth to be abhorrent will call for moderation, but at least they are listening. Those who’s ears are closed to the truth will ignore or damn you; these people will need a strong arm with a sledgehammer applied to their lives to understand and realize.

    You are right when you say that there are many forms of slavery, whether we call it slavery or not, each and everyone of us is tied to something.

    I’ll leave you with something that has disturbed me since I first heard it: “The best slave is one who thinks they are free.”

  3. Hi Gerry: I worry –we have surrendered too soon. It is your dialogue that makes us face the truth of our slavery. I do understand I am a slave 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. When 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?


  4. I surrendered too late and in so doing injured a man that I love. He will read this and know who was injured. I have wondered why.

    Many decades ago, as a child my father beat me whenever I was deemed a “quitter.” When I became stronger and thus a threat to him physically, he used a gun and then I realized that I was freer than he. In the horror of the moment of the pistol, I learned that in death I would be free and he more a slave. Perhaps I learned to persevere more than I learned the wisdom of discernment.

    I offer that we exercise caution and explore our concepts of freedom beginning with primary principles. We refused to “quit” Viet Nam, and bombed innocent families – pacification. We refuse to accept that in Iraq, people don’t want our freedom – liberation through crusade. We make our citizens, craving relief from the pain of their existence through the use of medications that the medical industrial complex refuses to administer, into criminals and place them in cages reminiscent of the basement of the coliseum in Rome. No light enters through a domed Pantheon. We seek that which Chomsky properly describes as propaganda, calling it marketing, and we rush to purchase our new i-phone elbowing our way past the child in line. I sometimes wonder how many people owing i-phones have read Diogenes Laertius, an investment of exactly zero, as his writings are easily available in the local library. Did he actually search in the night with a candle seeking an honest man? An apocryphal story most probably, but instructive nonetheless as we consider the candle before us with match in hand. We can, after all, use the match to burn down the neighborhood – or to help us to seek.

    Why not begin within, allowing the freedom to accept our frailties and faults, and to transmogrify that pain into love – the love that Mr. Spence administers to us as a gift. We can choose to give that love as our gift as has Mr. Spence. His philosophy is no homeopathic nostrum but a view into the self that takes great courage to explore. His pioneering efforts in that exploration should be respected and loved and fostered with great care. His intransigence is not impulsive. One does not become a chess champion after reading the book. We can learn to love and to be free, one scintilla beyond the last. I thank Mr. Spence for his help and pray that I am strong enough to look into myself and to learn what he teaches. I ask to be forgiven for my many failures and hope to work with this community to become a better person.

  5. No surrender!

    To right real injustice, you can’t be balanced.

  6. This link to a story on Alternet is about the collapse of newspapers and how they cannot be replaced by the internet. Television news, as we know, is mega-corporate controlled and is entertainment/propaganda. Without reporters to investigate, analyze and report, our republic may be doomed by not knowing. Can we do anything or is it too late to fight our slavery with knowledge?


  7. Gerry,

    Very thought provoking post that well captures the experience of our times. And yet I take exception with your conclusion. When you say “Already you know that perfect freedom is perfect nothingness. To approach it is pure terror. We call it death.” you come so very close to the mark and yet still miss it. If I may, I’d like to offer a thought of hope and inspiration.

    As a spirit traveller I regularly crisscross the line between this physical reality and the next and I can tell you that while death is indeed a release from our physical forms it is not necessarily a release from the mental slavery we take upon ourselves.

    Whether living or dead, true release is a matter of recognizing our true state of being as brilliant points of awareness choosing what it is we wish to experience in each and every moment.

    As you so rightly point out, the choices we make are greatly influenced by the context in which they are made. The world views we hold and the belief systems we adopt are influenced by the socio-political-economic forces at work around us, and, as Ralph points out, by the individuals we interact with.

    Yet while context influences us, it does not rule us. And therein lies our path from bondage into freedom.

    To find true freedom we need not seek oblivion but rather that still point of centered awareness that never wavers no matter how we age, or change, or what it is we are experiencing in our lives.

    When we recognize that point of awareness as our true identity all experience becomes a matter of free choice and the chains of bondage are rendered as ineffective as an attempt to use a pair of handcuffs to restrain the light of the sun.

    To know yourself in this way is not “pure terror” as the slave masters would have us think, but rather the ultimate freedom to create for ourselves–individually and collectively–joyous lives and a world worth living in.

  8. Pingback: Insights Blog - Hampton Roads Publishing Company » Blog Archive » Gery Spence

  9. Servitude as you pointed out so eloquently, takes on many forms. We all serve many masters, including those that lie within us. They are perhaps the ones that we bow to most often. I do not agree that freedom comes only in death. Do we not free ourselves when we become completely present in the moment? Freedom and Servitude are like two siblings, forever fighting each other for attention and dominance within us. When Servitude presses her boot hard on our soul, we yearn for Freedom to somehow reach down and pull us back up. When Freedom’s fleeting touch caresses our heart, we feel alive and connected to everything around us. I felt her touch at the Ranch many times, if for only a few minutes. The struggle to keep her wrapped around my heart lies within. My journey slowly continues . . . .

    Thank you for the gift, Gerry.

  10. It is easy to speak of freedom as an abstract state which is effectively and permanently precluded by any amount of society and the economic and political institutions and vices that negotiate or justify or facilitate human interaction. Suppose you instead put each person on their own planet, or even their own continent perhaps to simulate more perfectly Locke’s ‘primitive state’, but by introducing isolation remove most or all of the negative effects of such a state. In this new situation each person will recognize new bondages that were not possible in the society of others. Other types of bondage will yet remain. Society may have grown many subtle and many blatant evils but it is also the platform of many great and noble enterprises. Governments pay me money to do basic scientific research on subject areas no corporation would ever have the patience of decades–or centuries if necessary–to come to either technological or economic fruition even if those are not motivation sufficient for me. Knowledge and truth are among the highest graces a society can achieve. I am cynical by nature, but I regard it merely as another perspective. It helps to remind me that my optimism is a choice, a votive morality. I do not participate in types of bondage I can avoid. Personally I try to eliminate all from my life that divides me from life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but as you say, the pain to break free once we recognize our deplorable state is necessary, so too some kinds of bondage are not bad, especially in context. As a simplistic example, I contract loans with the bank to pay for my education. For the world and its tired cast of scoundrels, swindlers, demagogues, charlatans, and perfidious public servants I have only one thing to say: Who is John Galt?

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