Freedom In Thought, Freedom In Action
- Have you ever wondered about how different freedom of thought is from freedom of action?
- As in we can write anything we want on the Internet as long as we don't do anything?
- Usually we don't try to control other people's thinking, not unless it somehow comes to interfere with our action.
- When does that happen?
- For example, the recent murder of the French cartoonists who'd make fun of the Prophet Mohammed. Religion is more about rituals than ideas. The killers found that publication of the cartoons interfered with their practice of ritual.
- Ideas do not prevent other ideas from being entertained, but every ritual practice is inconsistent with every other. You can jump from one idea to another, use one idea to develop another, but ritual works by repetition. Interruption and alteration are enemies to the peace and security ritual provides.
- Would you say that all ritual leads to an attempt to control the thinking of non-participants?
- That's the question isn't it? When we're told we must tolerate each other's different rituals are we really being set at each other's throats? Islam is said to mean "submission". Submission is to authority, and the peace and security that is derived from submission is precisely that derived from the repetition of ritual. Consider this conversation I had with a student soldier a few days ago. He'd been momentarily separated from his troop doing military exercises in the center of the University. I approached him:
- Some people don't like to see slavery made a display of.
- I choose to serve. I'm exercising my freedom of choice.
- Your choice limits my freedom of choice.
- How? I want to serve my country.
- By voluntarily making yourself a slave you make yourself a tool politicians can use to enslave others against their will or, worse, kill them. By voluntarily making yourself a slave you encourage others to become slaves and you deprive those who want to remain free of companions and collaborators in the job of staying free.
- Sir, you have your opinion I have mine.
- Sir means father. You're making a politic gesture of submission to me as older than you, but a father should try to keep a child from making mistakes there is not time in life to recover from. You hurt yourself by your submission as well as hurt other people.
- What did he reply?
- He went back to his troop.
- You are going to make yourself one unpopular guy if you go on attacking the military.
- The military is supposed to be a refuge of the unselfish from the greed of the larger society.
- Soldiers risk their lives for their country.
- They risk their lives after, having submitted their will to authority, they've given up the ability to know whether it is worthwhile to risk their lives for their country. And in fact they act no more unselfishly than the typical corporate director whose influence actually determines the government's policies. The corporate director serves the ritual of money making for the sake of money making, the soldier serves the ritual of killing without responsibility for his country. The difference is the corporate executive is much better paid.* Is it unselfish to make yourself a slave to ritual for the sake of low pay rather than high?
- I don't see why not.
- The reason why not is that ritual practice itself is selfish. It's payoff is in peace and security. Only individual and creative life is unselfish. It is difficult, uncertain, involves great risk of failure, it aims to create a life or a work of art that is inspiring to everyone. There is nothing in the world easier than to kill a man, as the mafia saying goes, and perhaps, not needless to say, nothing more selfish.
* The soldier, and the serving poor in general, are in a battle of rituals with the rich who make money for the sake of making money. The corporate director thinks no more of the lives of serving soldiers than do fundamentalist Muslims the French cartoonists they kill.