"The Freedom To Be,"  assorted takes

Ted Kozlowski  May 12, 2002

Well, your essay is certainly ready for a respected journal,online or print. I have not commented on any internet writing before; instead I sometimes email authors with brief appreciations. Scholarly muscles degrade just like those biceps that haven't been worked out at the gym for years; most especially, the ones for organizing points clearly.

  The reader might reflect on the status of his or her search for freedom. Did it ever start, did it reach some level of satisfaction, even if only from the struggle?  Then, what is the societal context in which the individual has been? Were he and family subject to massive disruptions, war being the foremost?  Was life and thus the search short, as the person became a casualty?  (Our trials at present, when our freedoms are being curtailed due to a contested program to counter a virus, seem a strange example; happening in a consumer society where bare shelves are supposed to signal impending doom, rather than far more legitimate situations such as working around bombed-out buildings, one's home, water supply etc. a victim of the doctrine of 'collateral damage' practiced since the first World War.)

  You describe well the mundane and often soul-draining experience of recent American generations, the price of affluent daily living. Our particular "entry point" may have been the most fortunate re material ease.  Younger folk from the 1970's onward have been shown, in various studies, to earn less despite often producing more.  Again, your writing seems to refer to all relevant societal factors, in my opinion.

  Since I have read many social studies of national/imperial decline (to the point of sometimes wishing for a collection of MGM musicals for relief) I will cite Chris Hedges as the most effective writer, among many other worthies, of this broad theme. His essays have accumulated on the web; recently based at Truthdig (but that went on hiatus when the virus protocol began.)  His most recent books, such as "Empire of Illusion" and "America: the Farewell Tour" contain chapters sourced from encounters with many kinds of suffering people. He has a long journalism career, plus a degree in theology, etc etc.

  He's passionate -"however"- so he's inclined to calls for action, and that can highlight a frozen state in me ...I have enough animation to step backward from the volunteer mustering line. Or just send a check to, a tax-deductible charity organization.

  Hmmm, where was that fork in the trail where I went off topic? I'll just say I would send you the recent Hedges book on request. The bookstores are closed and I can't trade in stuff for credit on new titles anyway.

  (I hope that wordy emails do not equate for you to that knock on the door when Coleridge was working on Kublai Khan's Xanadu!)

  I very much liked your inclusion of specific examples to your ideas such as the story of your parakeets and the battery blister pack. As to self-awareness, that is something I have tried to practice for a long time, right from the 60's when I had to wean myself from the hope of an instant solution to handling all "hassles" now and forever...  This discipline certainly helped me stop drinking, 26 years now, along with some reading and visits to some AA meetings.  But it is the daily attempt to steer away from deepening one's self-delusions that is the most important.

  I think I see an urgent hand-at-throat gesture from the back of the room... So, in conclusion of tangled threads, and since you have had a teaching career, I wish you a discussion group for this article and your books. In my area, Meetup.com has served as an organizing tool for such groups.  One of them still has potential, if it can revive after the lockdown. I am sure you are no stranger to creating a lively classroom atmosphere.

  I still hope to do better on commenting eventually, and welcome any more writings etc from you.  Ted K