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Michele Dutcher


Here in The United States, the 4th of July is the day The Colonies broke free of England – our Independence Day.  The last of this month will be a sort of personal Independence Day, as I will be retiring.  I started working as a waitress at a bowling alley when I was 14 and have been paying $200 a week in taxes for 80% of the time thereafter.

That got me to thinking about Freedom, personal freedom.  People keep looking at me funny at work, wondering why I’m retiring while I’m still in good health.  Around here people keep working until they are carried out the front door feet first.  So what else is there to do post-job besides sit in a dark room, shivering in the cold, praying that the phone rings?

Of course everything I need to know I learned on Star Trek.  In the year 2063 Zefram Cochrane fired a rocket (the Phoenix) into space using the very first warp flight engine. This meager step into star-travelling was seen by the Vulcans. The Vulcans were so pleased to see us that they gave us the technology to make food replicators.  This technology made possible the “synthesis of organic and inorganic materials via arrangement of subatomic particles” (I got that last part from Wiki). You can see Captain Piccard using this technology when he walks up to the food replicator and says, “Earl Grey Tea hot”.  I’ve wondered what would happen if someone walked up to one of those things and said, “Couch French Versailles”.  Would a wall get knocked out as the couch suddenly appeared?  Probably not – at least not in a Utopian world.

Freedom.  Freedom from hunger and want.  Freedom to pour all of our energies into exploring our world and our universe.  The freedom to invest our lives learning about whatever we want, to do whatever we want, to become whoever we want to be.

There is a basic Star Trek principle here: once people are no longer threatened with starvation, they will choose to do productive things with their lives, for the greater good.

Another principle is that when people have access to all the knowledge in the world, they will choose to learn as much as they can about everything they can, for the greater good. That’s freedom as well – free access to education. Unfortunately, I ride the bus every morning with dozens of people who have the knowledge of the cosmos at their fingertips – but everyone is on Facebook.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Facebook – but life is more than social media. 

However, if, in even a utopian cosmos, humans choose to talk to each other constantly about Uncle Clem and his fiancé who live on Proxima Centauri 2, then that’s their right I suppose.

In this day and age the only way to achieve freedom is through acquisition of money. Without money there is hunger, and as long as your stomach is empty, it is impossible to be truly free to do what you want to do.  Safety is also a must have.  If a human doesn’t feel safe they will always be in a flight or fight frame of mind.  Money is Freedom and Poverty is bondage.

So what am I going to do after I retire – when I finally have the freedom to do what I want? I’ll read more, hike more, write more, cave more, buy old cheap movies and watch them whenever I want to, and not be mad at myself for waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back to sleep because I get up at 5 AM in the freaking morning.  Instead I will have the freedom to watch all the late late night scifi and terror shows like: The Twilight Zone, Thriller, and Night Gallery and then sleep until I wake up.  

Freedom – personal freedom – I hope I’m still alive and doing well to see the Vulcans show up in 2063.

In this month’s issue, The Muse offers 4 stories where the main characters are searching for freedom in their own way: #1 is a man who frees himself from an insufferable acquaintance; #2 is about the freedom to choose your own astrological sign; #3 is how to escape a common office workplace; and #4 asks the question –if humans are free to have peace, why are we always at war. 

Feel free to enjoy this month’s reading offerings at your leisure.  

2016-07-18 23:13:34
Ironspider - Congratulations on achieving personal freedom. As regards any concepts of Utopia, I think Hawkwind summed it up in their song 'Arrival in Utopia': And now our dreams are true, we don't know what to do, for we don't like it here, there's nothing for us to fear, bored mindless in Utopia... Our world, and our vision of freedom and/or utopian ideals is based upon the benchmark of our personal history and the version of civilisation we inhabit. I seriously doubt my version of what would be a utopia would accord with that of an aboriginal Australian or a bushman in the forests of south-east Asia.

2016-07-15 06:46:19
Thanks for your comments Wesson and Mushi - Always interesting. As far as people choosing to live on the streets, I doubt it, but there is a movement called Urban Camping which is basically that. I know of people who choose to live under a bridge because they know that they'll go to jail on priors if they go to a shelter - so they choose to 'Urban Camp'. People should have the right to food and shelter and safety, and if they choose to give up those rights, then that is their right to choose - which is also a right people can choose to give up. Life (free from feeling unsafe; good health) liberty (freedom to express and learn) and the pursuit of happiness (owning property, marry, good job - or not). Thanks! Michele Dutcher

2016-07-09 19:55:49
Wesson - Congratulations on retirement, Michele, I hope youíre able to find happiness despite the changes. I think the best definition of freedom is freedom from coercion (but not the responsibility of self-sustenance). This is where I vehemently disagree with the Star Trek principle. Food and such will never magically materialize out of nowhere, humans will always have to survive, the only question is how. Before we started using money to interact with each other, people either lived off the land or stole property from others. Youíre right in saying that money is freedom but thatís not such a bad thing, men have done terrible things to each other even in the absence of money. Any notion of Ďthe greater goodí is a slippery slope, the villains of history have killed millions in the name of some ill-defined greater good. Thatís why I like the sometimes selfish world we have now. Iíll take a handful of white collar criminals over the murdering hordes of yesteryear any day of the week.

2016-07-05 21:07:59
Modelling_Mushi - Michele congrats on your impending release from penal servitude - oops, I mean work, I'm still in the shackles for the next four years myself! I've never yet seen a grave headstone with "I wish I had worked longer and harder" carved in it. I have a slight difference on the freedom definition you use. True freedom is the ability to choose to be hungry or not hungry, safe or unsafe, alive or dead. As laudable as it is to say that freedom from hunger and poverty and un-safety are necessary prerequisites to true personal freedom, and as much as 99.99% of the worlds population may/do agree with you, by placing those mandatory elements freedom is actually taken away. I know people who choose to live on the streets; I know others who swear that solving homelessness by moving them all into houses is needed before they can be 'released from the bonds of poverty'; should my friend on the street be forced into a house? Would that destroy her freedom the same way forcing my other friend out of his house onto the streets would? Star Trek. Yes, from what I have seen they don't seem to have any starvation issues in the Federation. But from my limited knowledge they do not remove the right to starve from civilisations or peoples they encounter. So do they take away those rights when the new civilisations join the Federation? Is it a hegemony of imposed 'utopia' on lesser, 'barbaric' beliefs? In my country they stole the children of aboriginal inhabitants to release the children from both poverty and starvation - so did they place the children in a position where they could subsequently choose to be free, or did they reduce the children's freedom by removing them? And, as I have only recently learned, in the country I was born in they stole children of my mother and father's generation from the urban slums for the same reasons. For me there is never true freedom for an individual until and unless that individual can choose and decide (or choose not to choose or decide) for themselves, be that choice for their good or their ill, and where that choice does not impinge or impact on another in ways that other does not want. Sorry, this is taking the form of a rant, and that wasnt my intention. You have made me think and I thank you for that, always is worth reading your editorials. Congratulations again.

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