In Canada, it appears that our main interest in freedom is so that we can complain bitterly about the incompetence of our governments, be they left or right wing. The governments, for their part, abet this need by following specific guidelines for governing: first, choose corruption as a governing philosophy; second, act incompetently; third, pretend to care about the general population but continue to govern with self-gratification being the driving force. By self gratification, I do not mean the actual physical act of masturbation, but the more circumspect one involving filling one’s pockets as our economic, social, and cultural worlds fall into disrepair; finally, never ever keep promises – it is a sign of weakness just as signalling that you intend to change lanes on a highway is – a sign of caring too much about what others may think or caring about their welfare.
You might ask, why is he posting this pseudo-philosophy on a form of social media? First, it’s what they are for and the dumber or more “pseudo” the better. Second, and my real reason is eating leftover General Tso’s chicken for lunch a few minutes ago. Perhaps it was the chopsticks, but I was carried back to my days of living in the northern Chinese city of Harbin. From there, my mind wandered to how much I liked it there, and do you know what the best thing was at the beginning? I was alone and no one could make demands upon me. By and large, I had become almost invisible.
Okay, I see that your patience is dwindling. What does this have to do with freedom? As you know, complete freedom is not a thing in China; most people do not care about it. And I learned from them what really is important – having a job - regardless of how mundane, having food to eat, and having a roof over one’s head. The people I met and hung out with understood this, and they had had managed to find a level of satisfaction one rarely sees here.
Then I began to ask myself what are those ideas subsumed by the catchall called freedom really about compared to what really matters in life? In China, I saw a government that did not allow the freedom to protest and complain that we have in North America, but I also saw a government that made it possible for almost everyone to have this thing called employment. I also saw a government that made things happen. Why? Because it had money and the discretion to do what the country needed.
While in China I lived under the proverbial radar, and guess what? That was what I saw all around me. People going about their business doing what was important – working, eating well, and having a roof over their heads. If they felt rebellious, they jay-walked, and they were masters. I was once told by a professor that every Chinese person has an emperor inside him or herself. This sense of the truth of freedom is what we lack. We follow the rules, we vote for incompetent politicians who still fill their pockets, and we complain. What do we end up with - exorbitant food costs and homes no one can afford?
God, how I love my North American freedom!
I am the author of The Summer of the Ennead and I want to use this blog to engage readers in a dialogue about what this book means to me and what I think it has to say to others.