Recently, I was following a thread on an Internet forum started by a fellow who identified himself as Van UK. His email address was that of Yahoo UK and what he wrote gave me no reason to doubt that he was from the UK.
In one of Van's posts, he expounded on his philosophy of personal and natural freedom as he spoke of being a "Free Man of the Land." I must say that I related to Van in his thoughts and ideas. While I may have never thought of it in exactly that term, I completely understood where he was coming from. Long ago growing up in New Jersey something influenced me to start believing this way.
I know my father, who was never a "free man of the land," but wanted to be and who died by his own hand very prematurely at age 42, was a significant inspiration for me, whether he realized it or not. My public school education, while typical of the 50's and early 60's stirred up a certain rebellious nature in me. My religious training in an American Baptist church and what I came to realize was a doctrine of oppressive beliefs to me, had some impact, too.
I'm going to quote what Van said in one of his posts as the thread passed from one person to the next.
I understand common law, the straw man, free man, etc. very well. Magnacarta, U.S Constitution. Let me assure you, there have been many times when I have been a true free man of the land. I have been described as a Ghost by my, now, bank manager which some times goes against me.
Due to this there are jobs I do not get because of the breaks in my job history or career breaks as I like to call them. I dip under the radar whenever I feel like it. I live my life on my terms. No one has leverage on me and that is the way it will remain till I die. I am not better than anybody nor is any one better than me. I don't care who they are. We are all born equal and I will not change or be controlled by anybody period.
Freedom Comes in Boxes
Van's words rang with a certain passion to me. I related to what he said. Of course, I believe all people want to be free or believe they are free. In one sense, everyone is free. But, it's how we each define what freedom means for our individual lives that differs. We will often hear the expression "free as a bird." Certainly, there is something about watching a great eagle, hawk, condor, turkey vulture or other soaring bird that seems to epitomize freedom for many people. The seal of the United States employs the bald eagle as the symbol of freedom.
Like most things in a human's life experience, freedom or being free comes in degrees. The life of a slave (a despicable practice still carried on in many parts of the world) and the life of a prisoner represent two of the least degrees of freedom. Many depict society and the laws of a society as a "Box" allowing everyone within the confines of the "Box" certain defined freedoms. Depending on the nation/society/form of governance, the amount of freedom within that box can vary considerably.
Some people believe that the accumulation of vast amounts of money, assets ("stuff") and property provide freedom. Unfortunately, for many, accumulating money and acquiring stuff and property to achieve what they define as freedom actually becomes an obsession. This obsession often results in an individual becoming a "wage slave" or a slave to his or her wealth and stuff. This simply means an individual has created and built his or her own form of prison and the cell is the job and home.
Every society has to have some kind of laws, regulations, rules, ordinances and covenants to protect the rights and property of each member of the society. In many societies the government or ruler is actually protecting its or his/her own interests with little or no concern about the individuals. These laws, etc. are created by some form of governing body or ruler ranging from monarchies, empires, dictators warlords, tribal chiefs, parliaments, congresses, unions, homeowner or apartment associations to several others forms. Not only do these bodies (or individuals) create and implement these laws, etc., they also enforce them. All of these laws, regulations, rules, ordinances and covenants create boundaries or the "Box" that defines the freedoms of that jurisdiction.
The vast majority of the people living within a "Box" are indoctrinated and taught where the boundaries of freedom (the "Box") are beginning from early childhood by parents, religious leaders, community leaders and some form of educational/training system. As adults they are subject to and required to obey and abide by the laws defining the "Box."
However, in most developed societies or what we label as First World (and even Second and Third World) nations, the citizens usually live within the boundaries of numerous "Boxes" and have to conform and abide by the laws, regulations, rules, ordinances and covenants of all the "Boxes." What makes it more challenging is that often the laws of the various "Boxes" are contradictory. That is, while you are obeying the laws of one "Box"; you may be breaking laws of one or more other "Boxes." Without question, all of this becomes confusing, complicated and limits the individual's freedom even more. A typical example in the United States might be where an individual is subject to federal laws, state laws, county laws, city laws, homeowners' association covenants, job rules, union rules and even religious doctrines. That is eight "Boxes" controlling some facet of one person's life.
It's probably fair to say that many people consider the United States the greatest nation in the world and the greatest nation there has ever been. Yet, while considered a free nation, it probably has the most laws, regulations, rules, ordinances and covenants of any other nation in the world, free or otherwise. Thus, while not realizing it, citizens of the U.S. may actually be more restricted or limited in exercising their natural freedom and rights than individuals in countries considered to be less free or oppressive. Is this good or bad? That has to be determined by each individual regarding his or her own life and collectively for the greater freedom of everyone in the society. One must also remember that as an electoral democracy, supposedly, the collective of the individuals in the U.S. have given an elected entity and ruling class the authority to create all these "Boxes" that control, limit and restrict everyone's life.
The Free Man/Woman or the "Outlaw"
Reverting back to what Van from the UK had to say, I live my life on my terms. No one has leverage on me and that is the way it will remain till I die. I believe that is the essence of Van's definition of Free Man. I have, of late, begun thinking of this kind of person as an "Outlaw."
The Free Man that Van speaks of or the "Outlaw" that I speak of is not someone who breaks any laws or, to put it in a milder way, fails to obey any laws with criminal intentions. As I define it, these are the people who "stretch" the boundaries of the "Box" or, sometimes, simply find a way to escape the boundaries of the "Box" in a manner that does not infringe on anyone else's rights or perpetrate any bodily harm or property damage on anyone else. They have chosen to live outside the confines of the "Box," independently, in a quiet, peaceful, unassuming manner.
Their lifestyles will vary one from another. They are, obviously, non-conformists. They typically will live simple, frugal and minimalist lifestyles in locations that don't attract a large population density. While many become self-sustaining and live off the grid, others may choose a hybrid lifestyle living off the grid and self-sustaining as as much as they are comfortable with while using the mainstream infrastructure as they need it. Thus, when they use local, county, state or federal roads they obey the laws of those roads and jurisdictions. When they purchase gas or diesel for their vehicle, they are paying gas taxes for the use of the roads. When they shop for groceries, staples and sundries and other merchandise, they pay sales taxes. They do their best to obey the laws of the "Boxes" as those laws (regulations, rules, ordinances and covenants) apply to them, seeking ways for those laws to have he least direct impact on their lives and lifestyles as possible.
Some of those I consider "Outlaws" are people who live full-time in vans, utility trailers, converted school buses, RV's of all descriptions, tiny houses and other forms of alternative dwellings and lifestyles. I also believe "Outlaws" are those who actively seek ways to earn what they need to sustain their lifestyles by alternative means. Such individuals might be traveling musicians, artists, photographers, writers, Internet marketers, crafters, flea market vendors and include a slew of other professions or occupations that the mainstream inside the "Box" members of society won't consider or don't consider as something they could make a living from. The list could be quite long.
Living Outside the "Box"
So, are you a Free Man or a Free Woman of the Land? Are you an "Outlaw?" Or, are you playing it safe by staying inside your "Boxes?" Maybe you just bump into the walls of the "Boxes" occasionally to see if they have expanded or contracted or become more pliable. How do you define your own freedom? Are you content staying inside the boundaries of your "Boxes?" If so, then, perhaps, you're living a Walter Mitty kind of existence. In other words, you read my blog and the blogs of others who are similar to me and daydream or "zone out" about what it would be like to take the leap of faith and escape the boundaries of the "Boxes." You might enjoy watching (if you haven't already) the recent movie, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" starring Ben Stiller, adapted from the James Thurber short story.
Actually, I honestly don't propose that most people stretch the boundaries or escape their "Boxes." I don't believe the vast majority of people in today's world and societies can handle as much freedom as many of us "Outlaws" have. Over the millennia, since humans became civilized and began creating more and more complicated, restrictive, limiting and (often) oppressive societies, people have become much less self-reliant and much more co-dependent. They look to some kind of "authority" or governmental entity to, supposedly, make their lives better, less complicated, safer and freer, while, unfortunately, I believe exactly the opposite has resulted.
Already more than half the world's population lives in cities and towns and by 2030 that number will exceed 5 billion. Unfortunately, urbanization seems to spawn larger degrees of poverty (due to the higher cost of living) and higher violent crime rates (again as a result of the cost of living, potential lack of jobs and increasing poverty). The illegal drug problems will likely increase, possibly, exponentially. All of this will require even more laws, regulations, rules, ordinances and covenants. Those will result in even more limitations and contraction of freedoms.
So, where do you find yourself? Are you a Walter Mitty daydreaming about freedom or an "Outlaw," Free Man or Free Woman of the Land?