2007 - 2022

Freedom takes Practice

Probably as readers of Bella Caledonia, we all want to live in a free Scotland. But what does that mean? And is independence enough for that to happen? Perhaps that day we’re all waiting for is just one step on the great road of freedom for our beautiful country. 

If we ask aunty Google what the word freedom means, the first definition she offers is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.” Of course, we probably all know what it’s like to be a slave to desire. Whether it’s reaching into the fridge (again) or falling for people who aren’t good for us, what we ‘want’ isn’t always liberating.

In fact, the word itself implies something is lacking, as in the phrase ‘found wanting.’ Whenever we want something, it’s because we seem to imagine on some level we are missing something. Capitalism, of course, relies heavily on continually producing this emotional pattern. Encourage people to think they are missing something and then offer to sell it to them is pretty much the driving force for ‘the market’. Whether it’s a material possession, a certain shape of body (look out New Year’s ‘health’ fads), or the perfect partner/job/home/lifestyle, someone will try to tell you yours isn’t right and the one they are selling is the one you really want. If we’re not careful, we end up on an endless treadmill chasing dream after dream. 

And as we watch the current UK government shenanigans, we see how entitlement is presented as freedom. My heart teacher, Padma Devi, offers a simple definition of entitlement: “I want, I grab.” Whether it’s land, body parts, or material possessions, entitlement is embedded in our colonial legacy. If we wish to live in a free Scotland, we need to unlearn this pattern – both when we’re the ones enacting it and when we’re feeling like we need to go along with it. 

One of the most pernicious elements of the unfreedom of this profound inequality is the emotional pattern of resentment. The philosopher poet Nietzsche pointed out that resentment is the moralising power of the weak. In other words, when we feel powerless ourselves, we get up on a high horse and point our fingers at others. We see this pattern on what we call the Right who target immigrants, gender minorities, etc and on the Left where rage is directed toward governments, corporations and the privileged. With practice, we can be both clear-eyed about what is happening and discover our inner strength.

Perhaps freedom might mean turning resentment upside down and rediscovering our responsibility – our ability to respond. Once we focus on what we are able to do, we’ve moved away from wanting. Instead, we’re taking a step in freedom. Including the freedom to make mistakes! They seem to be a pretty essential and unavoidable part of learning. We might even decide to enjoy them. Why not?  

Looking around at the conditions of where we each live, what can we do to respond? What do the people around us need? Is there anything we can offer to help? Focusing on others is a great way to get out of the mindset of wanting things for ourselves! This doesn’t mean we don’t also look after ourselves. We can’t really help others unless we do. 

In fact, radical self care is a key to freedom for this is how we develop our ability to respond. By nourishing ourselves, resting well, looking after our bodies and minds, and having plenty of good fun, our ability to respond is transformed. When we support each other in this, as well as helping in other empowering ways, something really revolutionary happens. We start to see we aren’t wanting after all.

When we feel this sense of completeness in ourselves, we’re not going to be pulled around by the emotional manipulation of carrot (reward) and stick (punishment). Instead of resenting authority figures who are trying to use these patterns to control us, we can see clearly what they playing at and not join in the soap opera of it all. Our precious life energy and well cultivated skills can be dedicated to real life.  

The great news is, we don’t need to wait for independence to practice freedom here in Scotland – or wherever we might find ourselves. Each moment offers the opportunity to notice when we feel we’re wanting and redirect our attention to what we can offer instead. That might mean offering rest to our bodies or a kindness to a stranger. It might be starting to plants seeds, giving yourself time to meditate or checking in on a friend you’ve not heard from for a while. Perhaps it’s adding an item to the food bank collection when you do your weekly shop or learning a new skill.

However it might look for you, may you enjoy your practice of freedom! And if you like, feel free to share your discoveries – including, perhaps, in the comments below. We can inspire each other in beautiful ways.

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Comments (10)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    Well, there is the philosophical distinction between freedom and licence:
    and much of what we hear demanded is licence (as when ‘freedom of speechers’ irrationally demand others to be silenced, like UK civil servants who are bound by official secrecy anyway).

    But you can turn some of the article’s points around: to be both strong and ethically good means binding yourself (which is what codified constitutions are for, and why the UK quasi-constitution is constrastingly imperious and unbound in nature). And freedom can inversely relate to meaning; so that total freedom (from consequence etc) becomes totally meaningless, with the universe as a sandbox. Or to put it another way, even anarchists like Bakunin recognized the authority of physical laws. Only by eliminating and constraining choices can we act with meaning.

  2. Mons Meg says:

    When I talk of ‘freedom’, I tend to use it in the original Old English sense of living in a state of self-determination rather than in a state of bondage, of being a freeman rather than a bondsman. I’ve little use for the Google sense of ‘being able to do as one pleases’, let alone the feudal sense of enjoying rights or ‘liberties’ of others to whom one is obligated through some sort of social contract. But that’s just me.

    It’s a word that has no fixed or precise meaning; freedom can be whatever you need it to be in order to fit the metaphysical narrative by which you construct your self/world.

    1. Mons Meg says:

      Jings! I’m actually being allowed to post on this thread.

  3. Alice says:

    Beautiful words in the very difficult world of Scottish Independence….this political world is murky and filled with strategies and tactics which are the direct opposite of your beautiful words. I agree that personal efforts to assist others is worthwhile …..however we must devise and implement strategies and non violent actions which face and deal with the realities of this political world.

    The forthcoming 2022 Council elections have to be considered carefully by the SNP….folk are really fed up with ‘final push’ ( delayed) SNP notions.

    The movement needs energy and practical actions led by experienced folk who know the political score….. folk outside the elite political worlds are ready and organising…..We have to live the realities of a Westminster Government with its deliberate negative economic, social and cultural effects upon our own folk including our own children living in poverty.

  4. Squigglypen says:

    You are as dangerous as the BBC or Johnson Vishwam… Toss stuff into a food bank…try and get along with neighbours…lots of folk do that …If it were only that easy to feel good and somehow be in a’ better place’ to get ..fight…vote for self determination.
    Have you actually looked at Scotland’s history with the country south of us? Read it.
    Self determination that’s how I see ‘ freedom’…we just want to make our OWN mistakes not those foisted on to us by a nation who have attacked us for hundreds of years and STILL are in a very insidious way. ..admiring the daisies won’t wash….if you want something bad enough you have to suffer..stand firm and glare….

    1. Mons Meg says:

      That’s not my experience, Squiggly. ‘The English’ (whoever ‘they’ are) have never detracted from my power of self-determination. Only governments (in London, Edinburgh, and Dumfries) and an ex-wife have sought to do that.

      I think you’ve been bewitched by the grand narrative of Scottish nationalism. Self-determination requires that you smash the chains in which all such narratives bind you.

  5. Meg says:

    Freedom … Within the framework of the British isles…hmmm… individual approach to one’s own way of living and observing is one thing..and achievable ..but…living alongside an open wound seeping everything contrary to freedom because we didn’t choose it has consequences…. (Westminster)…I try not to listen/see it on a daily basis to stay sane…but it exists and penetrates …if we are patient will it eventually be its own downfall?…deciding not to believe the rhetoric is freeing…but it does not change ulcerated system imposed upon us…

    1. Mons Meg says:

      Freedom – as determining one’s own way of living and observing rather than letting it be determined by others – is achievable?

      That’s good enough for me.

    2. Niemand says:

      Didn’t choose it, apart from a referendum in 2014 in which ‘we’ did.

      1. Mons Meg says:

        ‘We’ (the UK electorate) also chose it overwhelmingly as recently as the 2019 general election.

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