A Minimalist Struggle for Freedom

Photo by amslerPIX.

By Josh Rueff on June 05, 2013

What is freedom exactly – and what does freedom have to do with minimalism? Am I – A citizen of a nation forged upon the foundation of freedom – Am I truly free?

Mankind’s Perpetual Struggle for Freedom

It is 1783, a year of moral victory for the newly birthed nation of America. Benjamin Franklin eyes were bright and his mind sharp, despite an aging body, 77 years in the making. His hand shook slightly as he pressed the quill to paper, writing a letter to a Benjamin on the other side of the war – Benjamin Vaughan, a commissioner of Britain between the negotiations for the drafting of the treaty of Paris.

Slowly but deliberately he wrote:

“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”

Over 200,000 Americans believed so strongly in the importance of liberty that they fought a war to gain it, an estimated 40,000 dying in the effort.

Striving for freedom isn’t unique to the colonists in early America – mankind has always disdained any form of oppression or slavery, and will always strive, tooth and nail, to maintain the highest degree of freedom.

This list is just a small scratch on the iceberg of wars, uprisings, battles, and coups fought for freedom:

508/7 BC: The Athenian Revolution establishing democracy in Athens.
464 BC:The Helot slaves revolt against their Spartan masters.
73–71 BC: The failed Roman slave rebellion, led by the gladiator Spartacus.
66–70: The Great Jewish Revolt, the first of three Jewish-Roman wars that took place in Iudaea Province against the Roman Empire.
248: Lady Trieu Uprising of Vietnam against Chinese Domination
713: Mai Thuc Loan Uprising of Vietnam against Chinese Domination
817–837: The revolt of the Iranian Khurramites led by Babak Khorramdin.
869–883: The Zanj Rebellion of black African slaves in Iraq.
1250: The Mamluks killed the last sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty, and established the Bahri dynasty.
1497: The Cornish Rebellion of 1497 in England.
1514: A peasants’ war led by György Dózsa in the Kingdom of Hungary.
1515: The Slovenian peasant revolt.
1549: Kett’s Rebellion.
1573: The Croatian and Slovenian peasant revolt.
1642–1660: The English Revolution, commencing as a civil war between Parliament and the King, and culminating in the execution of Charles I and the establishment of a republican Commonwealth, which was succeeded several years later by the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell.
1791–1804: The Haitian Revolution: A successful slave rebellion, led by Toussaint Louverture, establishes Haiti as the first free, black republic.
1848: The French Revolution of 1848 led to the creation of the French Second Republic.
1916–1923: The Irish War of Independence, the period of nationalist rebellion, guerrilla warfare, political change and civil war which brought about the establishment of the independent nation, the Irish Free State.
1918: The German Revolution overthrows the Kaiser; establishment of the Weimar Republic.
And of course:
1775–1783: The American Revolution establishes independence of the thirteen North American colonies from Great Britain, creating the republic of the United States of America. (Class wars: Source.)

I find myself pondering on the meaning of liberty, or freedom as we more readily call it today. I’m grateful for the many freedoms I’ve been born into, without risking my life to gain them, and I’m thankful for gall and courage of the men who readily did.

But I’m still restless, and even wary, as though something or someone has breached the fortification that holds the treasure of my freedom.

Am I really free?

What is Freedom – Am I Free?

There are two extremes regarding freedom:

On one end, I am a slave with no liberty – I own nothing, have no power of choice over my own actions, and I am nothing – except another man’s property.

On the opposite end, I am completely free. I’m held back by nothing – I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, to whomever I want, with no fear of repercussion.

So on one side I’m a slave, and on the other, a king.

Initially, the concept of being a king is somewhat off-putting; I need checks, accountability, and regulation to keep me from exploiting others right?

Or do I?

When it comes to government, I see the need – I don’t want anyone to have that kind of freedom unless I trust that person with my life, and yet for myself, I would be happy with accepting that kind of freedom for myself!

And I doubt that I’m the only one, but the fact is, I’m not that free, and I never will be unless I buy an island somewhere and name myself king of my new country (slightly tempting I won’t lie).

So in the extreme sense, no I’m not 100% free. I’m bound by laws and regulations.

Since the penalty for living in a civilized nation is law and regulation, what level of freedom should I be satisfied with?

This answer varies widely from person to person, and that’s why defining freedom is impossible.

But for myself, I’m happy with the freedoms I have as a US citizen (for the most part) – it’s not oppression of government that I fight against, but against the oppression of a far more subtle enemy.

What Eliminates Freedom From My Life?

The patriots and the groups above fought against a human oppressor. As minimalists, we fight against anything that limits our freedom, especially regarding time and money.

Anything that burns away time needlessly or without a good enough reason is the enemy.

Anything that pulls money out of our pocket needlessly or without good reason is the enemy.

What kills my time, and what kills my money?

1. Debt: This is perhaps the number one inhibitor of a person’s freedom, regarding both time and money.

A person with accumulated debt has to make choices that they don’t like and don’t want (working long hours, working in a career or job they dislike, etc). These stressful choices are ultimately forced upon them by debt, which has become a form of slavery because it robs the person of a number of better choices and forms of lifestyle.
2. Controlling Relationships: A man or woman that grasps for control in a relationship is in danger of enslaving his or her partner. This typically results in a break up because of the human instinct to fight for personal freedom, but there are people who essentially become a slave to their partner in the sense that they have no control, and the other person does.

Their freedom to make decisions is taken away, and this absence of freedom is a form of slavery that kills the valuable commodity of time.

3. Jobs and Careers: This is a sore spot for most of us – we’ve all worked at jobs that we hated, and put up with poor organization, management, or some form of inadequacy that made our lives miserable for a period of time.

Statistically you’re probably still in that position, dying for a chance to get out of your chosen job or career, while silently accepting the fact that you’re stuck – This inability to change careers to improve your lifestyle has made your job/career the “master”, and robbed you of the freedom to make a more fulfilling decision, and in a sense you’ve become a slave to your position. You can earn money just about anywhere doing anything – it’s up to you to choose what work is worth it.

I don’t consider time spent working on something I’m passionate about a job. It’s work, but it’s fulfilling work. On the other hand, if I hate my job, the money I earn isn’t worth the time it steals from better things. I can earn money just about anywhere doing anything – it’s up to me to choose what work is worth it.

These, like the list of freedom fighters, is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Minimalist Revolution as many call it, is the counterattack to these threats, and many more.

I’ve spent many years of my life fighting for my freedom, and so far it’s paid off well, but there’s many more battles to be won. 

The resounding question I continuously return to is: “How?”