Hello CHina (all CHange and CHance for me), current acquaintances and friends, and new ones to come
TheMe of Jack Discussed: Freedom
This is my first blog for my first website, welcome! The TheMe of this blog is freedom. The first of the many Theme's/The Me's of Jack -- and the Primary Me of many Me's of Jack. (See my second blog here: TheMes of Jack.)
This blog is oriented towards EFL (see my note 1 below on the often confused EFL and ESL acronyms) Chinese and those interested in East Asian cultures, as I will be writing of what I have experienced, and reflected on, in the 10 years I have lived and loved in China, teaching at universities, consulting for individuals and organizations, and trying my best to bring out the best in the Chinese I meet while allowing them to do the same for me.
I want this blog to come across as a chat that is not a public matter of manners, an exchange of how are you, fine, thanks. Rather, I am crafting it to be familiar and intimate while remaining strange. I hope to make us attracted acquaintances, if not friends at first read. I want my words to have some substance that will challenge but also charm -- as China does for me! I will be talking with you, wearing blue jeans and a brown corduroy sport coat, brown loafers and a red flannel shirt with a plain collar and no tie. Classically casual with somewhat wrinkled manners and face - like I look in the picture that was taken of me at the Great Wall that is on my home page.
So, now that we have been introduced, and shaken hands, let’s sit down and try to take a place in common on this slippery, spinning globe. Let’s trade our lives for a little while and see if we can both go away with more value than before we met.
On Freedom -- Part of the Great Question: What Are Humans For?
Raise your eyes to that infinite blue sky above and within you. Reach with me for that bright balloon of a concept whose dangling string seems to remain just out of reach with each higher leap we take: FREEDOM. Ah, watch the balloon escape into the blue as the child cries “Come back”! But, to bring us back to the yellow earth of the Middle Kingdom, and you, dear reader, let me try to finesse, rather than finagle, “freedom” into a brief question: “Who owns you?”
Who Owns You?
A strange question, no doubt. Here’s a stanza from a little known American poet that will point in the general direction I would like to take us:
So tell me, who owns you?
For the things you chase after,
Are bound to become,
Your God and your master!
Michelle A. Bartley, American Poet
Are you with me now? So when I ask you, “Who owns you?” I am referring to any number of possible people or things, such as: Your spouse, your parents, your job, your children, your Party, your Country, your God, your desires, your bank...how about YOU?
When I ask this of my Chinese friends, I generally get different answers compared to Westerners. Ask a Westerner and without too much hesitation, you will generally get, "I do." Or, "My Savior, Christ." The Chinese I ask, usually pause a bit, and then come out with, "My family." Then, if they are younger Chinese, they might say something like, "I own myself, but my family does too."
So what is your answer? How much of You do you own and how much do others?
I’d like you to unwrap this bit of sweet or bitter, or both, chewing gum concept and chew on it just a little before you get rid of it: consider, if you are owned, you do not have freedom…you are a slave. The general definition of slavery is one person being owned, and therefore controlled, by another. Of course, there are different kinds and degrees of being owned by another. Parents act as if they own their children. Husbands and wives tend to believe they own each other. Dictators act as if they own their subjects.
Owning Yourself and Owing Others
What does owning yourself have to do with owing others as in debt to them? For often, who or what owns you, is who or what you owe. Bringing in a financial metaphor, does some person or thing hold a mortgage on you? What interest are you paying? Is it variable according to your circumstances or did you sign on for a fixed term for x years? If so, what’s your monthly payment? Do you find it difficult to meet the payments? Or maybe you rent yourself? Short term or long term lease? Whoever owns you, or you rent yourself from, why and how did this happen?
To whom or what do you owe…your life? If you do not own yourself and you still owe someone or something for the privilege (or curse!) of being you – do you want to own yourself? And if you do, what does that look like to you and how can you do that? How would you pay off your debt and what would it feel like to hold a “free title” to yourself? Is it possible to own yourself completely? And, if it is, is it a virtue to do so?
Security Vs. Freedom; Ignorance Vs. Knowledge; Coercion Vs. Free Choice
I am writing here of security opposed to freedom; of ignorant obedience opposed to knowledgable self-determination; of forced compliance opposed to chosen responsibility. Did you know throughout history and across many cultures, people chose to be slaves? There is security in being a slave and insecurity in being a free person. I was surprised, although I should not have been, to find on the Internet a site: The Slave Trader. It advertises: “The Voluntary Slave: The person who freely seeks to be a slave also seeks total freedom - a lifestyle of being cared for by another and free of decision making, the need to obtain food, clothing or place to live; and, from the daily hassle and burdens of the outside world.” Go here: http://www.theslavetrader.com/ How many of us are really voluntary slaves out of fear or involuntary slaves out of ignorance. For as the German poet and philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, wrote: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
Here’s a quote I hope will stimulate you:
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own individual is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." Joseph Rudyard Kipling, British author
My next entry here will continue on this theme of ownership and owership (my made up word), and go into what it is that freedom has to do with ownership/owership. And how freedom and ownership/owership are primary wholes and parts of the matrix of the Great Question.
I invite and appreciate your responses. You can reply to my blog on the Blog page, or you can go to my Guestbook page and place your comments, or you can email me at the addresses on the Contact page.
Wishing you a sinuous Chinese Year of the Snake!
CHeers to CHina, Jack in Beijing
1. EFL = English as a Foreign Language and refers to learning English in a country whose native language IS NOT English. ESL = English as a Second Language and refers to learning English in a country whose native language IS English.
2. Here’s a short video by a famous, or infamous, American comedian, now dead, George Carlin, that speaks to one aspect of what I am trying to address, and redress, as the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, that any State wears. Warning, swear words are occasionally used: http://www.maniacworld.com/who-owns-you.html
Tags:General Relationships Teaching & Learning
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Hi Oriented. What are you trying to say? Amidst all the masturbatory nonsense about the themes of your writing, you actually forgot to include information or observations. A good blog writer is someone who says intelligent things lucidly. Which is the opposite of saying nothing, in a convoluted manner.
Oct 06, 2013 00:40 Report Abuse