In the pursuit of happiness, the question one must answer is, “Do I love freedom, or do I hate oppression?”
On the surface, these questions appear to be a redundancy, yet what naturally flows from the answers to each are worlds apart in their long-term consequences.
Truth and freedom are synonymous with happiness. As man aligns his thoughts, speech, and actions with eternal, immutable truth, he discovers personal freedom and is therefore happy; one cannot be free and unhappy simultaneously.
Mere political freedom, therefore, is simply one level of freedom on an infinite scale, and is not the ultimate goal of the pursuit of happiness — the former is merely a framework to facilitate the latter.
Many of us make the mistake of pursuing political freedom before internalizing personal integrity.
This is a result of being led by the hatred of oppression, rather than the love of liberty.
Haters of oppression are shortsighted and limited by the fact that they are only able to see “what is seen,” which is the external oppression at hand.
They blindly stab in the darkness at their oppressors without any thought to what they will replace the tyrants with if they do indeed defeat them.
They are the first to strike at the leaves and the last to contemplate the roots.
Those who merely despise despotism are like rebellious teenagers throwing off the perceived shackles of parental coercion and embracing the counterfeit, arbitrary freedom of drugs and alcohol, free sex, and no curfews.
They are the “freedom fighters” who inevitably replace one tyrant with many and find themselves more persecuted and less free after their struggle than before. Or even worse, if they defeat their oppressors, they immediately begin to practice the same dictatorial methods that the vanquished had used on them previously.
They are the “Revolutionaries” who would be more accurately classified as “Reactionaries.” Their imbalanced emotional indulgence simply seeks nothing more than immunity from coercion; their concept of freedom is to be subject to no law.
Those who abhor tyranny often find that they must liberate themselves from the effects and consequences of their previous “liberation.”
They are engaged in a negative process of extrication, instead of a positive, sincere search for balanced, permanent peace and liberty.
Their prevailing thought is how their oppression affects them personally, and what they can do to change it for their own good instead of working also toward the liberation of others, including their own children and grandchildren.
They are as the immature child screaming for his rights without understanding the responsibilities attached to those rights. And because their focus is on their rights, if they ever do achieve a semblance of freedom they take it for granted, often losing it in the next generation.
They don’t appreciate it and cherish it as something precious and fleeting if not safeguarded; they just expect it and whine if they don’t get it.
Mere revulsion to force is a selfish, myopic renunciation of external constraints and ultimately, and almost inevitably, leads also to the abandonment of internal discipline.
It is the childish, lesser law of “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”; it leads to the justification of becoming the exact thing that one is supposedly fighting against.
It seeks no ultimate, higher end than the immediate goal of casting off the shackles of oppression, and consequently leads to a dangerous and irresponsible usage of pragmatic methods.
In his book Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, Saul D. Alinsky, a political activist aptly labeled “this country’s leading hell-raiser” in the 1960′s and ‘70′s, writes:
“Life and how you live it is the story of means and ends. The end is what you want, and the means is how you get it. Whenever we think about social change, the question of means and ends arises. The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work.
“To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. The real arena is corrupt and bloody. Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life.”
Does it not follow then that corruption is the ultimate end, and life is the means to that end, Mr. Alinsky?
Our freedom to choose, or our agency, permits that life can be (not is) a corrupting process, but implicit in that possibility is that life can also be an exalting process.
True lovers of freedom understand this and make their lives a never-ending, proactive quest to achieve the highest level of perfection possible, as opposed to simply reacting to each new form of external oppression that comes their way.
Lovers of freedom possess the maturity to not only consider what is seen, but what is not seen as well — in fact, they are far more concerned with what is not seen than what is seen.
For example, when the question of secession from a mother government arises, they do not consider the abuses of the government only, they also are aware of the dangers of separation and know when secession will cause more problems than it will solve.
When engaged in war, their sole thought is not to destroy the enemy, but also how to coexist with the enemy after the war is won.
They institute preventive policies before threats materialize.
Any time that they take significant action, the dominant question in their mind is how the particular policy in question will affect their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Those who cherish liberty understand that liberty may be found internally on a personal level in spite of any external abuses of power.
Although they fight external despotism when necessary, they understand that mere political/economic freedom is meaningless without internal freedom that flows from virtue and integrity — they seek personal manumission before political emancipation.
Sincere seekers of freedom use self-discipline and self-restraint as a means to the end of liberty; their concept of freedom is to be subject to true laws.
They discern that, as Viktor Frankl taught,
“Freedom threatens to degenerate into arbitrariness unless it is balanced by responsibleness.”
Theirs is a deliberate, balanced, and chosen freedom, not an accidental, arbitrary anarchy.
Their fight for liberty is a positive quest for honorable ideals, rather than a negation of dishonorable subjection.
Each new battle fought finds them at a higher level of freedom than before — they are not constantly surprised with negative consequences of errant actions.
Freedom lovers are the mature adults who understand that rights are meaningless and even dangerous without fulfilling their accompanying responsibilities.
They know that freedom is priceless; inestimable, and they teach their children and grandchildren to appreciate it and to safeguard it with their lives and their freedom lasts for several generations.
To them, freedom is not something to be taken for granted; it is something to strive for, to sweat and bleed for, to sacrifice for not only in the process of achievement, but also in the process of perpetuation.
When lovers of liberty use pragmatic methods, they understand them as necessary, but they never pursue pragmatism for the sake of pragmatism.
They merely recognize and concede that we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world, which necessitates a pragmatic approach to coexistence and progress.
However, they understand that any pragmatic theory, policy, or action must lead toward the ideal and not degenerate into chaos; idealism, is the end, pragmatism is the means to that end.
Lovers of liberty understand that one’s integrity must never be compromised in the struggle for freedom and that freedom is worthless and illusional if one becomes what they were fighting against in the battle.
They know that personal integrity is not worth sacrificing in the name of political freedom. They ask of means not only if they will work, but also if they are the proper form.
If and when they do choose to fight for freedom, the source of their motivation is love and not hatred — they fight fire not with fire, but with water.
They understand that, “The salvation of man is through love and in love,” to quote Viktor Frankl again.
And if they win the battle for freedom, they are the first to forgive their enemies, or at the very least they fight just as strongly for the rights of their previous tyrants as they do for their own.
Haters of oppression seek power to achieve political freedom.
Lovers of freedom don’t seek power — they seek internal freedom and become men and women of virtue and integrity, and power flows to them naturally.
Those animated by contempt for tyranny perceive power negatively, as the power to enslave, the power to cause suffering, or the power to exploit the labors of another, and they hate and fear their oppressors just as much as their oppressors hate and fear them.
Those whose motivation is love for liberty believe that power is to love in the face of hatred, to forgive cruelty without hesitation or reservation.
Freedom lovers seek to rise above the beaten path of immediate impulse and the customary routine of stimulus/response and their acts flow from idealistic vision, whereas haters of oppression act out of pure animal instinct.
The leadership style of the oppression hater is to use pride, strategy, strength, and self-aggrandizing heroism.
Freedom lovers humbly lead through virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage (Niccolo Machiavelli versus George Washington).
For the hater of oppression, the battle for freedom ends with the removal of the ball and chain, whether it be real or metaphorical, while the lover of freedom understands that that is just the beginning of the quest for true freedom; for him the war for liberty is perpetual.
Love & Hate In Law
The concept of justice to an oppression hater is justification of vengeance.
An oppression hater would choose a criminal court system where the purpose is to punish the wrongdoer, while a freedom lover would choose a civil system with the dual purpose of recompensing the victim and reforming the criminal.
The oppression hater wants to destroy evildoers while the freedom lover wants to change transgressors for the better.
The hater of oppression does not hate tyranny because it is tyranny; he hates it because he is being tyrannized.
The lover of freedom fights against tyranny just because it is tyranny, and he loves freedom and desires it for as many people as he can possibly impact.
In other words, the oppression hater seeks justice for himself, and the freedom lover seeks justice for the sake of justice.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. wisely stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Political vs. Holistic Freedom
Ironically, oppression haters usually compartmentalize tyranny and limit their conception of freedom to the political arena, while freedom lovers utilize a holistic view of liberty and reject all forms of dependence.
The haters rail against a despotic government while on their way to work for a corporation that they depend on to survive, while the lovers seek freedom in all aspects of their lives whether it be internal, personal freedom or political or economic freedom.
The haters usually seek security from oppression, but the lovers understand that oftentimes freedom and security are mutually exclusive.
The object of hatred for those who despise control is ephemeral and changes with the fickle seasons of history, since that object of hatred is almost always the people who are oppressing (not the actual oppression itself).
For example, their hatred centers on one political party for a time until another party rises to power, or it centers on fascism in one decade and communism in the next.
Not only does the object of their anger change with shifting political guards, it also changes as their social status changes.
In other words, if they are simple laborers, their antagonism is directed at the “greedy, selfish capitalist pigs.” If the same people happen to then become the capitalists, their enmity is now aimed at the “meddlesome government” or the “lazy workers.”
For those who are grounded in the solid principles of freedom, the object of their righteous indignation does not change, for it is never the people that they reject, but rather it is the false principles that they denounce.
Whether they are blue-collar workers, white-collar professionals, public servants, or private citizens, they will fight any form of enslavement at any level using any righteous methods that lead toward the ideal forms.
Essentially, haters of oppression fight people while freedom lovers fight incorrect principles.
Differing Views of Human Nature
Without a solid base of principles, the haters tend toward a pessimistic, cynical view of human nature.
Because they are constantly focused on oppressive persons to fight, over time all they can see are humans abusing power, much like disillusioned veteran police officers.
They do not have a positive, proactive vision of what they want; all they know is what they don’t want (external domination).
Because they don’t understand the concept of , fighting that which they do not want is constantly their focus, and in fact, they eventually begin to exaggerate their claims of oppression.
Lovers work from the inside out, while haters work from the outside in, but rarely if ever do the haters make it to the inside of themselves to begin the process of internal change; there are simply too many external injustices to fight.
Although lovers harbor no illusions about the realities of human nature, they possess a calm and balanced optimism of the nature of mankind, if for no other reason than that they have seen the effects of positive internal change in themselves.
In fact, many veteran haters who have been engaged in the struggle of fighting oppression for years often give up in their later years because of their pessimism, while lovers just keep getting stronger and more powerful in the process of personal, societal, and governmental change as they age and mature.
The haters are the bitter, disillusioned old men who laugh sardonically and derisively at the recollection of their younger years when they were full of vitality and purpose.
The old lovers spend their last years peacefully and gratefully, with fond memories of battles won, relationships forged, and wisdom gained.
Instituting & Maintaining Government
In terms of the implementation of governments, haters of oppression are found in one of two camps: either they are suspicious of any form of government whatsoever, or they are the first to call for a monarchy immediately after defeating a previous, despotic monarchy.
The concept of balance is foreign to their thought processes. Hence, the hatred of oppression accounts for the phenomenon of the perpetual pendulum swing of individuals, nations, and cultures from one extreme end of the scale of possible freedom to the other, as opposed to implementing forms that seek a balance between the equally destructive extremes of tyranny and anarchy.
Freedom lovers, on the other hand, understand that proper forms and frameworks are a necessary component to the preservation of generational freedom, and they are not suspicious of the implementation of these forms — they seek them out and welcome them wholeheartedly yet carefully.
Because they suffer from the shortsightedness of selfishness, the implementation of government to an oppression hater is a defensive, reactive, hurried, and haphazard process that almost inevitably leads to the extremes of either tyranny or anarchy.
For the freedom lover, the pursuit of good government is a devoted, impassioned, lifelong endeavor and because he pursues it in a proactive fashion, he is never forced into rash decisions in the heat of the moment; when crises arrive he is composed and prepared to meet them deliberately, wisely, and imperturbably.
An oppression hater has a difficult time differentiating between real, inalienable rights, and the mere ability to perform some act, whereas a freedom lover is able to draw a distinct, definite line between the two.
Probably the most determining reason for this is that oppression haters are often atheistic and accept no higher authority than man’s reason and physical nature (physical nature being in reference to hedonism).
Lovers of liberty, on the other hand, firmly believe that inalienable rights come from a higher source than man.
Their belief in a supreme, omnipotent, omniscient Being provides them with an objective standard of right and wrong, and unlike haters of oppression, they never use moral relativism as a method to justify wrong actions.
In his classic novel War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy explains this from a Christian perspective by writing,
“For us, with the standard of good and evil given us by Christ, there is nothing for which we have no standard. And there is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.”
For example, oppression haters fight for their perceived right to abort unborn children. Freedom lovers don’t even accept the simple ability to take this actions as a natural right in the first place.
An atheistic oppression hater will generally not learn anything from his oppression other than the fact that it doesn’t feel good physically and mentally.
A freedom lover draws upon his relationship with a Higher Power to find meaning in suffering, to gain compassion, wisdom, and charity from oppression.
A freedom lover quite possibly might even accept his oppression as being the will of God and humbly and teachably accept it.
An oppression hater would respond to that by either saying, “If there is a God who causes suffering, I don’t want to have anything to do with him,” or, “There is no God that causes either pain or pleasure in this world. Man alone is responsible for pain and suffering or pleasure and happiness.”
This attitude is precisely what leads to hatred instead of love; they learn from their suffering to hate God, man, or both.
The freedom lover learns to submit his will to God; the oppression hater submits his will to the attainment of his own pleasure. Haters of oppression would have the joy of life without the misery and do not possess the ability to comprehend that the enjoyment of and appreciation for happiness is predicated upon experiencing unhappiness.
As regards the concept of equality, oppression haters fight for mere egalitarianism based on forced, equal distribution when they are in a poor economic class, or they fight to maintain a deferential aristocracy when they are economically rich.
Again, without a sense of true balance and an objective standard of right and wrong, they always promote the extremes, in this case those being democratic socialism or extreme, stratified capitalism.
A lover of freedom seeks to implement a structure that treats all men equally before the law, and uses checks and balances on human nature as opposed to force.
Freedom lovers know that we are all equal in the sight of God, yet different and unequal in our talents and abilities.
They desire to use their God-given abilities to enhance the abilities of others and to make all men great, while oppression haters seek either to stifle individual talent in the name of equality, or to use their capabilities to exploit others.
To be happy, one must be free. To be free, one must find truth and align one’s thoughts, speech, and actions to that eternal, exalting truth.
This process of alignment consists of virtue. Integrity is to maintain virtue after having obtained it for the duration of one’s life.
In this process of achieving happiness one must make the conscious choice to be motivated and animated by and dedicated to love for freedom, fidelity to principle, and allegiance to God, and not hatred of oppression, adherence to moral relativism, and allegiance to self.