An English In Kentucky


















Tuesday March 5th 2019Tim Candler9


    A gardener brings his winter project to a close, not so much by actually finishing it or even putting it away, rather as a result of hearing the call of a seasonal curse to pull himself together, shave and reacquaint himself with the outdoors. But when that outdoors is incredibly inclement, what remains of a gardener's mind and his atrophied body puffed out by simply climbing the stairs, there's what I guess might be called an unhealthy limbo which contains a touch or two of a guilt ridden purgatory characterized by seeking solace in long, smug, often pompous and usually incomprehensible diatribes upon these pages. In the old days you could find in March 5th, which is RIP JHC Day, reason enough to just drink away the time, but not these days, so best to seek comfort from exploring the construction of an idea. Given the proximity of an Equinox, the itching for seedlings and the stands of frozen Snow Drops, why chose an idea from Erich Fromm, well in 1941 he wrote a book that had two titles. In North America it was called Escape from Freedom and in Europe it was called Fear of Freedom. The Spanish edition was titled Miedo a la Libertad. The Spanish word libertad means Freedom, and you might notice that libertad could easily be read as Libtard, and in the lilt of the Spanish Language libertad does sound like the word, which amongst a great many other words, is currently used to describe us proud snowflakes. The title in German of Fromm's 1941 book can be translated as either Fear of, or Dread of Freedom. From a brief glance at this title in the secondhand book shop a person might think, "I'm not afraid of freedom. I love freedom" and they'd move along the shelves. But had the title contained a question, such as "Why be afraid of Freedom?" then it's possible the one undergoing a shopping experience might have paused a while considered something like the adoration of a Oneness at a Nuremberg Rally, think about "Better Together," ponder "It Takes a Village" or "I Alone Made This" and then might have compared the price of Fear of Freedom with the contents of his purse, on the understanding that the purchase wasn't an excuse to leave the shop, rather it was a noble sacrifice to gain insight into why others were afraid of freedom. Then you get the book back to your room, check to see if the radio has decided to work, the neighbors aren't yelling at each other, you don't feel tired so you settle down to read. Straight away you're persuaded to question the why's and what's of freedom. It's not so much defining the word, as asking the question of freedom "Who are you and where do you come from?" "Are you innate in us?" "Are you real or are you just a word to be thrown around as a rallying cry for this or that political cause?" "Is it worth even devoting an entire book to you?" "If we were actually free I could rob a bank and it wouldn't be called robbery." The problem, Fromm argues, is that because freedom isn't something like a liver, something that stays where it is, does its job and when it fails you die, a give me freedom or give me death type thing, rather the many ambiguities and contradictions in the word Freedom are better explored through psychology.



    It's true also that we people haven't changed much, despite wishes to the contrary while our tool making capacity has made many a leap, the processes we have within our brains haven't evolved for two hundred thousand years, maybe more. It's one of those tragic Yahweh type things I guess, I am what I am. Fromm suggested that as a psychological problem, Freedom might be explored within the circumstances of how and why we people Feel Safe. There's a poster that goes back to the second world war, it has four home loving paintings with grannies serving up meals, perfect children, obedient wives, pipe smoking husbands, all of them whitey, white, white and solidly middle class. The titles of the four paintings answer the poster's question which was "Why We Fight?" The answers "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom of Worship," "Freedom from Want," "Freedom from Fear."  The poster did simplify the motivations behind the second world war a little, but I think Fromm would have essentially approved of  the combination of "Freedoms To" and "Freedoms From" expressed by the poster.  Fromm quotes John Dewey's Freedom and Culture, another Democratic Socialist, who might also have seen the Why We Fight poster hanging on the walls of a railway station ticket office somewhere. Dewey's point was that Fascism which had forced Fromm into exile wasn't just something that could happen over there, it could happen over here and it could do so as a result of what went on inside the minds of each one of us were we to be driven to look for a uniformity in the authority of a strong leader who promised that in him, rather than in our institutions and traditions, we'd find safety. Fromm also goes to Freud for his understanding of neurosis, the process in our mind that have an inclination to pretty much become totally irrational as we attempt to deal with even minor stresses, anything from fear of spiders to a fear of a caravan of men, women and children two thousand miles away.  At the same time Fromm's argument contains the idea that with respect to the happiness quotient, entirely possible we people were generally happier in feudal times than we are now as we grapple with the uncertainties of trade cycles and the free wheeling avarice deemed central to the success of modern commerce that would appear to feed on the fear most have of losing their job because without it they have nothing. Feeling safe is an odd thing, he offered. For some of us, too much freedom leads to uncertainties that actually make us feel less safe, and too little freedom leads to frustration and anger. Later in his career, as he settled into critical theory, Fromm explored the need to feel safe and how we people managed the problem through developing functioning relationships with our world and others of our kind. He reckoned it was the passage of an instinct that drove us in this direction, not so much a runaway as fast as you can, more like why do we like flowers? Because when the very early hominids first knapped flint, two and half million years ago, wherever there were flowers, there lay the possibility of fruit in the future. And indeed there was the grave of a Neanderthal discovered, it was something like sixty thousand years old, I think, in which the remains of spring blooms were found, have to wonder whether those blooms had belonged to a fruit bearing plant and their potential for food had been wasted, or whether they represented a developing notion of the future in the species Hominid.


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