As I reflect on the theme of this day in the U.S.A., I am struck by this idea that “set the nation free!” It’s an inspiring and exciting idea, that “we the people” could rise up against an oppressive government, take that government into our own hands, declare our independence from tyranny and become a free people!
This most Western idea is inspiring and exhilarating, and yet, it carries with it an inherent challenge. One government was overthrown, yet still a new one was put in its place. And the new one was written with a charter to not repeat the sins of the former heads of state. That is a huge charter to live up to, and into.
Now there’s an important thing to understand here. Independence actually does not exist in isolation. It is truly only ever understood in relation to its “opposite,” dependence. Dependence is the predicate to independence. And it follows that one actually creates the other. The quality of ones independence is directly related to the quality of ones dependence and vice versa! This is a fundamental truth of a dynamic relativity.
In the case of the American Revolutionary War, the dependence on the British government in the colonies, was perceived to be oppressive, and burdensome. “Taxation without representation” and other concerns of the arrangement were considered a deep crime against sensibility, unjust, unfair and tyrannical. What the “good British fathers” were doing with their levy exacted from their colonies was deeply wrong, mistrusted, held in contempt and reason for revolt!
Men of strong mind and body stood up to fight the power. Armies were formed, and slogans were written, and with strong will the seats of power were wrested from the oppressor, and the United States became a free nation. Lofty ideals, and a new set of guiding principles were forged in the fire of this revolution. And new levers of government were put in place.
And yet, government it still is. Taxes are still levied, a common treasury is maintained, and assets are built for the generally agreed upon public good. In this new “democratic” way of government, a transparent and rousing public debate is maintained as the root of making decisions for our common path forward. A “representative governing body” with “checks and balances” takes the helm. This brilliant conception was built to thwart the possibility of ever being run by the whims and machinations of another tyrannical leader, who might rise to power, making decisions from his/her own fancy, rather than truly for the people.
That is the idea. And you see here that our “independence” is based upon our experience of the “dependence” that came before. Now, at more than 200 years of age, this idea itself has become the new seat of power. And the definitions of independence that it relies on, still harken back to those heady days of revolution. The “stern remorseless sweet ideal,” to revolt against tyranny is still exhilarating, and can be exhausting.
Let’s think about this a minute. As children we are dependent. If our parents are good and kind, and capable, they take good care of us. They create a good home, shelter, clothe and feed us as we learn and grow. In time, we come into our independent abilities. Then, as we take our first faltering steps out the door into the world, we receive their continued support and love. And we return that love with gratitude to them for their kindness and constant support.
If on the other hand, our parents were rude, rough, unloving, prickly, incapable, even cruel and abusive we do our best to grow up as fast as possible, run away, and slam the door shut behind us, never to look back. And when we do look back, as we inevitably will, we look back in anger and pain, and blame them for their abuse and our pain. And sadly, this keeps us locked in that very pain we were trying to flee.
You see, the quality of our independence is directly relative to the quality of our dependence. If our dependence was oppressive and manipulative, our independence is likely to be fierce, and fiery and reactive. If our dependence was loving and kind and and respectful, our independence will likely reflect these virtues as well. Ultimately, there is no running away! Slamming a door in anger, though it may feel good at the time, can actually keep your more attached to what you think you have left behind. And so the question is, what kind of independence is that?
We are all dependent, and we are all independent, all to various degrees, in various stages. If we would truly be independent in a healthy way, let us take care to create healthy and balanced dependence to begin with. We needs must create a healthy and balanced interdependence on one another, to build for our common interest and our common good. And to continue to discover that good interest together, if we ever wish to live in true independence and freedom.
Of course, this is all well and good, and yet it is also easier said than done. Yet it is possible. Some new tools are simply going to be needed to truly do it… rather than just say it! Establishing a healthy living, breathing and mutually interdependent world, where true freedom is experienced by all, is indeed a noble work. And that is the subject for my next article. Stay tuned for my next post, where I will explore a set of tools designed to help establish healthy freedom, in the context of a healthy, balanced interdependence.