You can be as positive as you like about the future, but there’s no denying, the world looks pretty bleak right now. And it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere good anytime soon. Political victories aside, there’s little to look forward to in these dark times.
At the time of this writing (Fall 2020), a second wave of lockdowns seems inevitable. Personal liberty is eroding very quickly and the government just seems to be setting the average American up to fail.
There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that reminds me of pre-Iraq-invasion times when the Patriot act was passed, Homeland Security created, and numerous freedoms were stripped from us in quick succession.
We probably didn’t notice it all that much at the time and we quickly became accustomed to living in a world under the threat of terrorism. Life moved on -and we never got those rights back.
We’re told to be afraid of terrorists, of interference from Russia, and AI from China -and at the same time we’re also told to put blind faith in unchecked global pharmaceutical and industrial agriculture monopolies that we have irrefutable proof are poisoning us by the millions.
Politicians, billionaires, corporate executives…these people don’t serve us. They serve inhuman masters like market economics and shareholder (or constituent) confidence. Their roles demand they treat us as a commodity; not as living, breathing people. They’re only doing their job, but their job has nothing to do with our best interest.
We live in a fraught world where we have to be vigilant about our own self-interest. Trusting the government, society, corporations, doctors, scientists, educators -anyone- too much, blindly, is detrimental to our well-being.
Giving up liberties to these people, however necessary it seems at the time, is dangerous -because these losses tend to be permanent.
Yeah, yeah, it’s a scary time, etc… What do we do about it?
Freedom and personal agency are essentially the same. You can’t be free without the personal agency to assert your will or, at least, speak your mind. As conscious people, our ability to exercise our own best judgement is of paramount importance.
Why can’t this be our metric for measuring success?
I think many of us have been programmed by living in a society in decline to settle for a very limited set of experiences. In this western context, experience for experience’s sake has no value. Wealth and popularity are the only meaningful measures of success in our social paradigm and it encourages us to think and act within purely materialist frameworks.
Trying to escape the limits of this kind of thinking lead me to consider an alternative point-of-view…what if instead of wealth and popularity we looked at personal agency as the measure of accomplishment?
What if we defined success by how much of someone’s life they get to live the way they want?
Of course, any real success requires sufficient access to resources. In a capitalist society this most likely means money but reframing our paradigm for wealth allows us to consider more diverse and interesting forms of value.
Viewing the world in this manner, any loss of personal liberty makes you a less successful person, by definition.
Agency is the single point of leverage which yields the greatest systemic impact on our “success”; which is really just our happiness, satisfaction, opportunity, and security, rolled into one thing.
Maintaining personal agency is the key to success…
People are happiest when they get to make their own choices -be they good ones or mistakes- and to live the life that fulfills the desires that burn within them.
Maintaining, and reclaiming, personal agency has to be our highest priority.
Reclaiming agency in a world increasingly controlled by a privileged class is challenging, of course, but there’s hope if we’re willing to prioritize agency over convenience.
I’m convinced that the secret is to stop waiting for permission.
There are clearly risks to living outside the confines of the law, and I don’t recommend doing so simply for the sake of it. However, I do make choices based on the outcomes they’ll produce rather than the rules that other people tell me to follow -and I suggest you do the same.
Maintaining agency isn’t just about breaking the rules, though it requires doing so from time to time. I’ve recently realized that letting go of concerns about how I appear to others is an equally powerful form of rebellion.
Slowly, I’ve come to understand that it’s not just ok to be weird; it’s necessary. It’s important to make choices that feel right to me, regardless of how others see those choices -to live exclusively on my own terms. This is the real resistance…the real work of fighting the system.
But living this way means I need to be farther from prying eyes, quieter about my activities, and less exposed to the tracking and monitoring activities of government agencies and big tech companies.
It also means asserting control over my body, mind, and spirit. It means accepting that human beings are more than the meat-suit we walk around in. Recognizing that agency extends beyond the physical into the spirit world; the tip of an iceberg, whose true bulk is under the surface and invisible.
And lastly, it means re-educating myself on all the things I took for granted because they’ve been “true” my whole life. It means spending years deprogramming myself, re-educating myself, and living new experiences beyond the limits of the comfortable and the commonplace.
There’s nothing simple in these choices, they’re filled with friction and discomfort -but they are the key to deciding one’s fate in the complex, increasingly technocratic age in which we live. The future waits for no one. It’s here.
With heavy futures bearing down on us right now I, for one, will not wait any longer to regain control over myself, to reclaim my agency, and focus all my energies on building the better, brighter futures we deserve.
Featured image: Mat Birdie (used without permission – contact me with complaints)