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DF! Masthead

So You Want More Freedom...

Sunni Maravillosa

Join the club! Almost everyone who values freedom is looking for ways to create more of it in her or his life. As someone who isn't yet an adult by legal standards, though, you are facing more--and in some ways, greater--challenges than older folks. Not only do you have gummint telling you what you can and can't do, most likely your parents are doing the same thing, restricting your freedoms in various ways. How to deal with these?

Before answering that question, I should make it clear that what I'm really talking about is freedom to exercise your rights. There's no such thing as a "freedom" that makes others provide something for you, no "right" to something of someone else's. What are real rights? Turns out the answer varies, depending on who you talk to. Even the dictionary I looked at wasn't much help, since it defined rights in part as privileges. What I'm talking about are a person's fundamental rights--basic human rights, that we are entitled to simply by being human. As a well-known document put it, these include the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Here's how I define those terms:

The thorny question: When do rights begin?

When does a person acquire these rights? Lots of people have debated this for years, but I think the answer is very simple: as soon as he or she is born. Any other answer is problematical, in my view. Before a child is born, she or he is inside another person's body, drawing on that body for support, and is not completely an individual. Whatever age someone might decide on after a person's birth has the disadvantages of "granting" rights to some people who might not be capable of exercising them responsibly at that time, while denying others the opportunity to enjoy those rights despite demonstrating the ability to do so prior to that magical age. Any granting of rights by age is purely arbitrary, and will not fit all individuals. Rights are inherent in a living person, in my view, so to me it's logical that human rights begin when the human begins living as a single being--when it is born.

This doesn't mean that a 3-month-old can exercise the same freedoms as a 30-year-old, of course. With rights come responsibilities, and although both are human, the differences in self-sufficiency and cognitive capacity between normal babies and adults is vast. Even a bright 2-year-old most likely does not have the context and abstract reasoning skills necessary to understand the implications of carrying a weapon... but a 5-year-old might. If she demonstrates a consistent ability to handle it responsibly, and chooses to carry a small .22 pistol, who has the authority to deny her? Surely not the 60-year-old grandparent who has absolutely no experience handling firearms, nor the 35-year-old stepparent who hysterically denounces guns as causing violence, yet hasn't bothered to educate himself on the topic. As a young person shows the maturity--physically as well as intellectually--and the desire to exercise his rights and the ability to deal with possible outcomes, he should be encouraged to do so. Simple as that.

Some people--particularly parents reading this--may be yelling at their monitors by now, thinking that I'm nuts. Trust me, I'm not. I've given this a lot of careful thought, and am raising my own children consistently with my beliefs. Look at it this way: generally, around 1 year of age, a baby begins to walk. No doubt about it--for the parents it's a lot more convenient if the kid were to stay crawling, or in a stroller. But no one keeps their kid from walking when she or he is ready--to do so would be abusing the child. As the baby shows the ability, loving parents encourage an activity, knowing that the child needs to do it, as well as to take the inevitable spills and lumps that accompany the learning. Why are parents so willing to "give" a child that freedom, but not many others when the child seems ready? It seems to me to be as important to teach a child to walk when he's ready as it is to teach him about sex and relationships, about drugs, to defend himself, or any other issue kids are naturally curious about, when they are ready to learn or to make decisions about engaging in the activity. [This and related issues will be adressed in other articles, coming soon.]

Back to the main topic here: how does a young person go about "getting" the freedoms he or she wants? As you no doubt know, it isn't a question with an easy answer. A lot depends on your parents and what they're like, and in the case of the government, it may involve making some tough choices, usually involving your parents. But remember: you are a person, whole and complete, with all the rights any other person has; neither your parents nor any governments own you.

Parents and freedoms

If your parents have generally treated you with some respect, there's good reason to be optimistic. That suggests that they already view you as human. Stop and think for a few minutes about why they're trying to restrict you... Maybe they just don't recognize that you're old enough to be doing the things you want to do. Or, it could be that they're concerned for you; after all, they were your age once, and they understand some of the difficulties and problems you may face better than you may want to give them credit for. If your parents "made mistakes" when they were younger, they may want to try to "protect" you from similar things. Their concerns and attempts to protect you are most likely coming from their love for you. As a parent myself, I know how hard it can be to watch a dearly loved child take scrapes and go through battles--we don't want to keep you from growing up, but we want it to be as easy and pain-free as possible. But pain and the learning that accompanies it is part of life, and although parents know this, sometimes love can allow parents to be overprotective.

Now think for a few minutes about your behavior. Have you been trying to convince them by arguments, with screaming and maybe some tears, and stomping away and slamming doors? Have you whined, "Everyone else is doing it!" over and over until it seems it's the only thing you say to them on the subject? Or have you taken a more low-key approach, hinting indirectly at what you want, then sulking when you don't get it? Do you think any of these is the best way to show your parents you're capable of handling the freedom you want? You may not be doing any of these things, but think about it; someone who was would be showing they don't have the maturity to make the kinds of decisions they want to.

Remember what I said earlier: with rights come responsibilities. If you want your parents' cooperation in exercising certain freedoms, then you need to show them that you are responsible enough to handle that freedom, especially the unpleasant consequences that may result from it. For example, if you want to be able to drive one of their cars, can you show them that you have treated their other property well? If you trash the furniture, don't do your laundry or help with family chores (such as cooking or doing dishes), or bang holes in the wall when you're mad, your actions are saying that you don't care about their property, so it's no surprise that they say no when you ask to use the car. What difference might it make if you had a part-time job and could pay for any mailboxes you ran over? If you want a later curfew, but you ignore the one you already have, do you really think they'll agree with you? Act responsibly in ways that relate to the freedom you want, and they'll be more likely to cooperate with you to get what you want.

You say you're already doing this, and it isn't working? Well, that is possible... Have you tried to talk with your parents about it? I don't mean yelling and screaming, begging and whining, or a hurried argument as you're getting ready for school and they're preparing for work. I mean a calm, reasoned conversation, when everyone can focus on what's being said. That can be hard to do in many families. But it's important to make the time. You need to be able to point out the ways you are being responsible, and how they relate to the increased freedom you want. Your parents need to be able to pay full attention to you, without worrying about dinner burning or picking up your sister from soccer. It's possible your parents haven't noticed what you've been doing, or don't know that you want to test your wings a little more. If you communicate what you want along with the evidence you have that you can exercise your new freedom responsibly, it's more likely they'll agree.

If your parents seem to be less respecting of you than you'd like, or if they seem to want to control various parts of your life, you're in for more of a challenge. But that doesn't mean your tactics should change drastically! Exercising your freedom in contradiction to their rules may feel good, but when they discover it they'll be more likely to try to restrict you even more. It also shows disrespect for them... not something you want to do when you're trying to earn their respect. If you've tried to demonstrate your ability to handle the freedom and they don't seem accepting of that, during some quiet time where all of you can really focus on the conversation, talk about that.

Ask your parents what might help convince them that you can handle a later curfew, or a job and school, or whatever you want, and really listen to them. Maybe even take notes, so that later you can show them how you've addressed their points. It might be that they have some objections or reasons for not cooperating with what you want that are actually pretty good (for example, their reason for not letting you drive the sports car is because having you insured on it would raise the rates higher than they can afford). If that's the case, acknowledge that you understand and see their point. If possible, offer a way around the obstacle. In the example above, maybe if you could pay half of the additional insurance expense, they'd be willing to pick up the other half... or 75/25, or whatever. But be prepared to follow through on whatever agreement you make--if you don't, they'll be less likely to believe you next time around! If their reasons seem unreasonable to you, don't let the conversation degenerate into another argument; instead, say something like, "I don't see it the way you do, but I will respect your rules on it." Then do that. That will impress the hell out of them, and will make future talks about you exercising more rights easier for you, because they'll see that you're a person of your word.

Contrary to what it may seem like at times, most loving parents really do have your best interest at heart--sometimes how to make that happen may seem contradictory to them. Take your cues from your parents on how to proceed with exercising more freedom, but always, always talk to them in a calm, mature way (even if they don't do the same to you). Try to see things from their perspective: ask yourself, "Is there any way they could be right?" Even if you end up answering "No", just going through the discussion in this way shows maturity.

And remember--while you live with them, in their property, enjoying the fruits of their work, you do "owe" them in a very real way. There's nothing wrong with a person who's footing the bills to have a say in how things are done. But if your parents are totally dead-set in thinking of you as property (and there aren't many who won't be persuaded by at least one of the things I suggested), you really have only one choice: leave them. But don't just up and run away! That would be worse than jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Few people you'd meet on the street would respect your rights half as well as the strictest parent. See if you can negotiate a "separation"--if you feel it's impossible to live with your parents, they probably feel the same way about you. Try to find a relative who can take you in; it'd be easier if you offer to contribute to their family as much as possible. If that doesn't pan out, check into friends... only if none of these come through should you consider moving out and being totally on your own. Before doing that, check out how much apartments go for in your area (and look at some to see what you'd be getting for the money) or wherever you want to live, and check into how much it costs to get utilities, phone, internet service, groceries... you'll find it adds up really fast! This is a last resort that I wish no one would ever have to take, but an abused child has as much right to get out of the situation as a battered spouse.

Gummint and Freedoms

Let's face it: if government agencies were at all willing to recognize an individual's rights to be free, there wouldn't be a need for this 'zine, or all the other pro-freedom activism happening today. Does that mean we should just give up? I don't think so. Giving up tells them they're right, that we can be treated like sheep, and will encourage them to try to limit our freedom even more. It may seem like an uphill battle, trying to be free against the wishes of govgoons, especially when you get little or no support. What you need to consider is whether you'd rather go along, or you'd rather be free. Sometimes that answer may change... or you may want to give the appearance of going along.

For example, if you don't recognize the state's right to grant you permission at age 16 to drive a vehicle, you might want to do so without their piece of paper. But it isn't as simple as that. You'll still need to learn how to drive (and do avoid driving schools and your school's driver's ed classes, which will require you to get the temporary permit from--yep!--your state gov), and you should take extra care to learn to drive well. If you're gonna drive without that piece of paper, you want to avoid being caught, so no flashy car, no speeding, and no other fancy motorized maneuvers. Doing this will almost definitely require the cooperation of your parents, and they'll probably want to talk with you about the possible consequences if you get caught (there could be stiff fines or worse, and since you can't get insurance if you don't have the paper, there's that whole set of legal consequences to consider too). This particular one is a toughie, and is in all honesty probably best saved for later. However, it is a choice--your choice.

Don't want to pay blood money to the IRS? Consider working only as a contractor or in self-employed situations, where you won't have to worry about filling out W-2's and having an employer send in forms to the IRS. Or you could take a chance on more conventional jobs, and just not file your return. Once you're in the system, it's much harder to drop out than if you're never in the system to begin with. It's nearly impossible to tell how many people are tax resistors; the IRS isn't going out of its way to publicize such figures, and lots of people prefer not to talk about it. It's also nearly impossible to tell how many resistors the tax thugs come after, and how they are targeted. Some people are never bothered, others are just sent letter after letter, with no apparent action, while yet others are "made examples of", with their assets being seized at the first opportunity. If you're already an outspoken gummint critic, it's more likely you could end up an example yourself, but it still is a roll of the dice. The IRS might threaten your parents as part of their tactics, or even try to seize their property; remember, it's their rules, and although the IRS has supposedly reformed recently, they still know how to play them to their favor.

Generally speaking, you can probably pursue lots of courses that avoid the long arm of the state in a low-profile mode, just simply making your decisions and living your life in the freedom you've created, not calling attention to yourself or your political beliefs. Some of them may require your parents' cooperation, as I've showed, but others don't (for example, if you do get the piece of paper, slightly speeding every time you drive as a matter of civil disobedience). The idea is to pursue the freedom you want, not to brag about pulling stuff over on "the man".

On the other hand, if you do decide to be more active about your non-cooperation with the state, you can expect some benefits along with the heightened risks that such a public position will bring. You can be an example to others, showing them that they don't need to crouch and lick the hand that (supposedly) feeds them. This can happen just by them seeing you live your life in the freedom you want, or you may decide to be even more public about it (like writing up your experience and offering your advice here). Sharing your information, and being a tool to greater freedom for other people can be enormously rewarding. If you choose this, everyone benefits, because you'll be helping to create a freer world for everyone to enjoy, including yourself. But--you could become a pariah, or even a martyr, for your cause... and not everyone is cut out for that. Being public about your dislike of the state could make getting into college difficult, and might make your job prospects very dim also (but there's always self-employment). And since most people seem content to go along with whatever the govgoons decide to foist on us, you might be fairly lonely too, at least in realspace; there are lots of places in cyberspace to talk with fellow freedom-fighters, and to get ideas and otherwise recharge your batteries. But only you can decide which path--private or public--works best for you. What works now may not work later.

Really, in terms of the state, they ain't gonna listen to any discussion on the subject of you being able to exercise your rights more than they want you to, so it comes down to a couple of decisions: what kinds of freedom from the state do I really want? And should I go about exercising them privately or publicly?

Voltaire wrote, "Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." Lots of people think that's overly optimistic, but really, much of our freedom (and unfreedom) comes from ourselves, by not daring to create the freedom we want. As a young person, poised to soar through your life with a multitude of possibilities before you, perhaps the most important thing you can begin doing for yourself now is realizing the truth of Voltaire's statement, and not letting anyone stop you from creating the freedom--the life--you want.

(c) 2000


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