Have you seen the bumper sticker that says “Freedom Isn’t Free”? Mankind was into independence long before Americans fought for it in the Revolutionary War. So strong is our desire to be independent, many of us struggle for it for most of our lives. Teenagers slam doors. College students protest. Couples often argue about issues that one or the other, or both, might label as “control”. The mutual refrain: “You keep trying to control me!”
But if we stop to think about it, if we take the notion of independence to the logical extreme, we find that independence isn’t at all what we really want. Freedom from control and being dominated? Sure. But do individuals – or even nations – really want to be completely independent? No way.
As an individual, total independence means that if I want fruits and veggies, I must farm my own piece of land. If I want meat, I will have to know how to hunt and/or fish, and to butcher, and to preserve that which I kill.
This means I will also need to create my own weapons, both for hunting and for protection against attacks from wild animals and, well, others.
Total independence means designing and building my own shelter. No Internet. Oh, and I will have to make my own clothing. Real, literal independence isn’t a great thing. Not at all.
Yes, total independence means total freedom to do whatever one wants to do, but that freedom becomes limited within the confines of whatever small amount of time that is not consumed by hunting, growing, gathering, building, or maintaining; a nightmarish amount of hard manual labor.
The fact of the matter is that even the most hardened proponent of independence has to acknowledge that at least a certain amount of interdependence – relying on, and engaging with, others throughout life – is a good and desirable thing.
The same is true at the national level. A country that does not trade with others tends not to prosper.
What we really want, when we think we want independence, is interdependence.
Take commerce, for example. Individuals want to enjoy the benefits of commerce, which is the activity of trading money for products and services that save time and that bring more convenience, pleasure and overall satisfaction to life. Commerce is another word for interdependence.
And the arguments about control notwithstanding, the vast majority of us long for relationship; which when it works, is also another word for interdependence.
To be continued…