"Why are his feet so dusty?"...."Cause he's ripping up kilometers!" (K'Naan).
When BJ invited us to join this blog, he called me a man of freedom. I want to comment briefly on the concept of freedom. Certainly I will not astound anyone when I say that freedom is a relative term. In first world nations like the United States one has the freedom to get in a car and drive on a well-paved smooth road to a well-lit, bright super market, and fill a plastic cart with bulging red perky tomatoes. Similarly (or perhaps conversely), in a place like Dakar, Senegal, one has the freedom to walk along the edge of a dirt road ankle-deep in mud and lined with mounds of baking refuse to a hunching complex of damp dingy stalls lined with corrugated tin and covered with plastic sheets where in the half light one chokes on the stench of rotten meat and dried fish while picking through reed baskets of tomatoes for one or two that are still fresh.
Contemplating these two freedoms, one might eventually come to realize that in the light of the recent French colonial presence in Senegal, the second freedom is in fact much richer and more deeply colored than the first, as the freedoms in Dakar to walk where one wishes, to build corrugated-tin-walled markets, and to grow and sell and buy tomatoes are all relatively recent and new phenomena. Having experienced the freedom of buying tomatoes in each of these two worlds, one might also come to view certain freedoms of the United States less as freedoms and more as luxuries or aspects of easiness; and then to wonder where in these 'freedoms' sleeps the passionate actualized liberation of 1776 from the economic and military tyranny of Great Britain (the good queen of which now, I'm sorry to say, has our good brother Haley comfortably in her pocket), that liberation having served as a catalyst in the spawning of all other American freedoms. Perhaps in the imaginations of some individuals in those founding years, the then-unnamed creature capitalism would involve certain bold, inventive entrepreneurs starting their own economic ventures (perhaps with names like CBS, IBM, Simon and Schuster, or EPA) and employing and training people with the hope that those underlings would come to create similar businesses that could compete with the original in a way that would strengthen the economy on a whole and cultivate creativity, analytical thinking, and bold calculation of risks within each individual.
It seems today, as some of you have begun to grumble cantankerously of the chains that you worry are beginning to grow between your ankles and the legs of large wooden desks, that the disjunction between the actualized liberation from economic oppression over 200 years ago and the realization of the imagined possibilities of capitalism as perceived by our founding fathers and their kin could not grow any larger. Frustration with this and other fissures in the American social, political, and economic systems drove me to leave the country and to seek freedom elsewhere, and while easily romanticized (I am guilty of this myself) I urge you to realize that freedom is never necessarily synonymous with ease of living (and neither should ease of living or a quality of excessive luxury ever be equated with freedom - therein lies the strength of advertisement campaigns).
It is true that I have only myself to answer to, and have no pin-stripe fake-smile hair-grease whips driving me to pour my life into slobbering giants like CBS, IBM, Simon and Schuster, EPA, etc, but as some have said before, no freedom comes without a price, and I have met the cost in my own way. Still I would say that no easiness of living is worth a sacrifice in freedom, in the gift that is one's ability to think and act and feel and move entirely on one's own, no matter the cost of walking a self-conceived self-pursued alternative path, but I think you all know that already. I miss you all dearly and sincerely hope you will be able to join me for some stretch of my long-legged rambles.