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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for January, 2010

Claire Wolfe

Even kaleidoscope artists are freeing themselves

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I’m on a couple of listservs for kaleidoscope builders and collectors. Yes, every tiny interest group has a list these days. In fact, the kaleidoscope world even has its own membership society, which holds regular conventions.

As you might guess, it’s been hard times for kaleidoscopes the last few years, as it has for arts and luxuries in general, so the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society has cut its conventions from annual to bi-annual. One of those rare conventions is coming up and people on the lists are talking about whether they’ll be there or not.

“Or not” seems to be a popular choice. Sometimes it’s just a matter of money. But increasingly, it seems that government “security” is the reason not to go. One man wrote of being forced to abandon a newly bought scope in the airport because the Taking Scopes Away people wouldn’t allow it in his carry-on. Another woman said if she couldn’t carry her scopes on the plane to personally insure their safety, she wouldn’t go. (This is a woman who agonizes over her creations and produces only a dozen or so high-quality scopes per year.)

Saddest of all was a comment by a British man, a famous figure in the scope world, noted for encouraging other artists. He wrote, “…[I]t seems that your border security folk are doing their best to make it impossible. … the clearances and checks required for aliens (that’s me), coupled with the physical processes have made visiting USA a real PITA.”

Of course, kaleidoscope devotees are an infinitesimal segment of the economy. But how many other tiny segments is the TSA damaging in similar fashion? And how big a segment do all those tiny segments add up to?

Of course, kaleidoscopes are insignificant in the world. They’re not on par with steel or surgery or Wal-Mart in importance. They’re just … exquisite. And fewer of them will be made, sold, or seen thanks to the TSA. And what will become of the Brewster Society and its creativity-inspiring gatherings?

The cheery news is that, each of these artists and collectors, by refusing to submit, is putting a little more spine into freedom. I have no idea of these folks’ politics (or even if they have any politics at all). But just by saying, “I’ve had it. No more,” they move the world in a better direction, even as the feds do their damnedest to move us all into bankruptcy and tyranny.

Claire Wolfe

A question for you: Movies about inspirational people

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Somebody asked me yesterday whether I still write movie reviews for the print version of Backwoods Home. Officially, I do (Dave willing). But as a practical matter, I ran out of family-friendly, English-language films of interest to a rural audience a long time ago.

P.T., the person who asked the question, hoped I would review biopix of inspiring people — particularly women.

Thought that was a great idea. With two reservations. First, most recent biopix (aside from often being about dissolute folk who wouldn’t be welcome on many backwoods homesteads) are just giant mess-blobs. Take movies like “Ray” and “La Vie en Rose.” Oscar-winning star vehicles they may be, but they try to encompass so much of the subject’s life that events, relationships, and incidents whiz by, leaving the audience (or this audience, anyhow) wondering, “Who? What? Why?”

The other problem, particular to inspirational bioflix, is that … well, they’re “inspirational.” Which in Hollywood terms means they’ve had all the juice sucked out of them. They take a complex, multi-faceted, maybe not-particularly-likeable human being and reduce his (or her) accomplishments to ooey-gooey glurge.

“Patch Adams”? Ick. That movie about the guy who invented the fabulous, failed car? Ptooey. “Finding Neverland”? I don’t care if it does star the Divine Johnny Depp; it discards one of history’s fascinatingly weird relationships and replaces it with honey-dipped sugar cubes coated with pink frosted lies.

So …. I’m asking you: what are the great, inspirational (but not “inspirational”) movies? Tell me some of your favorites in the comments section.

Your picks can be old or new. To open up the field, they can be movies about a real person or a fictional one, as long as they’re about realistic achievement. If they’re about a real person, the events shown should either substantially resemble the facts or at least not be so denatured that they’re icky-gooey-sappy. Let’s see some true grit here.

P.T. suggested one: “The Miracle Worker” — and said she wished there’d also been a movie about later parts of Helen Keller’s life. Another classic comes to my mind — the 1946 Rosalind Russell movie, “Sister Kenny”. It tells of the self-taught Australian nurse who devised successful treatments for polio symptoms when doctors considered disability or death inevitable. How? Simply by observing and acting on her observations, rather than being locked into the wrong-headed paradigm shared by all “medical experts” of her day.

So, dear readers (and especially you, great film buff G.P.), give me some inspiration!

Claire Wolfe

New level of search privacy

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Dr. Katherine Albrecht — who is as beautiful as she is intelligent and (I can personally testify) as kind as she is gorgeous* announces via YouTube a new level of search-engine privacy to debut this [now LAST] Thursday.

The search engine she represents, StartPage (aka IXQuick in Europe), already bills itself as the world’s most privacy-respecting. This week it adds a proxy service to, “… revolutionize the way people surf the web by
allowing completely anonymous access to virtually any page on the web. … We are upping the ante by allowing users to privately visit
the websites they find through our search engine, without having their
personal details revealed to websites they visit.”

* And her husband Dana is a gem, too.

Claire Wolfe

More on the census and GPS tagging

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

In today’s earlier post on the census, I mentioned that, starting last year, census workers have been sent out to record the GPS coordinates of every residence in the U.S. Some people were surprised by that.

So here are a pair of backgrounders. The first is totally mainstream — an NPR article from 2006 extolling the planned GPS program and mentioning its potentially “life-saving” virtues. (Although it does note, too, that private companies and others would sure like to get their hands on all that juicy data.) The second is a more recent, more speculative, and more alarmist piece from WorldNetDaily.

The factoid mentioned in the WND article — that under Obama the White House has virtually taken the census away from the Commerce Department — is true. And ominous. But the idea that the GPS tagging is an Obamist plot is absurd. The plot, if any, was hatched under “Mr. Small-Government Conservative,” George W. Bush.

Yep. More proof that — as my friend Joel Simon likes to say — the right and left wings are both attached to the same carrion bird.

Claire Wolfe

The census and the death of civil society

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

One more reason to resist the census, courtesy of that great thinker and great lady, Wendy McElroy.

One way in which civil society breaks down — and social engineering ascends — is by making individuals turn against each other so that the peaceful activities of my neighbor are seen as harmful to me. Most of the current arguments for participation in the American census are based on the idea that my desire for privacy damages society. How?

Last year one of my acquaintances was thrilled to get a job doing preliminary census work (e.g. GPS tagging other people’s homes). She just flat-out did not understand when I told her she was always welcome at my house as a friend, but that if I ever caught her on my property in her official capacity, I would … er, escort her politely to the road and leave her there with a friendly salute of farewell. (I leave it to the astute reader to picture the particular form of salute.)

Saying “no” to intrusive census questions is a nice little act of beginner resistance — and equally good for keeping veteran freedomistas in prime form. :-)

Claire Wolfe

Money and “The perfect is the enemy of the good”

Monday, January 25th, 2010

The other day, I noodled about that famous Voltaire quote. While googling the phrase, I came across series of 14 articles on the Get Rich Slowly site. (The ninth article in the series is “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good.”)

Since avoiding unnecessary debt and financial dependency are among the basics of living free, I thought I’d toss the series to you for a read. It’s filled with solid advice even if you don’t aim to get rich, slowly, quickly, or any other way. In fact, the last article in the series is “It’s more important to be happy than rich.”

Amen to that.

But on the other hand … being both rich and happy would be sort of nice. And would it be too much to add good looking while we’re at it?

As my very favorite actor, the magnificently independent and quirky (and rich, happy, and good-looking) Johnny Depp quoted from his private island in the Caribbean: “Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but it buys you a big enough yacht to sail right up to it.” (NB: A few bits of non-family-friendly language in the linked Vanity Fair article.)

Claire Wolfe

“As a Man Thinketh”

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

This tiny booklet, “As a Man Thinketh,” (free to read online in various formats from various sites) is more than 100 years old. But I’d never heard of it until a nice guy, A.G., pointed me toward it. There are also print versions, including one transcribed especially for women, which A.G. was kind enough to send me.

It’s not very big on how-to. But there’s much food for thought there for anybody who wants to change his — or her! — life, starting from the mind outward. (And doesn’t every author dream of having works in print for more than a century!)

Claire Wolfe

“The perfect is the enemy of the good”

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Voltaire, a favorite philosopher, said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” So did Gustave Flaubert. And apparently also Joseph Addison.

Plagiarism or just “great minds”? No matter. It’s a fine thought, and I try to remind myself of it when I’m otherwise inclined to say, “Oh, to heck with even trying.”

Perfection and procrastination are evil twins. Unfreedom is their kissing cousin.

Because we can’t have perfect results, to heck with it; we just won’t bother. This losing game is as true in self-liberation as it is in learning to draw, building a house, running a marathon, or attempting to lose weight.

For instance …

I’m a libertarian. Specifically, I’m a member of a sub-category of libertarians who call themselves anarcho-capitalists, individualist anarchists, or free-market anarchists. (“Anarchist” doesn’t mean we throw bombs or smash Nike stores while wearing Nikes. It just means we believe peaceable people can govern themselves better than politicians can govern anybody — a proposition whose veracity grows more obvious every day.)

“Ancaps” are often a brilliant bunch. But when it comes to the real world … well, sometimes we’re an idiot breed. We’re often fixated on being “philosophically purer than thou” — to the point of self-destruction. I’ve heard my fellows declare, for instance, and declare loudly, hotly, and with vast self-righteousness, that they will absolutely, under no circumstances, consider themselves free until they can do exactly what they want with their private property with zero interference from governments, neighborhood groups, homeowners associations, laws, rules, regulations, peer pressure, or social convention.

Well, good luck with that, guys.

I’m sure most people hereabouts aren’t so pig-headed. But how often have we assumed that we’re only free if laws and regulations “allow” us to be?

If you’re not going to consider yourself free until you’ve got the whole wide world — or even a majority of its v*ters — or maybe a majority of its paperwork — in agreement with you, you’re never going to be free.

Voltaire said lots of other things I like. Many of them are at that link. Here’s another one: “Man is free at the instant he wants to be.”

Of course, Voltaire also famously said, “Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort.” Which is usually translated these days as, “It’s dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.” Yeah. Ain’t that the truth?

So there’s one of our chief balancing acts as freedom seekers: Deciding to be free, proceeding to be free, and hopefully avoiding getting whacked along the way.

But if we demand any form of perfection — including “I won’t be free until I can be completely assured the government won’t hurt me” — then we’ll never be free because we’ll never seriously try.

Claire Wolfe

Thought for the day: Using our freedom

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

“To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom.” — Andre Gide

Wouldn’t exactly say freeing ourselves is “nothing.” But I suspect Gide meant simply that it’s easier to break free than it is to know how to make the best use of the freedom we win. Seems to me that if we envision first how we want to use our freedom, we’ll be more inspired to figure out how to begin.

Claire Wolfe

Thank you

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Before I really get going here, I need to stop and thank Dave for inviting me to blog and Oliver Del Signore for setting up this page (and for doing more over the years than anyone will ever know). Thank you also to Lenie for the perpetual good cheer and support (not to mention her delicious recipes). To Lisa for being a patient and friendly author liaison. And of course, Annie for being there to carry the flag for another generation. I’m sure there are other BHM people whose names I don’t even know but to whom I owe a tip of the baseball cap.

It’s great to join the BHM cast of bloggers.

Claire Wolfe

What on earth am I doing here?

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Well, pretty much the same thing I always do when I’m not in work-avoidance mode: writing about my old favorite topic, personal freedom.

The name of the blog says it all. The writings here will be about “living freedom” in our own lives (rather than waiting or fighting for it to be politically bestowed). The blog’s name also says that freedom is a living thing. Okay, not a “living and breathing” thing like a dog or cat or you or me. But freedom will live as long as human beings breathe.

As Viktor Frankl made so eloquently clear, freedom can live in individual hearts and express itself in action even in concentration camps and gulags. Surely, no matter what political atrocities our politicians commit, we have the capacity to be and feel more free than they ever intend to “allow.”

Politics is a great game. More exciting than the average Super Bowl. Watching Scott Brown come out of nowhere this week to whup the arrogant Martha Coakley in Massachusetts — and perhaps throw a monkey wrench into that Rube Goldberg contraption of a health-care bill — was a hellacious hoot. (Here’s a hysterical “Downfall” video of it, too.) But Scott Brown is just another politician. R, D, liberal, conservative. Doesn’t matter in the long run. The only “answers” any mainstream politicians have are: more government, more spending, and more control.

And we know how well that’s been working out, don’t we?

We are our own best hope for freedom. Sure, “do politics” if it interests you. But the most important work we’ll ever do is creating freedom in our own lives even if the world goes all to heck around us.

Unless we’re already pure-hearted saints of liberty (and I don’t know about you, but I’m not), that often means changing ourselves — our habits, our attitudes, our assumptions, our actions, whatever. And it seems that most people would rather do almost anything but that.

But I think Backwoods Home people are different than that. Better. You guys out there are already oriented toward changing your lives, being more independent, and thinking out of the box.

So here we go. Glad to be with you. Wish us all luck …

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