I hold these truths to be obvious. No person is created equal and none can stand alone. Independence is an illusion. We need one another. The desire for independence is also a farce. We want to need one another.
Dissecting the quest for independence requires one first to define it since it comes in many flavors. Financial independence can mean the goal of not needing support from parents, siblings, a spouse, or the government. Emotional independence can mean the goal of not relying on the support of a girl/boyfriend, spouse, family member, or community. The dramatized path to independence can be depicted as the youth who adventures into the wild for the first time to fight lions – or goes to college or travel the world. It can also mean making decisions about your education, career, residence, health, spouse… the clothing you wear, the way you talk, the music you listen to, the way you cut your hair, that tattoos you have. A more physical independence comes in the form of having the capacity to get yourself out of your bed, feed yourself, walk out of your house, or drive a car. Independence can also be having, not just the capacity, but the liberty of getting out of bed, feeding yourself, walking out of your house, and driving a car. Ask any sixteen year old right after getting their driver’s license and they will tell you.
But these forms of independence are all illusions, because we, as humans, are inherently dependent on one another. Even in it’s most rawest and traditional form, a young man adventuring into the wild to fend for himself against unknown monsters, there is no independence. The young man still relies on the survival training he received, the food and shelter he was nourished with in his youth, the confidence his society has instilled in him to believe his survival is possible, and the list goes on. And after succeeding to survive this rite of passage, the young man does not remain free and independent – his duty is to return to the village to provide support to the community which has supported him throughout his early life. And the cycle continues. Was the young man independent in his youth? Was he independent during his adventure? And is he independent now? This independence never exists, but the quest for it is powerfully motivating.
But of course, we believe our own circumstances are unique. We are different. We are special. We are the exception. We aren’t going into the wild, we’re living “regular human lives.” We want financial independence – not to have others pay for us. Or to work for ourselves as business owners. But we still need to rely on someone to pay us, a client, as much as they rely on us being there to provide them good and services. We relied on others to provide our education and training. Even if it came for free off the internet, without us paying or attending a class, we still relied on someone to create the content. Furthermore, we needed someone to build us the tools and technology, like computers and the internet, which we use to perform our work. And after achieving our illusory independence, we have a responsibility to provide for others, either directly or indirectly. Directly in providing for a family, indirectly in creating goods or providing services for others.
Emotional independence usually comes from the concept that one must be able to survive on their own without being dependent on others. Co-dependence is typically frowned upon. You must learn to be on your own before you’re ready to be with someone else. But one quickly realizes that we need love in our life, both to express it and to receive it. Depending on others is a necessity.
The strongest form of independence that forms, is the freedom of choice. This is not an illusion, but is hardly independence. Choice comes from being able to choose your spouse, choose your career, choose where you live, choose your friends, choose your apparel, your diet… choice is what gives us the liberating feeling of what we call independence. But again, these decisions are not independent. Your choice of spouse depends on the Universe presenting someone in the form you desire and who also desires you in return. Your career choices depend on whether someone is willing to pay for your services. Where you live depends on the availability of work, natural resources, and proximity to family, weather, and friends. The list goes on, even your choice of music and clothing is not independent – because somebody has to create these products for you to choose from. You cannot choose that which does not exist. Unless, of course, you choose to create your own products – in which cause you will rely on the consumption of others to fund your activities. Or you can make goods only for yourself, creating your own clothing and music – still relying on the people who manufacture the clothing, inks, instruments, and recording tools. You are not independent.
If you’ve read this far, you can see that I cast independence as being an illusion. This is not true. I am merely trying to focus our definition of independence on a particular case which I am passionate about: physics independence. There are people who have their freedoms restricted in a way that extends beyond a philosophical blog article. These populations are those whom I strive to fight for. They are our youths, trapped in an educational system and structure which restricts their intellectual and physical freedom. They are prisoners, dismissed, condemned, and herded into a structure that prohibits their ability to grow into strong member of our society. They are the elderly, dismissed as a burden and houses in hospitals and nursing homes. They are psychiatric patients, locked up because they are misunderstood or require too much effort to help. They are our creative-types, afraid to speak up and express themselves for condemnation from society. And as you will learn from my future writings, these are people who we need, and who need us.
We will free them, and give them the independence they deserve, so that they may become interdependent on the rest of us.