Forgive Me My Freedom

In the jungle of governance and politics where species flourish in shadow rather than light, it is oft-quoted that one must fancy themselves a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to scare off wolves. But there is much that goes on under the guise of civility that has no equivalent in the animal kingdom. We dominated the natural order and declared all the creatures lower on the food chain bestial in their brutish incompetence, and then, in primal angst which had no outlet, we legitimized the continuation of such savagery under the banner of economics (previously understood as imperialism).

Now, please allow me, today as jester of the court, to suggest a counterpoint to that centuries’ old, princely advice, in light of the implacable consequence of truly peerless existence: one must be human to recognize the horror of freedom. Horror, yes, for to no longer be accountable to any mechanism of moderation is more horrible than any war—which is why, to escape this freedom, we start so many. Lovecraft said that the oldest and strongest emotion in man is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. As we are no longer superstitious, in our unprecedented state of being we have become that unknown: we project this fear onto others, and would rather dominate them than understand it.

Looking back through the annals of history, I know I should feel privileged to experience a freedom greater than any previous generation has known, but I cannot forget that, in the ancient days of Rome’s coliseum, I was in the crowd jeering with authentic anger the beasts that the gladiators promised to conquer for the reward of freedom, half wishing that I was down in the pit myself, snarling ferociously—especially when the slaying of barbarian hordes was recreated, because they threatened Mankind’s highest ideals. I’m afraid it is not satisfying enough to recall the roar of that most heraldic spectacle now in my imagination, merely. As for the gladiators—well, they seem to have become stooped by the weight of years past since last they heard the crowd’s chanting for the victory of their hero and the death of hated villains.

I see I have outlasted humanity’s darkest moments: genocide, in all its forms, being the most notable, perhaps even archetypal. Despite all odds, they say I am a slave no longer. However, after all I have been through, I find myself an inadequate master of these small, stable, latter years which I have to myself. I cannot help but reminisce upon those—more glorious—moments of conflict, and conflict overcome, and the unreality of my current freedom finds redemption in my nostalgia for struggle…

With the freedom to do anything, I find myself searching for obstacles, wishing that my days were still filled with such passion. Alas, I find I can only dream. So fortunate then that the spectacle Rome offered has lasted throughout the ages, and has spread beyond the walls of the coliseum. At times I fancy I see an echo of the warrior’s sword, slashing down for the kill stroke, in even the most commonplace of human interactions.

Humans are the most unprecedented of species. Our gifts of imagination and vision are rare, but even we cannot escape our past. I don’t think we want to. I think that’s why we have created a world that is not but a mirage of obstacles.

Surely, I’ve always been prone to fantasy.

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