I don’t know if Ayn Rand actually coined the phrase
"mind-body dichotomy," but I came across the concept in her writings and thus
she gets the credit. The idea is simple: people tend to view a human being as split
in two, between mind and body, and somehow feel pressured to choose between the
parts instead of honoring the whole. Rand used this concept mainly to criticize
religion on the one hand and mindless hedonism on the other. However, lately I
have been thinking of it also as a way to explain our views of freedom and why
it is nowadays so difficult to "sell" either in culture or in politics. It is fashionable in today’s political discourse to talk of
"personal" vs. "economic" freedom, and for label-happy politicians to try and
stake the claim to one or the other, but somehow, inexplicably, not both. In
reality, just as a human being’s body and soul are one, there is fundamentally
only one kind freedom. Moreover, just as soul cannot exist in this world
without a body, personal freedom rests firmly on the economic. Let’s consider
some examples to clarify.
1.
Personal freedom of speech does not on its face
require money. You and I can talk freely about issues and unless we piss off a
particularly vengeful IRS agent, we’ll be just fine. However, if I start
feeling particularly passionate about my views and want everyone to know about
them, I will need money to promote my ideas: to publish a book, to hold a
rally, to make a movie, to buy an ad on TV, even to print and distribute
flyers. Any artist with a worldview a bit outside of the mainstream will know
exactly of what I speak. Speech is only worth so much when you can’t make your
voice heard.
2.
Personal freedom of religion allows me to
worship in my home, but every major religion acknowledges special power of
group prayer. To hold such prayers, I would need physical space, religious
paraphernalia, prayer books, and most of the time paid clergy as a leader- all
of it requiring significant investment.
3. Ability to love and marry the person we want- what can be more personal, or
more fundamental to freedom? Well, this particular freedom is directly related
to a prosperous society and, in relation to the whole of human history, is a
recent development. Marriage used to be an economic transaction, and a tool for
survival of tribes, villages, and even entire countries. Now we see arranged
marriage customs falling apart in countries that are becoming more prosperous
because young people have more economic independence and can afford the luxury
of love. Remember the "Do You Love Me?" song from Fiddler on the Roof? Tevye
and his wife had been so wrapped up in day-to-day survival, "love" was not even
in the vocabulary until the world started changing around them.
In the end, where does this leave us? How
does is relate to freedom being a hard "sell" to the new generation? Simply
put, because all freedom requires some economic basis to be fully exercised, it
necessarily requires work. Somehow we, as a society, have managed to make "work"
mean opposite of "freedom," disconnecting the abstract concept of freedom from
its physical prerequisites. Is it any wonder we are getting so close to losing
both?

0 0 votes
Article Rating