“You were born free. You will live free. You will die free. You’re allowed to make a scene. You’re allowed to scream for joy. You’re allowed to complain. You’re allowed to cry. You’re allowed to love people. You’re allowed to hug people. …We’re starting to forget just how divine and special we are as human beings. Every single one of you is the only example of you that will ever exist. There’s not a single authority in this world…who can tell you how to behave at any time, any place or anywhere. You are free. You will live free. You will die free. The only chains that exist are in your mind.” – Charlie Veitch
This video came across my path this morning, and I watched it twice, intrigued, amused, and moved to thought. I followed the links to a few other videos by “cveitch” and finally found my way to Charlie Veitch‘s The Love Police website. And there, on the 236th anniversary of the start of the American Revolution, on the 68th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, on the 16th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, on the 13th anniversary of the Waco, TX siege, on the day before the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, that’s all but faded from the public memory in just 365 days, Veitch makes a call for consciousness. We have become, he says, ” domesticated techno-humans suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.”
“It is so easy to support a system which feeds and waters us,” says Veitch, ” which allegedly educates our children, and protects us from terrorists. In fact, most people vote and substantiate their dependence on the government through turning up at the ballot-box.”
I don’t know if I’d go as far as to support Veitch’s call to stop paying my taxes – I do believe we have to support our basic infrastructure somehow. Nor do I believe, as he quotes Derick Jensen, author of Endgame, that we are driven by the “urge to destroy life.” I’ve always believed that the truth is somewhere in the middle. As culpable as we are in the greatest atrocities on earth, so have we shown a stunning capacity for what Art Shostak, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Drexel University calls “stealth altruism,” the ability to show compassion and render care to others in the face of sure death. As surely as we destroy, we create – great art, powerful literature and remarkable invention.
Veitch contends that “All civilisations have been built on slavery, rape, and annihilation of natural forces.” I will counter that, by definition, civilizations have, instead, been defined by their abilities to overcome those atrocities, by the human capacity to rise above our most base instincts and primal behaviors, to identify those things as wrong and to seek to create societies in which people can live in freedom, safe from harm. The danger there, of course, is complacency and apathy. We become used to being safe, and being cared for.
I believe a life well lived is one well-balanced; one in which we equally question authority and calls for anarchy, where we’re careful not to throw off one set of ideological chains in exchange for another. I believe a good life is one lived in compassion and reason.
To that end, on the near cusp of Earth Day, I think we’d all do well to heed Veitch’s counsel to “actively get yourself involved in the battle for the protection of what beautiful planet we still have left.” We don’t have to be domesticated techno-humans. But I don’t believe we have to return to “indigenous living,” as Veitch calls us to, to some idealized tribute to the myth of the “noble savage.” We can live as people of conscience and compassion in harmony with our habitat and the societies we’ve created. The only obstacles in our way are those we put there ourselves.