Sunday, January 04, 2015

There Is Freedom Within, There Is Freedom Without

Peter Watson, speaking of Maya Angelou:

[B]ut her books emphasize that life is made up of two kinds of freedom: one big political freedom, and countless little freedoms that come from education, strength of character, humor, dignity, and thought.

I like the way he put that. There are enough people who focus on the macro-level factors that shape our existence. As Steven Pinker says:

We live in an age of social science, and have become accustomed to understanding the social world in terms of "forces," "pressures," "processes," and "developments." It is easy to forget that these "forces" are statistical summaries of the deeds of millions of men and women who act on their beliefs in pursuit of their desires. The habit of submerging the individual into abstractions can lead not only to bad science (it's not as if the "social forces" obeyed Newton's laws) but to dehumanization. We are apt to think, "I (and my kind) choose to do things for reasons; he (and his kind) are part of a social process."

The temptation is fierce to find a Sociopolitical Theory of Everything for explanatory and predictive purposes. Wealth, race, gender, nationality, etc. are the pavement that makes theoretical travel easier, but those little freedoms are the grass inevitably growing up through the cracks.