If you are regularly (perhaps even daily), buffeted by contrary winds, whether they be social, cultural, religious, or political, can you say of yourself that you are free? If your emotional state is impacted every time you turn on the News, every time you read an article, every time you see a Twitter or Facebook post, are you not voluntarily giving power, real power to forces outside yourself?
Each of us faces opposition to our preferences. When the opposition is internal, we recognize the working of reason putting up a bulwark or providing reinforcements so that we don’t succumb to baser desires. But when the opposition to personal preference is external, and beyond direct control, how then do we deal?
Friend, exactly what is happening when you get upset over opinions that are different than yours? Why does a different viewpoint elicit irrational behavior? Are we not each entitled to our own opinions. To what degree does a complete stranger’s beliefs have an existential impact on you? What is the cause so dear, that results in you slinging zingers at the opposition? Do you suppose that deriding or defeating political opponents will create lasting happiness within you?
Does everything in your external world, things over which you have no control, have to be perfected aligned with your preferences in order for you to experience internal peace? Do you feel it your duty to verbally hack away at every perceived threat to your personal perspective? That does not make you smarter. It reveals your ignorance. It reveals the contradictions in the things you claim to believe.
If your state of mind as an individual human is impacted over and over again by the willful statements and actions of politicians, celebrities, the group to which you claim membership, or social media strangers (regardless of whether their names are on your ”friends” or ”followers” lists), then you are living under the domination of a form of heteronomy.
Your mental and emotional states are shaped, dominated, and ruled by outside factors that are non-responsive to your own will. And you may well be deceiving yourself that you are autonomous, self-directed, free, and impacted in life only by the things you will and choose. In Reality, you are just a bi-pedal version of Pavlov’s dog, and just about as free.
You have allowed yourself to be classically conditioned to respond to all sorts of stimuli that you have No. Power. To. Change. Instead, those external things are changing you.
For me, not a single thing either Donald Trump or Joe Biden or Kim Kardashian or Matt Gaetz or Bob Weir or Mitch McConnell or Major League Baseball says or does today will add or detract from my actual life. My hunch is that is equally true for you, Dear Reader, if you would allow yourself to take off your ”Angry glasses” or your ”Victim glasses” or your ”Righteous glasses” and just look with your own eyes and reason, at the measurable impact on your life these people (you either feel so allied with or so opposed to) actually have on your day.
You can reclaim your autonomy. You can.