Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

The myth of independence

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You are not independent, no matter what you do. You might break away from the king, but you will immediately find yourself dependent on some other force, if even on the fellow revolutionaries who helped you kill the king and now want to build a society. Perhaps you did not notice how dependent you have always been on the dead. They built your city. They invented your culture. They gave birth to the king you killed.

People get angry with me for pointing this out. I often get a lot of resistance from students when I bring this question up during discussions: is independence a myth? (Yes, it’s rhetorical and loaded.)  They claim they are in college in order to achieve independence. But all the occupations they can possibly train for depend on work with and for others, and on a society that supports every kind of activity. Forget about work. In the modern city, it is impossible to support oneself without a store. You cannot grow enough food to feed yourself for the whole year, even if you have a sizable garden. During stretches of the year, you will depend on food from some other place, and on the people who bring it to you. Then, to buy it, you’ll depend either on customers supporting your business, or on the proper management of your place of employment. Most of these relationships are out of your control. You can influence some of them to lean one way or another. But you are not ever independent. If you believe that you are making money because of your superior ability to trick people into buying your services, you’re dependent on a delusion far more tragic than independence.

Even in Walden, Thoreau’s book about self-reliance, he depended on tools built by others, clothing sewn by someone else, a political system held up by a massive group of people, most of whom he did not know.

Many of us will attend a fireworks display. We will depend on someone to pick up the garbage that falls from the sky after the bombs go off. If those people don’t do it, we’ll complain to the authorities: What the hell? Can’t we depend on anyone anymore?

We depend on each other. Constantly. A revolution in Egypt has consequences in Kansas.

On independence day, let’s pledge to be dependable.

One thought on “The myth of independence

  1. Pingback: Independence is a myth (part 2, the expanded version) | Liquid Ink

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