As someone who has recently come to live inHolland, my view of society here is one of shock and surprise. Could what I was seeing around me be reality? Or was I stuck in a nightmarish version of Groundhog Day? My very first impressions were of a sense of suffocation, not enough oxygen, not enough room…… claustrophobic. But let me start at the beginning………….
My earliest memories of childhood are associated with freedom. My brother and I looked forward to the summer school break each year, as that meant a visit to our grandparent’s home. This was always a welcome break from the hectic life in the big city, and a chance to get away from it all. It was time to say goodbye to the bustling metropolis and escape into nature. We would gleefully run around barefoot in our ancestral home inKerala,India, where my grandparents lived, in the lush, green countryside, blessed by abundant monsoon rains, surrounded by the raw beauty of nature. Mango trees laden with fruit, tamarind trees with their sweet-sour pods, and graceful coconut palms covered the grounds. Rose bushes of various hues added a rainbow of colours and with the sun’s rays pouring through the trees, it was paradise. No wonder they called it “Garden House”.
My grandfather, a well known doctor, would wake up at 5 am and made his rounds in the coolness of the early morning mist, while my grandmother made him his “first C’ as he liked to call it. This was his first cup of coffee for the day, made from freshly roasted and ground coffee. My memories as a little girl of 5 or 6, was waking up to the delicious aroma of coffee, mingled with the scent of burning leaves, which my grandfather would gather and burn each morning. He would sit by the fire, read the newspaper and drink his coffee.
Often when my grandmother would call us to lunch, my brother and I had already had ours; sitting up in the mango tree, busy gorging ourselves on a game of “Who can eat the most mangos!” What we really looked forward to, was a visit from the mahout and the baby elephant! If we were lucky, his visit would coincide with our holidays. I remember my first ride on the elephant. He was huge! His hide felt rough, and the hairs on his back were like wires. No wonder they had a carpet for us to sit on! After the ride, my grandmother had asked for some fresh jackfruits to be cut down, so we could feed these to the elephant as a treat! I remember that his tongue felt rough, like sandpaper!
When the coconuts needed to be harvested, my grandmother would send word for the local coconut harvester, and he would be there the next day. This was of course, before there were any telephones in homes. The harvester, fondly called Mamutti by all, was an expert in his trade. My brother and I would watch in wide-eyed awe, as he ascended effortlessly up the coconut tree, bare feet, whipped out his shiny machete from his belt, harvested the coconuts, dropped them into a large pile below, and effortlessly climbed back down! That was the coolest thing ever to a 6 year old!
I recall that we would often wake up and find sacks of jackfruits, rice, or other produce left on the porch, with a note that said, “In payment to the kind doctor, for services rendered.” So the free market, and the free exchange of goods and services were alive and well in my grandfather’s town 40 years ago.
My grandfather was a freedom fighter who fought along with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to freeIndiafrom the British Raj. As a doctor in the army his job was a challenging one. When my mother was a little girl, he left for the army, and did not return for 6 years, and everyone thought he had been lost. But my grandmother never lost hope. And sure enough, one summer morning, after 6 long, agonizing, years, he walked back into their home, a decorated war veteran. I recall my mother telling me, that living in a joint family, surrounded by supportive aunts, uncles and cousins, made those years easier. My grandfather’s stories of his efforts in the freedom struggle made a deep impression on me and made me realize the importance of being free. I realized that we were born free, and meant to remain that way.
Having grown up as the daughter of an international banker, (the old fashioned, honest kind) my siblings and I were exposed to a wide variety of cultures both local and foreign. Traveling was a part of our family lifestyle, as my father’s vision was to widen our horizons and give us the experience of being world citizens. His strong sense of ethics and discipline earned him the reputation for being an honest and principled man. My mother had an arts background, and studied Indian classical Bharat Natyam dance and music under Rukmini Devi Arundale, the well known dancer and choreographer at the Kalakshetra Academy of Dance in Chennai. Rukmini Devi’s cultural and aesthetic legacy is preserved both inIndiaas well as internationally.
Our home was filled with my Dad’s fascinating collection of books. And so we read. Having only 3 TV channels was a blessing in disguise, as every spare moment was spent in the company of books! From The Agony and The Ecstasy, to A Tale of Two Cities, Shakespeare, Tagore, Cronin, Tolkien, were all favourites. On a rainy day, us 4 siblings could each be found cozily curled up with a book and some snacks, lost to the world. Much of our ideas of human nature, culture, people, and history came from the books we read.
My university years caused me to question the state of society and its apparent inequalities, rampant corruption, and the general degeneration of humanity. Ideals of freedom and liberty remained priorities to me.
Fortunate to have met my husband Riekus inIndia, we embarked together on several decades of adventures, a dream come true for me! We traveled withinIndia,Nepal,Thailand,Turkey,Syriaand theMiddle Eastwhile engaging in developmental aid projects through meaningful, small, localized NGO’s. The experience of living in these countries and raising our children there has made an indelible impression on me that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I experienced many wonderful things, that have made my life richer and taught me much about freedom, love, hospitality and abundant living. It is my sincere view that the West has much to learn from these warm, civilized, cultures and its people. Although it does not seem that long ago, Riekus and I have been married for almost 30 years, and have been blessed with 5 children and 1 adorable grandson. How time flies!
So I now return to the beginning of my article where I speak of my first impressions of society here. It was like watching a drama unfold in front of me daily. People running about from pillar to post from morning till night. Exhausted parents rushing to work, kids being brought to school, to football, music lessons, judo, korfball, the hasty breakfast, the quick lunch, the tired dinner, kids to bed, and the day finally done. Watch a bit of TV, and in a few minutes you’re asleep. Then the whole thing starts all over again. Whew! I feel tired just thinking about it! How different this is from a large joint family inIndiaor theMiddle Eastwhere the family support system is so supportive and so strong, they don’t even need the State. They delight in interdependence. Therefore such a society is stronger and does not fall apart at the seams when problems appear.
I cannot imagine how draining this stressful lifestyle would become in the long term, as to me, that is the ultimate nightmare, being caught in an inescapable bad dream that just keeps recurring. And we are not even touching upon the emotional or health related issues this sort of lifestyle creates, which provides enough fuel to keep the ‘sickness-economy’ running. It is no wonder then, that the statement “I have no time” is a reality. If you barely have time for yourself or your family, you most likely will not have much time to think. Which is really the crux of the entire matter, as without this important function, there will in effect be no individual reflection, and therefore no real societal change. This unfortunately perpetuates the existing status quo. You cannot see the forest for the trees. Being caught up in the smaller details hinders us from seeing the whole situation clearly. Perspective can only be achieved by taking distance from the situation either physically, or mentally, and then analyzing it carefully. The idea of spending a period of time in another country, preferably a freer one, can do wonders in changing one’s perspective. After all, we have to first believe that it can indeed be done differently. Rather than accepting the status quo with a belief that it cannot be changed.
I have nothing against hard work; as the dignity of labour is something I believe in. But to what end, to what goal? Appeasing the slave drivers so they don’t take us to task? Shedding blood, sweat and tears just to keep the fires of a greedy State burning? The freedom struggle in India came from the deepest recesses of the heart of an occupied people who longed for independence, for freedom from oppression, and were willing to pay any price, undergo any sacrifice to achieve that goal, no matter how long or hard the road. Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha or Force of Truth, as well as his philosophy of Ahimsa or non-violence were ideologies that swept the nation like a forest fire, and successfully ended the British occupation. The desire for freedom is deeply ingrained in the very fiber of every human being. For man to not struggle for his freedom goes against the grain of human nature.
So how do people get to such a state? Why in the world do people agree to be looted and otherwise oppressed by government overlords? Étienne de La Boétie, (1530 – 1563) the brilliant French jurist explains this in his book The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves and values his own freedom, as well as that of the coming generations. To La Boétie, the great mystery of politics was obedience to rulers. It is not just fear, Boetie explains, since our consent is also required. And that consent is given by the people, who get habituated to this relationship. This consent can be non-violently withdrawn. Thus, La Boétie linked together obedience and domination. By advocating a solution of simply refusing to support the tyrant, he became one of the earliest advocates of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance. It was in exactly in this manner that the Gandhian movement was able to end British rule inIndia.
Seeing sincere people work so very hard and sacrifice so much, only to keep up with their payments and taxes to the State is distressing. Each time that they attempt to take one step forward, the State makes that difficult, if not impossible. The extent to which people are dependent on State regulations for mortgages, payments, licenses etc, displays a dizzying amount of finances involved. Which in turn end up dictating their lives. In the meantime, real life passes you by, people get older, the children grow up, and families and societies become increasingly dysfunctional. What we are speaking of here is the quality of life; time spent building relationships, spending time with your family, children and loved ones, friends. What legacy can we leave behind if this present system continues? And more importantly, will it be one that we can be proud of? Is this living in abundance? To me this symbolizes living in abject poverty; mentally, ideologically, physically, and in every other way. This is heartbreaking and pains me deeply.
Being able to afford things, can often be misinterpreted as independence, success, abundance, progress and freedom. Very subtly, this also gives the illusion of choice. Being able to choose out of 15 different types of bread, or 12 different brands of toothpaste, being able to flip through 300 TV channels, the ability to buy various brands of clothing, the idea that people can choose who to vote for, all give the illusion of an alternative, thereby keeping people in a false state of happiness as well as allegiance to the status quo. After all, who wouldn’t like to go to sleep and wake up in the Moulin Rouge day after day? And for those of you who have seen it, the State’s slogan is; as in Moulin Rouge, “The show must go on”!
My view is that on an individual level as well as society here as a whole we are living in a state of Triage. Triage is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition. This rations patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately. The term comes from the French verb trier, meaning to separate, sift or select. Interestingly, at a recent Orthomolecular seminar, I learnt how the human body, when faced with nutritional deficiency in certain areas, immediately goes into a state of triage. This ensures that resources are reallocated to the body according to areas / organs of priority in order to guarantee that the person keeps functioning as close to normal as possible. However, if this state of triage becomes the norm, rather than a short term response to deficiency, the body is likely to undergo irreversible damage in the long run. Of course, the amount of damage sustained would depend on how good the health of the person in question was, prior to the triage mode. Some may not live long in this state while others may. This does not mean however, that they lived in optimal health. Instead, this is a testimony to the incredible adaptive capabilities of the human body under survival mode.
Some may be familiar with survival programs such as “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”, where the story is re-enacted, of someone who survived miraculously after being trapped for several days in sub-zero temperatures, and is finally rescued. We are shown incredible graphics of how the human body shuts down certain functions, in order to save energy and thereby preserve life. This is the body going into triage mode, or emergency survival mode.
Similarly, people in society are living day after day in a state of triage that affects almost all areas of living. Compromised education, compromised economic and financial systems, compromised food, compromised relationships, compromised health, compromised healthcare, compromised services; in short, compromised living. On the other hand, someone may say, ‘But look around, everyone is surviving, we are all managing ok.” True, people are surviving, but that is because humans are incredibly adaptable creatures and can survive through all kinds of traumatic circumstances. But try and imagine the level of abundance and prosperity we could have had, were we NOT living in a state of triage! “Oh, but I am so happy because I booked this cheap all inclusive holiday package to ABC!”. My answer, “Well, if you weren’t living in Safe Mode, maybe you would be living in your own villa in A, B, or C!”
We are not meant ‘to survive’, we are not meant ‘to be ok’ we are meant to thrive, to prosper! To achieve the pinnacle of our personal capabilities! We are supposed to be truly happy! Our children are meant to get the best education possible, become independent thinkers! They are supposed to achieve their dreams, and not get tied down by the balls and chains of the present system! Why operate in safe mode, when you have all the latest updates at your finger tips? None of us would operate our computers that way. Safe Mode is not a permanent or desired state of operation as many important and necessary functions will not work and is therefore undesirable. The problem is though, that if you operate in Safe Mode and accept that as the norm, then you will have settled for a compromised system, and you will eventually accept and learn to function under very limited possibilities.
For the last weeks, I have been on the streets of many cities inHolland, talking to people one on one and campaigning for the LP and the upcoming elections. What I have heard and observed are painful stories that reflect on a broken and shattered society, one that is crying out for change.
Society has become satisfied with mediocrity. We have indeed been conditioned to settle for less. We have become deaf to the deepest calls from within our souls. We have abandoned liberty and embraced slavery. We have forgotten the hopes and dreams that we held so dear as children and teenagers. The ideas of freedom and emancipation have been banished by the daily grind of life, and the treadmill of the State has all but sapped our strength. Are we living our own dreams, or someone else’s?
As my grandfather, I will fight State sponsored injustice and oppression. I refuse to let myself or my children become cannon-fodder for the State. I will strive with those who wish to make a brave, new world, a society where peace, prosperity, wealth and joy are abundant. Where we and our children can live without fear or intimidation. A society where we can enjoy and keep the fruits of our labours; which is the least our children and grandchildren deserve.
This Libertarian movement is not the end, it is only the beginning.
~ Sujatha de Poel, Candidate MP for the Libertarian Party.