THE BLOG
08/31/2011 09:44 am ET | Updated Oct 31, 2011

On Libya and Liberty

There are many wonderful things about summer travel, and they include adventures of the mind. And although some readers might criticize a human being who dares to say things at times off the map, it's about the stretching of perception. It is odd but true that in lands far away, we can at times encounter people who open us up to new worlds of seeing. In addition, there is a huge relief in finding others who wish to explore the human condition and want to offer their home for a dinner and an opportunity for communal exploration. It makes it all less lonely.

So it is that I continue to be in Corsica, and although it's just a week, the ideas and senses flow, as they are helped no doubt by a touch of wine overlooking the sea, with time made available for doing the thrilling but discomforting work/play of dancing with ideas.

Today on a fairly deserted beach, one not loved by all because of its rocky and pebbly terrain, I happened upon a young woman in the middle of the swim from shore to the post at which people stop and hang out. Her name was Hannah, and she is Swedish. She is living with her partner in Corsica to learn French and to do some work regarding awareness about the physical environment. In addition, they are both interested in self awareness; her partner being a psychoanalyst like me.

It didn't take us long before we were wowed by the commonalities of our quests to understand the human condition outside the box. As Hannah shared her experiences of living in India and Ireland we drifted into speaking about Libya.

Now for a person who often speaks of having a dancing mind, meaning the tendency to move fluidly and at times suddenly into new awarenesses without plan or study, this conversation felt sort of "organic." But as we drifted on to the subject of Libya, while bobbing about the sea, we began discussing the notion of freedom. And I learned something new, about myself as well.

Hannah spoke of Gaddafi and the shameless way he has been used by the West. I retorted, that Colonel Gaddafi was and is a madman. Yes, she replied, but he has been so for 42 years. Why do people who are puppets themselves try to fool the world by seeing themselves as heroes? What is the motive?

We began to discuss how we may not be a democracy after all. Consider this: When we vote or decide or discuss or debate, we are supposed to be informed. However, if we so often rely on superstitions and belief systems that don't work, how is there any truth at all?

A couple of years ago, someone well known in the field of social activism told me he always thought that the ideas which had truth would win out. I guess he didn't bargain for the tools which the powerful people might use to sell us the naivete of super-patriotism and of hope.

To be free one has to earn it, just as each child declares autonomy but has to grow into it. Freedom is never given by a parent because the style in which it is invented and lived has to be emblematic of the person growing into it.

So, circling back, when we think of Libya, we are programmed to think of a madman and of terrorism, but most of us -- myself included -- don't stop to think that the way we are intervening now could have happened years and years ago.

When have we valued the freedom to think independently? Are we really talking consensus? Do we believe that if most Germans bought into Naziism, that it was all okay because it was based on consensus? Do we feel that most Russians longing for the resurrection of the former Soviet Union is a sign of liberty? Do we assign the word "democracy" to others only when it is convenient to our own agenda?

We have to think, to consider, in order to be free. And we have to become free enough to question just how free we are -- and are not.