This post is in relation to the Gender and Domination course in OOPS.
Reflecting on this week’s reading, I must admit that my previous relationship to the concepts of freedom and liberty was under-reflected. La Boetie wrote,
“one never pines for what he has never known; longing comes only after enjoyment and constitutes, amidst the experience of sorrow, the memory of past joy. It is truly the nature of man to be free and to wish to be so, yet his character is such that he instinctively follows the tendencies that his training gives him.” (60)
Having experienced only socially typified levels of freedom (turning 21 and being free to purchase alcohol), and not having come from an environment of intolerable state or cultural oppression, my immediate conclusion is that it is may be easier for me to pinpoint my oppressions rather than single out moments of freedom.
How does one experience freedom? I can point to only one dream that best represents freedom for me, or rather for my dog. The dream involved a large grassy field, my dog, and me. In the dream, I set my dog free to run and experience the freedom that running gives both animals and humans. I believe I was also running in the dream.
Soon after, I had the opportunity to make this dream a reality when I took my dog to a beach on the south shore of eastern Long Island. There was a large deserted parking lot, and as rarely happens, I let my dog off the leash and ran alongside her. The dream and its realization represented for me a moment of letting go and having the clearest experience of liberation I can imagine. I vicariously felt the freedom of what I imagined my dog felt the moment she was set free, even if only momentarily.
Far from play, the moments of oppression begin to manifest themselves by the time I hit snooze. As I walk my dog, I am forced to curb her and to clean and maintain after her — a set of rules that have been absorbed into my ego and reinforced on a daily basis. I see stop signs; I see red lights. My day is structured around either school or work, which determines at what time and place my body is expected to be, in the way it is expected to be.
Earlier in his essay, La Boetie states, like all other animals that give signs of distress if put in a cage, human beings are born free. We forget this original freedom once we become accustomed to being ruled. This concept of original freedom is forgotten, or rather lost and locked away to the unconscious part of the mind, yet it contains the blueprints for both future and present behaviors. Primal freedom cannot be articulated, but it can be acknowledged by unpacking the power relations at stake. Thus, when maintaining my dog, I sometimes wonder who is dominating whom on our walks. The spheres of power and oppression begin between two bodies, but they escalate to encapsulate more categories and distinctions of oppression.
This is what I imagined when reading Chiara Bottici’s essay “Bodies in Plural,” although it is difficult to do so at this moment. As we continue our journey into this material, I hope to discover other ways to express and to fight for my freedom: to be able to perceive the social constructions that cause numbness in our vitality; to act in a liberated way; to create a state or condition in which mutual freedom can benefit everybody, where I can run alongside my dog on an empty unobscured freedom without roads, yield signs, or interruptions — an uninterrupted freedom that we long to sustain as more than that just a fragmented and forgotten recollection.