Let's (Not) Change the World!

mon29sep2008—40w273d74%— 04h05m00s—0utc

Both for what has happened to me and for what lies ahead this year, I knew I had to read Harry Browne’s How I found freedom in an unfree world (download PDF) sooner rather than later.

I just finished it yesterday and can’t believe how different I am already. How freer (me, always so proud of my freedom!). It really is a handbook for personal liberty. It’s so selfish that at times it even angered me (me, selfish as they come!). But then, well looked, the book’s an extended version of that famous parable, existing in some version in most cultures:

When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I found it was too difficult, so I tried to change my country. When I realized I could not change that either, I began to focus on my town. I could not change even that and being older, I tried to change my family. Now being old, I realize the only thing I can change is myself. Suddenly I realize that if long ago if I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the country and I indeed could have changed the world.

Or as Harry put it

As you view any situation in which you have a goal, there are basically two types of alternatives available to you. I call them direct and indirect.

A direct alternative is one that requires only direct action by yourself to get a desired result.An indirect alternative requires that you act to make someone else do what is necessary to achieve your objective.

Once you’ve seen the positions and attitudes of the other people involved, a direct alternative requires only that you make a decision; an indirect alternative requires that you change the attitude of one or more other persons so that they will do what it is you want.

The recognition of the two types of alternatives is one of the most important keys to freedom. Most people automatically think in terms of indirect alternatives — who must be changed, how people must be educated, what others should be doing. Consequently, they spend most of their lives in futile efforts to achieve what can’t be achieved — the remaking of others.

In any situation, a free individual immediately looks first at the identities of the other people involved and appraises the situation by the simple standard: Is this what I want for myself? If it isn’t, he looks elsewhere. If it is, he relaxes and enjoys the situation to the maximum — without the problems that most people take for granted.

He automatically thinks in terms of direct alternatives. He asks himself, “With things as they are, what can I do by myself to make things better for myself?”

I’m gonna be Switzerland. Mind my business. Be my own man. Neutral. Flexible. Pragmatic. Quiet. Living my own, happy, private life. Free in an unfree world.

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