Real Freedom

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There was a vulgar expression during the Vietnam War to the effect that if you control a certain part of a man’s anatomy, his heart and mind will follow. Actually, if you can control his senses, his heart and mind really will follow.

Everything a human being knows comes mainly through the eyes and ears — and, to a lesser extent, through the sense of taste, smell and touch. Our senses are our only connection with the reality outside of ourselves. Whether we are educated or ignorant depends on the data that have entered our brain via these senses and how our brain processes the data.

Unfortunately, today most of what people believe they know comes from television, radio, the movies and the Internet. We like to think that these are instruments of freedom, but, in fact, they are dominated by a few giant corporations. The vision of the world they present is remarkably consistent — and often incomplete, out of context, confusing, contradictory or inaccurate.

I have never equated a certificate of attendance, whether it’s in the form of a Ph.D. or a high-school diploma, with education. In fact, today institutional education has been so dumbed down that an eighth-grader in 1905 knew more than most university graduates know today. That’s true. The one exception is the hard sciences, where reality keeps a check on academic manure. Otherwise, a college education today is the most flagrant example of consumer fraud in America.

To be truly educated, a person must have learned the basic facts of history, geography, science, math and language. Then the person must be taught the rules for clear thinking. He or she should also master at least a second language, and then must be motivated to continue the learning process for as long as he or she lives.

History is important because we are dropped through the womb into an already ongoing adventure. Unless we know what happened before we got here, we will be forever lost and confused. Geography is important because we are creatures of place, like other animals. Our environment has a great effect on us, both individually and collectively. It is because of climate, soil, water and resources that the United States is so developed, and it is because of climate, soil, scarcity of water and resources that the Middle East and Saharan Africa are much less so. Often for political propaganda purposes, people are praised or blamed for what is really a matter of geography.

There is no need to become a biophysicist or molecular biologist. The basic knowledge of chemistry, physics and biology is all that is necessary for most of us who don’t plan to work in those fields. We need math in order to count, weigh and measure. We need language skills because a human being’s survival and prosperity depends on communication. To me, it is appalling to see young people with 16 years of formal education who can’t spell or use the grammar of their native tongue properly, much less speak or read a second language.

The point is, the more ignorant we are, the easier it is for others to manipulate, dupe and cheat us. Whether your life and your labor accrue benefits to you and your loved ones depends in large part on how successful you are in frustrating manipulators and cheats. Our society is full of both — commercial, religious and political. They spend vast sums to control our senses in order to ensure that our lives and labors benefit them instead of ourselves and our families.

If I were advising young people, I would say learn to observe, to listen and to say "No." Our current society is actually geared toward persuading us to do things and to spend money for things that benefit others while providing little or no benefits to ourselves.

It is important to know what it is you are willing to die for and what it is you are willing to live for. You should not allow the cheats and manipulators to make those decisions for you. We have no right to tell others what to live and die for, and no one has a right to tell us. Living your own life for yourself and the people you love is real freedom.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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