What Does Liberation Mean in the Real World?


Liberation in the real world is the result of self-reliance and investing in our own well-being.

Liberation has many contexts. It can mean being freed from imprisonment or servitude, freedom from gnawing want or oppression, or being liberated from prisons of the mind.

Note that the first form of liberation is external / material, the second is internal / psychological / spiritual. Many confuse the two, blaming an oppressive system for their unhappiness rather than their internal acquiescence to the system’s narratives and values.

For many, liberation depends on the actions of others. If only we had different leaders, a different financial financial system, a different energy system, a different constellation of media, and so on–if only the powers that control our world were liberating rather than extractive.

The other approach is to accept responsibility for our own liberation within the system as it is. Demanding those benefiting so handsomely from the system as it is currently configured relinquish their wealth and power is not going to re-order the system when those benefiting from the system 1) have every incentive to devote all available resources to maintaining it as it is and 2) have an unshakeable belief that the system is so powerful (the state, the party, the central bank, etc.) that nothing could possibly destabilize their comforts, conveniences, wealth and power.

In other words, their belief in the permanence and immutability of the system is equally immutable. That their belief is nothing more than hubris pushed to extremes of denial and delusion doesn’t register.

In this mindset of unbreakable faith in the god-like powers of the system as it is, the faithful benefiting from the system will favor destabilizing policy extremes rather than give up any of their perquisites and power.

They might push the system into collapse because they believe collapse is impossible.There is no arguing with true believers in any ideology or arrangement in which the self-interest of those in power is the organizing principle of the system.

Rather than rail at the Powers That Be for being self-serving and thinking liberation is only possible if the entire system is reset, the alternative is to liberate ourselves from the prison of the mind generated by the system’s media, narratives and values.

Simply put, stop consuming “news” and “opinion” designed to polarize, addict and derange. Once we stop paying attention, we stop reacting, and our time and energy revert to our own use rather than making somebody else money in the Attention Economy.

My Credo of Liberation summarizes this process of detaching oneself from the narratives and values that support the power structure of exploitation (from my book Resistance, Revolution, Liberation):

I no longer care if the power centers of our society–the distant, fortified castles of our financial feudal system–are changed by my actions, for I am liberated by the act of resistance. I am no longer complicit in perpetuating fraudulent feudalism and the pathology of concentrated power. I no longer covet signifiers of membership in the Upper Caste that serves the plutocracy. I am liberated from self-destructive consumerist-State financialization and the delusion that debt servitude and obedience to sociopathological Elites serve my self-interests.

This self-liberation from prisons of the mind is only the first step of real-world liberation. The second step is to understand how the vulnerabilities of the system as it is can affect our lives, and work to decouple our well-being from the system as it is.

The core dynamics that deserve our careful study are 1) scale 2) dependency chains and 3) stability. The problem with the global economy as it is is that it is an unstable tangle of long dependency chains of globalization and financialization that must operate at massive scales with just in time perfection.

This system appears robust when everything is working perfectly, but it’s actually on the edge of instability at all times. Any disruption beyond the trivial threatens to unravel all the interconnected dependency chains.

Path dependency also matters. The system as it is is the result of decisions made long ago in different times and circumstances. Yet the decisions made then still define how the system functions. Put another way, modest policy tweaks can’t reduce the instability of the system.

If we reduce our dependence on the system, we decouple our own well-being from the system’s incoherence and fragility. This decoupling is called self-reliance, the topic of my book Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

Liberation in the real-world is not a false either-or polarity; it’s a matter of degrees.By developing local sources of essentials and trustted personal networks, we reduce our dependence on long global supply chains and the debt-leverage of financialization.

Once we stop consuming and fretting over “news” and “opinions” we have no control over, we free up the time and energy needed to invest in our own self-reliance.

The question of our own well-being boils down to: what are we buying into? What have we bought into in terms of wants and needs, in what props up our identity and self-worth, and in the sources of inspiration, goals and purpose in our lives?

If all that boils down to making more money to buy more stuff or make even more money, that’s not decoupling, that’s total dependence on an incoherent, fragile, exploitive, unstable, unsustainable system that isn’t going to change because we want it to change.

Ideologies are the walls and chains of the prisons of the mind. Ideologies lead to the idea that if only everyone agreed with me, all our problems would be solved. Self-reliance doesn’t need anyone’s consent or “likes” on social media. Self-reliance values trust, integrity and performance, not canned opinions spouted as “solutions” once everyone agrees with me, or is forced to agree with me in public.

Liberation in the real world is the result of self-reliance and investing in our own well-being. Opinions and “news” don’t create well-being, they tear it down.


My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print): Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.

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The Asian Heroine Who Seduced Me (Novel) print $10.95, Kindle $6.95 Read an excerpt for free (PDF)

When You Can’t Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook;audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

A Hacker’s Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake (Novel) $4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 Kindle, $15 print) Read the first section for free

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