Over at Catallaxy Files, Rafe's blog round up (Rafe’s Roundup 28 June) led me to this post on the UK Libertarian Alliance Blog Living without the state in Britain today: The case of the Irish Travellers.
For various reasons, there have been periods in my life where escape, or at least the capacity to escape from current conditions, to live free, has been very important. When I was at primary school, one of my all time favourite books was BB's Brendon Chase, the story of three boys who escape difficulty to live in the English woods. Another story from the same childhood period, an adult book from my parents' shelves, was actually set with the Travellers.
A little later, I became very interested through scouts in surviving in the bush. Then there were novels of people who created new identities, novels about prisoners of war on the run or resistance fighters, along with an entire science fiction genre where an authoritarian central power or powers made the capacity to live outside society a condition of survival. A little late still, came the counter culture movement with its visions of an untrammelled life style.
In all this, I actually thought about ways of breaking free, of creating a new identity. How might I do It? Now you can tell me that these feelings are unrealistic, even unworthy, but the allure remains.
When I was a child or young adult, many of these things still possible. You could still build a hut in the bush, hitchhike, think of acquiring your own block, open a bank account in a new name. Escape was possible, as was survival in an authoritarian society. Where, as in Nazi Europe, there was an omni-present bureaucracy protecting state power, then you had to resort to forgers, you needed some form of organisation. But you could also rely on incompetence and system failure to help you.
Today I wonder. I am not a Libertarian, nor do I think that state action is always a bad thing. But I do worry about and resent state control. I am free, but only as long as I obey the rules, and those rules grow all the time, as do the controls required to enforce them. One of my biggest difficulties today is that I don't actually feel free, just controlled.
I accept that freedom is a relative concept. None of us are really free, nor can we be so since social functioning depends upon rules. And yet the growth of rules and controls, the increasing incapacity to think of even naive and idealistic ways of moving to a new life, creates a sense of loss.