A lot of rot about freedom

Today at the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley, I saw a big, loud, vaguely historical action movie — Braveheart.

It's almost three hours long, and doesn't get half-interesting until it's half over, but eventually it's OK. Between the slow-motion decapitations and numerous bloody battles, maybe there's even a message behind the mess, but it's bogus.

"Inspired by" the story of 13th-century Scottish leader William Wallace, Aussie actor Mel Gibson stars and directed. In the movie, Gibson as Wallace talks often about freedom, and says he isn't fighting against England or for Scotland, for or against any king, so much as he's fighting for the noble concept of freedom.

If it's true it's beautiful, but is it true? Sometimes people fight for freedom, but that's rare. Even in wars allegedly fought for 'freedom', people are fighting because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, or more fundamentally, because their commanding officer ordered them to kill people wearing the other uniform.

My dad was in the Army in World War II, after lying about his age because he was too young to enlist. I once asked him why he did it, hoping to hear a patriotic answer. "I wanted to be part of something big and exciting," was the gist of his reply.

Gibson as Wallace shouts "Freedom!" in the movie, and sounds like he believes it, but he's a good actor. He could deliver the line "Fresh croissants drip out of my ass," and it would sound like he believes it.

I don't believe anyone involved believes it, and I don't think freedom is even the takeaway message. No, it's a movie for my dad, and the point of it is being part of something big and exciting.

Braveheart was made by Paramount Pictures, "a Viacom company," brags the logo as the movie starts. It's from the cable conglomerate that says "Your call is important to us," and keeps you waiting half an hour to talk to someone who can't help you, and doesn't want to. Viacom also owns Blockbuster Video, your best-selling source for films with any 'inappropriate' bits snipped out. 

Viacom is about making money. They don't make movies unless they smell the green, so Braveheart is big and exciting, and it's about profits, but it's not about freedom.

My idea of freedom is less big, less exciting, and has fewer bloody battle scenes. 

Freedom is being left alone to do what you choose to do. That's all.

If you need a license to go fishing, you're not free. If you can be arrested for smoking dope, you're not free. If you have to pretend you're straight or your boss will fire you, you're not free. If lack of money means you're barred from seeing a doctor when you need one, you're not free.

Americans have more freedoms than people in some other countries, yes, and for most Americans that's enough. They'll pledge allegiance, and if you won't say the pledge or stand for the anthem they'll smack you in the head, because most Americans don't know what freedom is.

Freedom means the least possible interference in what you choose to do — basically no interference at all, unless you're hurting someone who isn't you.

And for all the fireworks on the Fourth of July, nobody's truly free, not even in America — unless they're rich, of course. And nobody who's rich, nobody who's in power, wants other people to be free.

If people were truly free, there'd be no billionaires, cocaine would be stocked in vending machines, doctors would make tax-funded house calls, and coffee would still cost a nickel.

I like freedom, wish we had more of it, and I am mostly serious about everything I've written today. And seriously, I wish I'd written it better, but what the hell, I'm tired of trying to make it make sense, and I've sorta said what I wanted to say. 

It'll earn half a dozen angry letters and a few canceled subscriptions when this goes into the mail, but that's freedom too. You're free to disagree with me, and also free to go fuck yourself.

From Pathetic Life #17
Wednesday, October 4, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. I know what your saying.

    1. Here, I'll say it like Mel Gibson:



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