What Does Freedom Look Like?
By Dan Baker
In order to liberate all beings from suffering we must be able to imagine the goal, in detail, and make adjustments as we work towards freedom. Perhaps this is an eternal process. Maybe the Buddhist philosophy is correct in saying that “everything is the mind.” Each social structure we experiment with is an idea, constantly being guided by compassion and wisdom towards a balance which takes into consideration the herstory of women’s struggle for freedom from housewivisation, and animal’s struggle for liberation from the slaughter of husbandry, both of which started with the domination of plant life in the form of agriculture. The enclosure of formerly free and common land to form private farms, protected with force by armed killers, was the grounds for all of the conflicts and slavery that followed.
In order to create a world in which all beings are free we must picture that world, starting with a single day in the life of a liberated being. What oppresses you today? What would a perfect day look like for you? How does it feel? What do you do? How do you live? Does that lifestyle support freedom for all beings? Does that life coexist peacefully with your neighbors from different cultures? What if “they” practice a diet that offends “your” idea of freedom and peace? What if “your” habits offend “their” ideas of wholesome, family friendly community? How do you live together? Let’s examine my narration of my attempt to imagine a perfect world, free of oppression domination and needless suffering. Then we will put it into practice. We have to fight to get there.
“I wake up slowly, having slept long enough to recover from the previous days activities, as long as it takes. The bedroom is private and my lover is already up. Other rooms are communal – there are options. I enjoy a hot shower then eat leftovers from the group breakfast. There are fruits and cereals, soymilk, almond milk, tea, coffee and sweet breads, fruit juices and coconut milk. Because I tend to sleep in, I help wash the dishes and store uneaten food.
After helping with daily duties, such as cleaning the bathrooms, bedrooms, common areas and classrooms, we discuss plans for the gardens and maintenance projects. Then I go out and help pull weeds, relocate pests and water the companion plantings. After this I work on repairing and building whatever needs done – tools for the garden, housing, transportation, hydro, solar and wind energy harvesting, and moisture farming. Then I go to the medical center, my favorite kind of work.
Transportation is electric or manual, either private bikes, rechargeable scooters and cars and trucks, or public transportation shuttles – whatever is necessary and available. Sometimes we fly, sometimes we roll. Today I feel tired from manual labor in the edible forest so I ride the public shuttle and enjoy the excitement of flying over the lush, green landscape.
On the way to the hospital I drink a sports stimulant soda. It’s very strong, and I am addicted to them, but that’s my choice. I need the energy for work because I’m an afternoon shift emergency medical rescue volunteer, and I can feel the years creeping up on me. I’m my fifties but it’s hard to tell thanks to an otherwise healthy diet, modern medical science, yoga, exercise and martial arts. I always feel conflicted when I reflect on self defense. In a truly ideal world it wouldn’t be necessary, but herstory has shown us that what will not defend itself will not last.
On arriving at work I eat a quick lunch with my team, my appetite being curbed by the stimulants. Together we share bananas, sports drinks, breads, and veggie plates – soups, fried veggie balls in marinara sauce called kafta and stir fried rice with onions, peppers, cauliflower (Hassan, our pilot, says they look like my ears) and mini corn cobs. I pick anxiously at the small portions on my plate. Experience tells me that I’ll be wrist and ankle deep in some poor friend’s body parts within the hour. I hate when I’m right.
As the alarm sounds I think about my lover and feel regret. Is it regret for the separation and danger, or do I secretly love this adventure more than my partner? There’s no time for interpersonal philosophy right now. Someone is bleeding or broken and we are on the way to rescue them.
Everyone on the team drops their utensils on plates and runs to the door, placing food scraps in the compost bin and plates in the next container in smooth, quick motions. We sprint outside, trying to simultaneously tune out and appreciate the cheers of the kids and families who survived previous emergency rescue operations. They line the halls and garden walkways leading to the rescue shuttles. The patients tending the gardens for physical therapy have been intentionally placed on the path to the shuttle pads. Sometimes it cheers me up; sometimes I see the ghosts of people we couldn’t save.
Our datapads are screeching details of the emergency rescue mission on their speakers. The location first, but the map is already showing us routes and details of the site. It’s the victim details that concern us. We exchange startled looks as we load in and clasp the straps, except our team leader, Comrad Diana. She barks orders and we move, prepping stretchers, I.V. bags, blood bags, oxygen masks and burn kits. Everything else we already have staged in our personal vests and go-bags – both draped over the shoulders of our one piece outfits.
We draw strength and courage from her confidence and skill. She preps her own area in the shuttle closest to the drop ramp. She leads by example and we know her first priority is our safety and saving lives. I love her fiercely in a pure way that transcends labels like gender, mother, teacher or leader. Our relationship is professional, functional and inspirational. Diana is my mentor and my friend.
Hassan had the shuttle floating before we arrived on the pad with his datapad’s personal remote controls. Now we are sitting against the walls, facing in, holding our stretchers, contemplating the details of the scene we are approaching. The datapads describe a grim scene – it’s a mass casualty event. Unknown number of victims. Explosions, gunfire and possibly chemical and biological weapons.
“A supplemental community food forest has been attacked by unknown militants, a number and resources unknown, during a field trip, which has placed children on the battlefield. The kids were targeted intentionally by these terrorists. The other belligerents are the anarchist battlefield commune, The People’s Protection Militia and the International Communist Kommandos. Utopia International has been targeted by the fascist Azov Foreign Legion, the French Foreign Legion and the so-called United Islamic Emirates Brotherhood. Any of these could be the enemies today – all of the legions and brotherhoods are professionally trained and well armed forces. Today the anarchists, communists and socialists are aligned with Utopia’s rescue party and the Democratic Confederacy of International Autonomous Zones. Volunteers, proceed with caution.”
The voice pauses and the maps on our datapads zoomed in on the rural area just outside of town. The voice had a sleight slur to it and al isp. We were almost to the drop zone. The shuttle began to rattle and swerve from side to side as Hassan dropped us low. Next to me “Comrad” Ronin laughed. I hate that guy.
“Maybe if we didn’t have retards in dispatch logistics our enemies wouldn’t be so bold to attack our kids!” Ronin shouted over the roaring air as the drop ramp lowered. I snapped.
“Shut the fuck up Ronin! I’ll platform you if you keep insulting disabled comrades! You’re just nervous about this mission so I’ll let it slide! That autistic kid in logistics is twice as smart as you are!”
Ronin laughed again. This is how he deals with stress. It pisses me off but I understand.
Across from me Comrade Avesta threw up on the floor between her feet. Vomit splashed on to her mekap style running shoes, the free shoes Utopia provides to all its community members. She began to shake her head and cry. Ronin shut his mouth and looked down, chastened.
“I can’t do this again!” Avesta cried. “It’s too much!” She jumped in her harness as the distant sounds of explosions became louder, physical sensations of shocking vibrations. Avesta screamed.
“Not again! It’s too soon!”
Below her gloves and above her long sleeves I can see the ripped flesh of scar tissue. Above her collar and below her face mask the scars continued. Tears streamed down her face. She was just coming back to the rescue party after six months of physical and psychological therapy. The enemy, Azov at the time, had targeted us after drawing us into an ambush, using wounded civilians as bait. We all knew she was brave to return at all. It wasn’t my place to tell her what to do – as a woman she fell into Diana’s unit. I was a team leader for men, and all women outrank all men. Diana spoke up.
“Look at me Avesta! Look at me!”
Avesta looked up to her left where Diana sat by the dor. Beyond her the forest burned. The shuttle began to slow.
“It’s too late to go back!” Diana yelled.
Avesta moaned and put her face in her hands.
“Look at me! Now! Listen, you’ve done great work every time we do this! You have to face this! Don’t let them win! You owe it to those kids! You’re luckier than Tim and Rosa were! You owe it to them!”
The shuttle bounced as Hassan brought us to a stop. The red light above Diana turned green. Diana unbuckled and stood up. Outside shouts and screams drifted.
“Let’s go! Follow me!”
Diana and Ronin grabbed their stretcher and dragged it out, the large multi-terrain wheels rolling in the mud and ashes. Large farm houses and clumps of hundred year old oak trees shielded our shuttle. This is the staging area for the wounded. Deeper in the food forest the conflict raged. Rifles, rockets, smoke and gas. Clumps of companion plants had been shaped by the trees before this attack. We were in a plain just behind two mountains. The food forest rested in the valley between the mountains-terraced slopes. One mountain was occupied by the enemies, the valley and the left mountain were occupied by the anarchists and socialists. The communist militia was trying to take the right mountain. Rockets flashed back and forth, tracers snapped back and forth like lasers between every three or four bullets. Rifles and machine guns chattered and thumped like a disjointed beat of a dubstep song.
Avesta and I followed the first team with our stretcher. Behind us Nguyen and Athena compelted our squad. Ahead of us was a circle of pickup trucks covered in home-made plates of armor. Utopia’s strength is in our medical technology and horticultural science, so we don’t have armored war machines. Inside the circle of trucks was a few classes of screaming kids and teens, a handful of wounded soldiers and a row of silent bodies. A few more trucks rotated to the front and returned with more wounded. One came back smoking and exploded just before it reached the staging area. It was terrible. Diana took charge.
“Triage the wounded, kids and worst cases that can survive go back to the shuttle for medevac. Otherwise try to stabilize the rest.” She was already walking past a kid with a bullet hole in his jaw and an exit wound in his throat. She ignored him as he reached out for her and focused on a teen with few gunshot wounds in their limbs and another on their left breast. She slapped a chest seal to the front and back of their torso, over the entry and exit wounds. The chest seals were like big clear stickers. The other lung was already inflating, a conditions called tension pneumothorax, so Ronin stabbed a needle into their chest and now they could relieve air pressure and breathe through the needle. Then Ronin and Diana tied CAT tourniquets to each limb and packed the wounds, then wrapped them in pressure bandages.
Each team went to work like this. The boy with the wounded throat died before we loaded the first round into the shuttle. Diana and Ronin stayed behind with Nguyen and Athena. Once the stretchers were full we carried kids with leg wounds to the open floor spaces. Walking wounded were brought to shuttle seats. We made several trips and Avesta held it together the whole time. Twelve children died.
The anarchists were the first to arrive and fought recklessly, preventing the enemy from taking the food forest. They suffered the most casualties, losing fifteen friends. The People’s Protection Militia arrived second and pinned the fascists to the mountain. After watching to see who would likely win, the communists finally jumped in, dramatically charging up the occupied mountain as the enemy was already retreating. The PPM lost ten friends and the communists lost twelve. Twenty one enemies were killed.
They turned out to be fascists from the Azov Foreign Legion. They are zealous Christian mercenaries. A few were captured. They were ashamed they had killed children but claimed they were “just following orders.”
Back home a communal funeral was held. Coffins were carried through the streets. Tens of thousands lined the roads to the grave yards, openly weeping for the children and cheering for the martyrs and their living comrades. We mourned together. The community made time and space for us to heal and talk about what we saw and did and couldn’t do. We offered each other criticisms, accepted criticisms and offered self-criticisms. Then we made changes to improve.
We ate dinner together in the International Commune and invited the families of the martyrs. I drank homemade wine and smoked hash from our cannabis gardens. One day I might be a parent and I will continue to defend and rescue this Utopia so they can have a place to grow up where our values are truth, beauty, freedom, and goodness.
No idea is worth losing the moral high ground. Dogmatic mysticism, nationalism and tyranny are the enemies of Utopia. Our vision is based on love, with a place for all people regardless of ability, gender, or race. Tonight I sleep with a clean conscience, surrounded by friends.