The Bad Influence
Published in

The Bad Influence


A Scholarly Treatise on “Independence,” which is often regarded as Synonymic with the word “Freedom”

Incite Change Essay Contest #3: Freedom

Feral Life Forms . . . Image by Sara W. from Pixabay

I’ve always said that I seized my independence in 1961 at age 8. It never occurred to me that independence and freedom meant the same thing, at least in my case. (If you take apart the word “independence” it means you’ve cut away whatever tethers you’d been previously hanging from. Seriously.)

I had cut my bonds with my parents, and never really thought about the fact that I cut my bonds with everybody and everything too. In a way I stole my freedom — it’s kind of antisocial. But ever since I became independent I’ve never mortgaged my freedom to anybody or any entity either.

It helps that I figured out life and survival and death, what you need and what you don’t. I had all that nailed by the time I was sixteen, in 1969. You need food and water and a safe place to sleep to stay alive. I found that the safe place to sleep is one of the more difficult survival tools, but altogether I think I’ve failed to sleep safely fewer than 5 times in the past 60 years. I only went without food once, which happened yesterday of all times and lasted less than one day. It was interesting . . .

I live in a very small village in rural Panama now, and I get by on $550 a month after paying rent. It’s barely enough money but it is enough. If something life-threatening demanded that I come up with a way to pay for treatment, I probably wouldn’t be able. But being unafraid of anything, in particular death, is one of the reasons I feel my complete freedom. If some health problem can’t be treated because of its cost, then it’ll go untreated, and I’ll die soon or I won’t.

Okay, I lied. I lied in the title. This isn’t a scholarly article, is it? I was thinking it would be, but no. Although . . . knowledge of life and death and needs and not-needed is a lifelong scholarly journey, as well as experiential. Let’s split the difference and agree that I found freedom and happiness but that an article is not a treatise. Okay?

I’ll throw in a great takeaway:

Freedom can be as simple as just making the decision to live free, to be yourself. If you make it more complicated than that, you probably won’t find freedom.

Well, thank you for reading. I said my piece in 301 words, which is a lot for me.

Here are some links so that The Bad Influence will feel I’m respecting them, even though I am not-de-pendent on them, they don’t hold the puppet strings.

Here is the article that invited me to contribute this story. The Bad Influence is my favorite publication, though I like Umair Haque too, and Jonica Bradley is a true, dyed in the wool American and a great editor and writer:

Here’s where The Bad Influence trolls for money, or coffee, or maybe drugs . . . or possibly where they try to incite change, I have no idea:

Here’s a no-brainer. Sometimes that’s literally true of Reuben Salsa, and this one might be one of those rare examples. Most times he is extremely competent though crazy, and I have no clue what he’s saying. Still, he’s one of my top 10 favorites, along with 28 other writers:

ib a dib a dib — that’s all folks!



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Fred Ermlich

Living in rural Panamá — non-extractive, non-capitalistic. Expat USA. Scientist, writer, researcher, teacher. STEM mentor +languages.