Posted: June 8th, 2010 by Gadget42
“Freedom Outlaw.” The term came up here a few days ago. It’ll arise again and again on this blog.
If you’ve been hanging out in my vicinity for a few years, you probably know what I mean by it. If not, you might be puzzled or even offended by the notion that people who believe in freedom are (or should be) criminals. Thought I’d stop this morning and define some terms.
So this is mostly for people who haven’t heard it all before.
A Freedom Outlaw is (loosely) somebody who cares so much about freedom that he or she will go after it regardless of any laws or regulations blocking the way. Will go after it personally. Not petition for it. Not write letters for it. Not vote for it. But GO for it.
Also, a Freedom Outlaw has panache. Think Robin Hood. Think V. Think (not to be self-promotional here, but …) of the swashbuckling fellow on the cover of this book.
Does a Freedom Outlaw really have to be a criminal? Well … yes and no. If the thought of being a criminal offends you, I can only say, “Get over it.” As Kent McManigal states so well, every, single one of us is already a criminal. We violate obscure laws from the time we open our eyes in the morning till the moment we fall exhausted into bed. Three Felonies a Day according to Harvey Silverglate. And the more innocent we are in our hearts when we commit those “crimes,” the riper we are for the plucking by corrupt prosecutors and regulators.
Heck, we probably violate laws, federal or state, even as we snooze. Maybe our PJs flout fireproofing regulations. Perhaps our snoring is regulated somewhere as noise pollution. Maybe our dreams are filled with acts of subversion.
But the simple fact is that we are already criminals, each and every one of us, even if we do our utmost to be “law-abiding citizens.”
There are simply too many laws to abide.
So we might as well embrace and enjoy what we are.
“Outlaw” isn’t an exact synonym for “criminal,” though. Historically, an outlaw was a person placed outside the protection of the law — fair game, in other words. Well, we are not fair game if we’re armed, both physically and mentally. But increasingly, the best people of the world are indeed “outside the protection of the law.” The law, such as it is, exists to fleece, silence, intimidate, and control us — not to protect us.
We’re there. So again, we might as well embrace and enjoy our status.
And that is what a Freedom Outlaw is and does.
I was tempted to call this scrap of prose a Freedom Outlaw’s credo. Or manifesto. But as soon as the thought entered my head, I realized that any true Freedom Outlaw would rip up anybody else’s attempted manifesto — would fire an arrow or slash his sword or put a 230-grain bullet through anyone’s proclaimed credo. Or maybe just step on the thing and ignore it as he strode boldly by. Because whatever else they are, Freedom Outlaws are all different from one another. Nobody can speak for an Outlaw but the Outlaw.
In the past, when proclaiming the Grand Freedom Outlaw Cabal (which I can do because unlike a credo or manifesto, it doesn’t require anybody else’s buy-in; feel free to be a Cabal-of-One, as I am), I’ve sketched out three types of Freedom Outlaw: the Ghost; the Agitator; and the Mole.
- The Ghost slides through the world with minimal visibility. He may live without “official papers” and do all that implies — living outside of databases, credit reports, and forms-in-triplicate. The Ghost lives on the margins, in the spaces where “good little citizens” don’t go.
- The Agitator … well, he makes noise. But not just the polite noise of letters to the editor or participation in rallies. The Agitator may be a trickster. Or a monkeywrencher. Or a leader of factions. Or a Julian Heicklen-style crusader. But in any case, he’s someone who puts his (or her, of course) own life and health on the line to commit direct action for freedom.
- The Mole lives an exemplary life, obeying all possible laws, filing taxes, crossing the street only in crosswalks, holding a respectable job (maybe even a government job) … but on the side and in silence gives help to freedom causes and freedomistas. Or saves herself up for the day when a single act of sabotage or whistleblowing can bring down an enemy of liberty.
Very few people are all one kind of Outlaw. Nobody can or should be squeezed into any one category. The categories are just there to be used if you find them useful.
But since they’re there … To those three (highly flexible, mutable, and very non-exclusive) types of Outlaw, I’m now, a bit reluctantly adding a fourth:
- The Cockapoo. That’s a type I’ve hinted at from my first books. But it’s a last choice — a choice of the tired, beaten, and all-but-defeated. But these strange days, an increasing number of us are tired, beaten, and darned-close-to-defeated. So … when no choice is left to you, when all else has failed, become a Cockapoo. Accept every scrap of “aid” offered by the benevolent but all-consuming state. Be useless. Become the government’s pet — and contribute in your own small, but purposeful, way to sucking it dry.
Don’t tell me about it if you don’t like that — or any other — form of Freedom Outlaw. Just go your own way and be your own kind of Outlaw. Nobody is stopping you except YOU.
But know what you’re doing. And do it with style. And don’t kid yourself that you’re a Freedom Outlaw if you’re actually just going along to get along and you never actually take meaningful, real-world steps to become more free.
We all break laws all the time. We can do it in a vile, truly criminal way by committing acts that are mala in se. Or we can — and do, every day — commit acts of mala prohibita. (Thank you, T., for the reminder.)
We can commit mala prohibita with furtive, creepy, ordinary criminal intent. Or with ignorant innocence, as millions of our stumbling fellow citizens do all the time. Or we can do it with “creative disregard” for the silliness or cruelty of bad laws. We can do it with insouciance, verve, boldness — knowing full well what we do and embracing what we have become in the process — former citizens now “outside the protection of the law.” Above all, we can live with purpose, furthering freedom in our own lives and with our own lives, by our refusal to cower and mindlessly obey.
Freedom Outlaw. It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it. It’s an attitude — from which actions always follow. It’s a do-it-yourself occupation. And a lifetime vocation.