Yanis Varoufakis - Talking to My Daughter (2009)

“Whether you adapt your behavior to suit market society’s needs, or become obstinate enough to want to adapt society to your own ideas about what society should be like instead, performing a periodic mental withdrawal from our society’s norms and certainties is vital.”

Once the basic needs such as food, drink, a roof over your head, a sufficient financial buffer, etc. are met, you yourself are actually the only one standing in the way of increasing your freedom. According to the philosopher Peter Bieri, increasing your inner freedom depends on three things: your room to play, your imagination and your ability to take some distance. 

Every human being has a certain amount of leeway that depends on, among other things, their origins, their upbringing, the culture in which they grew up, the (social) media, the economic context, etc. Everyone is thus to a greater or lesser extend chained to his or her past and context. You can actively work to increase that latitude through, among other things, introspection or even psychotherapy, but you must realize that that latitude will always be limited. In our meritocratic Western culture, the individual is held responsible for their own failures. We get the message, "The only choice you have is to choose." A second element to increase inner freedom is imagination. You must be able to imagine how you will feel when you make certain important choices. How will I feel if I lose the status of my job? Am I attached to the pay that comes with my job? A third, and for us personally the most important element, is the ability to distance yourself from the context you are in. 

Yanis Varoufakis has written a book for his daughter 'Talking to My Daughter: a brief history of capitalism'. At the very end of the book he gives her the good advice to step back from time to time in order to be able to look at everything from a different perspective: "Whether you adapt your behavior to suit market society's needs, or become obstinate enough to want to adapt society to your own ideas about what society should be like instead, performing the Archimedean leap - a periodic mental withdrawal from our society's norms and certainties - is vital."


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