Maarten and I sometimes discuss the extreme freedom of choice we have in our modern western society and the stress and difficulties that this so-called freedom can create.  We feel it ourselves in our ongoing uncertainty of where we will end up living:  will it be America, the Netherlands, or somewhere in between?  We have the luxury of being free to choose, but this can also be a burden.  Some days I find myself wishing that we had to live somewhere for obvious and concrete reasons.  Then the uncertainty would be taken out of the equation and I could simply settle down to making the most of the situation.  I know very well that if that were the case I’d spend my time wishing I had more freedom to choose… I am aware that it is a problem that arises from luxury and I do appreciate that we are able to make decisions on our own terms.  The point I want to make is that freedom has a flip side.

Last night Maarten and I watched a Tegenlicht (Backlight): Nederland op de tekentafel documentary on VPRO about ‘searching for local renewal in a messy world’ that I really enjoyed and has kept me thinking ever since.  I especially appreciated Zygmunt Bauman’s (a sociologist of Polish birth) contribution.  Maarten was kind enough to wrestle with the computer until he figured out how to take that segment out so that I could share it with you here. 

It involves so much of what preoccupies me in my situation as a ‘cosmopolitan’ – a label I’m not entirely comfortable with but that has become a part of my identity for better or worse – and the effects this has on my own life, and even more so, those of my children as they grow up as global citizens caught between two countries.  I hope that I can give them enough of a sense of place (or two places, be that as it may) that it can balance out what I see as the negative aspects of such a global society. 

The following segment describes this duplicity very well.  Bauman discusses the fact that roots have been exchanged for anchors that can be put down in any port the ship arrives in.  The interviewer remarks that some would call that freedom.  Bauman replies: 

That’s true, but that freedom comes together in a package deal with tremendous uncertainty.

Exactly.  Here it is.  Hope you find it interesting.  If you are Dutch speaking you can watch the entire documentary here.


Now all I have to do is find a healthy balance between the two extremes.  Isn’t that always the most difficult thing to do?

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4 Responses to Freedom::Anchors::Roots

  1. Mom says:

    Such a thought provoking clip! I would love to hear a discussion between Mr. Bauman
    and Wendell Berry… I think they would be in agreement here. It speaks to a yearning we feel for “place”.

  2. michiel says:

    I followed two courses about ‘the ulitmate freedom’ and what stayed? I find freedom when it is totally quiet in my head, no words, no pictures, nothing, only endless space. When I have questions I drop them in that empty space and wait if the answer will come. When it comes it gives me freedom to be, to do with full responsability, sure that is my way to go.
    Yes to find the balance, to handle the distance between the extremes, is so difficult, causes so many pain. The moment the distance between the extremes becomes closer, the freedom is closer……with love Verena

  3. michiel says:

    a dutch poët living in the US says “rather homesick then Holland”.
    it is not the same as you write but mentions a same kind of ambiguity.
    to say “we can choose the best way of both “worlds”,is to easy.

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