What is independence?
We American’s celebrated our country’s independence from tyranny yesterday. We lit off explosives in honor of the rockets and their red glow during the war for independence. (And also because blowing things up is fun.) It’s an old victory, and one that’s grown to mean less and less as our elected leaders have become our masters instead of our servants.
Independence doesn’t mean just freedom from a king. It’s not just the ability to speak our mind and worship how we like. It’s freedom from paralyzing anxiety, nagging doubt, draining fear, burning anger. It’s freedom from stagnation and boxed-in thinking.
Responsibility with independence
Here in the West, and especially in the US, we have unparalleled freedom. But with great independence comes great responsibility. Having freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can yell FIRE in a crowded movie theater. It doesn’t mean you can insult or threaten others. Having freedom of religion doesn’t mean you can demand the entire population bow to your faith. It doesn’t mean you can abuse others in the name of your god. Having the right to bear arms doesn’t mean you can wave them about or shoot them off randomly. Having the freedom to buy what we want, eat what we want, and go where we want doesn’t give us the right to be irresponsible. Rights and freedoms are different. Neither should be abused.
Villains represent independence
As we’ve covered earlier, villains represent independence. We love them because they let us see what it would be like to act without regard for laws, norms, feeling, etc. We’d all like to do what we want without worrying about what people thought. We’d like to have to power to achieve our dreams. Villains can cut loose, kick butt and take names, with impunity – until they cross paths with the hero. Unless we want to be labeled a narcissist, ruin our reputation, and/or land in prison, we will never be able to do what villains do, so we settle for watching them. We live vicariously, and we’re better for it. Villains allow us to see the consequences – good and bad – of living without certain limits. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful to them for this “simulation” experience.
Villainous role models:
Maybe role model is the wrong word? Let’s go with examples instead. This is the fun part!
Norman Osborn/Goblin, Spider-Man (2002)
In Marvel’s first Spider-Man movie, the main villain is Norman Osborn, a filthy rich researcher who is working on some fascinating projects for the military. Basic purpose? Make super soldiers who ride hover board things that can blow stuff up. Yes, it sounds lame, because the whole movie was lame. Maybe if they’d stuck closer to the source material, we would’ve gotten a real villain instead of an eye-roller. Anyway, onward!
Predictably, Norman Osborn runs into financial trouble as the super soldier serum doesn’t work well. It has nasty side effects like making the subjects insane and violent. Nice. Also predictably, he tests on himself, because somehow he will be able to make it work…with force of will, I guess. Surprise! It doesn’t work. It does give him Disordered Identity Disorder, though. He talks to a goblin mask, which is a part of the flying suit for the hover board, which has great ideas about how to make him successful again. Too bad these idea involve killing, threatening, or destroying all competition.
Goblin, the alter ego, has the independence to simply murder anybody who gets in Norman’s way. He may not be the Goblin King, but Goblin is ruthless and cunning. He doesn’t care about the law or even collateral damage. Instead, he does what gets him ahead, fallout be damned.
Wouldn’t we all like to take the easy route and just off the difficult people in our lives? Be honest. If not offing, then at least threatening them so they get out of our way. A part of us rages against the morals and laws that keep us from throat punching idiots. What if that tiny part grew? What if it took over? Goblin and Osborn shows us what would happen. He’s a modern day Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Loki, Avengers and Thor movies
Loki is the son of the frost giant king, whom Odin killed. Odin adopted Loki, raising him with the rightful heir to the Asgard throne, Thor. While Loki could never match Thor’s strength, combat skills, or ability to wield Mjolnir, he made up for it by becoming an expert in the science and sorcery of Asgard. Oh, and let’s not forget he’s the Prince of Lies, Trickster of Tricksters. Only later did Loki discover his heritage. He’d always felt like he was scorned, a second-class citizen. Now he knew why.
In addition to mad skillz, he has the power of a god. He can shape shift, regenerate from fatal damage, wield magic, and pretty much live forever. His favorite activity? Wreaking havoc for his own pleasure. He’s a trickster, through and through. His dream is to rule Asgard, however. That happens to be Thor’s dream too. Oops.
Loki believes that slavery is freedom, in a very 1984 way. As long as he’s in charge, of course! Real independence is serving him. God complex much? Oh, wait… He says people want and need to be ruled. To an extent, that’s true, but only by a good leader. If there’s one thing he doesn’t understand, it’s independence. Let’s make sure we do understand.
Loki pulls pranks and stunts that would land anyone else on the execution block. But how do you kill a god, especially when he’s Thor’s adopted bro? Like all youngest siblings, he gets away with…well, literal murder. On a massive scale. And trying to take over the planet. He pulls his schemes with style and attitude, though, which somehow seem to make up for the destruction. If he’s locked up, he escapes and does it again.
Wouldn’t we all love to be able to get away with things like he does? Wouldn’t we like to just have his imagination!
Having his powers wouldn’t hurt either. …I mean, not that you’ve ever wanted to be the mother of a supernatural horse or anything. Or wolves. Or- Loki needs to just stop before things get even weirder.
But even if we had his power, would it make us happy? It hasn’t made him happy. He’s discontent, bitter, and envious.
Catwoman, Batman: The Animated Series
Catwoman is an antagonist, not a villain. She has a deep love of animals, primarily cats. Her other loves? Adrenaline and freedom. She’s an upstanding citizen by day, influential enough to hang with Bruce Wayne. By night, she’s a masked cat burglar who targets cat-related merch. I should add that she used the items she stole to fund projects to save wildlife. When she crosses paths with Batman, it’s infatuation at first strike. Batman isn’t amused.
Her charade continues for a few episodes but eventually the whole city knows she’s Catwoman. It’s sad, really, because she loses the freedom to be herself. She wants to be the graceful, independent cat, but instead she’s banned from donning the costume. This doesn’t last long, as soon she’s back in leather.
Wouldn’t we love to have her skills? How about her physique? Mmhmm. But I think what a lot of us would like just as much is to be able to be ourselves. She knew who she was. Do you know who you are? She pushed the limits, but Batman pushed right back. Do you push your limits?
I think we can all sympathize with her need for freedom from the rut.
Q, Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 1)
While he appears as a human dressed in garb from whatever time period catches his eye today, it’s unclear what exactly the Q is. He – or it or they – are far superior to humans in power. He’s practically a god, able to materialize at will, bend the laws of physics, control mental perceptions, teleport people and objects – the list goes on!
Humans are his prime interest: toying with them, mocking them, testing them, playing with them. The only way to counter him is with wits. The crew can usually out-reason or out-moral him. This I think is mainly because a living Enterprise crew entertains him more than a dead one.
Wouldn’t we love to have his powers? To have the right to be a god? Wouldn’t it be great to give yourself or your friends anything? Well, in Hide and Q (S1:E9), William Riker got to experience just that. He found that it wasn’t all it was made out to be, because he lacked the wisdom and omniscience to apply the power properly. Sometimes getting your dreams granted isn’t the best thing for you.
For all Q’s zany hi-jinks that could’ve killed everybody, his appearances always seemed to teach a deeper lesson and make the crew better humans.
Sauron, Lord of the Rings
The Dark Lord Sauron actually wants to make Middle Earth great again. But like Loki, he thinks he can do that by dominating the people. Controlling others so they make “right” choices was his solution to unruly subordinates. He has a good goal, but his execution could use work. Massive armies of orcs and goblins and evil humans don’t actually make people fall in love with you.
How many times have we wished we could just make other people do what we want? We know the best way! If only they’d do it, we’d all be happy. But do we? Or would we end up making a bigger mess? The only behavior we can control is our own, and we have trouble even with that. We need to fix our own lives -take the beam out of our own eyes – before we start picking on the speck in our brother’s eye.
Sauron’s power disintegrated, making him powerless. His strength became his weakness because of his pride. Don’t be that demi-god.
How to be independent:
It’s easy! Wait, no, that’s Staple’s Easy Button. Crap. Okay, so while being independent isn’t easy, it is possible. Here are a few ways to find independence without unleashing aliens on the world, mutating orcs, stealing cat artifacts, overdosing on super-soldier serums, or bothering Star Fleet crews.
Think outside the box
I’m going to keep beating this drum til I put a hole through it or get my point across. Whichever comes first. Open the box, tear your mind out of the shrink-wrapping, and get over keeping everything “mint in the box condition.” While thinking OotB takes practice, work, and endurance, its payoff is huge.
So how do you do think outside the box? Start small. Think of all the different ways to do something minor. Think of the optimal solutions, too. Like, wouldn’t it be great if people gave you a free lunch? Now, how can you set things up so it happens? How can you use your networks, opportunities, and resources in creative ways?
But it’s dangerous! Of course it is. Anything with a high payoff has a high level of risk. That’s life. You can either take the easy, mediocre, safe way, and get the easy, mediocre, safe result, or you can get out there and live dangerously. I don’t mean do stupid things like speed and/or binge drink. I mean travel, change jobs, change careers, meet new people, do new things, etc. Don’t feel up to it? That’s fine. Just don’t let me catch you whining on Facebook about your dull life.
The best way to be independent? Learn skills that will free you from relying on others. I don’t mean you have to get a master’s degree in everything. I mean you need to have a basic grasp of more skill sets. Knowing basic plumbing, carpentry, computer skills, automotive care, healthcare, cooking, etc. gives you more freedom to take on new projects and try new things. You gain confidence with every new skill!
Don’t listen to what your mom used to tell you about not talking to strangers – though you still shouldn’t take candy from them. Strangers are only strangers until you say, “Hi, my name is [whatever your name is]. What’s yours?” You’d be amazed how useful and interesting people can be if you give them a chance! Never ever write off people as being no use to you. You don’t know half as much as you think you do about them. Everyone has hidden talents, even if they consist of making you glad you’re not as crazy as that person. People can lead you to hidden treasure and new lands. Take a step of faith with them. Don’t rely on them, of course, but be open to the good things that come from social interaction. Come on, get out of that cave!
And I didn’t even mention how you helping them makes you feel fulfilled. Wait, I guess I just did,
The zompocalypse is coming! Quick, get in your self-sustaining bunker with its 10 years of food and armory fit for Fort Benning! You don’t have that? What have you been doing!
Hah, just kidding. But I am serious about being prepared. Have enough resources – food, fuel, money, water – to last a month if your outside sources for them go out. This is common sense. What if you lose your job and can’t afford things for a while? What if there’s a massive storm? How about a terrorist attack? Prepping gives you independence from the daily run to the store. It gives you confidence in your ability to provide for yourself and your family in times of hardship. It’s not about bunkers, it’s about safety.
Stop cringing! Self discipline is a great thing. You know how good you feel when you finish a task? When you defeat a challenge? That’s satisfaction. And the harder the job, the greater the satisfaction. Disciplining yourself isn’t self flagellation. No, it’s simply sticking to a system that gets the job done. That system is up to you. Self discipline frees you from the guilt you feel when you cave in to your desires and blow off your duties. Do you think villains get to super-villain status by slacking? No, they get there by killing- er, wait, I mean, uh… Well, you get my point.
In the end…
It’s all up to you. Don’t wait for a political leader, a significant other, or anything else to give you independence. You have a choice to make: go on with the status quo, or declare your independence. Beware: if you do declare independence, you have a fight on your hands. But it’ll be worth it.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
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