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Freedom and Happiness

Do you take freedom for granted? A short interview with Dr. Andy Bernstein.

(this is raw unedited text, computer transcribed directly from the audio, without voice inflection, pauses etc. Sometimes this results in the text implying the opposite of the intended meaning.)

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(Intro to this segment - audio from Back to the Future Part One) . . .
What do you let those boys push you around like that for?

Well, they're bigger than me.

Stand tall boy! Have some respect for yourself. Don't you know if you let people walk over you now they'll be walking over you for the rest of your life.

During during this segment we're going to talk about freedom and happiness. How do you make the most of your freedom? And with me today to discuss this is Andy Bernstein. I call him this Dr. Andy Bernstein. I call him my resident philosopher. Andy, welcome to the show.

Good to be here. As always.

You have your PhD in philosophy. And are you still teaching at Pace University?

Taught there for many years. I'm not teaching there right now. But SUNY Purchase and Concordia College.

And you give talks all over the country. Name some of the places you've given talks at.

Well, I was at Stanford last week, I just got back from the West Coast gave a talk at UCLA, one at University of Toronto, been at Harvard many times. University of Colorado, at RPI. Yep.

And you've written countless articles. You're a fabulous lecturer, you give wonderful, wonderful talks. You've written even cliff notes. And you've also written a novel, the heart of a pagan.

Yes, that's right.

And today, we're going to talk about as I mentioned, freedom and happiness. And you know, I hear it said all the time, we take our freedom for granted. And it has this very heavy sound to it, you know, you take your word freedom for granted, you don't know what you've got. It's almost like somebody lecturing you pointing their finger at you. What does it mean to take your freedom for granted?

Well, first of all, we need to identify them with freedom, political freedom means that no one can physically prevent you from going after the things that you love. And I think too many Americans don't take advantage of this. And if you ask me why that is, I would say that I think I think a lot of people in the United States, but other countries too, but surely many Americans are not sufficiently committed to their own personal happiness. For instance, religion might tell them that they're sinful, or they must serve God first. Their Marxist professors and the liberal politicians tell them they don't have to sacrifice for society. Well, maybe their parents call them selfish, you know, when they're little kids and screamed at them, I hit them, made him feel guilty, worthless. And you know, because of all these reasons, people won't necessarily stand up to this. It's a big responsibility to stand up to all of this hideous baggage, you know, all these voices in your head preaching, your unworthiness, and to assert, but I want this, and I want it for myself. That's a very difficult thing to do. And I think a lot of people really struggle with it. So the main barrier for people going out there and saying, Oh, this is what I would love as a career. This is the person I really want to marry, and I'm going to pursue him or her. And this is what I would love to do as a hobby. This is my hobby. I know my parents don't love it. But I love tennis. I know dad hates it, but I love it. I'm doing it. The ability to do that means that you have to learn how are you want to learn how to value yourself?

Yeah, exactly. I mean, just because that we are politically free in this country, doesn't mean that people are psychologically free. I mean, there are many people who are psychologically enslaved. I mean, there's simply enslaved to this idea they learned from their parents or from the government or from the church, that they're basically worthless that they're deserving of good things and happiness. They they have no right to it. They're sinful, this selfish, and going after what they want in contrast to other people, and the psychologically enslaved to this idea that political freedom consequently does them no good.

So they ended up being it's like they they're in prison, and they throw away their own keys.

That's a nice analogy.

I wish I could say I made it up. I got it from one of the books I read, but I love it. So littered with Dr. Ellen, thank you. You know, let me give you a sample of this. Because I think it's something that's so pervasive, and it's so subtle people don't even realize they're throwing away their goals, their life, their dreams, they don't even form dreams. You know, many people can I can, can you try to encourage me to do something with my life, and I'm going to give you the feedback that that most of us have absorbed through the culture.

Alright, so you want me you want me to tell you like how much is possible to Yeah. All right. Well, I would point out that . . .

Hey, I gotta interrupt this because we've got to pay some bills. 30 seconds. That's it. A very quick break and then Ellen will be back.

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I mean, the world is filled with great things and with exciting opportunities.

We know it is for other people, but not for me. I do see other people succeeding, but you just don't understand I don't have the ability or the knowledge or the motivation.

Well, I mean, abilities can be improved knowledge can be gained. Whoa, go to school, you get knowledge and what's what's holding you back.

I just feel like, you know, my dad always wanted me to work in the restaurant business. And so I'm going to do that. But I'll tell you, my life feels flat.

Well, how about just saying To hell with your dad and realize? How can

you say To hell with it? Well, I mean, he brought me up, he painted the roof over my head.

Right? But now he's also enslaving you what if you came to the realization that we're not restricted by any any lack of really opportunities, we're only restricted by the bad ideas that we tell ourselves?

Well, that's great. You know, I can say to myself, Okay, just tell dad that you want to go in and do what I've always wanted to do. I've always, I've always loved landscape architecture, I don't want to run a restaurant. But you know, I can't talk to him, can you go talk to him?

Well, it's not going to help you with, if I talk to him, you're the one who's gonna have to reconcile in your own mind that you have a right to your own life. It's, I understand you love your dad, and you respect them. And you don't want to make them unhappy. But the key idea here is, is that in your own mind, it's in your mind, you're either you have the right to your own life, and to preserve your own happiness. So you are a servant, and or slave to your father. Until you reconcile that, in your own mind. Nobody else can go talk to you that I could tell you not to do you want to go?

And do you have no idea. Even if I spoke up to dad, I would feel so guilty because I go to the sermons on Sunday at church and they tell me that honor thy father and mother and obey thy father and mother. And I would just feel so damn darn selfish.

Well, I understand that you can go on honoring your mother and your father, I assume that they're very good people. While at the same time as now that you are an adult, you're you need the recognition that you also have a right to your own life. And if anybody tells you that, you have to give up the things, that your life is important to you and have to give up your happiness, that they're being very immoral. They're, they're acting like a dictator over you. And they're very wrong, even if in other ways, they're good people, and you have to stand up to them and tell them that no matter how much you love them, you have a right to your own life, and you're gonna pursue the things that are important to you. It's just as, presumably your father runs the restaurant. And he went after what he wants, and he did the right thing and filled his life with happiness. So you have to convince yourself more than him you convince him to, but mostly, you have to convince yourself that you have a right to go after the things you want that make you happy, just like your father went after what he wanted and made him happy.

Okay, so that's what we're talking about. I'm talking with Dr. Andy Bernstein. And we were just talking about a typical situation that many of us find ourselves in, where we're not, we're politically free. We're in America, we're politically free, but we're psychologically enslaved. Because we've bought into three different sets of ideas, one of three different sets of ideas, and I think you've mentioned them at the beginning. One of them is the religious idea that somehow man is born with original sin or man is bad, or you you're only good if you lay down and become a doormat in life. Is that accurate? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Anything you'd like to add to that one,

only that it's false, and that it's possibly responsive? I think the religious view is responsible for more psychologically crippled people than probably any other hideous theory in history.

Interesting. The second view was more generic that people are called selfish if they if you want to pursue your own goal. Oh, she's so selfish. She doesn't do for anybody else. She just goes after her own goals in life. Now there are people who are bulldozers, but there's all there are also people who are self valuing. And I think that's another thing, a weapon that you think people use to try to rob you of your own freedom.

Yep, they will. They will try to enslave you, somewhat physically, and some will do it. I mean, the psychological guilt. Okay.

I'm here with Dr. Andy Bernstein. Dr. Randy Bernstein has been wonderful talking with you today. And I hope as my resident philosophy you'll be back again soon.

Anytime. Dr. Ellen.

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