The Saxon Freemen


In the year 772 Charlemagne invaded the lands of the Saxons. It would take him more than thirty years to complete the subjugation, years that included forced conversions to Christianity - the alternative being execution - and the slaughter of 4,500 Saxon prisoners at Verden; and yet, come the year 841, the Saxons rose up one last time in an attempt to restore their old ways. Though quickly put down, it is remarkable that rebellion still dwelt in their hearts, and that old traditions had abided - underground - in the interim. A powerful love of something was passed along in their households. But what?


Certainly, these forgotten people are no less deserving of respect than the many indigenous cultures that now claim preservation as a human right. The Last of the Freemen is a tale of their descendants, living in the United States in the not-too-distant future. This allows me to explore the beliefs and qualities that made them so difficult to conquer, and to do so in a manner relevant to the modern world. In articles that follow, I will explore some themes of the novel - and more broadly, consider the cultural drivers of freedom - for anyone who finds these things of interest.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cultural secession

   Culture is an essential but often overlooked element in the resistance to tyranny.  History provides plentiful examples; Charlemagne had great trouble with both Saxons and Basques; culture was the driving force in Jewish resistance to the Romans; and likewise for the Scots against the English.  But we, today, seem to be missing that clarity.  We've been conquered without noticing, and the old cultures of our ancestors are mostly gone - often given up willingly for the promise of something better, a promise that perhaps held good for a time.  We now find ourselves overtaken by a kind of bizarre pseudo-culture of bread and circuses called "the mainstream"- which has neither ancient traditions nor connection to the land, but rather originates in the controlled messaging of government schools and the mass media.  The values of this conquering system can be summed up as: don't think too much, obey, and always, always trust authority.
   There seems to be no stopping the escalating thefts of our autonomy and our time; governments do what they will, engaging in coercive social engineering and profiteering through a multitude of unpopular measures and unaccountable agencies.  If voting makes no difference, what can an individual do?  It's easy to feel powerless.  But - you can secede.  You can nullify the stupidity and blind obedience that go along with mainstream behavior.
   I see many examples of inchoate cultural secession already - by which I mean the constructive withdrawal from the mainstream, controlled as it is by globalist money and influence - although these withdrawals are not always self-aware as such.  Across the political spectrum there is revulsion and revolt: from homeschoolers to "eat local" trends, permaculture to precious metal enthusiasts, from alternative medicine to the sound of our music (should A=440 Hz?), elite memes are being challenged and overturned.  And when the grievances can be traced to a common source - the grotesque symbiosis of big government, central banks, multinational corporations and global NGOs - I see no need for bickering between 'right' and 'left'.  Call it oligarchy or a kind of maladaptive institutional opportunism, the individual is powerless to change their direction.  But by repositioning yourself, and the culture you bring into the world through your own actions, you can deprive them of their leverage.
   As individuals involved in these various withdrawals - these nullifications of influence and authority - we need only realize the commonality of our efforts.  A self-aware secessionist movement that works towards family-based, locally-sourced self-reliance will build the networks that prove troublesome for any tyranny, national or global.  Simple acts, like shutting off your television, talking to your neighbors, bartering, or participating in alternative markets take on a new significance when seen in this light.  The movement isn't, and shouldn't be, monolithic, and it need not have a name or a leader; far better without, thus depriving the powers-that-be of an easy target.  All it needs is self-awareness.  The rest has already begun.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Freedom and the fighting spirit

   What is freedom?  Most would agree it means the absence of bondage, although we might not reach consensus on what exactly constitutes 'bondage'; some are content to give up, say, forty percent of their income as a kind of civic duty, and believe everyone else should be forced to do the same.  Others consider this a form of enslavement.  Of course these differences won’t ever be settled.  They’ll play out in the ebb and flow of opinion, and in the rise and fall of nation-states; what's more, the more cultural discord that exists, the less likely we are to find anything close to agreement on this.  But where a sufficient number demand their freedom, however they conceive of it, it is likely to occur.
   In discussions of freedom we encounter the same recurring guideposts; John Locke is often mentioned, as is John Stuart Mill.  It's almost as if the concept of freedom didn't exist before these men wrote about it.  Except that we also hear of the Magna Carta, that supposedly wonderful gift to posterity from the English (Anglo-Norman) aristocracy. (For an excellent perspective on this overhyped work, see one of my favorite blogs here.)
   The word 'freedom' dates from Old English - which died as an official language in 1066.  This is well before the Magna Carta was written (1215), and many centuries before John Locke came along (b.1632).  Likewise for the related 'Freiheit' in German.  These words were spoken, given life and meaning, by individuals who thought for themselves, and who likely had no schooling in the Classics.  They didn't need Aristotle to tell them about freedom.  They knew.
   So then, what of all these historic guideposts?  The charters, the bills of rights, the treatises?  I see them as byproducts of societies already preoccupied with freedom; such preoccupation arising from a tension between those who have internalized some cultural notion of it - and would rather fight than be abused - and those who wish to abuse them.
   I don’t suppose that 8th century Saxons had a perfect society; there is no such thing, after all.  Some kept slaves.  They had something of a caste system.   They didn't shy away from fighting; indeed, it seems to have been what we would today call a 'macho' culture.  But that is perhaps the crux of it; freedom in the West - where kings and governments have often been forced to acknowledge rights they truly despise - is the offspring of a fighting culture.  Not a warrior caste, though; these men were both farmers and fighters, thus thwarting the neat feudal divisions of social function - and land ownership - that facilitated bondage.
   Only when a substantial number of men feel an obligation to combat their assailants, might those assailants be held in check.  This is not to advocate violence, or to say it’s the only alternative in the face of rising statism.  But the readiness to fight must never be banished from our natures, nor should it be shamed from the realm of public discourse.  It is there, as part of our heritage and our societal dialogue, that defiance can serve as counterbalance, warning, and inoculant.  Our intractability is indispensable to the cause of freedom.
 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Laws, customs, and the Saxons

   Thomas Jefferson, perhaps freedom's greatest advocate during the founding years of the United States, was also an Anglo-Saxonist; that is, he admired the culture of pre-Norman England.  He even wrote that because America was never conquered by William the Norman, the system of ownership here was rightfully allodial.  (Source here.)  Sadly, we nonetheless ended up with a British-style, feudal-derived 'fee simple' system, where you own property only so long as the government lets you.  But he understood there dwelt something in the old Saxon culture that was curiously unamenable to arbitrary rule, and he believed this quality would be transferred to America.
   The West Germanic tribes had their own words for law; æ or æw in Old English, ēwa in Old High German (surviving in modern German as Ehe, meaning marriage), and ēo in Old Saxon.  These words were cognates, deriving either from a root meaning 'custom' or one meaning 'eternity', the sense there being 'eternally existing law'. (Source here.)  In both English and German, as feudalism crushed older customs and power coalesced toward the creation of modern nation-states, they were supplanted by words - law and Gesetz, respectively - meaning instead 'what is laid/set down'.  Interesting change.
   The lines were once blurred between custom and law.   But can I equate this with a kind of natural law, as I do in The Last of the Freemen?   By my own interpretation, it seems Thomas Jefferson did nearly the same.  The modern concept of natural law - the rational deduction of universal values - is of course not the same as custom.   But for those partaking in any culture, the old customs and unwritten rules will certainly feel natural.
   Beyond this I would add: unless we see ourselves as existing somehow apart from nature (an odd concept, really, since I don't believe we came on space ships from somewhere else), then any time-tested custom that has arisen organically in a group - through cohesion rather than coercion - and that has enabled that group's survival, would have to be considered 'natural'.
  Finally, customary and natural law share this in common: frequent conflicts with posited law, that which is set down by tyrants and governments for their own benefit.
    I avoid using the term 'common' law in this context because it is subject, especially in our age, to judicial activism; that is, precedent-setting intended to gain political leverage or to effect social change.  In a former time, when certain men could pass judgment largely because they were held in esteem - rather than because they excelled at a credentials game - this would have been unlikely: arbitrary judgments would have discredited and so disempowered them.
   I don't know all that was encompassed by the older law; but if it permeated Saxon culture to the point of inciting conflicts with agents of arbitrary rule, as it seems to have done in early England and on the Continent, then clearly it shaped the nature of freedom across northern Europe.  Oh, and in America, too.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Saxon Freemen

   In the year 772 Charlemagne invaded the lands of the Saxons.  It would take him more than thirty years to complete the subjugation, years that included mass, forced conversions to Christianity - the alternative being execution - and the slaughter of 4,500 Saxon prisoners at Verden; and yet, come the year 841, the Saxons - not all, but many of the freemen who had been reduced to peasantry by this new world order - rose up one last time in an attempt to restore their old ways.
   Known as the Stellinga, it was quickly put down and the leaders executed.  But to consider that rebellion still dwelt in their hearts after so many years, and that old traditions had abided - underground - in the interim, is quite amazing.  A powerful love of something was passed along in their households.  But what?  Certainly, these forgotten people are no less deserving of respect than the many other indigenous cultures who now properly claim their preservation as a human right.
    The Last of the Freemen is a tale of their descendants, living in the United States in the not-too-distant future.  This device allows me to explore the beliefs and qualities that made them so difficult to conquer, and to do so in a manner relevant to the modern world.  In articles that follow, I will explore some themes of the novel - and more broadly, consider the cultural drivers of freedom - for anyone who finds these things of interest.