My country, Zambia, is headed to celebrate its 45th independence anniversary in October this year. As we do so I have been meditating on what it means to be independent. The question I ask myself is "are we really independent as a nation, as families and as individuals?"
The answer is both yes and no. "Yes", because we are free as a country and self-governing. I was not there in the days before independence, but the accounts and stories of those times speak very clearly of the oppression that was there and the hardship that the people of this country and many others like it in Africa had to go through.
South Africa, having freed itself from the shackles of apartheid only recently, is the closest thing I can relate the pre-independence era in Zambia to. I am sure therefore that in comparison to those days, we are far better off now and would not wish to downplay what a major achievement it was for this country to finally be under self-governance.
On the other side of the coin, the answer is "no", because, as individuals, we are to a large extent still not truly free. Independence at the individual level is still a long way off for the many people.
In this regard I am referring to independence in its broadest and most meaningful sense, which is essentially freedom. Freedom can be defined is the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. It is also the capacity to exercise choice or free will.
Following this definition it becomes clear why we are not truly enjoying freedom at the individual level. The capacity to think, act and speak without externally imposed restraints is difficult for a lot of people.
The reason is that the restraints are in the most difficult place to see and to get rid of. The restraints that prevent us from being truly free are in our minds.
They have been put there by lifetimes of following the norm and conforming. They have been ingrained into our minds by fear of the unknown, fear of fully exposing and experiencing our potential and fear of challenging society's norms when it comes to leading a truly successful and fulfilled life. Misinformation and lack of information also have had their role to play in this regard. Ignorance is a restraint on the mind and it stifles freedom.
Because the restraints are in our own minds they are the hardest to recognise and to weed out. It is easy to recognise an enemy or oppression that is external to us, but it is very hard to recognise something within ourselves that is holding us back. The outward fight with an opponent that is seen is far easier than the inward fight with an opponent that is unseen and often indistinguishable from our perception of self.
It is no wonder that God's word says "be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." It is in the mind that the battle is fought. It is in the mind that the battle is won or lost. The mind is the next frontier of our struggle for independence:
The day we can get that woman, looking after 3 children and staying in a one-roomed house with her husband and two dependents, to realise that she has a choice and that she can get out of that situation is the day she truly attains independence and freedom.
The day that young man in grade 12 will realise that he can be and do anything he wants in life, without having to follow the traditional path of being a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or an accountant is the day he truly gains independence and freedom.
The day our politicians begin to think and dream big and realise that they can and should make decisions that will empower the citizens of this country, rather than trying to please foreign interests at the expense of their own people, is the day we truly gain independence and freedom. But this takes courage, boldness, vision, determination sacrifice and true leadership - qualities that are not to be found in a mind that is not truly free.
If it is true that your outward circumstances are only a reflection of your mental, inner, condition, then what does the state of our country say about the collective mental condition of our leadership? What does it say about the state of our collective consciousness as a people? I leave it to you to answer that for yourself.
At the individual level, true freedom is the ability to dream, to see a reality beyond your present circumstances and to be able to look over the horizon and see something better.
True freedom is being able to realise that we have a choice. We do not need to go through life like Zombies, blindly following the crowd, accepting everything we are told without questioning.
Indeed it is because we had people and leadership that had true freedom in their minds even during those colonial days that we enjoy independence as a country today. They saw things differently in their minds and worked tirelessly and selflessly to bring that inner vision to outward reality.
You have a choice to free yourself and to think independently. Look at life through unpolluted and clear eyes.
True freedom is hope. Never lose hope. Always look forward to something better, no matter how bad or good today is. It can and must get better, if only you believe it will and work to make it happen. God's word says "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." So, especially if you are a believer, you should not doubt that the best is yet to come.
Remember again that your physical circumstances are only a reflection of your mental condition. Create your life from within. Free your mind and the outward circumstances must and will change.