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Well, it's that time of the year again. For the occasion, let me first echo the sentiments expressed in these July 4th wishes, contained in the latest Disinfo newsletter edited by Alex Burns:

'First, the Disinfo team wishes our United States readers a safe and joyous July 4 celebration. During this holiday weekend take time to reflect on the fate of American governance and the republic, given the major events during the past 12 months. Is the US truly a universalist civilization, worthy of being the 'city on the hill', the 'guiding light' of the world?
Freedom of the revolutionary sort must begin with you, not an elected government or nation-state. It's the individual freedom that Aleister Crowley conveys, or that Douglas Valentine hints at (in an almost throwaway line that Christopher Hitchens is being disengenuous to critique Michael Moore when the neoconservatives have likely siphoned off $US20 billion from Iraq's oil reserves).
The Freedom of an arrow effortlessly hitting the bullseye.'

The 'throwaway line' that Alex refers to is contained in Valentine's Counterpunch review of Fahrenheit 9/11. Hitchens' own oft-quoted, hack'n slash review can be found here and, among other places, has been painstakingly rebutted here.

A careful reading of both points of view is encouraged, as is your own research on the issues raised. Objectively examining all sides of every issue is necessary to create one's own original, inner-directed position, and to steer clear of groupthink. Necessary and yet often difficult, especially in highly charged and polarized political territory: peer pressure can and does stigmatize even the treating of opposing viewpoints as worthy of open-minded analysis. We are subjected to subtle and powerful influences that induce us to take not just a clear stance, but sides, much like in a battlefield. Different categories, classes, identities wage a war for our hearts and minds, our allegiance. Any one of them, when embraced, will demand a reprogramming of the individual self to fit its identity, goals and values. This induces a state analog to sleep, in which conformity is rewarded, comfortable and preferable to more personal and creative ways of thinking, acting, being.

Then again, some popular collective identities claim to hold individual freedom as their only value and goal, but do they really? Can they really? This and all the other questions must be answered by you for yourself, or somebody else will. This obviously requires work, work that can be slow and hard but that yields as a result the only true and complete freedom, foundation of all other freedoms. Today, this is what I'm thinking about.

Happy Independence Day!

Just a very few additional resources:

Alex Burns' Personal Mutations :: [1] [2] [3]

Tools to inspire the "conscious evolution of the individual psyche" while maintaining "a healthy scepticism and a critical nature". All work by The Disinformation Company, Ltd. is recommended for the same purpose, but these three pieces by Burns have an immediate relevance to this post.
Robert B. Cialdini's Influence :: [summary] [author academic and business homepages]
Essential book on the science of practice of influence and compliance, or "the principles that determine beliefs, create attitudes, and move people to agreement and action". Read it marketers and advertisers did.
Douglas Rushkoff's Coercion :: [book homepage] [author homepage]
"Why we listen to what 'they' say" and allow outside influences to do our thinking for us. Highly recommended, as is just about anything else by Rushkoff, a sharp and eloquent media thinker.
Tim O'Shea's The Doors of Perception: Why Americans Will Believe Almost Anything :: [essay]
An absolute must read, this essay explores in detail how PR flacks and propagandists engineer mass acceptance. Eye-opening and well referenced.
Enjoy. And if you liked the quote from Disinfo's newsletter, I recommend subscribing to it here. It's a good roundup of links and quotes, you're guaranteed to find fodder for your psyche in it every time and the Disinfo folks won't spam you. Over and out...