Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What ?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done ?”
God says. “Out on Highway 61″.
Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
He asked poor Howard where can I go
Howard said there’s only one place I know
Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
And said that way down on Highway 61. ( Bob Dylan. Highway 61 Revisited )
John Stuart Mill transcended his father’s commitment to independence by perceiving that independence had to be indissolubly linked to personal development. In the immortal ”On Liberty” John Stuart was able to transmute his own quest for autonomy into an ideology that defended the freedom of all individuals in society to grow in their own way, as long as they do not harm their neighbors.
Surely personal experience, a sense of frustration and a keen objective eye are behind his assertion that ”In maintaining this principle, the greatest difficulty to be encountered does not lie in the appreciation of means towards an acknowledged end, but in the indifference of persons in general to the end itself. If it were felt that the free development of individuality is one of the leading essentials of well-being; that it is not only a coordinate element with all that is designated by the terms civilization, instruction, education, culture, but is itself a necessary part and condition of all those things; there would be no danger that liberty should be undervalued, and the adjustment of the boundaries between it and social control would present no extraordinary difficulty. But the evil is, that individual spontaneity is hardly recognized by the common modes of thinking as having any intrinsic worth, or deserving any regard on its own account. The majority, being satisfied with the ways of mankind as they now are (for it is they who make them what they are), cannot comprehend why those ways should not be good enough for everybody; and what is more, spontaneity forms no part of the ideal of the majority of moral and social reformers, but is rather looked on with jealousy, as a troublesome and perhaps rebellious obstruction to the general acceptance of what these reformers, in their own judgment, think would be best for mankind.”
It is John Stuart’s own educational experience, where spontaneity and free development were not allowed by his reforming, and thus ”forming,” father, that gives power and passion to his rational ideas on liberty, though the limits of rationality are readily apparent since it is often confused with ”liberation” and Mill pays scant attention to the role of emotional, and the intangible and poetic which form the basis of liberty’s appeal in capturing the imagination. Much like looking at the word ”love” as a physical, scientific phenomena.
The extraordinary thing is that with all the modifications he applied to his father’s utilitarian doctrines, and even way of life, John Stuart did not need to reject his father totally. Their father-son conflict did not have to be murderous and fatal, except in fantasy; and perhaps because successfully handled in fantasy, not necessary otherwise. The conflict may have been based on them both saying the same thing, just fighting over the devilish details. In a strange and tortuous way John Stuart was able to come to terms with both his love and his hate for his father, and thus to retain and extend the intellectual and social legacy handed on to him. Generational conflict, in this case, had become a vehicle for peaceful social change. Though in actual fact, the industrial revolution would make such a transition anything but peaceful, though perhaps less violent than if some theoretical basis had not been established.