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Sovereignty 101

With everything that's happening in the US, more people are interested in what it takes to apocalypse-proof their life. Even Trevor Noah is preparing for The Purge that has been predicted to occur nationwide when election results are finally reported.

But for those of us who aren't trying to live in a locked down undisclosed location with toilet paper and board games until the end of the world, how do we prepare for a life worth living?

The French absurdist philosopher, Albert Camus, posited that there is only one real philosophical question: whether or not to commit suicide. Western society is so deeply concerned with racing to the finish. Anyone from Western society who has truly thought this “life” thing all the way through has probably come to the conclusion that death, essentially, is the finish. So the ultimate one-up is suicide. No wonder Western society is so destructive.

In non-Western cultural paradigms, things like “mindfulness,” "community," and “living in the moment” are more important. Life isn’t a race to the finish. There is no reason to rush things. People take their time, do what makes the most sense in the moment, and enjoy tea.

Life is less about getting to the goal and more about enjoying the journey. We enjoy the journey when we know that we are in control of ourselves.


Children are not able to do the absolute most that they would because there is a parent who is establishing a disciplined environment. They must wake up at a certain time, eat at a certain time, go to bed at a certain time. They can have fun when the adults allow it, can meet with friends on the adults’ schedules, and must ask permission for everything. During the formative and teenage years, children rebel and test what it’s like to be truly free before getting caught up in the capitalist system with employers and a legal system that feels a lot like having a parent, only without the love.

When some people hear “sovereignty,” they think it means that they can do whatever they want. However, that’s not quite what sovereignty implies. Sovereignty implies that instead of being under someone else's control like a child, the individual is disciplined enough to be self-possessed, self-directed, and self-determined.

Sovereignty is a mindset before it is a practice and a lifestyle. The mind set is based on the understanding that

1. I am completely responsible for myself.

2. I am the cause of everything in my life.

3. I am responsible for the space I occupy.

4. I am responsible for contributing that which I create.

5. I am responsible for cleaning up when I’m finished.

I Am Completely Responsible for Myself

Responsiblity is essentially the ‘ability’ to ‘respond’. In the art of Tai Chi, the master responds by moving with the flow of the energy all around her. In her first fight, she was likely defeated by a stronger opponent, but through years of regular practice and mastery, she becomes better able to respond in the moment.

Complete responsibility for self comes with years of regular practice and mastery. These practices include meditation (art of recognizing that both the thought and the thinker are illusions), proper diet, exercise, gratitude, generosity, and disentanglement from others. During this life, we live inside of a human body, so it is imperative that we take care of it. We also live in a context which includes our environment and other people. When we are aware that these things exist, we can disentangle from them, meaning that our actions and thoughts are ours, no matter what is happening in the environment or among other people. Then, we can securely respond in the moment, knowing that we came up with our response on our own.

I Am the Cause of Everything in My Life

Mahatma Gandhi is frequently credited with having said, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” However, Gandhi never said that. What he said was,

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies of the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

During his time in South Africa, Gandhi was a firm believer in Indian supremacy over black Africans. He argued that the state should remain under white leadership and that Indians should be allowed to conduct business in South Africa without interference, which they were, even throughout apartheid. Gandhi's views changed as he matured and South African President, Nelson Mandela, argued that Gandhi should be forgiven, as Indian and African peoples united towards abolishing apartheid permanently in South Africa. Even Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King employed Gandhi's nonviolent philosophy of satyagraha as a foundation for his approach to Civil Rights in the United States.

Taking from this example, one can see that even when the underlying philosophy is flawed, the mind set that I am the cause of everything in my life influences a momentum to change from the inside. A sovereign individual focuses on shifting their mentality from being a result of the outside world to being the cause of outcomes. The one who knows he causes the change will embody the privilege of mindful action. When the sovereign-minded individual intends to be responsible, even an immature perspective can evolve into progressive outcomes that have unintended benefits.

I Am Responsible for the Space I Occupy

Sovereignty is not entitlement. Colonizers display entitlement. They say “I discovered this land” when the land was already occupied by others. They pillage, rape, kill, and leave a mess behind them. This is irresponsible. People will only destroy that for which they do not feel responsible. Establishing responsibility for the space in which one occupies establishes a sense of stewardship and respect. If every space is a space that we respect and feel responsible for, even if it is not our permanent space, we will treat it respectfully with the mentality that we want to make it pleasant for the next visitor. Our legacy becomes an important aspect of our passing through. At very least, we don’t leave a mess. At most, we plant seeds.

I Am Responsible for Contributing That Which I Create

Sovereignty is active so creation is a byproduct of sovereignty. The sovereign individual does not act, create, and cultivate for herself alone. She does so for the purpose of sharing (generosity). In a recent discussion, Whoopi Goldberg noted that she has a garden where she grows radishes. She hates radishes and will never eat radishes. However, her neighbors like radishes, so she always has radishes in her garden. Whoopi emphasized the importance of biodiversity and always growing different things, whether she uses them or not, because someone will use them.

When living in alignment with nature in a sovereign and responsible manner, there is abundance. Abundance inspires generosity. There are always too many tomatoes. So share them. In sharing, we create community and inspire others to find ways to share as well, as no one wants to be outdone in giving. Other people will always have items and skills that you don’t have, so by cultivating personal sovereignty and sharing, we are cultivating apocalypse-proof communities that don’t require any kind of currency exchange for everyone to eat good at the barbecue.

I Am Responsible for Cleaning Up When I’m Finished

The Sovereign person and community can make the biggest mess they want to make as long as they have a plan for restoration. Cleaning up is just as much taking our trash out of the space as it is replenishing that which we may have depleted. The name of the game is start small. If we learn to manage small messes, we can make slightly bigger messes the next time. This comes back to self discipline and self knowledge: knowing how big a mess we can make before it becomes overwhelming will help keep the anxiety in check.

Much more can be added and many more perspectives employed. Nevertheless, all sovereign communities stress the importance of responsibility: responsibility for self first, then extending this awareness to the other. By choosing to live in awareness of ourselves, our karma, the space we occupy, what we can give, and our mess, we maximize the moment and make life worth the good silverware.

© 2020 Cathryn D. Blue, PhD

Dr. Cathryn D. Blue is a social psychologist, artist, author, and contributor to

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