The Answer, my friend, is Blowing in the Wind


I woke up to this song this morning. I’m sorry to admit I’d actually forgotten about it – its been so many years since I’d heard it. Sadly, Mary Travers – of Peter, Paul, and Mary – passed away today after a long fight with Leukemia. This song and its words, however, live on and are as relevant today as they were over 40 years ago. (not that that is a positive commentary on the state of things)

Have a listen.

Blowing in the Wind – Peter, Paul, & Mary

Rest in peace, Mary.


12 thoughts on “The Answer, my friend, is Blowing in the Wind

  1. So relevant today indeed…

    “How many years can some people exist
    Before they’re allowed to be free? ”

    On a positive note, freedom tastes best when it’s won the hard way rather than handed out to us by others.

    Thank you for this very thoughtful wake up call.


  2. You know, I’m wondering what “… blowin’ in the wind” means. Does it mean that the answer is so obvious that it’s hitting you in the face like the wind, or does it mean that finding the answer is like trying to catch the wind. I’m starting to think that Bob Dylan was alluding to the second answer. I certainly don’t know what the answer is.

    For example, abufares said that freedom won the hard way tastes better than freedom handed out. But does the hard way imply violence? I’m not sure. It seems a bit vague. Perhaps you can clarify. If one’s freedom is won “the hard way” how magnanimous would you be to those you defeated to win your freedom?

    Robert Mugabe won a war against the white racist regime in Rhodesia. Now he is one of Africa’s biggest despots with a country constantly on the verge of starvation and hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa.

    Does the “hard way” mean non-violent means? Like the way India won her independence from the British in 1947. But then did they then win it from the British “the hard way” or was it handed to them by the British who signed over sovereignty and left.

    It’s an interesting topic. Perhaps we can discuss some more.


  3. Brigand, thank you for your question.

    I’m very careful with stereotyped notions such as violence, terrorism and struggle as examples. An objective observer, even a benevolent one, might equate between the oppressor and the oppressed by judging the conflict as violent on both sides. Unless one is very aware of the Palestinian cause for instance, he or she will object to the drastic and often “violent” measures the Palestinians are forced to use in retaliation to the rape of their land and freedom.

    My comment here, however, was more on the personal level in alignment with my interpretation of this great song. The mere fact that a person is living in a free country, say the US or Canada, doesn’t necessarily imply that he or she is free. By the same token, many of us who live under an autocratic political rule are not necessarily oppressed as individuals. Not only colonial nations and superpowers abuse the decency of humanity by occupying a piece of land, people also make the same mistake. Be it at work, at school or at home there are those who either intentionally or not infringe on the personal freedom of others. I’m talking about these “others” in particular. They have to claim back what is theirs in the first place and shouldn’t wait for the magnanimity of the trespassers to give them back their freedom. In this case the “hard way” doesn’t and shouldn’t be violent at all. It’s rather an intellectual act and a dignified stand in life that enough is enough.
    I think we as humans have evolved to the point where we do not accept that being oppressed by other humans as normal behavior. Violence might be justified in retaliation to violence but personal freedom can be manipulated or restricted without ever resorting to “visible” violent means.
    I’m afraid my explanation is much more complicated than my original statement that freedom indeed must be regained the hard way (through work and perseverance rather than waiting for the other to give it back). Our freedom is ours, nobody has the right to take it then give it back to us.


    1. Hi Abufares

      Thanks for the elegant and thoughtful clarification. When I first read “…won the hard way rather than handed out to us by others.” a red flag went up.

      I too like to stay away from loaded words like terrorism and violence. They tend to be conversation stoppers. Especially here in North America. And I certainly won’t fault the Palestinians for resisting the Israeli occupation and exploitation of their land and resources. I don’t know what I would do if I lived in Gaza or the West Bank.


    2. Hi Abufares

      I really should get back to work. I have a presentation to finish for tomorrow, but I’m curious. But, you mentioned the Palestinians’ resistance to Israeli occupation, and so I’d like to hear your opinion on some things. From my distant, casual gaze, some of the resistance, if only from a strategic or even tactical point of view, seems so futile. Sending rockets from Gaza into Southern Israel actually seems counter productive. It may make those doing it feel a little better for a time, but I don’t think it advances their cause. It struck me as odd that the suicide bombing campaign in the mid 90’s was at its height precisely when the prospects for a Palestinian state were at their best. And it lets their oppressors in Israel and their allies in the US (and elsewhere) use the “Terrorist” word and shut down the conversation.

      Here in Canada, anyone who associated with the PLO (for example) while living in Palestine is branded a terrorist and is barred from entry. And I expect that it would be pretty hard to be a Palestinian activist and NOT be associated in some way with the PLO or Fatah, or even Hamas, which does extensive community social work. All that is simply not considered by the Canadian authorities. And so all the good work is drowned by the military activities of these organizations. And these activities are just not that effectual given Israel’s strength.

      The answer, of course, may just be blowin’ in the wind, but I’m still curious to get your opinion.


  4. Abufares and Brigand. If I may?

    I consider myself … an aristocrat. In the classic era, the aristocrat was called “a soul well born”.

    We are never a victim, of nothing, from no one.

    Victimisation is not about what falls on us, the horrors that this world can dish out are numerous and all encompassing I know, I have lived some of them. But No. Victimisation is in what you do with what has happened to you. Bare with me.

    A amazing example is Socrates.
    He was condemned to die by the Athenian justice by drinking a poison called” la Ciguë”. As he was dying, he raised his glass and said: “The Athenian can kill me, but they can not harm me!!”

    No one is a victim. THAT is freedom won the hard way. The Noble way. The aristocrats way.


  5. Brigand
    I really hate to kidnap Isobel’s blog by getting into this discussion, although very interesting. I might someday address the Israeli Palestinian conflict on my turf.
    I think it will be more appropriate since this post is a simple beautiful song, so much in harmony with Isobel’s elegant writing.


  6. Sorry to drop in so late, ya’ll, but I was too tired yesterday to tackle the topics you guys were throwing forward. Great discussion. Now for my two cents!

    The way I see “blowing in the wind”, Brigand, is that the answer is there, but it just eludes many of us because we don’t stop to try to capture it.

    As for gaining freedom the “hard way”…I start with the premise that everyone deserves freedom. I’m fully aware that this is not the way of the world – even though it should be. But based on my premise, being “allowed to be free” or being granted freedom suggests that it can also be taken away and that the person giving it to an individual or a group has some greater power than those people – not necessarily military or political might, but psychological. If, however, these individuals decide for themselves that they deserve to be free and take freedom for themselves – at whatever measure makes them feel free (as Socrates did – thank you Fantasia) or fighting like hell for it – then I believe they are truly free once they have gained it. Of course there has to be a but – BUT if they take away someone else’s freedom in the process of fighting for their own – we’re back to square one and the scale has been tipped to far the other way.

    I apologize if I have repeated what others have so eloquently written before me…but I needed to explain my own take on the topic with a mind clear of other influences.

    Thank you, everybody for your wonderful comments. Feel free to continue the discussion if you would like. Thank you, Abufares, for your thoughtfulness – but I’ve been hoping one of my posts would inspire some debate and its finally happened so I won’t quash it!! I hope you do write a post about Palestine…you can bet I’ll be there!! 🙂


  7. Iz

    Perhaps I equated “tastes better” with “is preferable” a bit too much. I seems to me that freedom freely given based on mutual respect is preferable to that which has to be won the hard way. So long as we define “the hard way” to mean freedom that is wrested from those who would not otherwise give it.

    Canada gained its independence from Britain through negotiations and mutual respect. Unlike our neighbors to the south who had to win theirs the hard way. Consequently I don’t believe we’ve built all the mythologies around freedom that our US neighbors have. They love their freedom. I’m sure it tastes really, really good to them, judging by their preference for Freedom Fries over French Fries:-) But I don’t think we are less free either individually or collectively. As a matter of fact it seems to me that in some ways, we are more free than our American friends because the Canadian psyche makes us more accommodating and respectful of the other. We don’t have the astounding disparities up here that they do down there. Disparities that arise largely due to the mythologies around freedom that they’ve built up IMHO. We in Canada are less willing to ‘get our elbows up’ to defend what we perceive to be ours (freedom or otherwise — emphasis also on “perceive to be”). I believe this collectivism makes us more free in some ways because we are less in need to wrest our freedoms (respect, resources, health care, what have you) from those who might have them. A collectivism that I believe is more societal than a result of the state. And I believe quite a bit of this arises from our origins (The French/English thing too, can play in this mix, but I won’t go there).

    I suppose the same applies to individual interactions where there is a power disparity. So I think I would prefer my freedom to be given to me because it implies a mutual respect with the other party, the would-be oppressor. I don’t know that it would taste any less good.

    Don’t get me wrong, if your freedom is denied you, then sure, go to town. Do what you feel is necessary (and just). But I don’t think having to wrest it that way makes it taste better. And we are fallible, emotional, irrational humans with all the risks attendant in that. I suspect there might be a bitterness left in your mouth after the struggle. Going back to the geopolitical scale, Greece wrested her freedom from Ottoman Turkey the hard way over several wars spanning almost a century. Whereas they cherish their freedom, and I suppose to them it tastes exquisite, there is still the bitterness that is the unavoidable aftertaste.

    I think I agree with you and with Fantasia regarding (some type of) freedom arising as an attitude, as opposed to something to be given or taken. The Socrates example is an excellent one. But one must be careful. Demagogues and Dictators love that kind of talk, and, in the end, Socrates was put to death (although his friends bribed the guards and he did have a chance to escape the night before — or so the story goes. I really should read the book, I have it somewhere on my bookshelf. One of the many books my dad buys for me that I should read).



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