Independence and the Spirit of Radio

At a recent anniversary party for the ham club I belong to one long time ham remarked to me that he’d seen my antenna pictures for my apartment and that it looked “pretty compromised”.

He is probably 100 percent correct– but instead of embarrassing me, it made me smile widely. And the reason is that I love being able to solve problems in ways that work without someone in a lab coat or with a degree giving me permission to innovate and test things for myself.

On this “compromised” antenna with just 20watts I have reached Japan, Brazil, Australia, Cuba, France, The Virgin Islands, The Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, Canada, Mexico and all 50 states of the US.

America also had an anniversary recently, and this quality, the hitch up the britches, roll up the sleeves and just get it done spirit is what this country was founded on– and part of why I love her and her people.

When I started a business many years ago, I came to understand though my experiences most keenly why there was a war of independence early in our history.

Many of the people who were moved to come to the new world were poor, but hard working people, who lived within a caste system that limited their social standing, education, and rights no matter how hard they worked.

Learning was limited to the rich or influential in many cases. In the guild system, in order to learn the most basic trade you would have to sell yourself as practically a slave to a master who would demand you serve him hand and foot for years, doing the worst jobs before he would teach you the smallest skill. You could spend 10, 20, 30 years as his student before you could attain any respect at all or measure of learning and permission to act on your own.

And if you were a woman, it was even worse. You wouldn’t ever learn to read, and would be horse traded off still practically a child, for your family’s benefit, to live a life of hard labor in the fields and in the home.

From out of this oppressive life, fled many. To get passage to America they sacrificed what few possessions they had, even selling themselves into indentured servitude (7 to 10 years) for the money to board the ships to endure months on a rolling, heaving vessel, in cramped quarters with terrible food, and illness, not knowing what they would face when they saw those distant shores.

Many died on the passage, and in the hard winters that followed with not a little suffering. That tells you how much they wanted out of what they left, to endure these things.

Some of my ancestors were on those boats at different times.

When they got to America, they gradually discovered that in this far off place, the chains were lighter, their ability to decide for, and succeed for themselves increased.

They changed in their hearts as they saw what they could do and achieve. They started to believe in themselves as they succeeded. They understood then that they were masters of their own futures through those experiences. And when an alarmed King started to think they were getting a little too uppity, it was already too late.

Those brave men and women had already learned they were competent, and worthy to govern themselves. They couldn’t go back to being the constrained, dependent serfs, property of the King, they were before.

As Princes Leia once remarked in another galaxy, the tighter the grasp, the more people would slip through their fingers.

Freedom is a powerful thing once you’ve experienced it fully.

And I think that’s part of what appeals to me about ham radio, and all my other creative hobbies through the years. The spirit of radio is about problem solving. Testing, fiddling with things till you get it right.

It’s the spirit of persistence and discovery. The spirit that brought the world the light bulb, the car, electricity, and countless other inventions that have made life easier, happier, better for millions.

It’s the idea that you don’t need to have a degree before you think for yourself, teach yourself, and experiment. You don’t need permission or a by your leave. And you can give to the world those gifts from inside yourself.

There is still so much to discover. The frontier is still there. You’re the child of divine beings, with the ability to excel, and you can do it.