What I have to say today has been said before and by some of the most amazing orators and speech writers our country has ever known and yet, I feel compelled to share with you my very heartfelt belief using my words, my voice as well as through homage and reverence of those great men who came before me. It is, perhaps, an idea that has become increasingly unpopular these days with qualifiers and limitations placed upon its very nature; they negate the very premise of the word. Freedom.
As is always helpful when talking about specific words I go to an online dictionary. So, according to Merriam-Webster the definition is as follows:
Main Entry: free·domPronunciation: \ˈfrē-dəm\Function: nounDate: before 12th century
1 : the quality or state of being free: as a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence c : the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous <freedom from care> d : ease, facility <spoke the language with freedom> e : the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken <answered with freedom> f : improper familiarity g : boldness of conception or execution h : unrestricted use <gave him the freedom of their home>
2 a : a political right b : franchise, privilege
When growing up the notion of freedom living in “the land of the free and the brave” was something to wave a flag about, but not something to truly think on. Never had I been taught it was meant as a means of saying we should live freely in the ways we are told to. If someone had made such a succinct statement to me I daresay I would have argued with them. For is there freedom within the boundaries someone else erects for you? There is a limited amount of freedom in such and, as a result, is goes against the very meaning. Just as you can walk down an alley, skip, run, sashay, zig-zag – but you ultimately are confined to the directions in which you are allowed to pass. To go in a window that is not to your property would not be allowed, same goes with a door, a stairwell. As a respectful individual one would suppose you’d feel no compunction to infringe upon another person’s property. That property is concrete, if not in construction, then at least in premise. Now, if you were told you have to take that alleyway home every day or be subject to a fine or other penalty, but you could do so in the way you want (walk, run, etc) would that be freedom? After all, you have a choice about how you do what you’re told to do.
Ah, but that definition encompasses a little tidbit: “without coercion”. So, the answer would be a resounding “no”.
Then there is the issue of morality and a presumption we all should do things “just so” in order to be “good”. I do not give over to anyone else my sense of moral obligation. You might ask if this has anything to do with my understanding of ego-centrism, ethnocentrism and all sorts of various notions I learned in psychology. I would say you were right. I would say I learned each culture has different concepts of what is ethical, moral and, with each varying degree of technology and way of life there are usually good reasons for said differences.
In this veritable palace of 21st century ease we each have the power to enjoy certain things. I can throw my laundry in a machine and listen to it go spin and whir until it’s clean; I don’t have to be bent over a rock beating my clothes until the previous days’ filth is washed from it. Now supposing I took it as a moral cause (disclaimer: the following example is, to the best of my knowledge, completely fictitious) to stop the utilization of rocks to be beat upon for the purpose of cleansing laundry. Let’s skip over the problem of how enforcement would occur for such egregious use of their rocks and jump right to the the fall out. What will they now do to clean their clothes? They could hop in a horse and buggy, head on over to the nearest laundromat but, if that’s the case, they are using the very thing they are morally opposed to doing. Is that freedom? Well, of course not. They were law abiding citizens doing their laundry with rocks and elbow grease, not citizens throwing rocks at people telling them technology was evil.
Let’s go further: People who are so set in their own moralities, a morality that hurts no one, are now penalized for having said morality. What then do they do with their clothing? They might be forced to purchase more materials, but if they can not afford them, odds are in favor of them doing what they need to in order to ensure the level of cleanliness they desire. What was once an act showing a life choice has now become a crime. Now, the argument is made that we all have to use water, certain areas of the country are having droughts, etc, and the use of it in this manner for clothes washing is an inefficient use of water as well as blatantly inconsiderate of the others dealing with the water shortage. (Hey, it could happen!) It makes the argument about morality and how it impacts everyone in some kind of daisy chain cause and effect. Not only is it now a crime to continue living primitively (not talking religious reasons here, so no first amendment arguments) but it is now something some people view as morally bankrupt for the blatant lack of consideration being shown to others water needs.
It wasn’t enough to stand up and say the lifestyle was something the individual, or the group of people, had chosen. Not enough to say, but it is MY choice to do this, you don’t have to. But these poor people’s freedoms were usurped with an argument meant to guilt them into the giving over of their practices as well as to threaten with penalties they were potentially not in a position to afford. They were now wrong according to someone else’s dictum and being coerced by the law to follow it. These people’s freedoms were usurped ostensibly in favor of what would be good for the greater number of people. But what of freedom? Did they have it before this anti-rock abuse/water usurpation? What about after?
This was not freedom for all. In fact this was the greater number of people dictating to that smaller group how they had to live. We can argue that the proposed changes, forced upon law abiding people, were for the “greater good” but that does not mean freedom for all. It means each small group of individuals became subject to what others considered to be the better way to live, it means the people deciding what’s best can, through the use of coercion (penalty) and shear numbers, force a different way of living upon someone else.
And this, is the crux of the arguments currently in circulation and something that seems to be overlooked. There’s always justifications for what would be better for the larger number of people, but it negates the collateral damage; the people who want to wash their clothes in a stream beating them with rocks; the people who do nothing more than live how they want to live without acting in a criminal manner; without wanting to be subject to anyone beyond who they knowingly enter into a social contract with; it’s about making people not responsible for bad situations suddenly responsible for them or, at the very least, making them complicit in the continuation of it. The water shortage wasn’t the fault of the inefficient clothes washing, nor were the rocks so poorly treated the larger group of people were without natural resources, but these people became the targets when they didn’t want to acquiesce to the “solution” deemed appropriate by others.
Let’s also suppose some individuals really didn’t care about this little group of people who lived in such a primitive fashion but they’re told they would all get upgrades on their washing machines if they could cut down on what seemed to be a waste of resources. As someone had already decided, the hand-washing in the streams was inefficient, and so people became intentivized to force these individuals to another way of life than they had chosen. And so now it isn’t just a moral or ethical difference between these cultures but now the majority see themselves as benefiting from this, as would the environment for being given the gifts of more water and power efficient technology – to lose out on that opportunity is now the fault of those fighting for their freedom; fighting for their way of life that hurt no one.
Freedom is not something to be taken lightly – any freedom loving person will tell you that – but it’s the way we’re born. It’s one of those “inalienable rights” so acknowledged by men far more brilliant than I. It’s an encouragement to live aware and conscious in a community of people, to acknowledge we need to do what is best for ourselves without the expectation of someone else doing something for us, for you, while still holding to the notion of community. It’s a world of no safety nets and it’s scary. It’s also a world of humanity being encouraged to be human, in all it’s flawed glory, to each other, ourselves and our family. Nowhere within the tenants of freedom do I see coercive tactics being okay, that I see only some people’s freedom matter, and that within that freedom, or these notions of it, it’s okay to raise a fist in hate and rancor against those saying/screaming/yelling: “I just want to wash my clothes in the stream”. The screaming and yelling of the newly minted criminals is merely an assertion of their freedom – of declaring their freedom isn’t subject to what is best for others but what simply is.
I leave you with a few quotes from people who I most admire. Thank you very much for staying with me through this post and, if you like it, please feel free to share it.
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” – Thomas Paine
“God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say: This is my country.” – Benjamin Franklin
“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
As I mentioned there would be a few announcements but, since this post took me several days to write, they will be posted on Thursday. Hope to see you then!