Just another word for nothing left to lose? Well. I’m not so sure about that.
It was, of course, the Fourth of July yesterday; I’m not American, so for me it was just another day. I know, though, that the Fourth of July is a holiday held dear all over the world, and one which is remembered, if perhaps not observed, in many countries. It got me thinking about the idea of freedom – what it means, the implications it has, why it’s important, and whether it’s possible to achieve a world order in which everyone is free, all at the same time – and so today I thought I’d take a short ramble through my thoughts on the issue. Will you join me for the walk?
Freedom can be used with a lot of prepositions – freedom from, freedom to, freedom of – so, clearly, it is a concept with many facets. It means different things to different people, and freedoms expected in one culture may not be expected, or even desired, in another. Freedom is not a ‘one size fits all’ – one culture should not impose its own notions of freedom on another, I think – and, in that sense, it’s difficult to speak of a freedom that can encompass the world. In my opinion, nobody should live in fear, under oppression, or with the expectation that their liberty may be removed at any time, without warning; however, in order for this to happen, I think the world would have to change so much that it’s hard to see a way for it to become a reality. Freedom can be a threatening force to some – we all know of political regimes in which the powers that be keep an airtight hold on their citizens’ daily lives for fear that granting them an inch of liberty might spell their own downfall – and some people are interested only in a freedom that applies to them, and them alone.
Why are human beings so complicated? And so cruel, sometimes? I don’t think I’ll ever figure that one out.
For some terrible reason, humanity seems to have developed in such a way that it can only function if some of the world’s population is oppressed. Our economic systems are designed to keep certain people down; western consumer culture has trapped generations of people – often, people who live ‘far away’ and who are, therefore, easy to forget – in a spiral of poverty and overwork; certain religions and cultures deny people the freedom to gain an education, to drive a car, to live where they wish… the list is endless. It takes a greater brain than mine to come up with a way to solve these problems, I fear. It causes me a great deal of guilt when I compare the life I am privileged to lead with the life of a person who is exactly like me, but living in a different country or under a different set of beliefs, and whose life is vastly different to mine as a result of mere geography.
Can a world be forged in which we are all, to echo the great phrase, created equal? Obviously, I know every person is intrinsically equal to every other human person, simply by dint of being alive, but anyone taking a look around our planet can see that the idea of equality between peoples is, in a lot of places, nothing more than a beautiful dream. I fear too much change would be required to make it a feasible reality everywhere. Sadly, there are people who would fight tooth and nail to protect their own freedom, and that of their families and loved ones, while not caring what happens to others. But if we are not all free, to whatever extent we wish it, is there any point in any of us being free? And how free are we, really, in a world where we’re bombarded with messages about how we’re not good enough, and how we must buy and acquire and hoard more and more, and how happiness is only achievable when a particular total appears at the end of our bank statements? There are many forms of oppression, though some are far more insidious than others.
In order for freedom to be extended to all, I think a lot of people would have to give up some of the things they’ve always taken for granted, and governments all over the world would have to prove themselves trustworthy and incorrupt, and we would all have to agree on what the word ‘freedom’ actually means. Because of this, I’m not sure we’ll ever see universal equality, though it’s certainly something we should never stop striving towards. I am very grateful for the freedoms in my life, and for the fact that so many of those who’ve gone before me have paved the way for me to have the life I’ve got. What more selfless act can there be but to take action which will guarantee a better life for people you will never meet, or know? What better example to follow?
I hope all of those who celebrate the Fourth of July had a wonderful day yesterday, and I hope that people all over the world took a moment to reflect on their own freedoms, and to be grateful for them. I know I did.
Happy Friday, and I hope a wonderful weekend, full of happy things, awaits you.