I’ve been thinking very hard about freedom.
It’s not all that complicated in a way. According to most dictionaries, freedom is simply a state, where one’s rights to move around, or form and express one’s opinions without fear of reprisals or other oppression. I don’t claim to have found the very essence of freedom, but if we look at Tolstoy’s observation, for example, he said that true happiness can only be realised in a relationship: It is not good for man to be alone, is it?
I’m thinking of a few specific things around freedom, and just to help my own concentration decided to concisely enumerate them, and then fill in some blanks. So, freedom is at least all those things, even much more. Anyway, one of the things that spurred me on was that freedom as an abstract principle means little, if we cannot enjoy it. At the same time, they do talk about the Golden (Gilded) Cage which is still a Cage. Of course according to the myth of Croesus, his touch was such that everything he touched turned into gold. Including his nourishment; well, one can’t let our pursuit of one specific thing turn us away from life itself, and we apparently needed a tale that warned about obsessing over wealth too much. I would add health to it. I’d be willing to say that the greatest and most lasting happiness to me has resulted from relationships.
- Freedom from physical restrictions;
- the simplest example of such is the right to choose one’s place of living, and other such things; freedom to travel from place to place as one pleases, without needless restrictions. They could be called positive freedoms in the physical realm.
- What sometimes fools us in this area, is that a freedom of unrestrained physical movement as mentioned above can exist in principle, but not in practise. Two of the things of which I thought especially were in my mind when I was growing up, in late sixties or early seventies. One kept hearing about the poor prisoners behind the Iron Curtain, who could not leave their respective home countries, quite often not even cities, without a permission, which was given along with a longish and suspicious interrogation. When people said, “well, at least we can travel wherever we wish pretty much” and I thought I had not been outside the borders, but I had been: the border between Finland and Sweden just was fully transparent by the time I came along. But yes, I still think how much joy one can draw from a freedom, which is unusable. Like a “freedom of religion” that was also guaranteed by the Soviet Constitution, but in practice was not extant. Or freedom to travel, but not in reality having the means to go anywhere.
- Freedom from restraints of conscience or opinion;
- i.e. matters that aren’t factually based as much as something that we often feel passionately about;
for me the simplest example of such is the freedom of religion, or of political opinion. Naturally we must understand, that if we have religious freedom, it means any religion, without restrictions, or none at all.
- As a member of a small minority group around here, where there are about one of us for one thousand people, I have noticed that everybody expected me to be a member of the State church (in practise Nordic version of Evangelical Lutheran, but also Greek Orthodox). In many situations I have been truly exasperated and even angry that the expectations of conformity are so strong.
- In the U.S. there of course is the First Amendment, and part of what’s become the Bill of Rights for the US; those first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which clarify and sometimes obfuscate things, depending on how great an agreement about something was prevalent among the population and of course especially politicians. In the First Amendment, one finds the Establishment Clause. The way it is written down is:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
- I would imagine that is very clearly a proscription against State religions, such as have been suggested in some Bible Belt States recently. And Faux “News” naturally has a team of “journalists” whose sole role it seems to be to keep repeating that “Christian Nation” mantra presumably with the idea that it should become accepted as fact: The more outrageous the lie is and the more often and louder it is repeated, the more likely it will be accepted in the end.
- i.e. matters that aren’t factually based as much as something that we often feel passionately about;
- Freedom to organise;
- in movements such as religions, political parties and other political or charitable organisations and of course lobbying groups of various sorts. Lobbying is almost a dirty word these days, and for a good reason, too, if you ask me, but of course as long as we act morally, we should have the right to try and influence bureaucracies that take care of so much of our lives.
- Freedom is not, however:
- A license to behave irresponsibly. We have Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Press, but e.g. yelling “Fire!” in a dark and tightly packed cinema or theatre is not covered by free speech. At least there will be some question of damages to people and property.
- Neither is any freedom absolute, in a sense that the practical applications of our choices must not cause undue harm to others. Thus I fully expect that everything I say here, publicly, will be used against me one way or another, one time or another. Nobody’s life can withstand 24/7 observation without giving some way of presenting one’s actions in a sordid light.
- We limit our most precious liberties sometimes with very little thought. My prime example of that would be Edward Snowden’s revelations about the virtual Panopticon created by the electronic surveillance states, esp. US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. We also do know that the Francophone world have the French state security service, which has been quite active apparently, but as far as I’ve been able to follow the ongoing revelations, the Guardian or NYTimes articles haven’t mentioned the French spies much.
- I think that all those things such as being able to meet one’s accusers, and the evidence used against oneself in an open court of law, have been cast aside with very little thought of the reasons for doing so (the White House did get strong warnings about Al-Qaeda from the security briefings, and bin Laden was known to be in Afghanistan; yet they paid no mind to the warnings); and also now, after ten years of virtual Panopticon we’ve seen e.g. the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 by the brothers Tsarnaev (most probably), of whom the DHS had received two strongish warnings from Russian FSB, the KGB torch bearers. Yet nothing was done to follow them more carefully, and they had given plenty of evidence of their nefarious plans; at least they had made their political and religionist fanaticism quite clear.
What is left of our freedoms we must consider more carefully before we happily “sign a release” in a manner similar to after 9/11, when the original Patriot Act was rammed through in record time (no wonder Jim Sensenbrenner, one of its authors, said he didn’t mean to build a Panopticon), with Threat Levels hovering around red and orange (and had nothing whatsoever to do with reality; the cases that apparently were caught in planning stages were caught by ordinary, mundane police work, not Robocops from Sci-Fi fantasy). That was a prime example of a situation, where people had been lulled in a sense of security and brought up in an illusion that there will never be any “comebacks” from the foreign policy practised by the USA & UK, and British-American oil companies’ exploitation.
When that illusion of being invulnerable was broken by 9/11, the reaction went as far overboard on the other side as it had been before. Now, we still, to my great frustration, keep hearing people questioning how new generations of young people become “radicalised” enough to do something violent; I feel like screaming, “don’t you understand, that e.g. a son of Pakistani Immigrants, even if born in Europe or North America, who can’t find his place in the society of his inhabitation (because of his too strong pigmentation, wrong religious persuasion [i.e. Islam or Atheism] because it’s just not a good time to graduate from lower level academic or technical institution because of high unemployment), who keeps hearing of U.S. drone strikes that always tend to kill more collaterals than targets, just might start wanting to do something?”; Or if your grandparents had been cast out of Palestine after 1948 UN decision to give most of Palestine to Jewish people, might be just a little angry, that your grandparents are still refugees, after 65 years, people without a country.
Well, I’d be happy to have no nationality. I think the whole Nation-State ideology, which was invented by and for Otto von Bismarck, who needed something on which to build the “blood and iron” bollocks: the Nation-State ideology was crafted to facilitate the unification of Germany and Italy. And yes, it’s given us quite a bit of joy, hasn’t it.
A partial list of the joys of German Nationalism: Denmark’s defeat 1860; Austria’s 1866; France 1870-71 (in 1871 this modern William the Conqueror, Kaiser Wilhelm, or King Wilhelm, who declared himself Emperor or “Kaiser” in German in Versailles, giving the French an obvious idea to use Versailles in 1919); remember that England was governed by the German Hanoverians, now better known as Windsors, which is why the British obliged to dispose of Napoleon III; we still have lots happening in 1870s-80s, so much so that Bismarck did not [!] support a new war in 1888, but spoke against it in Reichstag; anyway, Bismarck was an excellent tool for hyping up nationalist fervour and getting Germans to go to war in 1914 and 1939, not to speak of Hitler’s great devotion to a “national identity” of German-speaking people–at a time, when there were few ways to get news to travel very fast.
So, if you are interested in European Wars of late 19th and then 20th century, you’ll see that until the US troops had marched to Paris in May 1945 after France Libre had made it possible (and the population were more than willing to help the Germans feel some urgency in their departure from that City of Light; not that the U.S. soldiers weren’t a great help, and especially their great amounts of materiél compared to the British), Germany, or some German-speaking bloke from Prussia (Somewhere currently Polish Baltic coast and Lithuania – Latvia north going north towards Estonia along the Baltic coast.
Funny thing is, that as “cosmopolitan” as the moneyed elite are trying to pretend themselves, they are hardly any more so than the moneyed elites in the late Mediaeval period. It was only after the religious wars of “reformation” pretty much all around that there started being more border formalities. If one was just travelling, without much valuable merchandise, one could cross b0rders quite freely, if one was in a position to travel for “leisure”. Of course, the monarchs didn’t see taxation as anything very important, unless they were under special privileges with the Roman Catholic Church. Then with reformation came absolute monarchy, and the monarchs figured out that taxing the trading of goods was about the only way they could raise the kind of money that wars needed. Also, the Church property could be confiscated by the crown, too.
That last paragraph was just an observation to add to the bit about freedom of travelling. My last word here would, however, be about the Second Amendment. I guess I would be in disagreement with many, who say that it means virtually unfettered right to own and use firearms! In all honesty, I cannot understand such attitude. We shall see what happens… One thing is for sure, though: those Action Hero aficionados will never, ever be the people who will overturn a too-powerful government or something. It’s just a damned sight more difficult to shoot a person half an inch above the eyebrows, in the middle of forehead, than what it looks like on screen. ;)
I heartily recommend reading up on where nationalism comes from, and why we are now in especial danger from far-righ organisations such as Front National, UKIP, Golden Dawn, “Base Finns” (that is a truer translation of “perussuomalaiset” than “True Finns”; and moreover, these Finns are the Basest), Italian Lega Nord (thanks, Berlusconi).
Remember, that Wikipedia is always a good place to start, but don’t try to build your thesis or dissertation on Wiki knowledge, unless you’re researching “crowd-sourcing”.