Friday, June 15, 2007

Freedom: By Definition

This Idea is one I will return to often. It is the issue at the core of being American.


"Freedom". This word was the catchword of the president’s address to the G8 Summit this week. It is an ominous word that is spoke and everybody gets a warm fuzzy feeling. The actual visions and meaning is various from person to person as well as culture to culture. To exemplify this point, I want you to close your eyes and picture a dog. Picture the dog’s color, hair length, and demeanor. Did you picture a saliva dripping Rottweiler, with dark short hair, snarling grin, coiled ready to spring, and larger then your average teenager. Most of you didn’t. Most people would have envisioned something smaller, cuter, and friendlier when thinking of a dog. The same can be said about the way that the Bush administration and their vision of freedom. They didn’t understand many Iraqis idea of freedom would be the freedom to take revenge and kill their neighbors. Freedom of religion to them would mean a religion that is considered repressive to women. Freedom of speech would mean to that ability to preach hatred of the American presence and inciting violence. The right to bear arms would the used to arm the militias against the troops.


Freedom as an ideology is unpredictable and not definable. According to m-w.com "Freedom" the word there are many definitions. Most of them say what freedom is not. Others talk about freedom in a negative sense. The only raw kind of definitive definition is (the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action). By that definition we are not free in this country. I think that they would be more accurate to have written it as that absence of necessity or coercion by others, or constraint in choice from others. We are all bound by our biological needs of food, Shelter, oxygen, ect. In this country we have a necessity for a phone, transportation, digital entertainment, and many other things that we could actually survive without. Because of these "sudo needs", existence in this country isn’t "free" and the very need for money creates a reduction in freedom.


A reduction in freedom is another important concept. Freedom is not a light switch. It is not an off or on thing. It exists on variable scales that exist on a variable scale on an individual level. You can drive down the road "non-coerced" at 75 MPH on the highways in some states. Yet in others that would get you pulled over and ticketed in other states. Some states allow you to gamble freely, however other states it is strictly forbidden. (Well at least in the strictest sense of the word. This is the source of a future topic.) If your choice is to gamble, you freedom is restricted in some places, while in some places you remain free to do your will.

If you want to experience true freedom, get a sailboat and a fishing pole and head out to sea. You have wind for power and a way to feed yourself. The rules of the boat are your own. That is freedom.
Many people confuse freedom with democracy. I know I have a few teachers that read this blog. I have always envisioned teaching students the freedom and democracy difference like this. Have them all gather in a circle with their arms outstretched and fingertips touching. Then have them take one step back with their arms still outstretched. The circle is wide with plenty of space between them. That is freedom. Then having them return to the state where they were touching their fingertips again, I would have them take a step forward and lock wrists. Their head, elbows, legs and other parts are free. Where they touch the other people is where democracy is required. In a society, freedom is the activities and choices you are allowed to make that do not infringe upon the freedoms and choices of other in the society. Democracy is the way to address the issues that arise when two or more participants’ choices are in conflict or effect the others. The last thing I would have the students do is move as rapidly as possible, with palms still locked on wrists, out and around the school’s flag pole and back to class. I would inspire them to beat some time. They would experience the difficulties of moving when choices are to be made together. There are so many variations to this exercise including changing group sizes, electing leaders, and forcing time constraints.

William O. Douglas, "a former Supreme Court Justice and free speech advocate, had this to say about protecting freedom. "As night fall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness"

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