Saturday, February 5, 2011

Faith in Freedom?

Ok, I'm in a bizarre mood tonight so this blog is going to challenge the value placed on human rights. This isn't to say that I don't respect them at a high level, but it is saying that at the current moment I'm feeling a bit dubious. A favorite bumper sticker of mine is the Ben Franklin quote: "Those that sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither." That statement sounds/feels/emits vibes of/ pure, unrestrained liberty. It sounds great, feels great, so on, so forth. But almost all aphoristic quotes drastically overstep their boundaries when generalized to the entire state of things, and this is no exception. Anyone who believes that economy should have no governmental restraints is either an idiot, or a pleased beneficiary. Likewise, the whole intent of the social contract is to limit freedom to expand security (and freedom-kind of).

Ok, new perspective on the value of freedom. I'm from Detroit, in my opinion the city with cruddiest social dilemmas in the nation right now. People are regularly committing crimes (often violent) to go to jail so that they can obtain those three complementary meals a day and a not-freezing sleeping environment. My cousin even did this very act, damning himself for three months in his little rebellious "I don't need the family, but I can't actually make it on my own" phase. The people who do this to themselves are free. More free than any of us since they have no material wealth constricting their actions. But the value of that is lost on them, and who could really expect otherwise?

If any of you read the book The Giver, perhaps you remember how one boy was given the troubles of all humanity so that everyone else could live in their utopian world (portrayed as un-ideal). His suffering was immense, but that is secondary to my thought. When I re-read the book, I noticed that those supposedly constricted, de-humanized, individuals all appeared, at the very least, relatively happy. That is no worse than what I would project the mean satisfaction level of citizens of this (and most other) country(ies).

I recognize what being born with a relative excess of freedom has permitted me. I also do not excessively challenge the value of general freedom within parameters. I guess I'm just curious about what makes the rest of you fellow classmates of mine value this highest of rights at the level it is consistently lauded? Yes, it sounds nice, but so does the Constitution. And, while I respect that document, I don't consider infallible. The same with democracy. Our country's people masturbate to its concept-and the idea is, indeed, respectable. But infallible? The superlative concept? Come on. And so, getting back to my original query, I'm simply curious about the personal reasons you guys hold for valuing this liberty so much. It's not so much that I completely doubt its value, but that I'm sick of generic, patterned, pre-organized opinions on the matter that arise from the fact that we live in a country promoting its morals. I simply want the truth without a nationalistic filter of bias. Any assistance?


  1. One of the reasons I value freedom over just about anything else is because you need it before you can do anything else. It may be possible to be forced to do the things you like, but how long is that going to last? Furthermore, how do you know you like doing something if you can’t do anything else? You would never know that you did or didn’t like something if you could never try something else. Perhaps most importantly, it seems like a contradictory position to want to give up your freedom. In the act of giving it up, you are in fact asserting it.

  2. We have no choice but to value liberty, we were raised being told we could have any job, fix the world's problems, we have been heavily socialized to the point at which freedom is fetishized. We are told everyone should be treated equally and that through freedom, we will make the best choices.
    Secondly, we need to make a distinction between positive and negative liberties. So you are mostly talking about negative liberties, the freedom from interference from others - government or slavers. We can all agree that having free speech, religion and movement are beatifically liberties. Through free speech we gain the information needed to progressive and make the best decisions we can as humans. Free religion allows us to believe and practice our own spiritual endeavors, allowing people to be who they want to be. Finally movement allows labor, goods and ideas to spread throughout a country without the restraints of past societies.
    Next there are positive rights, the power and resources to act to fulfill one's own potential. To what extent society is willing to help out the less well off in the society, thus expanding who is really free. Without the ability to read, our choices are limited, without good health as a child, you could perish, and without public food or housing it could be hard to live without a job.

    These are liberties that we need because we are all born as John Rawls would say, a veil of ignorance, none of us can know our place before we are born, so it is advantageous for society to build a better place for the lowest common denominator, so that he can have the liberty to live a decent existence.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.