All due respect to Americans who fought and died for it
but I really don’t
know what freedom is.
Even when I speak of obtaining it, I don’t know what it is. So of what value is my battle cry?
Well, you might say – “You know what it is.”
Or – “You know what freedom is and what it isn’t.”
You’re wrong though.
I don’t know what freedom is and what it isn’t.
And I can pretty much prove it to you.
• • •
If you think freedom exists outside of context, you don’t know what freedom is.
If you think freedom exempts your actions from consequence, you don’t know what freedom is.
If you think freedom is sitting in an expensive hotel room, having no obligations to anyone or anything except yourself, then you don’t know what freedom is.
If you think freedom pairs easily with your vision of how your life should look, you don’t know what freedom is.
• • •
I want the freedom to speak at a normal voice when talking to someone.
However my grandmother is not very good at hearing.
I want the freedom to write as I wish, and be understand.
However you can’t make heads or tails of this post.
I want the freedom to have sex with who and when I want.
However you don’t wish to have sex with me now or ever.
I want the freedom to have sex without unintended consequences.
However I don’t have access to the technology that allows for it.
Technology that was unavailable to vast majority of the gazillion humans who came before me.
• • •
If I’m calling for something that can’t be achieved, should you listen to me? Should you rally behind me? Of what value, to anyone other than myself, are my cries? Is it just the sound of my own voice crying freedom that I like?
• • •
Slavery once was not a metaphor, and for many people in this world now it remains so.
The ashes filled a black plastic box about the size of a toaster. It weighed three and a half pounds. I put it in a canvas tote bag and packed it in my suitcase this past July for the transpacific flight to Manila. From there I would travel by car to a rural village. When I arrived, I would hand over all that was left of the woman who had spent 56 years as a slave in my family’s household.
For the vast majority of us, especially those in first world conditions, slavery is a concept, which if you continue to pull at it from a societal angle, will tumble to the ground.
If a societal structure is standing in my way of acting freely, versus an individual standing in my way, then I need to understand the difference. In both cases, I am not free. But because societal structures are societal structures to all of us, because we all perceive ourselves as an individual, regardless of race, gender, class, ethnicity, economic status, we all perceive ourselves as an individual we cannot expect another person to identify with an institutional structure, especially if that institutional structure is seen poorly.
It is both insane and unhelpful to expect that.
Yes, institutions may reflect one individual more than another, because individuals in groups build institutions, but that doesn’t make that institution entirely reflective of any one individual.
Even if you’re an individual who exhibits and wields power in that institution.
That’s the point of an institution, goddamnit.
They’re bigger than we are.
If we don’t want institutions, we don’t want anything bigger than ourselves.
Why bother with them then?
Then tear them down.
And see if you get the freedom that you seek.
• • •
‘Our parents fought for freedom, but all we got was democracy … We don’t want democracy, we want freedom.”
This was a bold statement made by Nomatter Ndebele, one of four erudite and passionate millennials who shared a platform with businessman and leadership advocate Reuel Khoza at a Gordon Institute of Business Science public forum recently.
Some would say the problem is we’ve become so fundamentally disconnected from what essential freedom is that it’s impossible to achieve or recognize anymore in modern society.
So what I would ask, then what good are your calls for it?
When freedom goes from a list of demands to a concept, it loses its power for me.
Conceptual freedom is a problematic goal.
• • •
We talk about freedom as though it is this primordial concept while relying on modern technology to justify its possibility. Has true freedom been unacheivable for the gazillion humans who didn’t have access to the technology that we rely on today to make ourselves “free”?
This is the struggle of our time. The forces of freedom, openness and global community against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism, and nationalism.
• • •
Freedom is limited. It’s nothing new.