A well-known writer named Steven Barnes posed a thought this morning in which he asked:
I’ve seen a number of posts recently with people complaining about “losing our freedoms.” All right, I’d like to understand exactly what is meant by this, and would like anyone who thinks this is happening to tell me exactly when in American history they believe there was more freedom overall for the average person in this country.
The responses to this question were often interesting and insightful and while I do not advocate Facebook as a way of life, if you are interested, you can follow the thread here.
Initially, the question seemed easy to answer but the longer I thought about it, the more I realized how complex the question actually is. So I thought to answer it with a short and direct answer. The more I wrote the more I realized the question didn’t have an easy answer. So I gave up and started again, this time in an effort to challenge the status quo and answer the question in the way few will be willing to acknowledge.
Freedom and Society are inversely proportional. The more Freedom you claim, the less likely you are to want to be involved with Society because thinking about other people (Society) means you have to limit your Freedom and the exercises thereof.
I do not believe there has ever been a time that we have had more freedoms than we do now. Yes, everyone can name some erosion that has taken place in their lifetime, but I look at a picture wider than any individual and consider that Freedom is a summation of everyone’s abilities to enjoy the same rights, liberties and expectations of happiness. Not just the options the elite and well to do have to offer but the ability of any individual to harness their natural talents, strengths and gifts for the betterment of themselves and to the improvement of our mutual society.
In America, while some of us have been free, to paraphrase: freedom was relative; some of us were more free than others.
In my opinion, Freedom and Society are inversely proportional. If you want the benefits of living in society, some freedoms seem to have to give way to means of working and living together in close quarters.
Freedom, the ability to say you live without rules or guidelines imposed by others is still yours. You have the option to leave America and go someplace else. You have the option to maintain your aplomb and understand that you freedom stops in front of my nose. As soon as your Freedom infringes on mine, you stop being free. That is the nature of a Society, where the sum of the parts creates the potential to do things greater than any single Free individual with the understanding that the rules we create benefit us proportionally for the Freedom we willingly surrender.
When that formula of Freedom surrendered for Society becomes imbalanced (NDAA, indentured servitude or slavery, TSA, undeclared wars, untoward military spending, financial imbalances and class warfare, to name a few) we begin to sense our sacrifice of Freedom is not proportional to the benefits we are expecting and that is the vague unease many of us are feeling. Our freedoms are being bartered away (or stolen, or bought depending on your occupation and where you stand in the social food chain) and replaced with artificial constructs in place of either Freedom or Society. This new un-balancing agent is partially the engine of commerce run amok, without an understanding that every result of Society owes its existence to Society. And when our economic responsibilities to Society at large fails, Society and Freedom both suffer, replacing them with a Tyranny and control of Society for economic purposes, rather than for the improvement of society or the escalation of true Freedoms.
If you chafe today, it is because you are getting an artificial substitute for Freedom. It looks like Freedom: You have 300 channels (but nothing you want to watch), you have eat 60 different varieties of potato chips (but can’t afford decent medical care) you have genetically engineered food keeping our bread baskets full, (but the FDA has no power to actually regulate or check if that food is safe for you to eat). You have the option for the finest education in the world (as long as you can afford it or are willing to carry the debt for decades, paying twice what you owe.) And even the well to do secretly chafe under this false freedom because while they can afford the creature comforts denied to 99.99999% of humanity, all they have to give up IS THEIR HUMANITY.
Our Society is no better off. The Greater Good or the Common Good, the idea we are here for each other, we support each other, that we are Americans and citizens of a nation, in theory if not in fact, prides itself on being an icon to the modern world. That image has been tarnished in our quest for resources to consume, to prop up an economy built on the manufacture (and ultimately the use) of weapons of mass destruction (and these days, lesser and more targeted destruction, using drones or other smart weaponry). Our foreign policy consists of bombing people back to the Stone Age, absconding with their resources or using banks or other financial chicanery to control the wealth (or debt) of foreign nations.
We can no longer come together politically, over even the simplest of ideas. Better schools, more healthcare for everyone, less processed sugar in our processed foods, the merits of birth control or the excesses of Viagra, regulation or deregulation. Everyone gets upset when you talk about regulation or deregulation. I don’t. Simplest way to be sure, if an industry needs more regulation is if an industry goes from profitable to obscene, its time for regulation, if it goes from profitable to questionable, perhaps we should consider releasing a few regulations to determine if that industry is still viable, so if you look at oil companies who are obscenely, ubiquitously, and most egregiously wealthy, nearly beyond that of any other industries, for them to receive tax cuts, tax benefit beyond those any other company should get and to give them SUBSIDIES as well, is a sign of an industry who not only has forgotten the Greater Good, but tap dances on the bones of the poor creature long after its been dead.
The list of crimes against the institution of Society is long, with our last century racking up a body count that could rival a Rambo movie. How long must those of us without wealth, without the recourse to lobby and purchase the political votes we need to make our concerns known, endure this Tyranny of the wealthy, which would have been as abhorrent to our founding fathers (okay, I am Black, so they are not MY founding fathers, my ancestors were enslaved during that time) as it has become to almost everyone today?
We live in an age where we have the technology to peer into the heavens to discover our alone-ness in a sea of galaxies. The Milky Way, that band of light you can see if you still live someplace without air pollution (if not, there is always the internet) shows a part of our galaxy, not even the whole thing and it fills the heavens. The part we can see is a few million stars, our galaxy is blessed with an estimate of 100 to 300 BILLION stars. We now know, thanks to the engineering marvel that is Hubble, created by a tiny group of people who could put aside their backstabbing long enough to further all of Humanity, to discover our universe is filled with at least 100 BILLION galaxies, each as vast as our own (or in some cases far more vast than our own; one such galaxy is thought to have one trillion stars all by itself).
Stars in numbers so vast we only hear about them in national budgets, we fail to remember the most important number when you look at the cosmological scene.
That is how many Earths we have. That is how many planets we have to live on, live with, struggle over, SHARE with each other and all of the diverse life forms who live on it as well. We continue to fail to remember, humanity, each other, is all we have. Earth is all we have. Our societies had better learn to get along because, THIS planet, right now, with our frail bodies, choking under the pollution of our production of things we do not need, to increase the wealth of those who have more than enough, is going to turn our questions of Freedom versus Society into a much easier debate; whether we, as a species will SURVIVE or NOT.