A lovely, cheerful Saturday morning to all and I hope that your day is being gentle with you. I am having a cleanup/relaxing type day as my mind is keen on the idea but the body is not so willing. I have been sorting through my old notebooks to see what I really need to discard as I have promised myself that I am creating a new ‘hippie’ type me so I can travel at easy, once I get my health back to where it should be. Anyway, I found these wonderful notes essay format that I most likely had compiled whilst I was teaching high school history (I love History almost as much as English) as a sample for my students to aspire too. I hope you enjoy the read, and those of you that read my blogs on a regular base will notice the difference in my writing style but this is as a result of my stroke/coma in June, the doctors are pretty certain that I will be able to regain this level of writing again.
A truly inspiring moment from any movie was when William Wallace (Mel Gibson) cried “they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom” as he rallied the Scots to battle against the tyrannical English. He, again, yells “FREEEDOOOM” as he was being executed. I can hear you, and I agree that this is very much an idealistic interpretation of a bloodied period of history. But I needed that image in your mind as I look at the concept of freedom! What do we mean when we talk of freedom?
The dictionary perceives it as a noun meaning:
1) The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
2) Absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.
For me, it means the right to be who I want to be, to be able to voice my view on any issue without fear of reprisal, to pursue personal happiness and live the way I wish to live. I recognise it as encompassing all beings on the planet. Could it be this simply and I have staggered onto the answer that philosophers have deliberated over for centuries?
John Stuart Mills (‘On Liberty’) reasons that it is acceptable for someone to harm himself as long as he is not harming others, however, individuals are prevented from doing lasting, serious harm to themselves, or their property, by the harm principle, as no-one exists in isolation, any harm done to oneself may also harm others, and destroying property deprives the community, as well as oneself.
Quick précis: If you are not doing harm to another or their property you can do as you please? I like that idea, but again does it define ‘freedom’?
Put just the word ‘freedom’ into your search engine, you will be very surprised at the result. The furniture store appeared first on the list; not my concept of freedom, although I do like their range of goodies. Next is Wikipedia’s entry for freedom, then Political freedom (Wikipedia again) followed by Freedom of Information (Australia). Really not much help here but scroll through a couple of pages….
I stumbled across the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by ‘The Wall Street Journal’and ‘The Heritage Foundation’, who identify themselves as Washington’s No. 1 think tank; so maybe the answer we seek? This is the web link, http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking. I found it to be quite informative and very user friendly. The page is easy to follow with graphics, stats and why your country placed where they did. However, that is a side issue; what we want from this think tank is what Economic Freedoms are? They answered that, it is ‘a fundamental right so that every human can control his or her own labour and property. Economically free society allows for individuals to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. Thus providing these free societies government to allow labour, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.’ Who knew that our governments were working this hard?
To know that I reside in a country that ranks 3rd in the world for economic freedom, and this is nice, but what does it really mean? I do not own property, I do have a job and I consume, however I never have enough left over to invest, but thanks anyway as it is a comfort to know that when I hit the top 10 in ‘The Times’ best seller list,I will be in the right place to capitalise!
But we are still no closer to an answer! To find anything close to what I think most would identify as freedom I was forced to pull out the history books. Freedom was most eloquently identified by President Franklin D Roosevelt on the 6th January 1942 for his ‘State of the Union Address’:
- We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
- The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
- The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
- The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
- The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbour—anywhere in the world.
- That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.
http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/fourfreedoms and you can hear the Man himself giving the speech (4.35), it is really worth it, as he was a true visionary and I have only copied a small part of the Address.
I think this sums it up for us all. And here I go again (rose-coloured glass, you have been warned!!) but if we adopted the concepts that FDR put forth in 1942, then and only then will we have the freedom we constantly try to immortalise in books and movies. I will leave you with this quote from another Great Visionary “Freedom would be meaningless without security in the home and in the streets.” (Nelson Mandela, speech, April 27, 1995)
The images above are of people, who in my lifetime, have had to fight for their freedom. Freedom Rides in Australia (1965) resulted in the Aboriginals gaining ‘equality’ by referendum on 1967. Freedom Riders in the USA (1961) help to end segregation.
Thank you so much for reading to the end. I was one of those teachers that encouraged my students to think outside the box and create their own views, then present it in a format that worked for them – humour, straight facts, whatever – as it was a very personal matter and it helped you coped with life and you should never let others control that individual portion of you. Not one of my students on this task received a mark under 85% (I was known as the hardest marker in the school), but set the benchmark high and our young will always strive to reach it. I have decided to include some of those tips in my ‘what I am going to achieve in 2018’ book.
Hope the rest of your Saturday is restful and enjoy whatever you have planned.