Saturday, 16 August 2014

What Is Freedom? Four Points To Ponder

I value my freedom more than anything. I won't tolerate attempts to infringe on it from anyone from any political or social perspective. Today I'm going to talk about freedom and what it means to me in four areas: social, political, religion, and personal. In short, the individual must be free to act and the will of the people must be respected. If we're not in a society where that principle is ring-fenced, we're not free.


Movements are afoot to make the unacceptable acceptable, respectable, and to validate behaviours and attitudes we find hard to live with. Basically, it's a case of indulging people in denial of the reality of where they're at. Recently I fell foul of a group of very defensive individuals who resent being referred to as prostitutes and demand respect for themselves and their profession.

I responded; perhaps I shouldn't have, but I got mobbed when I dared to suggest that their trade is unhealthy for body and mind and they should perhaps do something else. Look, when someone elects to choose an act that means they're not looking their client in the eye at the time as an example of fun, I'm not buying it. And when someone tells you to educate yourself when you point out that their trade is unhealthy, and you bring up STDs as an example of why you think it's unhealthy, and they FAIL to mention the range of prophylactics and treatments available on the open market and at health clinics as a professional proud of their work would, to validate their position, leaving only this as an answer,

sorry, I can't accept their position as valid. Prostitution may be the oldest profession but it's not and never will be a respectable one as far as I'm concerned. And no attempt to bully me into accepting it is going to work.

So where's the freedom? 

The individual must be free to act and the will of the people must be respected. Prostitution is a demand-side issue and as long as there are punters who want it and "fun-lovers" willing to pander to them there's no point in trying to stop it. We can manage it, though. Legalise, tax, and regulate it. Provide training opportunities to those who want to exit so they can do something else for a living when they're ready. As it is, we just sweep it under the carpet and arrest the people involved from time to time. It's not going to go away. As for those involved, are they free? Well they freak out if you mention that other options are available and their conversation implies a deep state of denial, hence the defensiveness. Empowered? Wait till the autobiography comes out years after they have quit and tell me if they were empowered or not. So far, the answer appears to be "no," according to the ones I've read. That doesn't sound like freedom to me.


Well it seems that people involved in the campaign for justice for Stephen Lawrence, etc., were put under surveillance because God forbid that you should see your loved one's killers put behind bars. This actually happens to anyone who challenges the Establishment. Surveillance is not a word you associate with the word "mere." Overt surveillance chills your activities and speech, you worry about saying or doing something that might bring unwanted attention upon yourself.

In America, where they're a lot more polarised you're expected to choose between the left-liberal and right-wing viewpoints. Woe betide you if you dare to question the accepted political doctrines or talking points! The trouble with clinging like grim death to any particular creed, though, is that it actually prevents you from learning because you filter and block any information that contradicts your chosen position.

As a proponent of middle-out economics I often find myself getting into arguments with authoritarian left, right, and liberal types. The strident repetition of unexamined political talking points and appeals to authority in a parade of logical fallacies annoy me. This chap unfollowed me when I made it plain that I refuse to be patronised or controlled for my own good. The point is, I resent not being allowed to be me, to hold my own points of view and to express them without attempts being made to force me to accept an unacceptable position.

So where's the freedom?

I am only as free as I'm willing to be. And believe me I have to fight for it pretty much every time I go on Twitter, particularly where politics is concerned. If I don't subscribe to the points of view of the people I argue with I'm a big fat meanie, or something. I point out the flaws in their logic and they slink away but refuse to change their attitudes so next time the subject comes up I have the same argument with them. This happens on the social side too.

Look, if your political position forbids you to question it, you're not free. I question mine all the time and can effectively defend it because it's flexible enough to adapt to different situations. The thing is, I've never really been challenged on it and I need this to happen so I can iron out the wrinkles. Who says I'm right about middle-out? I can't be sure until someone has made a valiant effort to poke some holes in it. Being challenged on a viewpoint doesn't infringe on my freedom. Neither does being disagreed with. As long as I'm not being forced to comply or agree with something I'm not comfortable with, I'm free.


"Imagine all the people living in harmony," John Lennon sang. Trust me, if got rid of all religion tomorrow we'd find other things to fight about. One of the things I get into arguments about is authoritarianism over religion.

It's either right-wingers trying to drag the heretic to their prescribed faith and practice or militant atheists deriding me for talking to my invisible friend in the sky. Each side infringes on my freedom by attempting to force a change of mind instead of presenting cogent arguments for my consideration.

Efforts to remove religious iconography from public places come from this kind of authoritarianism. Remember when the Taliban blew up the Buddhist statues of Bamiyan Valley? Same thing.

Where's the freedom?

Have you ever noticed that people who are trapped in a state of deep denial seek validation from others to shore up their carefully-constructed alternate reality? Instead of calmly arguing their point of view they resort to the use of degrading insults and mobbing to shut people up if they disagree with them. When that doesn't work they accuse them of insulting them but question their own choices? Never. That's not freedom, whether you're religious or not. We need as much freedom to express and practice our religion as we need freedom from religious values that contradict our own being imposed on us. Where that isn't kept in balance, we're not free.


To be enslaved to the patriarchal agenda is to be obliged to pander to men in the way we speak, act, dress, eat, and relate to others. I've broken free of that mostly because I find it too burdensome to concern myself with what others think about my not wearing makeup, skirts, or anything that might draw attention to my femininity. I relate to others through my intellect, not my body, so my physical appearance doesn't matter. I wear trousers with loose-fitting tops and present myself as a thinker first and foremost. And why? Because I'm a person first, then a worker, then a woman.

I'm also a wife; Richard loves me for myself, not my dress size. We've been married for nine years. The point is, I'm forever being put under pressure to conform to the madonna/whore dichotomy as if there were no other options for relating to the world around me but I know better than that so I push back hard every time. I am more than just my body.

I've always been a dreamer and a thinker. I ask awkward questions because they occur to me and I genuinely want an answer. If your job is to film volcanic eruptions I WILL ask how you protect yourself from dangerous events like pyroclastic flow, whether or not you've ever had a near miss, and what you would do if your partner was hit by a large piece of debris as you were running away from a violent explosion, a trait that often gets me into trouble. But I persist because I genuinely want to know. If you can't ask these questions because you're afraid of how people will respond, you're not free, and if they can't be asked them without freaking out and interpreting them in the worst possible way, neither are they.

Where's the freedom?

I don't know why this is but some people seem to think that irresponsibility is freedom. It's not. Weighing up the consequences of my actions provides me with a lot more freedom than reckless, selfish people will ever know because I don't have to spend my life defending my choices or running away from the trouble I've got myself into. My faith provides me with wholesome guidelines to follow, the result of which is healthy peer-to-peer relationships and an effective coping strategy for dealing with issues that arise in my life. I can face reality head-on because I'm not afraid of it.

So what is freedom?

Freedom is the ability to speak, act, and express yourself without interference. In a healthy society, the rights of the individual do not trump those of society nor society the individual, they're held in balance. Freedom does not mean rampant irresponsible self-indulgence, though; we can be owned by our own desires, by self-destructive habits like smoking, or by the desire to conform in order to be accepted whether we're happy about it or not. Truly free people are not afraid of what others think and aren't offended when they're disagreed with because they're at home in their own skin. When you're not, you're defensive, easily offended, and insist that those who don't agree with you on principle are cruel, hurtful people. And you're not free at all.

Truly free people can make choices based on what is best for them from a wide range of options, not limited by fear or favour. They can think, act, and express themselves outside the parameters set for them by others. Are you free? Be honest with yourself; it's the key to real freedom.

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