Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The "two freedoms"

"Freedom" is something most people say they are fighting for. But the definition of "freedom" itself is very much relative and ambiguous concept.
Hamas says it wants freedom from the Israeli occupation, but also advocates enforcing harsh sharia laws on its own citizens.
When the shah of Iran was overthrown in the name of "freedom" the first thing the new ruly party did was to ban all other political parties.
The biggest example of this paradox is communism, which long fought for freedom from "Western Imperialists" only to engage in its own form of oppression and imperialism.
More recently, the self-appointed "liberator" of Zimbabwe has suspended democratic processes, has instituted a harsh law against homosexuals and his radical land reform policies have almost single handedly sparked a famine. (How much more "liberation" can the people of Zimbabwe take?)
Closer to home many Christian Conservatives say they are fighting for "freedom". Yet, their whole agenda seems hell bent on destroying it.
How many time throughout history have we seen "freedom fighters" turn out to be just as controlling and power hungry of the people they are fighting against.
This is more than just simple hypocracy, it has a lot to do with the way one defines "freedom".
Many supporters of the above movements don’t want "freedom to", but "freedom from." and it is this very definition which leads people to support totalitarian movements. They want freedom from uncertainty, freedom from the burdens and ambiguity created by increased choice, in short, it is freedom from freedom itself.
It is this very veiw of freedom which leads to the desire for a "perfect order". But, you can’t have utopia if you let every does as he or she pleases. Freedom from imperfection is found by undermining freedom of choice and freedom of personal autonomy.
As the old saying goes, "you can’t make the perfect omlete without smashing some eggs."
However, the "freedom to" perspective can be taken to hidous extremes as well. If everyone was allowed to do anything they wanted, society would almost certainly crumble.
The whole point of democracy is to find a middle rode between the "two freedoms".


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