We in the U.S., and elsewhere, hear and read a lot about “freedom”. It seems everyone wants it, some want all they can get of it, the more the better. It sounds alright at first blush, right? What can possibly be wrong with lots of freedom? And let’s throw liberty in there as well.
Actually, a lot can be wrong with too much freedom. Perhaps it’s better to state that a lot can go wrong with too much freedom. When I want the freedom to choose my own vocation, to pursue higher education, to access medical care, to travel where and when I want and am able to, to open my own business, live where I choose and am able to, to read what I want and to express my viewpoints freely, to marry or not marry, to choose my spouse, these freedoms are some of the more obvious ones most, if not all, of us want. Maybe these are the freedoms that come to mind when we see or hear the word “freedom”.
But, unfortunately, this isn’t the case with everyone.
Some see freedom from a different perspective. They interpret freedom as the freedom to engage in what are essentially predatory business practices. The freedom to pollute the environment. The freedom to misrepresent products and services. The freedom to oppress others. As absurd as it may seem to many of us, some interpret their freedom as the freedom to engage in tyranny; allowing them to take away freedoms from others. Of course there is a difference between “freedom” and “power”. Some would say that tyrants are exercising power, not freedom, when they oppress others. Actually it’s some of both, but true, it’s mostly power.
However, at some point in their rise to power as a tyrant, that person was most likely doing so exercising the freedoms the people who were to become their victims, gave to them. Freedoms like freedom of speech, the freedom to assemble, the freedom to acquire armament, and if not involved in it themselves, most tyrants seem to make alliances with those busily exercising their freedom to engage in predatory business practices.
Interestingly, some of the freedoms tyrants customarily take away from others are the very ones that allowed them to come to power. They include: freedom of speech, movement, assembly, to own armament, and various freedoms associated with financial/business dealings. And we can be sure tyrants give little or no freedom for the public to view government meetings. It seems freedom is great until a sociopath or psychopath discovers a way to exploit it.
So what’s the answer? None of us want to give up our basic freedoms, at least no one I know.
But neither do we want to keep “bumping into doors” like children playing hide and seek with blindfolds on…do we?
Somehow, there is a reality in which freedom is tempered with responsibility, compassion, and wisdom that is the answer. Perhaps part of the key is to be found in the Buddhist “Middle Way”? In the reality that within moderation we find a path to community harmony?
When we see our economic resources being drained from our lives and our communities; when we see our air, water and earth becoming polluted; when we see essential goods and services being priced out of reach of the average person; I feel safe in saying that we can be assured we have allowed somebody to take criminal advantage of the freedoms we desired for them.
(Add. 11/9/2018) We need leaders, of industry and of government, who have genuine humility and who recognize that all the benefits and blessings of civilization and progress that we enjoy are the result of the work of millions throughout many centuries. That all these millions had and have dreams and hopes for a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, for their descendants. To ignore and negate these hopes and dreams is to ignore and negate the foundation upon which all progress has relied.