Last October, I broached the subject of freedom in my write up for this column. I would like to return to the subject and discuss it further in light of recent national and global developments. There have been heated and opposing arguments on the nation’s decision to free ourselves from Brussels and the EU project. America under its new Trump administration is bellowing out threats to tear down long-standing treaties and agreements in his “America First” mantra.
Yes, as said in that article, I believe, after love, freedom is the next most sort after virtue in the heart of every person. We all crave freedom from rules, regulations, controls and oppression.
No matter our economic or social conditions, every human being wants to live freely and peacefully. This innate desire is what makes people in spite of good economic provision reject totalitarian and autocratic regimes whenever the opportunity arises. This is what led to the fall of communist Soviet Union and ushered reforms across the eastern block and China in recent decades.
It is this search for freedom that leads people to brace the elements, walk for miles unending and subject themselves to the dangers of raging seas to flee from barbaric, autocratic regimes and the tyranny of war.
Many nations were built on the pursuit of freedom and would go to every extent in the defence of freedom. For example the US is proudly called “the land of the free” and Ghana my native country’s national anthem says “God bless our homeland...and make our nation great and strong, bold to defend the cause of freedom and of right...Help us to resist oppressors rule...”
Indeed, everyone wants to be free! Freedom is defined as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.” Freedom is declared by a UN charter as an inalienable right of every human being. However, can the pursuit of freedom take us in the wrong direction?
I mentioned the rock band Steppenwolf’s famous song “Born to be wild” which connotes the idea of freedom and adventure. ‘Wildness’ suggests being untamed, free to do whatever one wants and being without limits. In our quest for freedom, what kind of freedom are we seeking: ‘self interest and isolationism’ or ‘self identify and corporate responsibility as interdependent human beings’?
There are many questions that need careful discussion:
What do we really mean when we talk about being free?
What kinds of things do we need to be freed from?
Can we be totally and truly free in life?
How can one obtain real freedom?
Are there any consequences to an individual’s pursuit of freedom?
Are there boundaries or limits to an individual’s freedom?
Where do laws and rules come into the equation when we talk of individual freedom?
Can there be real freedom without the willingness to sacrifice some things?
How can an individual or a group maintain their freedoms in a society?
What are the things we must be willing to sacrifice for our freedoms?
If our goal in life is to pursue individual freedom, then is there anything called community or society?
Does freedom come with responsibilities of some kind, shape or form?
As we move into this new and uncharted world of individual interests above collective or shared responsibilities, we must take time and pause for reflection. We should be asking ourselves what kind of world are we creating for posterity?
We would be better off listening to the advice in the Good Book on how ‘we belonging one to another’.
For example, the Apostle Paul advised: “...I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment... so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:3-5 NIV)
I believe if we all make our goal in life to be about working for the “collective” instead of “individual” freedom, no one would be left behind or disadvantaged. May the love of Christ enter our hearts to change our course before we destroy our fragile peace and our global community of humans with a shared destiny. Shalom!