Freedom. Now that is a Grand Word I use far too often; it seems to be all I blab about day and night. I never considered myself an idealist and sure as hell I am not one now – but if there was ever an idea that could potentially sway me, back in the old days when I was not so bitter and disappointed with the world as if I have lived through seventy years of hardship myself already, back then it would have been freedom.
I don’t have many strong opinions, but there is one that sticks with me the most and that is: let people do what they want to do and be who they want to be. Freedom of choice is by far the only thing I get passionate about in discussion; that and maybe the fact that, well, other people are people and deserve our respect regardless. But since the latter seems to be a logical conclusion of the former, it really is all I am about in my socio-political debates: choice.
(On a side note: this will not be a political post. If I ever decide to write one, just shoot me, as I will be too far gone to save.)
Yet surprisingly often I find that other people’s idea of what freedom constitutes is wildly different to my own idea of freedom. I do see the irony in how much that bothers me; don’t worry. But it doesn’t change the fact that for some people freedom has become no more than an excuse – a key to open doors otherwise rightfully closed. And since almost everyone and everything tries to toy with our freedom nowadays, well, maybe it’s time we show it some proper love.
So here I am, blabbing Grand Words again to advise you on the two most important constituents of freedom as I see it. And no, being able to do whatever you want surprisingly doesn’t even make the Top 2 (sadly retired to spot number 3).
Your freedom ends where someone else’s freedom starts
My parents have put their best efforts into raising me in a good, catholic faith – which wasn’t much though, as they are both more into the ‘funerals and weddings’ type of Christianity. They even sent me to a catholic school, come on, that is a solid effort for people who couldn’t care less! None of the preaching has ever stuck with me for longer than an afternoon; I think I swallowed the poison of poetry and French existentialism too early in life for that to stick. Nothing but one little rule.
When I was a little girl in a catholic school I was taught to believe in the limits of my own freedom. Anyone as cynical about religious efforts as I am, and I am not even that cynical, will have their own idea on why stressing that could be so important to my education; but although I have rejected hundreds of these limits, one stayed.
The thing I have retained from the catholic schoolgirl days of my life is a strong conviction that my freedom is no more important than another person’s freedom. That my freedom ends when other people’s freedom starts.
That is, of course, in itself a very vague definition – it is often like this with concepts so abstract we barely even think of them in real life terms. I don’t have a better one. Maybe because I never needed a better one myself or maybe a better one just does not exist.
You see, other people do not belong to us.
Other people don’t care about us.
I like to think that we are not all just selfish beasts, and sometimes I do actually believe it, but the sudden realization (as it was sudden – it came to me one sunny morning and never left) that no one cares is one of the sweetest, most relieving thoughts I have ever had.
We are free to do whatever we want to do and be whoever we want to be, but other people have the right to oppose us if by doing so we are affecting their lives. And I mean affecting, not just annoying or offending as ‘I have the right to offend you and you have the right to be offended but you don’t really have the right to stop me offending you’ is a very good rule of thumb too.
Many a time I have heard people saying things like Her fashion style burns my eyes or With arms like that she should not wear sleeveless shirt, she is ruining everyone’s day. Now that is what I would call being an asshole. No one can violate our freedom by wearing something we don’t like. It’s none of our business.
Yet there are… personal choices that violate my freedom – refusing to vaccinate would be one of them. I know, I know, in the always positive world of blogging I should not be touching on such controversial topics and on top of that be so blunt about it… but not vaccinating en masse, with any vaccination and without any medical professional advising us to do so is dumb. Just dumb.
And usually being dumb is also allowed – I mean, people are free to be dumb, I am free to be dumb and I execute this right regularly. But this case crosses the line of personal freedom. Not only does it touch on the subject of the freedom of children (if you ask me, I can present to you a very long and very passionate rhetoric on why children are NOT our property), but it touches the problem of my personal freedom, and my personal safety, and it can affect me and the rest of the world in ways unimaginable.
Because all freedom has… post-freedom
Which brings us to the number two – where there is freedom, there are consequences.
Too many people think freedom stands for a true free-for-all, a world where we can do as we please and nothing will come of it. At least that is the impression I get while talking to such individuals, or reading about them online.
But the sad truth is – nothing in life comes without consequences. Sure, not all of them need be grave or serious, and plenty of things pass us by unnoticed; yet still, they somehow reflect on us and on the world. Our decisions change us. They shape us into what we currently are – and the new thing that we will be tomorrow.
I am therefore free to do what I want, BUT I do need to understand or at least accept the consequences of my own actions.
The blame shifting mechanisms encoded in our brains are simply fascinating. I like to think of them as a very sophisticated defence system, out there to protect our egos, our sensitive souls or sometimes even our sanity. We do crazy things, that somewhere deep inside we must know are crazy, and then we blame the result on the people who didn’t stop us. Or maybe we’re too ignorant, we don’t think of what our decisions will create, and we run blindly after our passions… only to blame the people who tried to stop us afterwards, when it all collapses, as if it were their fault our dreams turned out differently than we hoped.
Our freedom is only true freedom if we accept its full consequences and we embrace them as ours as well.
It does not mean that if our freedom leads us to be the victim of some crime, we are the ones to blame. Crime is still crime, and whoever commits it should be held responsible. What it does mean is that if I do chose to smoke for twenty years, I should probably not blame cigarette companies for my lung cancer.
What it also means is that certain lifestyles and opinions will fall outside society’s normal spectrum – and it is ok. My freedom does not need to be liked or approved of by anyone else. It should be respected (wishful thinking), but one of its consequences could be the fact that most of society will try to reject it. It is also ok.
We live in a world where everything is someone else’s fault. It’s the right. It’s the left. It’s the racists. It’s the homophobes. It’s the haters. It’s the trolls. It’s the Poles. It’s the bloggers. It’s the stupid cat videos. It’s the people who take enjoyment from watching The Kardashians.
But, well, unfortunately more often than not it is just us.