Remember that line from Braveheart? “Freedom!!!!!!”
That line is memorable. The image, not so much.
The notion of freedom covered in the film Braveheart is about maintaining one’s dignity in a situation of colonization. Despite the Scottish and English dispute being among white people, white people can rarely relate to this once the same situation manifests with non-white people (as the oppressed).
But freedom is so important. Freedom to do what we please, freedom from debt, freedom in terms of bodily autonomy, freedom to move about in a space or place. All these notions of freedom are assumed to exist in the United States
If you have ever spent time abroad, outside of tourist alley, and get to know the locals, you know that notions of freedom that many Americans claim to hold dear are merely smoke and mirrors. Americans do not actually have the level of freedom they think they do.
I cherish all the time I have spent outside the United States learning about other ways of knowing and experiencing freedom. In the United States, we have this idea that a rope or ribbon or caution tape means you cannot access the space that is roped off. Just as well, an orange cone is given wide girth and the area avoided by people from the United States.
Sure the assumption is that these things are protecting us and keeping us safe, but all the same, they are used to control us and limit our freedoms. Often, those unwritten rules associated with caution tape or orange cones or chains or retractable seatbelts on poles are used to restrict our movements.
Few question whether they are necessary. Few bother to think through why those items are where they are and assume it is about safety. But there is no homogenous safety. Safety is a question of situations and not too many people recognize that conditions such as orange cones might exist for large numbers of people and not one or two crossing through a place.
This raises the question and contradiction that exists between ideas of freedom and a need for social order. Social order is great. It is predictable, it is standardized, you know what to expect and how things will happen.
Yet, those rules can be arbitrary, unevenly enforced, and used to reinforce inequalities between different types of people.
Rules for social order need not be arbitrarily enforced, but if they were strictly enforced we would change them. This of course would involve greater citizen participation in the democratic system that purportedly exists in the United States. But I digress.
Today, I am writing about freedom. The freedom to be fully self-actualized. The freedom to explore your interests. The freedom to express yourself without worrying about judgements that expect you to adhere to someone else’s (arbitrary) rulebook. The freedom to explore yourself, however you might define that exploration (of the world, of your sexuality, whatever!).
Being self actualized means releasing yourself from the rules and being free. This type of freedom requires you to respect other peoples freedom. Freedom is only freedom when it does not infringe on other people’s expressions of freedom.
So get an abortion, choose not to have kids, don’t get married, fuck whoever you like. These are acts without consequence for anyone except the person doing the act.*
*Yes I acknowledge that abortions create pain for the person undergoing the procedure and yes you can get sexually transmitted infections/diseases.
But being aware of the consequences of our actions should not prevent us from taking action! What is the old saying, I mean scientific law (Newton’s Third Law to be specific): for ever action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Ok that scientific law might not hold up in a very strict sense of the language applied to any and everything, but as a popular idiom it conveys the idea of consequences quite well.
Obviously having sex does not by default lead to pregnancy or death, because really what is the opposite action of sex? This is not physics! We’re talking about everyday life and using the law of physics to express consequences. So…
Freedom does not mean without consequences. Nor does freedom mean do not do anything because there are consequences.
Take the following image as an example. The image shows an adult full size horse tied to a plastic chair. The horse is quite clearly capable of moving the chair. Yet it does not.
The consequences of moving that chair are that the horse can move, but also that the chair is dragged along potentially spooking the horse and causing it to endanger itself. In reality we can imagine a whole range of possibilities that could happen to the horse.
But do we expect it not to move? Yes, otherwise we would not have attached it to the chair. At the same time, we know it can move if need be. There are conditions that could arise that would make the horse move. Maybe an out of control car careening toward it. Maybe the handler returns, unties it from the chair, and they continue about their day.
The point is: the range of possibilities all have consequences on the future. There are rules that we follow out of a desire to maintain social order, and there are rules that we follow out of ignorance.
Finding your freedom is about learning. Learning about the world. Learning different ways of thinking about freedom. Respecting the diversity of freedoms there are in the world. Respecting yourself. Respecting others.
We live in a world where we are controlled by authority, when what we really want is a world where we are in control because we use logic.
Logic is the ability to reason. Reasoning abilities require being able to organize information. Organizing data requires knowing what things are material, what things are ideological, how things are situated in a hierarchy of significance, etc.
Authority is about following rules that might not make sense (because they follow no logic). Authority is about domination. Authority denies freedom.