Sunday, November 14, 2004

[politics] Freedom to

I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between "Freedom from" and "Freedom to". While this distinction was probably subconsciously clear to me for a while, it was in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale that this struggle was first clearly delimited for me. In my America, there is only "freedom to". Freedom to succeed regardless of your race (or lack thereof), religion (or lack thereof), or class (or lack thereof). Freedom to thine own self be true. Freedom to fail regardless of your race (or lack thereof), religion (or lack thereof), or class (or lack thereof). Freedom to not give a shit what anyone else thinks. Freedom to tell anyone that you don't give a shit what they think. Freedom to stand up against any enemy, foreign or domestic. Yet we have been sold on 'Freedom from'. We've been promised freedom from terrorist attacks, even though the powers that be know that another one will be coming. We've been promised a Ponzi scheme of freedom from taxes, even though the backers of this lunacy know full well what the result will be. We've been promised freedom from government interference, which really only applies to big corporations and wealthy investors, and explicitly doesn't apply if you're gay or unmarried or poor or trying to get an abortion or trying to expose graft and corruption or unionize or clean up your drinking water. We've been promised freedom from poverty, but been given policies that will increase the numbers of the poor, uninsured and underemployed. We've been promised freedom from impure thoughts and deeds, while corporations laugh all the way to the bank with their profits from tobacco, alcohol and smut. We've been promised liberation from the snares of the effete Hollywood intellectual crowds: you know, the ones who believe in civil rights and evolution and that gays are people (oh, and Arabs might be too) and that science is not just a goddam theory and that the schools should not be instuments of any Church and that taxes should be progressive and that... ...wait... Just what are we being freed from? If I'm going to be given 'freedom from', I want it to be this: Freedom from the dominance of any institution: Church, State, Corporation. If I can't have that, I want the power to create and associate with institutions that can counteract those that benefit from the current corporatist system. Freedom from fear: I want speech, association, and assembly given their due. I want a truly blind system of Justice. No one should have to fear speaking their mind, living their lives, acting on their beliefs, or simply being themselves. Freedom from want: It disgusts me that this nation has as much poverty as it does. Health care, food, fair wages, shelter; these are not merely good ideas. These should be fundamental rights. Do I want the security posed by the concept of 'freedom from'? You bet. But until I can be sure that this security will not be had at the price of our liberties, I will always err on the side of 'freedom to'.

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