The notion of human virtues concerns being or doing good; being kind and keeping peace with oneself and with all manner of people.
Whether or not freedom is a virtue matters less. What’s true is that only a virtuous people are capable of liberty and freedom. Governments won’t secure liberty and freedom without a virtuous citizenry.
But what’s freedom? What do we learn from world thinkers?
For George Orwell freedom is ‘the right to tell people what they do not like to hear’. To Jean-Paul Sartre ‘freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you’.
Mark this: one is free only to the extent that one can challenge status quo views; can find fair redress without impediments if antagonised; and can exercise joy with fellow citizens of virtue unencumbered by the political establishment.
Freedom is not just being unobstructed from living one’s life as chosen; it is to do so in a secure environment. Freedom is to have the space to become the best that one can become and to freely enjoy the proceeds of such self-actualisation.
But why should people fight for freedom? Or better still what is freedom for?
To start with, Lord Acton suggests that freedom is not a means to some higher political end; achieving liberty and freedom is itself a high political end worth pursuit.
Freedom is the natural condition of human kind, ‘condemned to be free’ by God-given liberty. So priceless are the joint virtues of liberty and freedom that Jean-Paul Sartre declares ‘better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knees’. Strong steel hard stuff!
Freedom and liberty are sacred ingredients in the progress of human civilisation. They have the effect of putting people in charge of their own destinies, making people captive of their own desires, controlled only by what they wish and dream about.
Freedom is liberation. Without freedom people’s visions are blurred, as fear thwarts efforts, hinders innovation and destroys all manner of talent.
Indeed in my own view liberty and freedom are the only way to keep peace for it is in peace that societies are known to prosper.
But we have to mind that freedom, while critical to societies, is never guaranteed except by the resilient vigilance of citizens. Freedom comes not from governments but from its subjects by agitation.
Yes, government has only the propensity to control and not to free. In respect of this, it might be asked why leaders fear freedom – the very nature if man – even as they themselves seek freedom.
Well, freedom is contagious, that’s why despots fear it. Leaders know that once won, freedom lasts, spreads and chokes those who seek to stop it. Remember the so-called Arab Spring?
Politicians tend to feel insecure leading a truly free people. This is the same reason leaders fear a free press. They tremble at the thought that freedom of press continues to support a free society.
Agreed, liberty and freedom can cause a sense of disorder but this form of disorder is as essential to dynamic social life as air is to human life. Theodore Roosevelt declares that ‘order without liberty and liberty without order, both are equally destructive’
Has freedom any conditions? Should freedom serve within defined boundaries?
Well, freedom is an absolute without measure. There is no such thing as a little freedom. For instance true freedom cannot exist without economic prosperity and security. What freedom is worth celebrating amid ill health, hunger or poverty?
There are two forms of freedom, says Pope John Paul II. ‘We should think of freedom not as the right to do what we please, but rather as the opportunity to do what is right’ always considering the significant other.
One can only protect one’s liberty by protecting that of the other, Clarence Danor argues; as Mandela says ‘to be free is not merely to cast off chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others’.
This is important for citizens to appreciate with value-added attention:
While freedom is absolute the only freedom deserving of the name is that of pursuing what’s good to us so long as what good we pursue does not deprive others of their own freedom or their efforts to obtain personal liberty.
In seeking and or fighting for freedom we must maintain the peace and freedom of other people. Martin Luther King Jnr, himself a victim of so much ill will and hate, once remarked: ‘let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred’
Remember Nelson Mandela’s advice, ‘resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping that it will kill your enemies. Bitterness imprisons, it never liberates. It disturbs order never preserve it’
You see for citizens – no matter how incensed – to call for an elected President to resign on un-substantive grounds is an expression not of freedom but rather of anger, frustration and bitterness.
As we conclude, what happens when man is denied freedom?
Depriving people freedom is equal to denying them their very humanity. Conformity is but the jailor of freedom and the enemy of growth’ says John F. Kennedy. Control breeds not order but dissent and lawlessness. Quite the opposite!
One agitator defiantly declares ‘I am free, no matter what rules surround me; if I find them tolerable I tolerate them; if I find them to be too obnoxious, I break them’ Quite extreme you might say, yet so true. Rules are rules only if they are just and they are justly enforced.
You see, reader the law is valuable in so far as it protects citizens and their priceless properties. But legalism – even as entrenched as it is in present civilizations- should never be let to tamper with human freedom.
My final word: first and foremost human beings are free agents; open to legitimate regulation for social order but unprepared to compromise their freedom.
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