Currently we are living in times filled with doubt and fear. I have even heard people express the idea that perhaps we are living in a time when we should give up a little personal freedom, some civil liberties, for the sake of security. Please remember that we have always lived in an uncertain world. Only now have we had a confronting experience to remind ourselves, or at least become aware, of this. As far as national security, even personal security goes, no time is good for freedom. Total security is only possible when privacy is non-existent, and all thought and action are under control. Living in such an environment sounds good when applied to everyone else, but it would not affect only others, your own individuality would be attacked and confined. And what about the benefits of new medicines, new technologies? Their very existence depends on freedom of thought. These would also have to disappear for the most part in order to ensure "safety". Do people remember what things were like within the former USSR, the former East Germany?
If we wish to be and live freely at any time, then we must cherish, nurture, and protect freedom at all times. Toward this end we need to effectively let our countries know that we hold dear the benefits of freedom, and we need to find like-minded people, so that we can support one another in this endeavour. Rallying symbols are good for this purpose. I have created one such symbol which I trust people will find useful, if you help to spread it around.
That symbol is of a sun rising out of a box. So long as we are contained in boxes in order to be "safe", none of us can truly let our light shine. However, as soon as we are free of that box of inappropriate governmental and social control, we are free to grow to our fullest potential. Below this symbol I have stated four basic freedoms which I feel need asserting in relationship to the symbol.
Freedom of Thought
I know that people feel if they can stop the villains of the world at this stage, none of us would have to suffer from their villainy. But how do you know when a person is seriously considering taking a particular action, and when they are being informed or entertained? Various computer games have had bans placed on them for fear they will encourage young people to behave violently, whether or not those games are played by young people. Recently a gentleman was banned from flying certain particular flights because he was carrying a novel, which had a picture of a hand holding explosives on the cover. A person is innocent until proven guilty. The quality of their thoughts can only be judged by the quality of their actions, and not before. We should not be arresting/harrassing people for owning certain media.
Freedom of thought is necessary for the progression of our society socially, scientifically, technologically, culturally, and even ethically and morally.
Freedom of Expression
I have no doubt that the founders of the United States had in mind freedom of media, not just press, when they formed the Bill of Rights. Certain forms of transmision simply did not exist at that time. However, this has been used as an excuse to deny freedom of expression over media such as television, radio, and the internet. And as the Comic Book Defense League will tell you, freedom of the press has not guaranteed freedom to produce comic books of all sorts. Yet again, freedom is abridged in the name of protecting the children. Are we to presume most, if not all, parents are guilty of irresponsible child rearing, and are therefore in need of pre-emptive government interference, which abridges the rights of adults as well?
The internet itself has had a severe hammering when it comes to freedom. Many libraries are being required to put censorware into their computers, in order to "protect children" from seeing inappropriate material, and thereby block adults from access to resources which may be of more than prurient interest. Nevertheless, with most media being controlled by only a few major corporations, the opinions of a few corporate heads are all that get out to the public at large. So the internet is the first resource to make alternative opinions more broadly seen and heard. This of course frightens people who want a world of controllable homogeneity. What would Benjamin Franklin think of this mess?
Freedom of expression also includes freedom of private expression. Under current circumstances people have been all too ready to start with guilty until proven innocent, and thereby allow surveillance of all private communication across all media. Whether or not you have anything to hide, would you like someone reading all your communications? If you are aware that it is likely that your communications are being monitored, wouldn't that tend to alter what sort of things you say or do? This is again confining to freedom of thought, as well as freedom of expression, because free expression is needed to develop thoughts, even thoughts about a fairer, more tolerant society.
Freedom of Choice
The dignity of our humanity requires that we are free to choose and change partners, religions, and political orientations. Choosing a particular partner, religion, or political orientation does not ipso facto imply villainy. A person's actions alone imply that. A person can both be an economic communist and politically support democracy. A person can both be a muslim and a pacifist. These things are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Government should not treat people as enemies of the state for various orientations, until such time as a crime has been committed. People should learn tolerance toward diversity, and use the opportunity to look closely at differing ideas to see where they offer something positive, even if the majority of an idea seems in need of discarding.
Freedom of choice encompasses removing and disallowing laws that support the existence of only a few large corporations to the disadvantage and elimination of smaller businesses. On an individual basis we also need to support smaller businesses in order to ensure greater choice. When only one operating system, aircraft construction company, music delivery technology, pharmaceutical source, etc. is allowed to dominate, quality can suffer, prices can escalate, service can decline, and employees with specialised skills can be exploited.
Freedom of Being
All people are and should be treated as equal, and should be secure in their person regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, language, national or social origin. We are living in a time where we need to remind ourselves of this, given the sort of ill-treatment people of darker skin have been given at this time.
Protection of These Freedoms
To protect these freedoms we need to do many of the usual things. We need to let people know where we stand, we need to contact our political representatives, we need to educate people including ourselves, we need to rally, we need to vote. We also need to be aware of those things that will threaten our freedom in the name of security. We need to guarantee the right to free and public hearings when people are charged with a crime. In this way we can be aware if justice is being upheld. ALL people have the right to a fair trial. We need to remember that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Accusers are required to produce proof of their allegations. Think about the many times recently that accusations have been made by the government, but we have not seen evidence to support it. We need to live freely, whether it is acceptable to do so or not. I do not mean break laws willy-nilly. I mean live according to your conscience, rather than current social expectation and government legislation.
These are all issues of world concern, not just US concern. And the symbol I offer you is from my own private endeavour, not from any organisation at this time. Please help me in this effort, demonstrating that even the efforts of an individual can have an impact, especially when they are added to the efforts of other individuals. Each and every one of us must be free in order to fully realise our personal potential and the potential of humanity. I believe that I can, we all can, have freedom without, as well as freedom within.
Copyright © 25 October 2001, Katherine Phelps