Archives for posts with tag: freedom

There’s a seemingly unending debate about what “my liberty ends where yours begins” really means.

The initial saying was a little longer, Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”, and had been coined during the disputes between those who tried to impose the Prohibition and those who opposed it.

In that context, it made sense.
‘How close to my house – a teetotaler, should you be allowed to open a bar and why should I be able to tell you what to drink/serve in your house.’

In a wider setting – individual rights, for instance … not so much!

‘Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins’ only if at least one of the following is true:
– My arms are as long as yours AND I’m willing/able to defend my nose.
– You are a civilized person.
– We, the entire community, have reached the conclusion that we are better off, together, if we observe – and enforce, this rule.

The first proposition describes a situation of generalized conflict. Not necessarily ‘hot’ but, nevertheless, always waiting to happen.
The second depends, decisively, on the ‘other side’ behaving ‘properly’. Nice and commendable but what happens when someone goes berserk?
The third describes the de facto functioning of any civilized nation. Only a nation, any nation, is composed of individual people. ‘Endowed’ with ‘free will’ and not always ‘well behaved’.

Hence the danger of defining freedom as a collection of individual spaces where each of us might do as they please – as long as the consequences of their actions remain inside that space.
Which spaces would have to be constantly defended.
Or could be extended, whenever any of the neighbors wasn’t on the lookout.

How about ‘our mutually respected individual liberty is the well deserved consequence of our collective effort to enlarge OUR freedom’?

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Indeed!

Only there are a few hurdles which will have to be negotiated first.

Which ‘truth’?

Mine?
Which will set me free?
Theirs?
Which will set them free?
Or ours?
Which will set us free?

What is Truth in the first place?

What I believe in?
What we believe in?
Something which is out there and we learn about incrementally? In a collective manner but individually driven?

How can we find it? If ever, of course….

Agree to something which has worked until now?
Listen to what those around us have to say about the/any matter?
Do your ‘own homework’?
All of the above, in a respectful manner?

Freedom is too bothersome?!?
Have you considered the alternatives?


Nowadays, too many individuals are afraid of freedom. Specially of other people’s freedom, since other people’s freedom might bring in ‘unwelcome’ change.
Other people’s freedom might challenge our established way of life.
And why risk it?

Still interested?
History strongly suggests that societies which had considered the stability of their ‘established way of life’ to be more important than the freedom of any individual member to respectfully question everything have eventually failed to preserve that over-cherished way of life. Simply because those societies had not allowed their individual members to adapt their mores to the changes which inevitably alter the ‘environment’.

Conclusion?
Liberty is of utmost importance.
For both individuals and societies, equally.
And, as a matter of historical fact, real – as in ‘truly functional’, freedom can be achieved only together. By the individual members of a society, acting in concert. Through a robust mechanism of checks and balances – a.k.a. real justice, based on mutual respect between the members of the society attempting to maintain this arrangement.

Warning!
Since we currently experience a growing distrust among the members of many societies – America and Western Europe included, no wonder that actual individual liberty is sliding down a dangerous slope.
Simply because nobody is going to defend the liberty of somebody they do not trust/respect.

Relative to what?
For whom?
By whom?

‘We’ – as in we, conscious human beings, live in the two tiered environment called – by us, ‘reality’.
I consider it to be ‘two tiered’ simply because it consists of a ‘natural’ layer and a man made one.

The ‘natural’, at least the part we inhabit – a relatively thin ‘skin’ surrounding the Earth, is the consequence of natural evolution. The elements have eroded the mountains, microorganisms have transformed sand into soil and ‘reconfigured’ the atmosphere, lions make sure that antelopes don’t graze the savannas back into deserts… and so on.
On top of that we’ve build a second, man made, layer. Roads, cities, churches… And, a lot more important, many strata of ‘understanding’. Collectively known as ‘culture’.

We live in a Nature which had been ‘civilized’ by ‘culture’.
Well, in fact it was us who have civilized Nature according to our culturally accrued understanding of things.

Freedom is a human concept.
Which belongs to culture, hence to one of the man-made layers which constitute the surrounding reality. The environment which hosts our lives.
Freedom, like many other components of the man made layer of reality, has two dimensions. One of a physical nature and one of a virtual nature.
Both dimensions exist only in our heads. Or, better said, exist only inasmuch as we’re aware of them. Inasmuch as we understand the concept.

For example, one aspect of the ‘physical’ liberty is our ability to move around.
Which liberty is ‘relative’ to gravity, for all those who are fit enough to exercise it and is made possible by the hardness of the Earth’s surface.
To make the example clearer, just imagine what happens to somebody caught in a pool of quicksand. Or in a pit full of molten tar.

The ‘cultural’ side of freedom has to do with the social relations which exist in a given extended community.
Hence its ‘virtual’ nature, since there is nothing ‘physical’ to determine its extent or ‘intensity’/quality. Prisons and shackles do not qualify here since they are used by some people to restrict the freedom of other people, they do not occur in nature.

Cultural freedom of one individual is relative to what the rest of the society has to say about it.
Is for whom the society considers fit to extend it to them.
And is by the same set of rules and customs which keeps that extended community together.

Like all things cultural, freedom has history. What we, collectively remember about its development in time.

At first glance, it would seem impossible to gouge what individual liberty meant 100 000 years ago, right?
Indeed, only some people still live, today, according to rules and customs which might have been valid then. The Saan and Hadza peoples in Africa, some of the indigenous tribes still living ‘traditionally’ in the Amazonian forest...
And these people have a very interesting behavior regarding ‘individual freedom’.
One is free to do as they please, for as long as their behavior do not jeopardize, in any way shape or form, the survival of the group. By not sharing, by intentionally hurting another member of the community…
The punishment for trespassers being banishment.
Temporary or even permanent. The offender is sent out into the wild, to fend it off on their own. Temporary – under the assumption that the individual will be able to learn their lesson, or – for unpardonable transgressions, for ever.

The next step, as human consciousness had become sophisticated enough to make the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – one level higher than the difference between ‘me’ and ‘them’, we’ve invented slavery.
For who are the slaves?
People so different from us that we are no longer able to picture ourselves ‘in their shoes’. Just as we cannot picture ourselves as beasts of burden or as egg laying hens.
And, just as in the previous step, individual liberty was something reserved for those members of the society deemed fit for enjoying it. As individuals who are welcome at the communal fire or as individuals who are not dependent on anybody else – but the ruler/government which dispenses/embodies freedom in a given ‘formal’ society, of course.

Some extended communities have managed to go even further.
And noticed – to their amazement, perhaps, that slave-less societies fare a lot better, as a whole, than those where some of the population enjoy less freedom than the others.
Since these societies had already learned to write and to rely quite heavily on formal laws, this particular piece of information had been enshrined as the most fundamental ‘human right’.

OK, if things are so straightforward as you pretend, then why are we still having this discussion? Why ‘pockets’ of slavery – and indentured servitude, can still be found on our planet? Why, in a growing number of places, people are increasingly putting ‘personal safety’ ahead of ‘individual – and collective, liberty’?

Lack of Trust.

As I mentioned before, freedom is something which may occur in certain circumstances and which is, its social tier, a collective endeavor of the entire extended community. ‘Endeavor’ because liberty is never ‘achieved’. It has to be nurtured constantly, … or else!
The most important circumstance being mutual respect between the members of that particular extended community. Mutual respect which includes trusting your peers.
As I mentioned before, individual liberty is for ‘selected’ members of the community – under aged children continue to be excluded to this day, for example, and ‘by’ the rest of the members who constitute a community.
As mutual trust between the members decreases – for whatever reason, people are no longer willing to ‘extend’ liberty to their fellow … fellow what?!? Since they no longer perceive each-other as being fellow trustworthy citizens…

This being the reason for which deeply divided societies fall prey to totalitarian propaganda.

Whenever too many members of a society arrive to the conclusion that they will never ‘make it’ – because of ‘the wealthy’, or the king, emperor, you name it, will never ‘let them’, those people are ‘ripe’ for socialist propaganda.
On the other hand, if too many people who had once belonged to the middle class are somehow ‘demoted’ – because of various causes, and arrive at the conclusion that the current government isn’t doing ‘enough’, those people are rife for nazi/fascist style propaganda.
Tsarist Russia and WWI defeated Germany are the first examples which come to my mind.
Not much difference between those two regimes, anyway.
Both pretend to put the collective above the individual but, in fact, all what they achieve is to rise an individual dictator above all others.

Apparently, in this situation, the dictator/absolute monarch garners much of the ‘available’ liberty, thus reducing that of the rest.
In practice, things are not that simple.
The dictator becomes ‘freer’ than his subjects only in the ‘virtual’ manner.
He is free only from being interpellated by those around him. But not from the consequences of his decisions.
This being the reason for which all totalitarian regimes crumbling down. Sooner or later.
Nobody, how ever well intended and capable, was ever wise enough to pull through a dictatorship. From Alexander the Great to whomever you want to pick up from the current gallery.

So, is there anything to be done about this?
Or should we just prepare ourselves for the worst?

There are some tools which might come handy. ‘Checks and balances’, the ‘rule of law’…
But tools are only as useful as the mind which tells them what to do.
For ‘checks and balances’ to work, all parties involved need to respect each-other. ‘Checks and balances’ have been devised to weed out ‘honest’ mistakes, not to contain a raging – and conniving, bull.
Same thing with ‘the rule of law’. Laws are enforced, and written, by humans. If those who enforce, or write, them to not respect the others – and these others do not trust them back, the whole thing becomes a farce.

There is one thing which may convince us to clean up our act.
A healthy dose of history.
The understanding that we have just one planet at our disposal. For only this long.

Do we care?
Do we really care?

Let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that we still do.

Perceived utility.

There are at least three examples of ‘mutual respect’, and its corollary, functional democracy, having developed naturally.
In the Ancient City of Athens, in Medieval Scandinavia and the entire history of the Jewish People.

The Ancient Athenians had evolved in a particular set of circumstances. They had some – but not much, fertile land, a natural port and a lot of trading opportunities in their vicinity. Hence they had experimented, very early in their development as a nation, something which was later to be described as ‘division of labour’. This very ‘division of labor’ induces trust among the members of the society. The trader has to trust that the farmer will continue to produce while the farmer has to trust the trader to come back with the money. And/or other merchandise. Further more, people involved in oversea trading, and in commercial – versus subsistence, farming, tend to develop a more independent mind-frame. And a healthy dose of self-esteem.

The same evolutionary process had happened in Medieval Scandinavia. The erstwhile subsistence farmers and fishers have expanded their ‘scope’ and became traders cum pirates. Those who ‘manned the fort’ had to trust those who went away would come back to share the spoils and those who rode the waves had to trust each-other ‘in battle’ and the ‘home-makers’ to keep the hearth warm.

Finally, the Jews had been the firsts – that I am aware of, to come with the notion that ‘God had created Man in His own image’.
Hence all men – or, at least, all those who believed in said God, were considered to be ‘equals’. ‘Equal’ sons of the same Father. Add to that the fact that each of those sons were bearing the mark of their Father – His likeliness. How not to trust/respect your ‘brother’?!?

Are we able to recreate this Weltanschauung?!?
To notice, and appreciate, the role played by each of us in the social clockwork?
To teach our children to become useful members of the society?

Let’s remember Darwin’s The Origin of the Species. Evolution is about species, not individuals.
We, individuals, are the ones who had come up with the concept of ‘freedom’. Are we wise enough to use it properly?
For the good – read survival, of our extended communities?
As we somehow managed to do until recently?

Or lazy enough to allow it to be used as a wedge to pry us apart? To smithereens?
By people who have no inkling about what they’re doing?


The early believers were convinced that God’s ‘real’ name could not be uttered by their ‘mortal’ lips.

Their logic was simple. Using a single word to ‘differentiate’ something from everything else is somewhat arrogant. It implies that the ‘god-father’ knows all that there is to be known about that something – or at least enough to give credence to that naming.

As faith became stronger, so did the self confidence of those involved in the process.
When writing about their beliefs, some of them circumvented the initial shyness by using multiple names to describe the object of their adoration – hoping that in this manner they’ll get close enough to the real thing.
“To begin with, God is referred to by a number of names in the Bible—not just a single name. By some counts there are more than 20 different names for God mentioned in the Bible. And each of these names has great significance. Each one tells us something important about God—His character and how He relates to us.”
Others still stick to the ‘no name’ policy, refer to their God using a title, Allah – the ‘One and Only Who Deserves to Be Worshiped’ – instead of a ‘proper’ (?!?) name, and use a number of attributes to describe him. Such a large number of attributes as to make it evidently clear that stringing attributes is in no way enough to ‘exhaust’ the inner nature of any god. Of anything, really.
“”If We had sent down this Quran upon a mountain, you would have seen it humble itself and shatter out of fear of God.  Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect. He is Allah, there is no deity but He.  He is the Knower of the unseen and the seen.  He is ar-Rahman (Most Compassionate), ar-Raheem (Most Merciful).  He is Allah besides Whom there is no deity.  He is al-Malik (Sovereign), al-Quddus (Most Pure), as-Salaam (Giver of peace), al-Mumin (Giver of security), al-Muhaiman (Vigilant), al-Aziz (Migthy), al-Jabbar (Overpowering), al-Mutakabbir (Glorious).  He is pure from whatever they ascribe to Him.  He is Allah, al-Khaliq (Creator), al-Bari (Perfect Maker), al-Musawwir (Fashioner); to Him belong the most beautiful names.  Whatever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him.  He is al-Aziz (Mighty), al-Hakeem (Wise).” (Quran 59:21-24)”

After writing for long enough about their beliefs, the worshipers had become emboldened enough to transform their convictions into precepts. To be not only followed by the believers themselves but also imposed upon others.

And this is how various groups of people have traveled from “The Truth Shall Make You Free” to defining heresy as being the most heinous crime… so heinous that the congregations felt the need to punish it in the most eloquent manner.
Does it seem logical that heretics were burned alive, with their mental faculties intact, to give them one last chance to repent before being sent into the “eternal fire”? Could it be that burning an individual at the stake was seen as a merciful death, as a means of giving that person one last chance to save his or her soul before final damnation??? I have read that “burning at the stake was believed by some medieval authorities and scholars to liberate the sinner from his or her formerly damned state and offer some hope of salvation to the now ‘cleansed’ soul”.

After some of us have somehow survived that era, a few parts of the world have become ‘the lands of the free’.
The countries where a majority of the inhabitants believe that “your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

It’s here that things get really interesting.

The quote defining freedom as stemming from the relation between your fist and my nose logically leads us to observe that those who define liberty in this manner are a bunch of tired, and maybe wised up, fist-fighters.
Who have finally reached the understanding that it’s better to negotiate it rather than fight over it.

‘Negotiate? What is here to be negotiated?’
‘The distance between our noses? How close am I allowed to bring mine to yours before you becoming allowed to defend your intimacy?
After all, if my nose is so far away that you’ll never be able to touch it, this particular definition of liberty ceases to make any sense while if you’re never allowed to punch mine then I’ll be able to use it to crowd you out of your own life.
And vice-versa.
Capisci?’

Which points out the cruel reality that we cannot negotiate everything.

To start any negotiation we must first have something in common.
A common language would be fine indeed but I have something else in mind.
Both sides involved in any negotiation need to share the same attitude.

This is the hardest thing to convey.
To convince the other side that you’re going to keep your end of the bargain.
Only after both sides have reached this ‘belief’, they will feel free enough to discuss the real issues.
This is where ‘religion’ comes in handy. It teaches us that all people are to be treated equally – all of them have been molded in a single cast, and that they share a spark from the same divine fire.
God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them“.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians, 1:6-10)

 Which brings us back to the original question.

Is any liberty possible, outside the one we continuously build ourselves, through constant negotiation?
Is any bona-fide negotiation possible without a healthy dose of mutual respect among all those involved in it?
Why do we, grown-ups, still need our father to constantly remind us to stop bickering?

a-mans-ethical-behavior

 

 

(http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/names-of-god)

https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/10827/chapter-59-verses-21-24/

http://biblelight.net/burn-heretics.htm

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2011/10/15/liberty-fist-nose/

http://biblehub.com/niv/galatians/1.htm

 

I recently stumbled upon this book and devoured it.

Then something really interesting downed on me. Maslow’s Pyramid and Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow suddenly had a new meaning.

Basically all three of them say the same thing, using different words and starting from different vantage points. Looking from each of those vantage points offers the traveler a vastly improved perspective on the subject.

Maslow says that after it was able to satisfy its basic and social needs it’s up to each individual to ‘spread its wings’ and determine where it wants to go from there on – ‘self actualization’ in his own terms.

Frankl says that it’s more important to understand than to have.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
No, it doesn’t contradict Maslow, it just starts from where Maslow has set his subjects free. While Maslow had taken his students up to a wide plateau and set them free to choose their own paths, Frankl – after having to endure conditions way crueler than any of those mentioned by Maslow as ‘basic and social needs’ – takes his students by the hand and leads them away from the precipice.
Maslow couldn’t conceive that anybody would go back after being shown the light, Frankl had experienced on his own skin the consequences of some idiots doing just that.

Finally Csikszentmihalyi brings forward a ‘how to’ guide, some very powerful advice about how to reach the pinnacle of our own potential.

From here it’s really up to us.

Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus for the English speaking world) was a man who cherished his ‘libertad’.
He did what he had to do in order to fulfill his dream – finding a new way to the treasures of India.
The mere fact that he discovered a completely different India than the one he was looking for doesn’t change anything about the relationship between he and the concept of freedom.

Yet one of the first things he did when he reached the shores of South America was to catch some parrots, which he eventually brought home with him.

I’m not going to argue here about the fate of the people ‘discovered’ by Columbus nor about that of the black slaves brought later to work on the islands and continents discovered by him. I’ll refrain myself to the fate of the parrots of this world.

Two of them are permanent, even if unwitting, guests of Casa de Colon – a lodging Columbus has used during his stop overs in Gran Canaria.

As we entered the patio the pair was climbing back into their enclosure, after being ‘encouraged’ (squirted with water) by a janitor.

back to your cage

‘Now tell me, do we really deserve something like this?’

chiar asa

During the half hour or so that I spent there they ‘escaped’

La plimbare

at least four times,

here we go again

only to be either unceremoniously carried

papagal pe bat

or even herded back to their ‘playing pen’,

inapoi mars

where their only entertainment was to engage the visitors with their antics

balet pe sarma

or to ‘shave’ wood from their ‘feeding tables’.

wood shaving

feeding station

Now, really, is this the proper way to treat a ‘mocking bird’?

what kind of life is

We figured out how to make an egg stand on its head and we can’t yet understand that there will be no real liberty for any of us until all of us will be ‘free as a bird’?

oul lui Columb

I came across this extremely interesting article about Hitler being a socialist.

After making his point, impeccably, Daniel Hannan – the author – ends up with: “My beef with many (not all) Leftists is a simpler one. By refusing to return the compliment, by assuming a moral superiority, they make political dialogue almost impossible. Using the soubriquet “Right-wing” to mean “something undesirable” is a small but important example.”

To me this article is nothing but another reminder that the the only reasonable alternative to any extremism is the living center, not the dead opposite extremism.

Every time that the functional equilibrium between the content (because of their affluence, carelessness or both) and the strugglers (people who are on a constant quest for new solutions, irrespective of their motivation) has been breached things tended to become rather ugly before coming back towards normalcy.
Just compare how people around the Mediterranean sea used to live during the four centuries straddling AD 1 with what happened during the next millennium, otherwise known as the Dark Ages.
Why? Just because the Roman emperors used ‘panem et circensis’ as their main political concept and the population obliged. Until things went so far that the whole empire failed abysmally…
Same things happened before the French Revolution and before Lenin and Hitler came to power in Russia and Germany, respectively. Nowadays it is currently happening in Russia and the huge gap between the oligarchs and the modern muzhiks is the sole explanation I need for how come Putin has such a stronghold on the Russian people – he is keeping both categories happy by feeding their imagination with dreams about the Greater Russia and their bellies full with the money he gets from selling oil and natural gas.
For people on both sides of the political spectrum to restart a real dialogue all of them need to understand that the other side has legitimate concerns too.
Nowadays most on the left insist on ‘equality’ while most on the right speak of nothing but ‘individual freedom’. And both of them blame the state. The left accuses the government for not doing enough to promote the sacrosanct ‘equality’ while the right blames the state for infringing on the individual’s right to do whatever it wants…  As if equality (of chances) is in anyway different from individual freedom… As if authoritarianism could exist without the guys at the top enjoying a lot  more freedom than those at the bottom of the social ladder… As if functional social order could be maintained without people cooperating among themselves based on mutual respect, said cooperation  having evolved through time and currently reaching the modern form known as “the democratic state”…
I agree with concerned people on the both sides of the divide that the state could, and has indeed in more than one occasions, represent an extremely powerful repression tool in the hands of callous political operators but the answer to this is to make sure that the democratic mechanisms work smoothly, not to thoroughly dismantle the state itself….  Precisely because a skeleton state is a lot more easily highjacked by the ‘political thugs’ than one which has respected and balanced (hence functional) institutions in the right places.
Now please allow me to end my post by extending the invitation made by Daniel Hannan and urge you, all of you, to stop assuming ‘moral superiority’ based exclusively on ideological motives. Ideology is fine but we should never forget that it is nothing but a tool and it is us who do things and are responsible for both our deeds and our fate.
If ideology is diverse enough as to help us see how complex the world really is then we are better off because of it. If, instead, we use our diverse ideologies as filters to shun whatever ‘the others’ are trying to tell us… then it’s curtains for all of us, together at last… but not in the right place.
PS
To read the article – it is brilliant – you can either click on the yellow highlight near the top of my post or here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100260720/whenever-you-mention-fascisms-socialist-roots-left-wingers-become-incandescent-why/.

Some recent developments (I’ll list a few at the end of this post) brought me back to this subject.

So what is freedom?

Consider a lump of dirt someplace in the middle of nowhere, so far from any galaxy that it is under no gravitational pull whatsoever. In theory it would be able to go anywhere, right? With almost no ‘energy costs’… But it has none available … it’s nothing but an lump of dirt…
How about replacing that hypothetical lump of dirt with the most sophisticated spaceship you can imagine and add to it an inexhaustible energy source. This would be ‘free’ for sure, no? But where would it go?
Now add to it a human being. But mind you, one that not only knows how to drive a spaceship but also that can hold his own in absolute solitude. Can you find such a human being? Can you even imagine one?

So, again, what is freedom? Or liberty, if you prefer this word?

So, real, effective liberty is something that has to be perceived and has to be implementable. It’s not enough for an individual to think himself as being free, that individual also needs to be able to exert his freedom. I don’t have any doubt that Stephen Hawking, one of the brightest minds alive, is one of the freest spirits on this Earth but I’m afraid that he is also one of the individuals who depend heaviest on those around him.

And, in fact, all of us are in almost the same situation as he is. OK, most of us can move on our own. But before even thinking about liberty each of us has to become aware of himself, to develop his consciousness. Only we cannot do that on our own. As Humberto Maturana amply demonstrated human conscience has developed, slowly, in time. It was a process that could take place because by some genetic mutation or accident our brains had suddenly grown close to the present dimension but that was not enough. We needed another 70 or so thousand years after we learned to speak (by doing so we were able to exchange ideas and think about concepts) to become what we are today. In Maturana’s words people are not only conscious, they are conscious of their consciousness.

I believe you already have an inkling about what I have in mind.

Liberty is nothing but a concept, one that has been refined by human thinking along our entire history. It was us who defined the notion of ‘degrees of liberty’ which is used extensively not only in statistics  but in many other scientific domains.
And it was still us who came up with such a social arrangement that allowed for free people not only to coexist with slaves but also to own them.

So what is freedom? An absolute (divine) ‘human right’ or a social construct? Both?

The point I’m trying to make is that we should never forget that freedom hasn’t been given to us on a silver plate. All along human history there have been enough people who tried hard to dominate as many as they could and too many who accepted to be dominated. And invariably the societies/communities where social relations were based on authoritarianism have eventually failed while the more egalitarian, the ones where individuals enjoyed a higher degree of freedom coped better and usually survived.

My conclusion of all this? There is no such thing as ‘liberty/freedom’ against all others. The only liberty that can survive long term is liberty with the others. While the first is nothing but a synonym for the ‘Law of the jungle’ (another human concept, the jungle doesn’t have any laws) the second is the foundation for any civilized nation. And when we’ll be able to extend the notion for all peoples (usually the slaves came from outside the people of the slave-owners)  we’ll have lasting peace.

What prompted me to write this? Which of the following do you think is a proper way of exerting one’s liberty? Or free will, which includes proper/professional behavior in every conceivable circumstance?
‘Rights’ are to be exerted no matter what or with great consideration? Tradition/order has to be upheld/maintained at all costs or only as long as it makes sense? ‘Makes sense’ to whom?

teen Jesus     cops student

 

 

women peshmerga    IS police

 

I ran across this article published by CNS News.

Unusual Answer from Panelist Receives Standing Ovation at Benghazi Coalition Meeting.

It is about a meeting organized by Heritage Foundation to discuss the terrorist attack that took place in in Benghazi  in 2012.
At some point a young ‘Muslim student’ asked “…how can we fight an ideological war with weapons? How can we ever end this war? The jihadist ideology that you talk about – it’s an ideology. How can we ever end this thing if we don’t address it ideologically?”.
One of the panelists answered her that ‘there might be some 75% peaceful Muslims in the world but this is of no consequence: they follow the lead of the extremists, they don’t make their voices heard and, because of that, ‘the peaceful majority are irrelevant’ ‘. The panelist’s answer was received with standing ovations.

I’m afraid those people are making a huge mistake.

For those of you who don’t have time to read the article I’ll summarize the arguments used by Brigitte Gabriel, the panelist:
– The Germans are known as peaceful people yet the Nazis imposed their agenda and provoked horrible massacres.
– The Russians are normally peaceful people yet the Communists among them caused tens of millions of deaths, among their own people, without significant protest from the general population.
– The same happened in China.
– The otherwise peaceful Japanese allowed the militarists to take power and to start a war (the Pacific ‘portion’ of the WWII) in which another 12 million people found their death, “mostly killed by bayonets and shovels.”
– “On September 11th in the United States we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims living in the United States. It took 19 hijackers – 19 radicals – to bring America to its knees, destroy the World Trade Center, attack the Pentagon and kill almost 3000 Americans that day,” Gabriel said. “So for all our power of reason, and for all us talking about moderate and peaceful Muslims, I’m glad you’re here. But where are the others speaking out?” Gabriel asked.
The people in attendance began to applaud.”

First of all we need to differentiate between the two situations presented here.
The Germans, the Japanese and the “19 radicals” committed acts of international aggression while the Russians and the Chinese allowed themselves to be overrun by ‘misguided’ people.
Not at all the same thing.
On the other hand the German and Japanese examples are extremely interesting. A significant number of historians agree that the WWII was produced, at least in part, by the manner in which the defeated Germany was treated after WWI – they were imposed crippling war reparations which burdened Germany during the Great Depression so heavily as to produce the set of social circumstances that allowed Hitler to accede to power. This lesson was well understood so after the WWII Germany was included in the Marshal plan instead of made to pay for it. As a consequence we had, since then, 69 years if uninterrupted peace in Europe.
Japan was a ‘closed society’ until Commodore Perry forcefully ‘opened’ it in 1854, at first for trade and then to other western influences: Centralized state administration, modern army, modern management and technology, etc. And in those times the Japanese were treated, by the ‘white people’, with a ‘healthy dose’ of disdain, just as all the other non-European nations were. After the WWII all this has changed and nowadays the ‘peaceful majority’ of the Japanese have found a way, with a lot of help received from the Americans, to build a democratic society not at all different from what can be currently found in Western Europe and in North America.
Something rather similar happened with the Chinese. After Nixon went there and started to treat them as partners they basically stopped killing each-other.
But, unfortunately, this change of attitude didn’t come about between the West and Russia after the end of the Cold War. For instance we call the Ukrainian rebels  ‘pro-Russian’. Are they of any real service to Russia or to the Russian people? On the contrary… Somehow the old habit of blaming the entire Russian people for actions perpetrated by their leaders survived. Maybe because we can no longer understand the workings of a non-democratic society…since we are so accustomed with censuring our leaders.

So…

My point is that of course we have to defend ourselves from the direct actions of the ‘radicals’ – ‘shoot back’, effectively and efficiently, when ever somebody attacks us. Yet there is something else we dearly need to do, at the same time. Find a way to connect, in a respectful manner, with the ‘peaceful, yet silent, majorities’. They are “irrelevant” only as long as we treat them with the same disdain they are receiving from their own rulers. Even worse, confronted with two different kinds of disdain they’ll naturally prefer the one they are accustomed with – the one displayed by their own rulers – so if we keep packing together radicals with peaceful people and treat them as one the result will be that we’ll have to deal with an ever increasing number of radicalized ex-peaceful individuals. I propose we learn something from our parents, the ones who found a way to change the atmosphere between them and the German and the Japanese people. And since we pretend to be wiser – as all children do – than our parents were, how about doing this without wagging all-out wars? (Unless attacked, off course)

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