“The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution
of those determined to be free.”
- John F. Kennedy (35th President of the United States)
Freedom is a thread that runs throughout my book Comments of a Common Man - more accurately the risk to freedom - a risk that has been starkly illustrated by events not just in the United Kingdom but around the world. We know what freedom means, we know which countries lack freedom; or we think we do, at least as far as the meaning goes. Do we? Do we really, really understand what freedom is? I’m not convinced.
For a start, one person’s freedom is another’s prison. Balancing out the conflict between the two has perplexed even the greatest minds and the complexities of that aspect are seen daily – if that is, one cares to look. Many don’t. But therein lies at least part of the conundrum; are we not free to decide for ourselves whether to look or not? Theoretically yes – but if we choose not to, then we cannot judge or comment. We verge on the edge now of great philosophical discussion, so let’s keep it as simple as it can be.
Freedom means the right to be you; whoever you are, wherever you come from. It means being able to have a secure home, free from undue interference by anybody. It means being able to go to work, at the job of your choosing, to be paid enough to pay your bills, to clothe yourself, put shoes on your feet, feed yourself and your family and have enough money left to lead some leisure time. ‘But these are basics!’ I hear you say. ‘Everybody has them!’
Really - everybody? You might be surprised at how many do not, even in today’s UK. Again we know that there are many places around the world where, despite the advance of civilisation, there are countless numbers who do not have even these basic elements. But freedom means more than these things, essential though they are. It also means having the right to determine your own career prospects, to work for yourself rather than another, to run a business. However small, however humble, however the size of the area in which it operates, it is yours. Freedom means still yet more; it means the ability to travel somewhere, across your own country or to another (and back again), to gain experiences that you might otherwise not if you confine yourself to your own town and street.
Freedom means the ability, the right, to live your life as you choose, without undue interference from the state, its agents and officials and for that matter, anybody else as well. You can probably think of a few more things freedom means, like the right to elect our leaders, as well as the right to dismiss them if they mess up. And there is another thing that freedom means. It may seem rather unpalatable but we also have the freedom to be destructive. If of course, we choose to be. This has been amply shown by the behaviour of some in recent days.
It is where ‘society’ comes in. As I point out in my book, for society –any society – to work, we must have rules. So we give up some of those freedoms for it to do just that, including the right to decide, up to a point, what is acceptable and what isn’t - but only up to a point. One aspect to this is not tearing down statues simply because we don’t like what a statue represents. Another given up is the right to punch somebody because we don’t like the way they look, or because we don’t like their skin colour. And it also includes giving up the right to kill somebody.
I count myself as having been very fortunate in growing up surrounded by people of different backgrounds, different colour, religion, language, everything. Either by birth or marriage, my own family comes from five different countries, three religions and a plethora of languages and culture. To me, it is as natural as the earth turning that we are different. It is, again to me, abhorrent to do somebody harm merely because they look different. Or indeed, are different to me in any other way. Discrimination is an alien concept.
The death of a black man because of the brutality of a white man kneeling on his neck 4,000 miles away from where I live has sparked outrage and condemnation everywhere – so it should. We know the white man was indeed brutal. Many have seen the images, both still and moving, of that deeply unpleasant moment. The reaction is thus understandable. I must however, ask the question; would there have been a similar reaction if the victim was white? Possibly - but the victim was not white. He was a black man and black lives do matter. So do white lives. As I say in my book, everybody matters.
But we give the right to state officials – in this case, the Police – to enforce the rules we agree to abide by. That does not include killing people. It does include preventing howling mobs from ripping down monuments. It also includes the right to prevent other mobs from smashing their way into those businesses I mentioned earlier and stealing from them. How the Police do it is for them to decide. They must however, decide within the same confines of the rules that apply to the rest of us. If they decide a course of action that is shown to be correct, then we should support them. If however, they decide a course of action that is not, then they must be sanctioned.
Being a police officer is a very hard job. It takes a special person to carry a warrant card and wear the uniform. The problem is that, despite the numbers of dedicated and hard-working officers who are, there are too many who aren’t and there are even less leading them. Where however, do the police take their initiatives from? These come from their masters, the government. The one we elect and pay for via our taxes. The requirement to be at least a little special also applies to the People’s Representatives, in the case of the UK, those who are granted their positions as Members of Parliament. There are quite a few members who do fit the bill – but as with the police, there are too many who are not.
We had them at one point; today not so much. It is also why those freedoms we have taken for granted have been carelessly thrown away in 2020 with a health situation used as the excuse. Yesterday’s politicians might have considered matters more. They may well have said, ‘We have options, let us use them.’ Today – the first response to the onset of any perceived crisis from any politician are the words, “We must have new laws! Ban Something!’
And here's the thing; if we are to really be free, then (again as I point out in my book), with freedom comes risk. The risk that we might, from time to time, be offended by something; be the victim of pointless violence; the risk that we might be injured in a car accident; the risk that we might fall ill; the risk that we might die an early death. There are many risks to being truly free. But we either accept those risks or we are not free.
2020 has exposed freedom as a myth; a fraud perpetrated by those we have elected, as well as those they employ to run things on our behalf. We, the people, are not free and we have not been for many years. Until and unless we can find those special people who have the talent and ability to lead us, to set the lead, the very fabric of the society we have built over the course of our history will continue to deteriorate.
Text and images © Kevan James 2020
The NHS; Politics and Politicians; Law and Order; the EU; The cost of having a home;
Killing off the old; the rise of state power, the risk to freedom and more;
Comments of a Common Man Edition 3 is available from Amazon at £9.99