What You Thought Was Freedom Is Just Greed
July 5th, 2010 by Sonja

Every year I wrestle with Independence Day.  I don’t know why I can’t just enjoy it … the sights, sounds, camaraderie, bon hommie, brownies and, of course, fireworks.  No.  I must wrestle with ideas.  What is this day that we celebrate each year.  Are we free?  What does that mean?  How does our freedom here effect and affect others around the world?  What have we done and what are we doing?

Of course, there is a song out there that expresses my ennui.  But I’d forgotten it.  Then I heard it anew this morning.

Gone by U2, from their Pop album

Listen to that.  Or, just read the lyrics here

Gotta feel so guilty
Got so much for so little …

The opening lines.  And I look around at my own life; at how much I have for how little I’ve done.  The good fortune I’ve had to be born into empire unaware.  And I wonder at what the course we’ve taken here in this country.  This nation become empire.

So what is freedom?  What is this idea that we celebrate each Independence Day with such nationalistic fervor and patriotic delight?

According to princeton.edu it is “… the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints” However, can any of us ever be truly free?  Well, yes.  If the definition as posed here is used.  If we are to use “externally imposed restraints” as our measure.  It has been said that my freedom ends at your nose.  This implies that I am free to act as I will as long as it does not impinge upon your freedom.  Then we have a problem.  So if restraints are to be applied, they must be internal.  That is, I must apply them.

What if I do not?  What if I choose to bumble on my merry way getting my stuff because I am free … what I thought was freedom is just greed.  What happens to the people around me when I do not apply internal restraints?  Or if there is no one big enough to apply external restraints?  Or there is too much greed to go around?

3 Responses  
  • Sabba Hillel writes:
    July 6th, 20108:05 amat

    You do not understand the meaning of freedom. You are confusing Liberty and License. The fourth of July symbolizes the correct meaning of Liberty. That is the ability to act properly and morally in all circumstances and the ability of each person to have others act morally and responsibly.

    Perhaps that is why the Bible speaks in terms of responsibilities with rights implied while the Declaration of Independence speaks in terms of rights with responsibility implied.

    An example can be “do not steal”. The Bible makes it each individual’s responsibility not to steal, which will therebye allow every one else to have the right to his private property. The Declaration of Independence states that G0d has given each individual the right to his private property, which make it the responsibility of everyone else not to steal.

    We have seen the results of this difference in our modern society, with people insisting on their own right and ignoring their responsibilities.

    In any case, people should act morally and responsibly because of internal restraints. It is only the failure of people to act morally (such as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi) that forces society to impose external constraints. Ideally people should realize their responsibilities and then the rights of everyone will be guaranteed

  • Swami writes:
    July 6th, 20109:34 amat

    Do you want to understand freedom?

    Take your sentence “What if I choose to bumble…”

    Replace the word “getting” with “creating”.

    Now you see.

  • Robin writes:
    July 7th, 201011:53 amat

    Wow. yeah.. I have my own dissonance with Independence Day. I was struck by this definition:

    According to princeton.edu it is “… the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints”

    And my mind we not immediately to all the internally imposed restraints that I have created or co created within myself. Inner freedom I think requires resonsibility because I choose and thus I reap the “effects” of my choices… from perceptions to actions.

    When I read “externally imposed restraints,” I think of social situtions, social mores, but thats where my head and dissonance is most lately. Can I be me here? Do I belong? Fears. Worries. That hold me back from moving forward in my life path.

    As for laws and the political system… I think that reflects where we are within ourselves… we have created this system and how we interpret it… and fight over how we interpret it and how we preceive ourselves in it. When the collective has had enough, a shift occurs, but currently it seems like he who has more money and more greed is the “free-est.” An organism cannot survive that way, biological or social.

    We are very fortunate to have the opportunity, as small as it seems sometimes, to re-create what it means to be free. Just like we continually learn what it means to love, we must continually learn what it means to be free, I suppose.

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