Freedom

We all want our freedom!!

What’s that actually mean?? Can we ever be completely free? I think not.

If we live with other people then freedom is a compromise. One person’s freedom infringes on others.

If we live alone with nature that too has its limitations. The creatures and plants have rights every bit as much as you. Some of them have nasty habits that might well limit what you can do. Then there are other limitations such as the weather.

What is this idea of freedom? Isn’t it often confused with licence?

A few definitions might help – ‘the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.’ Or ‘the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.’

That seems simple enough until you start to analyse it.

To act, speak or think as one wants. Pretty straightforward. I want that. But then I am someone who is not prone to violence or abusing others. What if I was a person who enjoyed punching people, setting dogs on fire or raping children? Should I have my freedom? Supposing I was someone who enjoyed intimidating others with weapons or thought that bullying was fun. Should I have my freedom? Or if I liked to take whatever I wanted from anywhere I wanted? What if I liked shooting endangered species or chopping down trees, or throwing my waste in next door’s garden? Or if I owned a company and wanted to make more money by selling dangerous goods or dumping pollutants in the river?

What is this freedom? It’s a bit of a moot point. In all human communities, there are laws to prevent people from doing harm to others.

Is freedom merely a question of where we place the boundaries for those laws? How much should the state become involved with a person’s freedom? Should it insist that all children have to attend school? Should it set the limits on drinking and driving? What about drugs? Should individuals have the right to choose? Should eight-year-olds be allowed to use heroin?

What about guns and knives? We see the madness in the USA. There were 39,707 deaths from firearms in the U.S. in 2019. I wonder how many were injured? In the UK there were  In 2020/21 there were 235 homicides involving a knife or other sharp instrument in England and Wales. Should the state say that it’s too dangerous for people to have knives?

What about the right to speak – to say what we want? Elon Musk has just bought twitter. He says it is to promote the right for people to say what they want. Should we be allowed to say what we want?

I was watching some old episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It was hilarious but………………. there were a number of scenes with people blacked up and expressing racially stereotyped views that were highly derogatory. It made me cringe. Society has moved on. But should the racists and fascists have a platform to intimidate, demean, threaten and bully? Should they have the right to take away the rights of whole races of people and create a society with institutional racism that generates second-class citizens on the basis of their colour, religion or race? Isn’t that promoting hatred and division, depriving society of many skills and artificially creating a hierarchy that doesn’t exist?

We say Trump, Johnson and other populists using Twitter and other social media to spread lies, fake news and false information. They undermined experts and scientists for their own ends and in so doing spread misinformation and conspiracy that generated hatred, division and even death. It has resulted in thousands of deaths from covid, the storming of the seat of democracy, racial hatred, the spread of ridiculous conspiracy theories, a disillusionment with all politicians, an undermining of democracy, the spread of superstition, the undermining of science, the ridiculing of the media and the spread of propaganda on the internet.

Now there is no doubt in my mind that politicians need holding to account, that the media lies, that democracy is a sham and scientists can be bought by big business ….. but do we want to replace experts with snake-oil merchants? Replace science with superstition and propaganda? Replace democracy with fascism?

That is what is happening.

Then we have the right to think as we like. That seems reasonable. Do we have that right? No. Definitely not.

In Putin’s Russia the views of the bulk of the electorate are controlled by the state. The only information they have is what they are told. The same in China. But is it any different here? We have a media run by the establishment spewing out propaganda and polluting minds. It is so obvious with the likes of the Daily Mail, Sun and Daily Express but it’s the same with The Telegraph and Times and the rest are not much better. Even the BBC is far from impartial.

The establishment owns the media and while the propaganda is less draconian the effect is the same. That is why we have the political system we have. That is why a party that only really represents the top 5% gets elected. That is why the non-establishment parties have to become establishment parties in order to be elected. The media controls minds.

Those who chose to get their news from the internet are in an even worse situation. The right-wing have that sewn up. They pump out even more extreme propaganda under the guise of free speech and unbiased news. A lot of it is pure hate and put out to stir up division.

If you live in any society your mind is not your own. NOBODY is immune to the constant drip of propaganda. We are not as free in our heads as we might think we are. Even our cultural (and religious) upbringing is simply brainwashing. Our own families are probably the worst source of brain control.

Unless you’ve been brought up by wolves you have already been indoctrinated.

The Hell’s Angels seem, in one sense, to epitomise personal freedom. Their hedonistic lifestyle is the very essence of freedom. Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll, freewheelin’, out on the highway doing what they like. Except when you scratch the surface and you find misogyny, racism, violence and intimidation. Their freedom comes at the expense of others. They remind me of the robber barons of long ago who would ride in, slaughter, rape and steal. They thought they were free too.

Freedom huh?

I think I might move on to not being enslaved or imprisoned.

Well you get imprisoned if you break the law. For the most part that is for serious stuff like killing, stealing, raping or violence. That seems reasonable. But I’ve known people harassed, fined and imprisoned for possessing marijuana. It’s these grey areas that seem to cause the most problems. What should be illegal and who should decide. In places like Russia you get locked up for opposing Putin, opposing the war or being against the state.

In Britain we supposedly allow protest (though they are trying to take that right away) and can call out our politicians as lying criminals. That is not against the law.

We do not have slavery – or do we?? We all know about the laws and also know that many people are still be held in slavery – girls brought over for the sex industry, the drug gangs holding people, illegal factories. Slavery takes many forms.

Isn’t work really a form of slavery? We have to work to live now that our natural way of life has been taken away. We sell our time and bodies. It’s all a question of degree. I certainly am not free when much of my life has been tied in to having to work. Someone else has been demanding I do as I am instructed for a good part of my working week.

We all want our freedom!! Getting it is something else!!

For me I am satisfied if I have the right to live how I want, wear what I want, practice whatever religion I want, believe what I want, vote for whatever political party I want, drink and eat what I want, read what I want, go where I want and say what I want.

I would like a few more liberties but I am aware that I have a pretty liberal existence. I don’t mind having laws to prevent people hurting others; I don’t mind having laws to stop me (or anyone else) from inciting hatred and violence; I’m glad we have laws to protect the weaker members of society and the environment.

For me freedom is about compromise. It is a question of getting the degree of compromise right.

19 thoughts on “Freedom

  1. Opher, I’ve written quite a bit about what freedom is. You’ve read some of it. In a nutshell, what I seek is maximum freedom consistent with living in a civilized community. And a civilized community is a community of people, each of whom respects others’ human rights. (Subject to their respecting my equal rights, and the equal rights of others, of course). I think you might do well to think a little more about human rights, what they are and how they might be defended against the state that is now more and more actively seeking to trash them.

    As it happens, there’s a new human rights organization recently started in the UK, called Together Declaration. It has just (today!) opened up membership to the public. I have not only joined, but I’ve already published a brief article about the organization: https://libertarianism.uk/2022/04/27/together-declaration/. I was so driven to finish it and get it out, that I was half an hour late to my brass band practice! I thought you might be interested in them, as it seems they may have the potential to become a modern and multi-issue counterpart of NO2ID of 15 years ago.

    1. I’m not just worried about protecting our human rights against the state – big business via multinationals, religions, tyrants and criminal gangs are usurpers of individual rights and freedoms. We need to put together and control global organisations to ensure our rights. We need scrutiny, freedom of the media and accountability.
      This is where your idea of local responsibility falls down. These major players have no respect for civilised communities; they gobble them up and spit them out at will. They are no respecters of rights, freedoms or the planet. They need controlling. We see that in the Ukraine. When a dictator, multinational or criminal gang want what you’ve got, they just take it.

      1. Opher, of course big business, religious zealots and criminal gangs are violators of rights and freedoms, along with the state. But the state is by far the worst violator. This is because the state, in essence, claims moral superiority over those it rules. And it isn’t bound by the laws it makes to rule over others, and doesn’t have any responsibility for the effects of what it does. If you wonder why Johnson just doesn’t seem to get the significance of what he’s done over Partygate, it’s because Johnson is a statist, and thinks he is neither bound by the rules he makes nor responsible for the effects of those rules on others.

        I don’t think global/supra-national organizations are a way forward. The end result of what you propose would be a world-wide dictatorship, run in their own interests by the very worst scum. Look at the consequences when Hitler tried to “unite” Europe, or the Soviets forced communist rule on Eastern Europe and a big wedge of Asia. Or think of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” but with just one superstate instead of three.

        As to ensuring rights, the question that always has to be asked is, “Quis custodiet custodes?” Who will guard the guardians? Who will watch the watchers? My own answer is, that all of us must be guardians; of ourselves. We need to get rid of the state, and replace it by a simple code of ethical conduct, that every human being worth the name can understand, and can see the benefits when everyone – including themselves – keeps to it. That will require a moral revolution, not a political one.

        As to Ukraine, well, war is one of the things states do. It’s built into the system at a fundamental level. To get rid of war, we need to get rid of the state.

      2. We are back to the same argument Neil.
        How to control those with the power.
        I don’t think the politicians have the power. They are bought, sold and controlled. The real power lies with the superrich and multinationals. They have to be controlled.
        The dilemma, as you point out, is how to control them without creating dictatorships.
        I think that requires scrutiny, accountability and a dispersed body who in turn is scrutinised and held accountable.
        I do not believe that is beyond the wit of man.

      3. Scrutiny, accountability and a dispersed body.

        Bingo! Everyone needs to be held accountable for the effects on others of their willed actions. Most of all, those in government power must be accountable. The state specifically makes government unaccountable for its abuses of power.

        As to scrutiny: Yes, there should be strict quality control on everything government does. Is what they are doing in the interests of the people – and that means all of the people, every single individual? Is it cost-effective? Is it being done openly, honestly and in good faith?

        And as to a “dispersed body” to do the scrutiny and police the accountability, that dispersed body is the people. You and me.

      4. I think we are largely in agreement Neil. Government should be open to scrutiny and held to account far more than it is.
        Ultimately we are the ones to hold it to account – but – in practical terms that is not possible. We have to appoint people to do that job and those people need to be open to scrutiny and are accountable.
        The problems are corruption and threats. The powerful do not like scrutiny or accountability and have the means to buy people off or threaten them and their families.
        That is what they do with politicians.
        We have to find a way of stopping them.
        Complete transparency is the answer.
        That is why I put my faith in the UN. It is not functioning and we have to find a way of making it work.
        Ukraine is a good example. The UMN should be stopping it!! They should have people in on the ground to see exactly what is going on and then coordinate sanctions to put a stop to it.
        They are not.

      5. Agree on transparency, but disagree on the UN. The UN has become a bad organization. (It was never really a good one). It is seeking to create a world government – 1984 with a single super-state – by stealth. It is unaccountable, and doesn’t get much if anything in the way of scrutiny. Certainly not by the “little people” who are adversely affected by its actions.

        Moreover, it has been responsible over 50+ years for driving the green nonsense that is destroying our civilization. It is also driving distinctly dangerous new “treaties,” for example a now-being-discussed new pandemic treaty under the aegis of the WHO. I think you can imagine what would have happened with COVID under such a treaty! Instead of different countries making different mistakes and hopefully learning from them, everyone would make the same mistakes, all at the same time. Which would almost certainly be even worse than what has eventuated this time round.

        Personally, I think we should be following Brexit with UNexit.

      6. Lol Neil – left to you Tyrants, despots and multinationals would have an open field with no opposition whatsoever.

    2. Covid passports can be seen in two ways – the infringement of the rights of those who don’t want to be vaccinated or that the antivaxxers, by spreading disease and using up our resources (nursing and mortuaries) are infringing the rights of responsible people. I’m in favour of covid passports. In a pandemic, we have to use science and take measures to stop the plague from spreading. I do not see that as an infringement of human rights. I see that as a protection of my right not to be infected by irresponsible people.

      1. Opher, it amuses me that at the end of your article you say “freedom is about compromise,” yet you then come out with an extreme view, that people don’t have any right to refuse medical treatment they don’t want. This seems to be a characteristic of socialists – they like to argue that “you can have your freedom,” but always tack on at the end “as long as you do what I want you to do.” That is no freedom!

        For an analogy to compulsory COVID vaccinations for NHS staff, look up the story of the forced sterilizations of those deemed “unfit to breed” that were carried out in the name of the eugenics movement. In the 1920s and 1930s, eugenics was all the rage among the establishment, being espoused by among others Winston Churchill and John Maynard Keynes. Surely you don’t think that these forced sterilizations were ethically OK? Then how could forced vaccination be ethically OK?

        Of course, to work out whether a particular mandate or restriction in an “emergency” situation like COVID would be right or not, you need to do an objective risk analysis. People can then make their own decisions based on the evidence. But that risk analysis certainly wasn’t done in the case of the proposed vaccine mandate; the idea was entirely political. And the reversal was entirely political, too; it came about when the government realized that if they went ahead with the mandate, they would have to sack almost 80,000 NHS staff. Oops.

        In the final analysis, if you don’t want to be infected by what you think of as “irresponsible people,” all you have to do is keep away from them! You have your freedom of choice, and you have no need to restrict anyone else’s freedom of choice.

      2. I didn’t say they don’t have the right to choose vaccination (totally daft though that is). I said that if they choose such an antisocial, illogical, stupid stance then they should be prepared to pay the price. They are a risk to others and themselves. They have taken up valuable space in hospitals. They should not be allowed to mix with more responsible people. On a scientific basis, vaccine passports make sense.
        It is not just the rights of the unvaccinated that need to be considered; it is the rights of the rest of the population. People choosing to take the risk for themselves (which is costing the rest of us money) put others at greater risk and spread the disease. They kill other people. They spread the disease. The price for choosing not to be vaccinated or not to wear a mask is that they be separated from others.
        Whereas some intelligent people can reason and are knowledgeable, most are ignorant, stupid or both. To understand about viruses and pandemics takes a level of biological knowledge way beyond the average.
        Ever intelligent people do stupid things.
        Then you have those who have been brainwashed by conspiracy and fake news.
        People need instruction by experts.
        Pandemics are lethal.
        I see nothing wrong in a government, based on sound scientific evidence, bringing in draconian measures to deal with a lethal virus – as long as those measures are necessary and temporary. That is not an infringement of civil liberties; it is a necessary measure to deal with an emergency. It becomes a matter of liberty if the measures are unwarranted or kept in place longer than necessary.
        People are tribal and irrational.
        You are an example Neil. You do not have the Biological knowledge to understand enough about viruses or pandemics to make better decisions than an expert virologist. I know a lot more but am still far short of experts.
        Likewise with climate change and biodiversity. You have adopted a stance (which is irrational) without having the expertise or knowledge with which to make valid judgements. Once entrenched in your position you seek validation of your position from dubious sources and discount any valid sources that disagree with your position.
        That’s what humans do.
        We seek evidence to back our own position and disregard anything that conflicts with the stance we have taken.
        Despite the immense body of evidence you still cling like a limpet to your untenable condition.
        Humans are not knowledgeable on anything much. We need experts to guide us.
        You see quite clearly what populists like Trump have done. They undermined experts and scientists and caused a flood of conspiracy and stupidity from which they then benefit.

      3. Let’s begin with where we agree, Opher. Yes, a sane government can and should take reasonable measures to deal with a virus like COVID. But they must be based on the best available evidence, and on objective assessment of all risks and costs. They should not impose costs (financial or otherwise) on people that are worse than the damage from the risks would have been. And they should be reviewed very regularly, and struck down if they do not deliver, or are no longer delivering, the benefits they are supposed to.

        Your attitude on this question and others like it, though, misses a key issue. If you want to take away someone’s freedom of choice on something because you perceive what they want to do as a danger to others, then the burden must be on you to prove that they actually are causing danger to others. And I mean prove, beyond reasonable doubt. If you do not accept and discharge that burden of proof, you are not only presuming them guilty, but you are requiring them to prove a negative. Those are not ethical behaviours for any human being.

        As to the trust you put in “experts,” I don’t share it. I am minded of Steven Weinberg’s view, “An expert is someone who avoids the small errors while sweeping on to the grand fallacy.” And I think he was rather over-generous. Many “experts” turn out to be nowhere near as expert as they’re made out to be – “Professor Lockdown” Neil Ferguson is a case in point. Other claimed “experts” are really just promoting their political agenda, while trying to make out that what they are doing is science. SAGE, and the “climate science” establishment – Mann, Jones et al – are examples of this. The way you can tell a real expert is that they get their predictions right, again and again; that the solutions they put forward work in practice; and if they don’t know an answer, they are honest enough to say so.

        BTW, I’m still waiting for your answer about the species to whose extinction I have contributed!

      4. Firstly – you have actively contributed to the extinction of all the animals and plants that have become extinct due to human activity. We all contribute a tiny part to their demise. You eat food, produce waste and consume products. Your imprint might be tiny but add it to 8 billion more like you and all those tiny bits add up. To deny that is nonsense.
        It is tantamount to denying that you have poisoned a prisoner if that prisoner was poisoned by 8 billion people all contributing a minute particle of poison.
        You must be able to see that Neil. It is not rocket science!
        Now – I agree with your first paragraph.
        If you ‘have’ to take away peoples’ freedom, no matter for how long a time, you have to have a good reason. A pandemic is a very good reason.
        There is ample scientific data to show that unvaccinated people were far better spreaders of the virus (they carry a far greater load) and have disproportionately filled ICUs and mortuaries. That is sufficient reason to take draconian actions.
        If someone chooses to remain unvaccinated then, as a danger to others and because of the cost to society (i.e. me and you), they should be banned from commerce with others. That is accepting responsibility for their actions.
        In the early stages of this pandemic it was uncertain what percentage of people would be killed or permanently damaged. We could have been looking at a much higher kill rate. The next pandemic could be like the medieval pandemics with an 80% kill rate. Only by strict lockdown, until such time as a vaccine or suitable treatment was available, could the population be kept safe.
        As it was the NHS was very close to being completely overwhelmed with fatally ill patients. If that had occurred the death rate would have soared.
        As it was we have suffered around 200,000 deaths and a million people suffering long covid with probable life-long damage.
        Vaccination has saved tens of thousands of lives and has enabled us to return to normal interaction. The unvaccinated are still at great risk but the majority of the population are now relatively safe.
        Herd immunity is not possible with this virus. Immunity only lasts around 12 weeks. But vaccination does, in most cases, reduce the severe effects and death. The conspiracy stupidity has killed many thousands and ruined tens of thousands of peoples’ health.
        As for experts – another Trumpist stupidity. Yes there are some scientists employed by Big Business to give false information – most are not.
        I prefer to get my information from people who know what they are talking about rather than Joe Soap on the internet who has an opinion based on shit or Trump who is a self-serving ignoramus.
        If I ever get a brain tumour I’ll listen to the experts and be operated on by a qualified brain surgeon rather than the plumber down the road.
        When it comes to climate change and biodiversity (areas that I studied to degree level and have expertise in) I look at the actual stats and read the reports. It makes for very scary reading. We (including you and me) are destroying the planet and it is already causing immense problems. The current refugee crisis created by war is minuscule compared to what is coming down the road.

  2. Opher, I’m still waiting for the name of a species to whose extinction I have contributed, and what I did to contribute to its extinction. Without specific examples, how can I possibly judge the claims you make?

    1. All of them Neil – every last one. Every time you flush the toilet, eat a sandwich, turn on the light, turn on a fire, drive your car, go shopping or go about your business you contribute to the problem. The food you eat has been treated with pesticides and herbicides killing insects. The insects were the food for birds and animals. Every time you use energy it produces CO2. 8 billion small increments result in mass destruction of populations and the build up of pollutants. Can’t you understand that? We are all responsible. We all contribute.

      1. Rubbish Neil. You should check out the real sources instead of all the right-wing propaganda bunged out by those with vested interests. The natural world is being decimated before our eyes.
        ‘WWF’s 2020 Living Planet Report held some alarming news: The world has seen an average 68% drop in mammal, bird, fish, reptile, and amphibian populations since 1970. Much of the loss is caused by habitat destruction due to unsustainable agriculture or logging.’
        Of course, WWF isn’t an oil company so you won’t trust them.
        https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/ And you don’t like the UN because they aren’t fascist.

        Click to access LPR%202020%20Full%20report.pdf

        But more importantly, I travel the world and am a biologist. Everywhere I have gone I have personally witnessed the decline and destruction.
        You’ve put yourself in an entrenched position and are now clinging to it like a limpet. Despite all the massive evidence you cling and cling to your misguided world view.
        An intelligent person weighs up the evidence and is willing to change their mind if proved wrong.
        You’ve been proved wrong a million times.

  3. You’ve put yourself in an entrenched position and are now clinging to it like a limpet. Despite all the massive evidence you cling and cling to your misguided world view.

    You too, Opher. I keep asking you to present factual evidence on this issue, and you always fail to do so.

    I have no time for John Maynard Keynes, but he did (reputedly) say one thing worth recording: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” But I will only change my mind when presented with facts, not alarmism from the WWF or UN IPBES or any other institution that exists to push an anti-humanity political line.

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