For me, freedom is not the right to bear arms and do what you like. It is about living responsibly within a society without violence, hatred or division. Within that society, I want to be free to do what I want without repression, oppression or restriction providing I do not do harm to others, incite hatred or violence, or infringe on other peoples’ rights. That is a compromise.
Freedom to me is having a good standard of life without having to work too hard or in dangerous conditions.
Freedom is about living in an environment that is pleasant, congenial and has respect for nature.
Freedom is about not having to worry about healthcare, injustice, discrimination, exploitation or violence.
Freedom is about having choice.
I feel extremely fortunate to live in a country with a great deal of freedom.
I think we take it for granted.
I live in the UK.
I am free to travel inside my country or abroad.
I can follow or criticise any religion I want.
I can vote for any political party.
I can follow and criticise any political party without fear of retribution.
I live in a country that at least aspires to provide equality to all races, religions and genders (even if there is still inherent racism, sexism and prejudice).
I have access to free education and healthcare.
I have a pension.
I have a welfare system as a safety-net should I need it.
In the workplace, there are rights – minimum pay, safe working conditions, maximum hours, holiday pay, employer contributions to pension and health.
We do not have a brutal armed police regime.
We have clear restrictions on detainment and the conditions we experience when detained.
We have a justice system.
We are not terrorised by crime. Our criminals are rarely armed. Our society is not riddled with guns.
There are environmental laws to prevent the environment from being destroyed and my food, air, soil and water being polluted.
I am free to protest and complain.
If I compare this to other countries, even Western democracies like the USA, I feel extremely fortunate. Many countries have tyrannical governments, theocracies where other religions or atheism are persecuted, discrimination against homosexuals, women or racial minorities, gagging of protest, heavy police states with armed police and no adequate justice systems. There are places where workers are exploited to the point of being slaves and the environment is trashed for profit, where the air, water and soil are so heavily contaminated as to be a health hazard.
Our rights and freedoms have been long fought-for over many centuries. This is not the result of benevolence from our rulers and bosses. They gave every shred of freedom grudgingly and are always looking to claw it back.
We see in the States the environmental laws being dismantled and workers’ rights being reduced – to maximise profits and stimulate the economy (ie. to put more money in the pockets of the wealthy).
We see the same thing in the UK with Brexit where environmental laws and workers’ rights are up for grabs.
History shows that we have to be vigilant.
I am glad I am living in a free country. It is by no means perfect. There are many battles ahead to maintain our rights and freedoms and to improve upon them.
But, every now and again, perhaps we should stand back and think how lucky we are to live in a country with such freedom and how grateful we should be for the people who fought (and gave their lives) for us to enjoy these freedoms.
The onus is on us now to build upon them.