Freedom – a discussion



‘One person’s freedom is another person’s tyranny’ – I said that.


Freedom is something that I’ve thought about a lot. Nobody values their freedom more than me. But when does freedom become licence?

What is obvious the minute you start to think about freedom is that it is all a compromise. Nobody, not even the frontiersman living in the wilderness, is completely free.

Freedom is dependent on context. You don’t sit on a bus and belch and fart – or at least you shouldn’t.

As a youth I used to idealise the life of hunter/gatherer societies living, what I saw as a more natural existence, in tribes, in tune with nature. I recognised that it was a hard and dangerous life; a short life too, but it had that sense of freedom that I craved.

But I bet if I went and lived in one of those societies I would find my ‘freedom’ just as limited. I think that the religious/spiritual beliefs, the hierarchy of the society, the cultural taboos, the personal relationships, the hardships and dangers; they would all have put strictures on a person’s freedom.

As soon as you live with other people you have to take them into account; you compromise.

‘Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinking of the times when I’ve been loved’ to paraphrase Donovan.

Even living on one’s own has its compromises. One has to eat, to be safe, to keep warm and sheltered. There are constraints.

Freedom is never absolute. We all have to live by rules that are, hopefully, designed for the good of all – whether that is driving on the right side of the road or not attacking other people. Without rules and regulations that restrict people the world is unsafe, people are abused and exploited, and the environment is wrecked.

So – what we argue about when we talk of freedom is the point where the rules become too petty and restricting, is it not?

So what are the freedoms that I value?

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of belief
  • Freedom of political views
  • Freedom of movement
  • Freedom of appearance
  • Freedom from abuse or exploitation
  • Freedom to be treated fairly by those in power
  • Freedom to enjoy myself


There are caveats to these freedoms that I accept. For instance I would accept that neither I, nor anybody else, have the right to incite violence or hatred through my free speech. I accept that inciting racism, misogyny or bullying others is wrong. I do not believe that I, or anybody else, have the right to brainwash children. I do not believe that any of us has the right to inflict pain or anguish on other people or creatures. I accept that I should not do anything that damages the environment.

Other rules I might argue over – the drug laws for instance or whether burqas should be allowed.

So I am prepared to accept limits on my freedoms as long as those limitations have a good reason.

Particularly in America I hear people talking about their freedoms – the right to bear arms, the right to prevent other people having abortions, the right to home educate, the right to indoctrinate their children and the right to stop sex education.

What I don’t hear is the effect of exercising these ‘rights’ on the freedoms of others.

I hear about opposition to ‘Big Government’ and that communities should decide. Yet I see the mass killings, environmental destruction, gross inequality, exploitation, racism, violence, sexism and do not hear of pragmatic solutions to these problems.

The main problem I see is that everybody thinks they are right, what they believe is true. For example they are content to exercise their right to hunt and kill and assume that what they see as vermin is the same as what others see as vermin, and that their views of their freedoms are universally agreed. Couple that with a belief that their own government is the enemy and all experts lie because they are in the pay of either government or big business, and I think we have a society that is in deep trouble.

A society exists upon acceptance of agreed rules. These rules compromise one’s freedom but are necessary for a variety of reasons.

Have we got the balance right? There’s the debate.

When does freedom become licence? When do rules become petty restrictions of rights? Do we allow the bullies, the powerful and wealthy to do what they like and run roughshod over everyone else?

One person’s freedom is another person’s tyranny.


Freedom – What does it mean?

I hear so many people talking about freedom. We value it so much. But can anybody ever really be free?

I suppose if you live completely on your own in the middle of a wilderness you can be free. There are no laws to affect you or compromises with people.

It always seem to me that a lot of Americans still have that frontiers mentality and think they are living in the Wild West. But we aren’t. We’re living in civilisation. Here in Europe, where things have been established a lot longer, we’ve rubbed a lot of the edges off. Things are a lot calmer and more stable. We know that freedom is limited. When you live in a society with other people you have to obey laws, make compromises and learn to be civil. Those that don’t are locked up, ostracised, punished or made to suffer.

You see nobody is free in a society. Freedom is relative.

What we have to ensure is that the compromises are good ones, that the laws are fair ones and that they work to create a society which doesn’t restrict people too much or introduce injustices.

If everybody was completely free to do as they want the roads would be undrivable, nobody would have any possessions, our homes would have to be fortresses, and the streets would be a riot of rape and murder. The bully boys would rule and nobody else would have any freedom whatsoever. Cities would be impossible.

Living in a Mad Max dystopia would not be fun for many.

As soon as people formed families and tribes they were forced to create a working relationship that functioned around restricting certain behaviours and that limited freedom. No chimp or gorilla is free to do as they want. They have to fit in with the social setting. If they don’t they are banished.

Being in love is probably the greatest impingement of one’s freedom. It is when an individual realises that someone else is more important than oneself. One is usually happy to give up their freedom. Such is the power of endorphins.

So freedom – an illusion.

Even in that wilderness is that person completely free? Aren’t they subject to a whole range of restrictions, worries, concerns, desires, wishes and dreams that could be considered a limitation of freedom?

Women’s rights! There’s a battle to be fought!


Women’s Rights


How long does it take to gain real equality?

Women have been treated badly in many cultures throughout the world and still are. In all Abrahamic religions women are treated as second-class citizens. In the UK they weren’t allowed to own property until 1870! Women were seen as the property of men. They had no rights.

Looking around the world one can see many instances of misogyny and repression of women. They are sometimes not allowed out of the home without a man. They are forced to wear burqas and hijabs. They are not allowed to drive. They are not allowed to work or own anything. They are segregated from men. Some are not able to access contraception or use it.

Equality looks a long way off.

In the UK the suffragettes started up in 1867 to fight for the right to vote. It wasn’t until they became violent that they finally achieved the vote in 1928. It wasn’t until 1956 that women teachers and civil servants gained equal pay with men. In 1968 women had to go on strike in the Ford Car factory in Dagenham to gain equal pay.

As late as 1970 women had to have a male guarantor in order to get a mortgage.

There is such a lot to fight for. Even in the West we are far from a situation of equality. That will only occur when half of parliament, business managers and those in top jobs are female.

In 2018 the DUP are stopping women of Northern Ireland from having the right to abortions.

No matter what legislation is brought in until we sort out a proper system of child care I do not think women will ever achieve true equality.

Until we have universal human rights and women are afforded equality in all areas there is a battle. It is a battle worth fighting!

Open Bridges – Hull Year of Culture – Another Triumph!! – Photos


You only appreciate freedom when you are deprived of it!!  That was the philosophy of the event. Or as Joni Mitchell might say – ‘You don’t know what you’ve got til its gone.’

Hull is unique.

We all know that. It is unique in a number of ways but Bridges was a way of demonstrating one of its unique characteristics. The city is divided in two by the river Hull. That is not unusual. Many cities are divided in two. What makes Hull unique is that there are thirteen bridges crossing that river and none of them are fixed. They can all be opened.

Rich and Lou Howard-Duffy had the idea of dividing the city by opening all of its thirteen bridges – separating it and depriving Hull of its freedom – and then bringing it back together.

It was a symbolic of the way the people of Hull have fought for freedom and unity down the years from Wilberforce’s work to abolish slavery right up to the present day.

At seventeen minutes past eight o clock – the symbolic 20.17 – the bridges were opened and Hull was divided. Then it was rejoined and its freedom restored.

To celebrate 18th century schooner HMS Pickle set off rocket flares in front of the majestic architecture of the Deep and tugs gave a salute of huge plumes of water.

Congratulations to Rich and Lou Duffy-Howard for pulling off such an audacious event!!

We’re all free once more!!  We need to cherish and protect those freedoms. They were hard fought for.

A rocket flare goes off over the Deep.

To find out more of this fabulous project go to Open Bridges Hull and see some of Rich Duffy-Howard’s brilliant photos and read all about it.

Introducing Open Bridges

Beware! You may be dead!

If you wake up with one of the following symptoms you may well be dead!

  • You heart has stopped beating
  • You are not breathing
  • Your body is stiff
  • You are as cold as marble
  • You cannot move
  • Your brain is no longer functioning

If you have one or more of these symptoms you may well be dead!

What to do


You have no need to do anything ever again. Other people will do everything necessary.


There are a number of benefits from this condition:

  • You will not have to worry about anything ever again
  • there will be no more pain and fears
  • You will not have to do anything anymore
  • All the problems in the world will not exist
  • What is going to happen to you will no longer matter
  • As far as you are concerned, you and the whole universe has ceased to exist
  • You will not have to put up with all the hatred, intolerance, cruelty, stupidity, lying, cheating, violence, destruction, religious fanaticism, environmental madness and thoughtlessness.
  • You can forget about the list of things to do


  • You will no longer be able to experience all the wonders of the universe
  • You will no longer have the love of your friends and family
  • You will never see a sunrise or sunset
  • You will never have a cuddle
  • You won’t be able to have a laugh
  • You will never gaze into a sky full of stars or see the moon glide through the clouds
  • You will never read a great book
  • You will never meet new, interesting people
  • You will never share a great tale or make new friends
  • You will never love your family
  • You will never walk along a beautiful stretch of sand and splash in the sea
  • You will never see colour
  • You will never write a poem
  • You will never stand on the edge of a cliff and gaze out at the wonderful scenery
  • You will never hear music
  • You will not dance
  • You will not fall in love
  • You will not eat a delicious meal
  • You will not watch a great film
  • You will not put the world to rights
  • You will not stand up for a better world
  • You will not fight injustice
  • You will not hold hands
  • You will not see all the birds and animals
  • You will not see a tree
  • You will not look up into a blue sky, feel the warmth of the sun on your face and a cool breeze
  • You will not have hope, anticipation, excitement or satisfaction
  • You will not feel the glow of having achieved something
  • You will not create
  • You will not drink a great coffee while a squirrel climbs a branch in front of you
  • A gorilla will not connect with you
  • You will not climb a mountain and look at the world laid out before you
  • You will not fly to a wondrous place
  • You will not smell a flower
  • You will not just sit around with people
  • You will not go off to see the sights
  • You will not plan and dream
  • You will not be with the ones you love
  • You will not find the unexpected
  • You will not change anything
  • You will never fly a plane, drive a car or learn a skill
  • You will not travel
  • You will not eat an ice-cream
  • You will not fry calamari in garlic butter and sea-salt
  • You will not smell fresh baked bread or cut grass
  • You will not sip a mellow shiraz
  • You will not discover a new writer
  • You will not stand in front of a Magritte and smile
  • You will not feel warm
  • You will not hear Buddy Holly, Roy Harper, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Nick Harper or Captain Beefheart and a host of others
  • You will not think nice thoughts
  • You will no go to the theatre
  • You will not share a meal
  • You will not watch England win the world cup
  • You will not see Hull top the premier league
  • You will not amble through a forest
  • You will not share a picnic
  • You will not sit in a meadow and watch the butterflies and bees dance with flowers
  • You will not hear the birds sing in the morning
  • You will not make love in front of a log fire
  • You will not catch sight of a deer standing under the trees
  • You will not visit Katmandu
  • Nobody will paint you a picture, give you a card, a hug, a kiss or a smile
  • You will not discover something fascinating
  • You will not think great thoughts
  • You will not dream wonderful dreams
  • You will not grill cheese on toast
  • You will not have a cup of tea
  • You will not do something that you thought you couldn’t do
  • You will not make something look better
  • You will not help someone and feel good
  • You will not buy something you love
  • You will not cherish something special
  • You will not get the satisfaction of a job well done
  • You will not sit in your garden
  • You will never kayak
  • You will not debate, argue and fight for what you believe
  • You will not hike through the Himalayas
  • You will not eat chocolate
  • You will not take a photograph of a pyramid
  • You will not solve a crossword
  • You will not sit with someone
  • You will not breathe fresh air
  • You will never hear that interesting programme on the radio
  • You will not laugh at a joke
  • You will not save a bee, a tree or a chimpanzee
  • You will not stare at the northern lights
  • You will not fight for justice
  • Rocks will not glow
  • Friends will not ring
  • Lovers will not love
  • Worlds will not exist

So beware if you wake up dead – you might not have packed in all that you could into your brief time here.

Poetry – Freedom – Not a selfish greed but an expression of love and togetherness.



I am always reminded of Donovan when I hear the word freedom. Back when I was a boy I remember sitting in my room playing that Donovan track – Catch the Wind – and taking in that line – Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinking of the times when I’ve been loved.

Freedom is relative and can never be complete. There are too many strictures. If we choose to live within a social setting then we need to be aware of the feelings and needs of those around us. That is a limitation on our freedom, a compromise of our actions.

We are all different and yet we find a way of rubbing along together. That is life. We accommodate each other; we assist, help and look after each other. In return we get warmth, friendship and reciprocal help when we need it. We create society.

What stands out are the ones who refuse to be part of that society, who are greedily exploiting and grabbing everything they can for themselves. For them their freedom to do what they want becomes abuse of others.

I strive for a fair world where the compromise between personal freedom and social equality is based on empathy and compassion.





Freedom is a concept that is compromise

An idea of amorality

That is even a landmine for the wise.

One man’s freedom impinges on us all

When without restraint,

Limits or bounds

It could result in making

Others crawl.


For the main we learn to rub along quite well

To find our ways through the twists

Without plunging others into hell.


When I speak of freedom

I mean equality,

Fairness, justice and space

For all humanity.


Others speak not of freedom

But selfishness;

Wanting it all for themselves

Without a thought for the rest.


My freedom is of the loving kind.


Opher 1.5.2016

Pete Smiths cartoons of genius – trapped, restrained

P1120120 (2)

I think we all have those unanswerable questions in our head. We crave to be free to explore and find the answers to our existence, to penetrate the mystery, but we are held back by all the restrictions. Society, convention and the strictures of family, career and life in general clamp us down in their cloying chains.

How we long to be free!

Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Tolpuddle Martyrs

More struggle for freedom and justice.

Opher's World

Tolpuddle Martyrs%20colour
In 19th century Britain it was illegal to organise in order to gain better working conditions and pay. In the 1830s the industrial revolution had created a surplus of workers which had resulted to wages being lowered to starvation level.
In Tolpuddle, a small village in Dorset, a group of farm labourers formed a collective to argue for fair pay. They refused to work for the reduced rates.
Six of them were arrested and charged with organising. They were sentenced to seven years deportation to Australia.
There was a public outcry, a petition signed by 800,000 and a march on London.
It was the first successful protest.
The sentences were commuted. All but one (with a previous criminal record) were released.

It is right to remember that our rights and freedoms come at a price. Our unions had to be fought for. The establishment gives neither wealth nor power freely…

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Democracy and the media controlled by the establishment.

can we ever have democracy?

Opher's World

To have a democracy there has to be a fair structure. All people about an agreed age should have a vote. They should have free access to all the information necessary to decide who to vote for. They should have a range of political parties to choose from. The system should be free of coercion, rigging or corruption.

Clearly this is not the case. The establishment has organised things to ensure their power and wealth is not reduced by ‘common people’ wanting a fairer share.

The establishment consists of a loose confederation of the aristocracy, politicians, big business, media, police, chosen celebrities and wealthy individuals. Politicians freely move between the worlds of media and big business to walk into incredibly lucrative deals for doing advisory work or TV and radio shows. There is a lot of money to be made cosying up to the establishment. The whole business of who…

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