Sunday, July 27, 2014

Principles of Freedom – Liberty

I have pondered why the words “liberty” and “freedom” are often used in the same sentence when I used to think they meant essentially the same thing. I have come to understand that, while complementary, they are specific, separate and have definite meanings that we should consider. Likewise, the words “slavery” and “servitude” are different in scope and concept.
Most people understand freedom to mean the absence of constraint - the ability to move, think, express yourself and create without fear or coercion that we will be limited or punished for doing so. Freedom comes with the responsibility to not infringe on other people’s freedoms to do the same and to not do harm to their physical well-being or property or their emotional or spiritual life.
The term liberty is a little more esoteric. Liberty is a state of mind, one of being truly free in mind and heart. A person who is in a state of “liber” or liberty understands justice, equality, rightness, fairness and many other positive values and lives by them in their relationships with others and demands that same treatment for themselves. J.B.Books (John Wayne in the movie The Shootist) says it this way, “I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”
Liberty is living in harmony with principles of truth and having those principles as your guiding star. It is respecting the rights of others and not taking advantage, even if we have the “freedom” to do so.  To me, it is the imperative that we all need to aspire to. It is what William Wallace (Braveheart) meant when he yelled “Freedom” and his men joined in the chorus.
Slavery is a term most of us understand but have not experienced. It is the forcible extraction of labor while being compelled to stay in a location or under a situation that we have no control over. Many nations had conditions of slavery in their history and some people are still used and abused by systems that allow or encourage it. Today those conditions are maintained more often by threat of violence or forced addiction to illegal drugs than by chains, but they do exist even in our “free” country.
Servitude is again a more opaque term. Historically, it could apply to sharecroppers or others that were allowed to live on land owned by another as long as a significant portion of the production was given to the land owner as tribute or tax. This situation is created when the privileged few own most of the land or necessities of life and dole them out reluctantly to those who work to produce the wealth the few enjoy. We are moving more and more into a servitude system as the corporations control more land and wealth and the individual is minimized more and has less and thus relies more on the “generosity” of those who have much (including the government).
Because this is a gradual process, most do not see how servitude to the government and corporations is eroding our freedoms. Most do not see how much of the education our children are receiving teaches them to be good worker bees and contributors rather than creators and leaders. We individually and as families need to be more aware and educate ourselves as to how we can help reverse the trend towards servitude and create in ourselves the understanding of liberty and freedom.

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