There is many a controversial issue that has gripped the hearts of nearly every group of people in todays age. I wish to touch on one of them.
The secular world screams its wishes to promote freedom of the individual, above all else, but it is often never considered by the layman that the concept of freedom is itself a complex multi-layered one. It is not simply that you are either in favour of freedom or against it, but that there are different kinds of freedom, and that being in favour of certain ones can encroach on others. Allowing certain freedoms can also conflict with the desire for security, which itself can gives rise to freedoms that would not exist if that security was not enforced by a ruling body with the means to do so.
For example, we can consider that there are [a] “freedoms from” and [b] “freedoms to do”. Being in favour of [a], which can also be called securities, can and does constantly conflict with a corresponding [b]. For example, my freedom to not be killed and feel secure, conflicts with someones freedom to kill. Or the freedom for a gang of youths to hang around on street corners en masse getting drunk and taking drugs takes away from the freedom of the elderly to walk through the streets in safety and without anxiety [and again, feel secure]. Your freedom to party all night, with loud music, in a housing estate, on a weekday, with all your mates, takes away from my freedom to get some sleep during the night hours, and for my children not to be disturbed. In each of these examples, the only reason people don’t have the freedom to do the more abhorrent expressions of freedom is due to threat of punishment.
It’s not as simple as saying “I support freedom – woohoo!”, because every freedom you allow has to, by its very nature, conflict with other kinds of freedoms. The entire legal discussion revolves around determining how to respond to this balancing act, and deciding which freedoms trump others. The legal process is itself, the creation of a freedom hierarchy, which determines – for one reason or another – which freedoms in certain contexts are to be considered more favourable than others; and how the corresponding responses might effect our security. Absolute freedom is sheer anarchy [to be without rule of law] with little guarantee of security. In such a system, the only ones who are free are the tyrants; those with the strength and will to overcome the freedoms of others, in order to feed their own desires for greater levels of freedom at the expense of those they interact with. Absolute security promised by a tyrant is not much better.
For the most part, this nuanced discussion is completely neglected by the layman, and the entire concept of freedom is flattened and oversimplified to meet the needs of those social acolytes that see themselves as a Neo-William-Wallace’s. Those who go charging around the streets with their hordes screaming “FREEDOM!”, or the others who demand anarchy from the safety of their keyboards. Freedom is presented as a wholly positive concept, but this is incredibly naïve. The conversation cannot and will not make progress, so long as such activists cannot see, for the life of them, that their particular demands for certain freedoms (the ones they happen to desire) conflict with the freedoms and securities of others, and so undermines the very cause they wish to promote.
From what I can see, no group of people, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum, is free from such problems. Each side has their advocates for the oversimplification of complex issues, and demand radical fixes to problems on freedom and security, for which they have never once considered the possible consequences of. They see an issue, and simply wish to push back in the opposite direction as hard as possible; without noticing that it is perfectly possible to over compensate and continue to lead us off the cliff… just in the opposite direction.
These issues call for careful deliberation by sincere individuals, but all we have at the moment is loud and clumsy voices by activists who are not willing to humble themselves in the face of problems which are demonstrably beyond their grasps, by virtue of the fact that they have overlooked many of the issues I have pointed out in this short essay.
I am not claiming to know the answers to these issues, but I am claiming to know what they are not. That is, the answer is not a call to absolute freedom, or anarchy; nor is it a call for tyranny and oppression by an absolute authority. It calls for a gathering of sincere and patient voices, willing to tackle the issues diligently, and not in haste in order to appease the mob.