I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Human love of freedom

President Bush said (January 18, 2005(corrected 11:30 AM))
'The Desire for Freedom Is Written In Every Human Heart'
He was ridiculed by the left for this.

President Obama said (Feb. 11, 2011)
As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana, while trying to perfect his own “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.”
I wonder if the left will ridicule Obama for that.

I believe that there is a broad inclination by our species toward freedom.

But I believe that the love of freedom is most emphatically not universal. I will begin with those in European history who burned people at the stake for not seeing God in the right way and move forward. You can start with Osama bin Laden and work backwards. We will meet somewhere between the early Americans who fought a civil war over whether they could own their own workforce and the 20th century communists who murdered their own people by the tens of millions.

There have been a lot of folks who were not yearning for freedom.

PS In the interviews that I saw on TV with the Egyptians who had rid themselves of Mubarak, the word that was used most frequently was "dignity" not "freedom".


  1. Well, I think most people yearn for their OWN freedom...It's the freedom of others that tends to be problematic (The Inquisition). Especially when it allegedly infringes upon the perceived scope of one's own personal freedom (Communist leaders).

    Immanuel Kant has some intersting things to say about the relationship between "dignity" and "freedom." He more or less says that you can't have one without the other. He further adds that oppressing the dignity of others is tatamount to eroding one's own freedom.

    At least I think that's the general gist...my Kant is a little rusty.

  2. Has there been a political figure with more dignity than Nelson Mandela who spent so many years in a prison?

    And what is the meaning of those words "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose?"

    I'm not trying to take on Kant who doubtless thought much more deeply than I about such matters, but words uttered by youngsters Dylan and Joplin, and even the not so young Cohen ("there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in"), seem to have captured "truths" that philosophers had yet to reason out.

    The scenes aired on television from Berlin to Tinamen and Tahrir Squares remind us that we in the West, most rich in "freedom," don't really understand its meaning to those who have had little.

  3. I would agree with Michael that those of us in the West have much to be thankful for. Still there are those among us that (apparently) believe that the US is the most despicable country in the history of the world.

    My grandson’s teacher told his class that the difference between slavery in the US and slavery in Muslim countries is that the Muslins treated their slaves better. Oh, that proves it, we are evil.

  4. I love the song Bobby McGee, but I have never understood for sure what was meant by: "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose?" I have guessed that perhaps it is "a particular kind of freedom, the kind that comes to a desperate individual who says to hell with it."

  5. I always looked at the freedom statement in Bobby McGee from the other direction. If an individual has something to lose that individual can never actually be free due to concerns about the things he/she has or to turn that around if I have nothing to lose I can truly be free because I have nothing to protect, I am unfettered by possessions or other concerns.

  6. The following is not intended as a defense of Kant (I don't even know if Kant would agree with all of it)...just my own musings on the subject.

    I guess, I would wonder what the use of your "freedom" would be if you had nothing to protect. How would you decide what to do with your so-called freedom? You'd be free to do anything and able to do nothing. We should distinguish "ability to act" from "freedom to act."

    Sort of like the convicts who, after finally getting released after decades on the inside, cannot cope with little things like choosing what to eat for breakfast. I find it hard to muster an argument for their "freedom."

    No, I must disagree. One who has nothing to lose, alternatively has nothing to fight for. (If there is nothing left to lose, what could you possible be fighting for??)

    Suppose one were REQUIRED (by some means) to do exactly what they want to do, at all times. I don't see how this can be "freedom" in any sense of the word.

    Suppose the reverse is true. You were free to choose any path you so desired, but the one you would most desire (that is the one you would choose) was always kept hidden.

    In the first case we have no choice and in the second we have a plethora of choices. In neither case do we have freedom.

    We should be careful not to confuse "being able to do what you want, without concern" (this could result from a mental disorder or even extreme apathy) with "being able to willfully engage in self-planning and executing one's own plans."

    I don't think freedom should be "naturalized." Outside of a society, there is no freedom. Inside a society, that society determines what is freedom. So, the question isn't whether or not a member of a society "has freedom," the question is whether or not a society should alter it's conception of freedom.

    And this is why people tend to rag on the US. By and large, the US considers OUR freedom the ONLY freedom (or at least the only freedom worth having).

    Freedom must be bounded. Freedom occurs within a system (of some sort). I can't imagine there is any such thing as "completely unbounded freedom." And even supposing there were, I know of no argument for why the US has struck upon it.

  7. Perhaps the ideas found in songs are popular because their exact meaning is ambiguous in such a way that many people can't attach a meaning that is personally meaningful to them, maybe that is what we mean when we say it "resonates" in the sense it reinforces some latent feeling or idea already part of our personal world view. It "feels" right. It "speaks" to us. The point is that words in common usage lack the exactitude of mathematical terms. You can't know if another likes your favorite song that it means to them what you take it to mean. What is "freedom" as used by another? I don't know. They would have to tell me, if they can.

    I do think that one could take the meaning of "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" to be empowering a person to take any action they can imagine since it can only be an improvement. That's a pretty "free" choice I would think.

    I think many people that leave their homeland to come to the U.S. do so because they see it as a society that is less controlling.

    And loners prefer to minimize their contacts because they find that less inhibiting to their actions. We do have places where that is possible and entirely acceptable.