The Arab uprisings in search of freedom have had us considering the whole concept of freedom. I (Gavin) may be in a unique situation, having visited most of the nations currently in turmoil. For many years I worked as sales rep in the field of electronic devices with military applications, with quite a high security clearance, and in that assignment traveled most of the world outside the then Soviet bloc. Of course I lived largely in a western bubble, isolated from the general population–but being an inquisitive sort, I frequently got into the various bazaars, temples, and marketplaces and talked to any local person who had any English, or sometimes (as in Japan) with an interpreter.
The interesting thing was that nobody seemed to be oppressed–or for that matter, poorly clothed or fed. I had seen more what we would call ragamuffins in markets in England than I did in (for instance) Libya. (Ragamuffins are those kids who are poorly dressed and are begging at every turn. Think Oliver Twist.) Yes, the beggars in Egypt and Iran were more prevalent, but they were a happy-go-lucky lot. They didn’t really need the money that they were begging for, and would go away laughing if you set them a problem in getting the money and they failed. I suspect that it’s those same kids who are now getting shot in the streets in their quest for that will-o’-the-wisp, freedom.
In the United States we think that we are free. Certainly we hear the claim repeated often enough. And yet we follow a pretty rigid set of laws so that the traffic flows smoothly–and we (city-dwellers at least) huddle in our houses at night for fear of going out and getting mugged or shot. You think that last thought is an exaggeration? Oh, no. There’s a story I am fond of telling of an elderly lady who annually goes to Madrid and wanders around in the middle of the night. She usually gets lost, and the police have to take her back to her hotel.
“Why do you wander like that, Señora?”
“Because I can’t do it at home.”
Yet Spain has one of the most visible police presences in Europe in its Guardia Civil. But you can go to parades; you can walk about at night and not even think about having your camera stolen or your pocket picked.
In England now almost every street has its surveillance cameras and pattern-recognition software is in continuous use. There is no main road without cameras at its intersections.
In the United States we think that because we get the occasional chance to vote we control our destiny. What utter blindness. If we control our destiny, how come the laws make it ever easier for businesses such as Big Oil and Big Pharma to rip us off–with a happy smile and a few more billion dollars going to the fat cats?
Why don’t we revolt? What is it that keeps us drugged into passive tolerance? This nation has more people starving and lacking medical assistance than the entire population of Iraq or Yemen. Why are they in revolt and we’re not?
You may think this is a weird blog–and it is. But recall the words from Aradia:
Ye shall all be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything;
And as the sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also; this shall last until
The last of your oppressors shall be dead.
Are you free?