Freedom. Everybody says freedom is such a very good thing that it's worth fighting for. But something so good and important deserves a clear meaning, no? Well, what is it?
The word "freedom" has been hijacked by all sorts of unsavory characters to mean freedom for them to do unsavory things. Slave owners in the American Civil War fought for their freedom to be slave owners. Adolph Hitler fought for what he called "freedom," saying, "If freedom is short of weapons, we must compensate with willpower.” No matter what is the true purpose of a war, the rulers of a nation waging it invariably say the purpose is to defend freedom. Millions of people have died in wars fighting each other even though both sides were supposedly fighting for the same thing--freedom. Is freedom just a dangerous bogus concept?
Yes, at least in its present deliberately vague sense, it is. The word "freedom" is used more often than not for a bad purpose: as a way for rulers to get the ruled to do what they want them to do. In World War II, for example, the Nazis told Germans that Nazism was about defending "freiheit" (freedom) just as the American government told Americans that the fight against Nazism was about defending freedom. Both the German and American ruling classes used warfare to strengthen their domination over working class people, and this is what they actually had in mind behind the rhetoric of "Freedom" and "Freiheit." (See my book [scroll down], The People as Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II, for a full discussion of this, summarized online here.)
If we're going to fight for freedom and make great sacrifices to defend (or obtain) it, shouldn't we know what we're fighting for? Let's first list some things that we don't think people should be free to do.
Nobody should be free to:
Some people (Bill Gates, David Rockefeller, the Koch brothers, the entire Walton family, Barack Obama, Fidel Castro, the entire Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, King Faisal, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, and a host of others) would, to put it mildly, not agree with this entire list of NO-NOs. Most of them would go along with the first two items, but balk at the ones after that. But to disguise the venality and utter selfishness (or perhaps just arrogance) of their view, they would probably try to change the subject by talking about things that people should be free to do; they might offer up a list of such things like the following, and hope that endorsing this list would make people perceive them as "good guys"--defenders of "freedom."
Freedoms that ruling elites want us to be grateful for, if and when they grant them:
It's a very nice list of freedoms, at least in so far as none of them are interpreted as allowing anybody do to anything on the first list of NO-NOs. The problem with this list of freedoms, however, is that it is used to make us forget about the first list of NO-NOs. It is used by people who do bad things on the first list to make us feel grateful to them for allowing us to do things on the second list, instead of feeling angry at them for doing things on the NO-NOs list.
This is how the slippery and ill-defined notion of "freedom" is typically used to attack the most important freedom of all--the freedom to live in a society where people are not allowed to do the no-no's on the first list, and thus the freedom to create a really wonderful world to live in, where people are free--in all sorts of different and unique ways-- to make it a great world for each other.
Let's fight for THAT freedom! One way to start is what people are doing at PDRBoston.org .
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