Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th.

It's the fourth of July, a big day in the United States. I thought it only fitting to ruminate on what I think it means to be free, and whether our government gets the job done, or if we should have another revolution and start the whole thing over.

Freedom is basically defined as the ability to act without coercion or restriction. Obviously, if you delve very deeply into this you can dig up some absolutely ridiculous philosophical fluff. For example, how do we know we are free to act as we see fit? How do we know that our actions are not being guided by an omnipotent, invisible hand.

This hand needn't be God. We could live in the Matrix. We could be subtly manipulated by the Illuminati, or whatever secret society you choose. We could be the product of our upbringing, powerless to escape the course chosen for us by our parents, and our parent's parents. We could be at the mercy of Human nature, only capable of acting as our ancient evolution dictates. And if you really want to fuck with your own head, how can we be free from defined events if the universe is causal and predictable, as science is predicated, and all events are determined by preceding events. We have no choice but to be part of the grand, galactic machine that birthed us, defines us, and is us.

But that's all academic. What about practical freedom? By this I mean the general meaning of freedom as freedom from oppression, from fear, from dictators, and from Oprah.

I consider freedom to be the governments perview, and only freedom. Government should be concerned with freedom, and what effect its actions will have on freedom. Perhaps we should celebrate our freedom with both explosions and drunken revelry and a nationwide discussion of freedom and how critical it is to our lives. I think discussions of freedom are especially relevant since the abject obsession with it by our forefathers, and their subsequent actions, is one of the things that truly separates the United States from other countries, and one of the few things that makes me a reluctant patriot when I say the USA is the greatest country on Earth.

We so quickly take for granted the freedom that is subtly, tightly, and intricately woven into every aspect of our government that we seem all to happy to fritter it away to whatever fear-mongering ideologue is filling the television screen. We did nothing to stop the Patriot Act, without doubt one of the greatest infringements on our freedom in decades. Has it made us any safer? That is debatable, with my own opinion being ABSOLUTELY NOT, but it has certainly made us less free.

We take for granted that in this country, we can say and do whatever we please. Books, movies, and video games frequently get banned in other, supposedly advanced cultures like Australia, Germany, and Japan. They have censorship and restrictions that would make Thomas Jefferson wince. Yet, there are loud, vociferous groups who ceaselessly push to have certain books banned from schools, or television shows cancelled, or video games restricted. Not for scientific reasons. Not for practical reasons. For fearful, stupid reasons.

I emphasized stupid because I want everyone to know that I find these people stupid. STUPID. STUPID. If you in any way advocate censorship, you are stupid. You are a dumb, motherfucker whom I would as soon spit on as say hello. The country was designed from the very beginning to prevent you from ever making a difference, and I thank the framers of our constitution, I thank the courts who continually smack you down, and I thank Xenu, that you thrash and scream to no end. And perhaps most damning and insulting, I find you un-American.

I think government should think about its actions vis a vis freedom in all cases. Even seemingly benign cases. Eliminating paperwork to give people freedom from time wasted, for example. One of the greatest examples I can think of is freedom from reasonable fear. I say reasonable because people are unreasonably afraid all the time. It is not reasonable to be afraid of asteroids from space (unless you're Bruce Willis), the race wars, Satan, and gay people, who are apparently in cahoots with Satan. It is reasonable to be afraid of bodily harm by other people, robbery, wild boars, and Sean Young. Thus, we do not have laws against gays, at least laws that are enforced, we do not have an orbital laser cannon defense system, no matter how much the Pentagon wants one, we do not have a governmental holy army, and we do not have crack teams of Aryan warriors.

But freedom from and fredom to are different concepts, and in many ways freedom from and to are at loggerheads. I do not have freedom from taxes, but those taxes give me freedom to call the police if I need help. I liked the national highway system, because the freedom to get from point A to point B in a short time exceeded the freedom lost from the new, higher taxes. I support national health care because the freedom from worry about hospital bills exceeds the freedom to spend my possible taxes as I please. In other words, it would cost far more to achieve the same freedom from worry than the taxes I would pay.

So yeah, I'll be updating this as I think.

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