The current discourse around “freedom” in Western democracies

When I was thinking about this topic, my first decision was to look up the definition of freedom. Merriam-Webster gave me this definition:

In reading this definition, it makes me wonder if they are confusing freedom with liberty.

There is an argument that freedom and liberty are synonyms—even the Merriam-Webster dictionary argues that same.

However, I am not so sure about that framing.

What is freedom?

This is an interesting thought. It is my opinion that freedom is relative, but in most western democracies, the population is generally happy with the definition of freedom espoused in 1c – the quality of state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous.

It then becomes a question of what is so onerous that one must be exempt or released from it to be considered free. Now, there’s a reasonable argument that being drafted into military service is onerous – one might die. But equally, one could die from eating so much black liquorice every day over a few weeks that your heart stops due to excessively low potassium, or killed at a gender reveal party when the hosts accidentally create a pipe bomb.

But if I have to try and find something this onerous for people to be freed from, then it seems that people are very free already. I’m not suggesting that they are completely free, but they certainly enjoy a lot of freedoms.

What is being demanded?

What is actually being demanded is liberty – the right to do whatever they want.

For the most part, people can do almost whatever they want. However, there are specific areas where this is not the case.

In my mind, the two groups that come to mind are those that “defend” the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and the general anti-vaccination movement. There is some overlap between the two groups.

Second Amendment

Quite simply, this group want to keep their guns. That’s a reasonable thing to request, given that it is part of their constitution. Having said that, the biggest issue is that ANY tiny restriction on that right is considered a slippery slope or the thin edge of the wedge. It almost always ends with everyone having no guns and the government running roughshod over every citizen in complete brutality. The fact that this doesn’t happen in the majority of western democracies, and those citizens tend to point to countries that are not democracies does not, in my opinion, help their case.

However, the well-funded (until recently) NRA has stopped any progress in this area. The vast majority of American people want more gun regulation of some sort, including stopping the sale of certain weapons. The minority that take the alternative view argue that any restrictions is a restriction on their freedom and liberty.

Note the use of the word “their.” That’s a personal pronoun. It’s important to note that. The freedoms and liberties they seek are not for everyone – it is for themselves.

ANTI-VACCINATION

I think it’s important to note first off that I am specifically excluding those people who are unable to be vaccinated due to being immuno-compromised or have other health issues. It is that group that I want protection for from the rest of society.

Some of this group say that they don’t know what is in the products, some say that they are looking for alternatives – the excuses they give are diverse, but ultimately come down to anti-government. They seek liberty from government, but are more than happy to take advantage of welfare systems and other government-provided services.

Their levels of hypocrisy are immense, particularly when many of them are mostly vaccinated and their children are not. They are putting their children in danger, while protecting themselves. It does not take much to remember the 2019 Samoa measles outbreak. The fact that a Florida state senator wants to review the mandatory MMR vaccines, among others, is frankly disgraceful and could kill millions of people across the United States.

Again, this is a pro-choice argument – people should have the right to choose whether or not they are vaccinated.

What does this mean for freedom?

For the most part, these two groups are looking for a more specific version of freedom that harkens closer to liberty, where their interpretation of the laws of their jurisdiction allows them to do more of what they want.

It reminds of this quote from The Newsroom – the very first scene

You’re going to tell students that America’s so starspangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. Two hundred seven sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom.

Will McAvoy, The Newsroom

It’s important to think about this when it comes to freedom. A lot of people around the world have freedom, but freedom is relative.

So when you think about people yelling about freedom – the issue is their personal freedoms against societal freedoms. They are not interested in helping society, they are only interested in themselves. It is a reflection of their narcissistic personalities where they believe that they are more important than anyone around them, and thus society must adjust to their needs. When it does not do so, they complain and complain loudly. This is why Karens exist.

What do you think about this? Leave your thoughts in the comments below

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