Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Freedom Undefined

      "Freedom" undefined:
      (-1) a word that means almost nothing out of context and is therefore dangerous to those who don't know that.

      The rules of grammar permit outrageously ambiguous nouns like freedom or choice to be used alone in sentences, without modification. But no thinking person can fail to expect some clarification of the word choice. Should some pigeon chested orator shout, "Give me choice or give me death!" I hope you'd want to know what kind of choice he wanted. Yet supposedly smart people habitually give the word freedom a free pass.
      The only permissible interpretation of the generality freedom, in reference to action not space, is: the absence of any limits or restrictions - a proposition so absurd that the word should never be used without a qualifying context, for instance: "The freedom with which the word freedom is used is absurd." Assaulted by a million maniacs, though, all shouting, "I am Napoleon," you might be afraid to contradict them; and inundated by a similar flood of misuses of the words free and freedom, ordinary intellectuals must be similarly overwhelmed. It takes someone like me, quite accustomed to contradicting crowds of naked emperors to shout, "What the hell are you talking about?"

      "Freedom!" may be the most over-used and the most constantly misused word in any language. All heads of all kinds of states and all rebel leaders and demagogues of whatever description fill their mouths with "freedom." But what IS each of them talking about? Constant abuse of the word freedom and even the occasional (chance?) but varied correct use of the word obviously call for a long overdue reality (and dictionary) check. The words free and freedom have little meaning and NO moral value outside of context, which is why reliable dictionaries typically use a diverse flock of examples to clarify them.
      Free what? Freedom of what? Freedom from what? Free to do what? Obviously, the word free or freedom takes most of its meaning and virtue from another word or phrase it modifies or that modifies it; it cannot stand well alone, and if you find it standing alone, you can't judge it without knowing what other word or phrase is missing. Without clarification, as in free love, free of fleas, press freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to get what's mine, freedom from hunger, sugar free, free booter, free fire, free fall, "Free the Cuban five!", "Buy one, get one free!", freedom from restraint, freedom to throw garbage all over the world, free to torture, or free trade, it's impossible to judge the words free and freedom as petty or grand, good or disgusting.

      To put the naked word "FREEDOM" on a banner and wave it is illogical and misleading. It implies the word is precise and clear, when, in fact, it isn't. The common misuse of the word freedom, alone and unqualified, as if it stood for a single universally understood ideal, is a bad habit which clouds important issues and, more often than not, dignifies barbarism.
      Everybody - the right, the left, the suppressed, the greedy, the reckless, the merely verbose, and always the president - cries "Freedom!" But while a victim of reactionary taboos or citizens of a country run by fascists may mean something respectable by the word, politicians usually mean nothing, and profiteers always mean something selfish and probably contemptible. As an American foreign policy objective, freedom usually means freedom from equality and/or freedom from freedom from U.S. exploitation.
      Freedom CAN be honestly OK or honestly NOT OK. To create and sustain a civilized Civil State is bound to require the curbing of some freedoms, while any specific life enhancing existential freedom that need not be forfeited to make civilization work fairly for everyone SHOULD be defended. Meanwhile, without a clear definition, the word freedom, especially in the mouths of political leaders and philosophers, is often or usually insidious and dangerous blather.

-Glen Roberts