Freedom is Dangerous

Freedom is dangerous.  This is an undeniable fact of life.  Freedom means, generally speaking, that each individual gets to make choices about how to behave—choices which will inevitably affect those around them.  Freedom allows for the possibility that some may choose to act in a way that is harmful to others.  Freedom can be exploited, and some people use freedom to hurt others for their own personal gain.  So society seeks to restrict freedom to eliminate exploitation, and the ever-increasing restriction always tends toward tyranny.  Yes, freedom is dangerous, but tyranny is even more dangerous.  It is like comparing the danger of sailing on the open ocean to the danger of setting your own ship on fire in the harbor.

So we face a choice:  do we embrace freedom and contend with the problems it allows, or do we suppress freedom in order to eliminate the problems that will arise?  Every society wrestles with this dilemma.  Historically, most people have chosen the second course of action.  “Wide is the gate and broad is the way…” and all that.

The typical human response to problems is to avoid them, to shy away from them.  The word “problems” in this case is probably a bit generous, for I’m using it to encompass things like exploitation, manipulation, corruption, and violence.  Maybe I should use the term “evil” instead.  Rarely do we choose to confront the evil that plagues us.  The typical response to evil is to form a coalition and leverage the power of a group to suppress freedom in the hope that evil will simply go away.  Except you can’t legislate away evil or punish people enough to eliminate evil.

This leveraging of power is a purely human effort to deal with the problem of evil by building a system as a bulwark against it.  Rather than contending with evil, we hide from it and try to create an environment where evil can’t possibly exist.  Of course, such an environment is an empty promise, for it provides its own opportunities for exploitation and even creates problems of its own.  Eventually, this artificial environment we’ve created morphs into something that is worse than what we were trying to avoid.  On a more personal level, the result is an increasingly timid mindset and a general weakening of the human spirit.  This self-defeating, downward spiral leaves people less capable of coping with the problems that confront them and makes them more reliant on the system that is weakening them.

Here are a few examples of how this mentality is playing out in societies all over the world today.

“Religion has been used as a justification for conflict.  Therefore, we must eradicate religion.”  As if secularists are immune from behaving in exploitive, oppressive, and violent ways.

“A nihilistic child in a fit of vengeful rage, brought a gun to school and shot several of his schoolmates.  Therefore, we must eliminate the ownership of firearms—except by government overlords.”  As if eliminating the weapon will eliminate nihilistic, vengeful spirits.

“Men have, in many highly-publicized cases, used their positions to exploit women.  We must eradicate masculinity.”  As if emasculating men will eliminate exploitation and manipulation.

Human systems are only temporarily effective at suppressing corrupt behavior because they do not address the problem at a spiritual level.  They will never achieve long-term success because the root cause of evil is never addressed.  Because human systems only treat symptoms, they must continually expand to address the new problems that constantly crop up.  Not only are human systems ineffective at eliminating problems, but by suppressing freedom, they begin to create problems of their own.  Systems create their own opportunities for exploitation, and people manipulate the system for their own benefit.  (Keep in mind, The System could be political, religious, corporate, or social.)  As the system grows, many people wholeheartedly embrace the system and seek power within it.  If it isn’t stacked in their favor, they will change the rules until it is.  Far from achieving its initial purpose of curbing lust and greed, The System merely offers its own unique opportunities for lust and greed to flourish.  Yet, society inexorably moves from “There’s a problem!” to “We need more iron-fisted control!”  Rather than eliminating poverty and injustice, societies that go down this road (and they all do) find themselves inevitably spreading poverty and misery.

Whirlpool

Photo Credit:  Colin Haycock

The end result is always a hell of our own making.  You see, freedom is required for the human spirit to flourish.  Freedom is required for people to solve problems.  The creative act of problem solving can only take place in an environment of freedom.  There will always be problems.  There will always be exploitative people.  The choice before us is whether or not we will summon the courage to confront the problems, or whether we will ensconce ourselves behind the walls of a system that insidiously serves as a catalyst for exploitation and enables problems to grow exponentially.

As society continues its inexorable slide toward tyranny, freedom itself eventually becomes the enemy because it is a threat to the power of the people who have invested themselves in the system.  And while society circles the drain, it paddles ever more frantically in the direction of the current.

Yes, freedom is dangerous, but tyranny is far more dangerous.  Only when we embrace freedom, develop the courage to confront the problems we face, and address the evil that crouches at the door of our hearts will we ever hope to build a society that flourishes and manifests the best aspects of humanity.

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