Sunday, June 16, 2013

rights and freedoms

i think one of the problems with political debate is that a lot of people are raising a great cry about FREEDOM and PROTECTING OUR FEEEEEDOMMMMMMM but we don't all agree really on what freedom means.

basically if you define freedom as being the right to do whatever you want, you are out of luck if you live close enough to any other people as to infringe on THEIR freedom not to have you do whatever it is you want to do in their space or have the consequences of whatever you're doing run over into their space.

there are some kind of subtle freedoms that involve actually ceding absolute autonomy in favor of some common benefits.

for instance, your freedom to travel is kind of dependent on our collective "enslavement" to government projects like roads.

but let's just move past those basics for a moment, 'k?

because if you are reading the things written all over the news with regard to (insert area of legislative concern here) it becomes really apparent that people are talking a lot about PROTECTING OUR FREEDOM but we aren't talking about the same freedoms.

to me, freedom is the absence of government intrusion in my private life and the ability to be informed on governmental matters and no warrantless searches and no presumption of guilt and the ability to travel without police interference and the ability to communicate without surveillance.

but that's not what freedom means to other people.

for some people clearly freedom means the ability to decide FOR OTHERS what is and is not acceptable in their personal lives. their very definition of freedom means the ability to go in and take other people's freedom.

but it's larger than that, because for an apparently large group of people, freedom is not about going about your business without interference; it is about feeling secure. freedom for some of these people is above all the feeling that they can go about their lives safe from danger, and they are completely willing to let government or police or anyone else step forward and take on the tasks of making them feel safe and while i think they're not correct, i also can't fault them for feeling the way they do.

i mean, really, how free do you feel when you are afraid? if you do not have food/housing/job/personal security, how free do you feel? when you feel threatened, do you feel free?

the tricky bit here is that we are threatened to different degrees by different things. and that we live in a civil society (by which i mean to label it as a nation, supposedly, of laws rather than to comment on the degree of civility in the discourse) and in a civil society we have to find some balances between our personal sense of liberty and larger corporate liberties we may all share.

i hear this arguent a lot: if you have nothing to hide, why do you care about search or surveillance?


because at some point if the shoe is on the other foot and my way of life becomes unpopular or laws are passed against me, laws that protect us all will come in handy.

laws that protect people i do not approve of will also protect me if i ever need them.

do not trust the government.

i do not care which party is in power. do not trust any government, anywhere. if a government is ever trustworthy, it is only because it is being held accountable by the governed. in order for us to trust a government, we must be able to see inside it and see who is making the decisions and who is making money off of it and we need to be able to protect ourselves from it if it gets too big for its britches.

good government is open government. when a government starts to tell the citizens that it gets to make secret decisions based on secret rules and we have to trust them because hey, they're the government, it is probably too late.

the good news, i guess, is that government secrecy and government abuse of power is not a new thing. you go ahead. look it up for yourself.

it is an old, old dance, this one of government doing things in secret for "the good of the people" and in the name of "freedom" and the people pushing back.

or some of the people pushing back.

because we keep betting that those freedoms will come in handy maybe later. and we notice that when we give up freedoms we rarely get them back.

so fine. make use of the government. participate in the government. care about the government and the goverened.

but do not ever, ever, trust the government.

make it show its work. make it explain itself. make it earn its keep, every damn day.

do not stand on the outside and cry about FREEEDOMMMMMMM. understand that citizens may differ about what does and does not constitute freedom. come prepared to talk and to listen and to ask and to explain and to balance.

and demand the same of government.

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