All my life I have heard references to us living in a ‘free country’ but as my life continues it becomes more and more clear to me that it is much more accurate to say that we are living in a country where we are ‘free to obey’.
This is not the freedom that our forefathers fought for and it is far from acceptable to me. Perhaps it’s because I had issues with bullies growing up or perhaps because I have a strong sense of right and wrong, in any case it is frustrating to see the way our ‘dumbocracy’ has been co-opted by corporate and private interests at the public’s expense.
Freedom means one has the right, as an adult individual, to do or not do as one chooses, unless it harms others. This is an inalienable, natural right, a given that all rational people can agree with it.
When first born, a person is in the care of adults who dictate, ‘do this, don’t do that,’ but once a person reaches the age of maturity they can say, ‘thank you, I appreciate what you tried to teach me, but I don’t agree with everything and so now I will live my own life.’ No one ever gets to tell that person again that they can’t do what they want to themselves, or that they have to do something they don’t want to do to themselves, as long as that person isn’t harming others.
Of course, if someone is harming others it is the responsibility of everyone to stop them just like if you are not harming others it is the responsibility of everyone to protect you from harm. It does not matter if someone is part of a group, if they are in uniform, have a badge or a gun, if they wear a robe or a crown, nor if they claim to be divine, they do not have the right to bully you.
Of course bullying goes on in our society all the time by people who are supposed to be public servants. Even though our country has moved away from kings, queens, and dictators, we are bullied into obeying laws that protect corporate and private interests who use monetary leverage to get their interests protected — in many cases at great expense to the public, and in some cases with great harm.
This is the problem that frustrates me: How do we undo corruption and return to the values of freedom and democracy? We need to limit the ability of public servants to interfere with peaceful citizens. We need to make them accountable and they should be as transparent as possible.
A crime is intentionally causing harm, not necessarily physical, to others. When accused of a crime a person is assumed innocent, but if there is enough evidence they may be forced to stand before a court. If the evidence proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt then the damage caused can be placed on one side of a set of symbolic scales held by blindfolded Justice, and on the other side a penalty can be applied that balances the scales.
Public servants should be accountable to these principles. If they were, it would be a heinous crime to serve private deals or corporate interests: the damage that can be caused with the stroke of a pen is immense.
As for transparency, it would cost considerably less than a mission to Afghanistan to have a two or three person video crew shadow each MP during their workday. We could all tune in to ‘MP Watch’ on our smartphones to see what they’re up to any time we wanted. No more closed-door, out-of-sight meetings with corporate lobbyists who threaten or bribe them.
Freedom is so very important and well worth fighting for: it is as important as water, air and love. It is something that people have been fighting for since the beginning of recorded history, if not longer. We are not free yet, but if enough of us work on it hard enough and vote for it often enough, there is a chance that future generations could see it, even if we can’t achieve it in our lifetimes.
I believe accountability and transparency would go a long way towards securing the freedom we deserve and towards electing the kind of people in office that children could look up to and admire. The country deserves limited-reach, accountable, and transparent public servants who work with integrity, who recognize that their role is to protect the rights of every individual, and who take pride in knowing that what they stand for is our freedom.