190 The Degradation of Freedom
This week, I’m examining freedom or the absence thereof. The subject is current and apt, given that protests seem commonplace in every major city of the industrialised world these days. Whether it’s outrage at the unlawful death of black Americans, support for an outgoing narcissistic president, riots against the threat to Hong Kong democracy, or demonstrations against Covid restrictions, populations globally are up in arms over infringements to their civil liberty and sense of freedom.
Regarding Covid, the majority seem accepting, albeit reluctantly, of restrictions to free movement and are toeing the line. But many are not. Much to the consternation of the political classes and the conformist middle ground, there is dissent. What is it about this group of people that takes them to the streets in protest in the middle of a pandemic? Are they prepared to risk their lives for their voice to be heard? Is the pandemic a hoax, or are they simply misinformed? (I’m not going to try to answer that one today). Perhaps they are already marginalised, frustrated and ordinarily at odds with the society in which they live, and now Covid has broken their will to patience.
What about the rest of us occupying the middle ground? Maybe we’ve become too soft, too docile, manipulated by media organisations and political actors and pacified by consumerism so much that we can’t see the prison bars. Maybe our comfort has not yet been disrupted to sufficient extents to take us to the streets. What if you were on the bread line and have been there all your life; would you think differently about what’s going on? What’s true is that if we are unwilling to challenge official lines and accept the actions of those who do as fulfilling an important purpose, then we are at risk of becoming what Erich Fromm called “automatised people.” Maybe we are already.
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