Archives for posts with tag: freedom

Trying to make sense of this this proverb, one might find handy a deeper understanding of ‘it’.

I’ll be arguing in a future post about the synthetic nature of equality. A concept we came up with, based on things found in the natural world. But the concept itself has no natural precursor. It was invented by us and exists exclusively in our minds.

On the other hand, liberty – the ‘it’ I’m writing about right now – is ‘artificial’. Another concept we’ve came up with, based on things found in the natural world.
But one which has evolved from a natural precursor. It still exists exclusively in our minds – like all other concepts, but we didn’t actually invent it. We only noticed its natural precursor and built on in.

Orangutans are freer than us. They live individualistic lives, depending on no one but themselves. They are strong enough to do this and they live in such a manner and place that they don’t have to face any natural enemies. We, humans – their cousins, are the only agents powerful enough to represent a real danger for them.
Gorillas are less free than us. They live in strict autarchies, where they need nothing but what already exists in their domains – the plants they feed on, and where they respect the strict discipline imposed by their strictly authoritarian male leaders. Which are the only free(ish) members of the groups.
Chimpanzees and bonobos, each in their own way, are the closest to us. Some freer than others but none as free as the orangutans.

None of our cousins have the concept of liberty. As far as we know, they long for it – for freedom, that is – when they lose it. Hence they feel (for) it. But they haven’t, as far as we know it, came up with the notion of it. This being the reason for which the concept of liberty might be synthetic – like all other concepts, but liberty itself is artificial.

Our experience of liberty has a lot in common with what our cousins feel when they lose theirs. When they lose theirs to us!
We being the only agents who, after synthesizing the concept of liberty, have taken the process a step further.
Have started to take prisoners. And to justify our actions!


I’ve been talking about complementarity, equality and freedom.
The implication being that unless people treat each other fairly – as in consider the others as being equal, and equal with themselves – none will be actually free. Free to fully complement each-other. Free to ‘boldly go where no one has yet been’. Together.
What’s keeping us from doing it?
To figure that out, we need first to understand how we got here.
‘I’ve been talking about…’
To talk about something means the talker is aware about the existence of that something. They may not fully understand what’s going on but they have already noticed that something’s afoot.
Furthermore, for a human to attempt to communicate about something means that that human considers there’s at least a small chance that others will understand the message. That others understand the language used and that those others already have a modicum of interest in that matter.
In other words, any attempt to communicate means that those involved are not only aware that something’s afoot but also have reached a certain degree of consciousness. That they are not only aware of something being there but also aware that they, together, can/should/must do something about it.
They key word here being “together”.
Why bother talking about it when/if you’re able to deal with it on your own?
Which brings us to ‘war’!
How many do we need to be in order to ‘deal’ with this ‘thing’?
How many of us will be able to ‘feed’ themselves after this ‘thing’ will be dealt with?
How much will each of us have contributed to the whole process?
How will the spoils be distributed among ourselves?
How will we deal with the ‘loose cannons’ among ourselves?
How will we know who will do what?
Who will lead? Who will be responsible for the whole thing?
This is the moment when I’ll remind you that this is a blog about the consequences of our limited consciousness. A blog where I gather my attempts to understand the limits of our ability to make decisions – as individuals, and the manner in which different societies have come up with different methods to mitigate the consequences of those limits.
Happy reading, every one.

I grew up in a communist country, Romania.

Russian films were ‘readily’ available.
Some of them were good. Really good.

Besides going to the movies, I was an avid reader.
I must confess that the ‘great Russian classics’ didn’t impress me. No special reason.
But I did read a lot of Russian literature. About the partizans fighting the Nazis during WWII, about the communists fighting for freedom – for their version of freedom, in the early ‘920-ies, some Sci-Fi novels about the happy lives the Russians were going to live in the next millennium.

This morning I was listening to the radio.
The news bulletin was, of course, about what’s going on in Ukraine.

A refugee, a woman who had fled accompanied by her young daughter – her husband and her son remained at home to fight, was speaking in her native language.
I know that Ukrainian is different from Russian. But for my ears they sound very much the same.

Imagine what I felt.

I grew up associating the Russian language with the struggle for freedom. With the promise of a better world.

As I learned things… my understanding of history had become more ‘nuanced’.
The Soviet Union had collapsed after Afghanistan. The regime finally got what was coming to it.
As Putin crushed Chechnya, killed Litvinenko, ‘peacefully’ occupied Crimea … things were no longer ‘nuanced’…

But this!

They say that an image is worth a thousand words… I’m no longer sure about that!

There is so much violence paraded in front of our yes that our ‘retina’ has become calloused.

Hearing that brave woman trying to convey her tragedy in a language I associated in my childhood with the promise of liberty really did it for me.

This time the oppressor itself was speaking Russian.
Russian soldiers were doing the very same thing the Russian people had experienced during the WWII. And they were doing it to their ‘brothers’.

Russian soldiers were turning Kyiv into rubble!
Kyiv, the birth place of the Rus-ian people…

All this conveyed in a language which, for me, sounds very much the same as the language I had associated in my childhood with the quest for freedom.

I wept.

Hoping the Kremlin will learn to understand tears.
Maybe not the present ruler but at least the stony walls…

This beautiful – but almost empty, park is in Bucharest.
In Bucharest, Romania.

By the look of it, by how empty it is, it could have been anywhere in Ukraine.

Which reminds me of Churchill’s words.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Currently, the Ukrainian people defend not only their freedom but that of the entire Europe.
And that of the Russian people!

Who now have the opportunity to conquer theirs!

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Get a vaccine, wear a mask…

“You can’t deprive others of their liberty without forfeiting your own. Liberty is lost with every person seeking to control others for their comfort and sentiment.”

Getting a vaccine and wearing a mask are sensible things to do, right?

Establishing a free environment, where all individuals might enjoy their liberties, is also a sensible thing!

For the simple reason that even a casual examination of history provides ample proof that freer societies fare far better than those which curtail individual freedoms.

Simpler said than done…
Mention the mandatory mask and the imperative advice to get vaccinated to those passionate about individual liberty and you have a hornets’ nest on your hands.

Or maybe this is an excellent occasion to discuss the ‘gap’ we constantly need to bridge between individual freedoms and a free society?

Can you have a free society composed of slaves?

The answer depends on who gives it to you.
I’d spent the first 30 years of my life under communist rule.
My country, Romania, was declared, by those who were ruling it at that time, as being free. Both domestically and internationally.
The only free individual was the ruler. Nicolae Ceausescu. He was the only guy who could do as he pleased. And only for a while… Until 25 December 1989…
In the end, the regime had crumbled and the only ‘free’ individual had met with the consequences of how he had chosen to use his freedom.

So no, you cannot have a free society when one individual, or a group of individuals, impose their will on everybody else.

‘Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’

Otherwise put, if you refuse to get vaccinated/wear a mask you might be instrumental in getting me sick. Or dead.

‘Might’! It’s the ‘might’ part which troubles you!
Why should you shoulder a minimal risk/discomfort for my safety? Specially when you’re not convinced that my safety is in danger… Or, maybe, you’re thinking ‘let him take whatever precautionary measures he considers to be necessary!’

Because of India, that’s why!

Do you consider present day India to be a free society?
Do you consider that people currently living in India are truly enjoying their freedom? Today?!?

And no, I’m not going to contrast what’s going on in India with what the Chinese government had done.
First pretend nothing had happened then lock up the entire population.

I’m going to contrast what’s going on in India with how the ‘other’ China had reacted to the Covid pandemic. Or with the South Korean response.

Different economic realities… Different cultures…
But also different levels of economic and social disruption!

Don’t tell me that what’s going on in today’s India won’t have repercussions!

For subjects to become free, they must first remain alive.
As soon as individuals die, whatever freedom they might have enjoyed vanishes.

Individual liberty is a matter of degree.
No matter what any of us might do, none of us – well, almost, will ever escape gravity. We are all pulled towards the center of the Earth and this is how things should be. Otherwise… can you really imagine us drifting freely through the Universe and still being alive?
There are some constraints we might escape for a while. While gravity stays with us forever, we need to breathe only once every second or so. If needed, some of us can go without air for almost five minutes. Most of us can go without water for days and without food for a couple of weeks.
Without friends… is more complicated.
My real point being that individuals will start considering freedom, in earnest, only after reaching Maslow’s self-actualization stage. Until then we remain subjects. Subjected to our needs.

Liberty, as a function, is a social matter.
According to Berger and Luckmann, ‘reality’ is a social construct.
Going one step further, we realize that freedom – like money, is also a social construct.
Something we all contribute to. Help building it. Or tear it apart by negligence/carelessness.
Help building it by encouraging others to become free. As in helping them to lead a decent enough life. For freedom to happen, the society – as a whole, must remain functional enough for each of its members to have the opportunity to reach the self-actualization stage.

We must constantly remember that each time somebody puts our lives in danger that somebody attempts to hurt our freedom.
Every action which ultimately reduces the opportunities for each of us to reach the self-actualization stage – or to remain there, is hurting the liberty of our entire society.

Liberty is freedom from being constricted, in any way, shape or form. Period.

Liberty is more of an adjective rather than a verb. A situation more than an action.

Liberty can be attached to a space, to an agent or to both.

A free space would be a space where no constriction may occur, whatsoever.
A free agent would be an individual entity outside any constriction, whatsoever.

Mathematically, both definitions are possible.
Philosophically, both definitions are imaginable. By philosophers, of course.

Oscar Hoffman, a Teacher, kept telling us, his students, “For a proposition to be true it is not enough for it to be logically correct. It also has to make ontological sense. For those of you who don’t remember what ontological means, a true proposition must describe something which has to be at least possible”

In the real world, where there is no such thing as absolute freedom, liberty has to be first noticed/invented. And then constantly negotiated.

‘No such thing as absolute freedom?!? But liberty is a (God given) (human) right!!!’

Do you remember what Hoffman had (just) said about things which can exist in practice and things which can exist only in our minds?
Liberty might be a right – for those who enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean that everybody has it. And, even more important, that there is – or ever will be, something even close to absolute liberty.
If you don’t believe me, try to fly off a balcony without any ‘mechanical’ help. Or stop eating for a day or two. The Earth will surely ‘constrict’ you back towards its center and your stomach will certainly constrict itself for lack of food. And both Earth and stomach will constrict you back to reality.

‘OK, so no absolute freedom for individuals. How about ‘free spaces’?’
‘As in spaces where no constriction, whatsoever, may be exercised?’
‘Well, that would be possible. If a space is completely empty… no constriction might be exercised in there, right? On the other hand, as soon as something, anything, populates that space, constrictions start to appear. For instance, since no two things can simultaneously exist in the very same place, the mere existence of a speck of dust in a whole stadium induces the restriction that no other speck of dust may exist in the very same spot. Sounds trivial, true, but this is it… No absolute freedom. Not for individual agents and nor for spaces.’

‘Then why are writing a post about ‘Free market’? Doesn’t make much sense, isn’t it?’

Let me finish with liberty before going any further.
I mentioned earlier that liberty must be first noticed and then negotiated.
You see, right or no right, liberty is, above all, a concept.
We’d first observed that a flying bird is freer that a crawling worm and bam!!! We realized that some of us were freer than the others. Then that freer groups/societies fared better than the more ‘stifled’ ones.
But only where liberty was more or less spread around, not concentrated in one hand. Dictatorships – where all liberty is concentrated at the top, are way more fragile than any democracy. I’ll come back to this.
Now, for the negotiation part.
‘Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’. And vice-versa. Only this is rather incomplete.
Let me examine the situation where you are a person who likes to swing your fist. In the air, not with any aggressive intent, of course. So you were swinging your fist, after you had determined, in good faith, that there was no nose close enough to hurt. But what if I am a ‘nosy’ guy? ‘Nosy’ enough to bring my actual nose inside your reach? You having to restrict your swings – or to go somewhere else, isn’t a limitation of your freedom? An absolutely unnatural limitation of your freedom?
Has it become a little clearer? What I mean by negotiation when it comes to individual freedom?

OK, time has come for me to go to market. To the free market!

A market is a place. Obviously, right?
A place where people trade their wares. Because they have noticed that it is easier for each of them to do what each of them do better and then trade the results of their work instead of each of them providing everything for themselves. As in everything each of them needs. Or fancy.

Initially, markets were far from being free. First of all, supply was sorely limited. Transportation means were practically nonexistent so supply varied seasonally and was severely influenced by weather, soil and other similar factors. And, maybe even more importantly, supply was influenced by the sheer will of the most powerful ‘free agent’ who happened to be around. Or, more exactly, supply was heavily influenced by the whims of the most powerful free-agent who happened to be around.
Don’t believe me? Then consider the extreme famine experienced by the Bengalis in 1943. Or by the Romanians during the last years of Ceausescu’s reign.
Slowly, people have learned that freer markets tend to be a lot more stable than the less free. ‘Freer’ markets meaning freer from both exterior and interior limitations. For a market to become free(ish) the participants need to have a big enough pool of resources at their disposal and to be wise enough to organize themselves in a ‘free’ manner.

And what happens when at least one of the two conditions remains unfulfilled?
Time has taught us that while markets tend to be limited in space and that some of the participants tent to impose themselves over the rest there is one dimension where the liberty of the market is very hard to be limited. ‘Liberty’ here meaning that things tend to evolve more in their own terms rather than ‘according to plan’. Or according to anybody’s wishes.

Whenever the available resources dry up, the participants to the market move someplace else. Or die of starvation.
Whenever a market looses too much of its freedom – as in some agent controls too much of what is going on there, the market itself no longer functions properly. Whenever too many of the participants loose their ability to determine their fate/future they slowly become ‘sitting ducks’. Not as much easy to hunt down but actually unable to feed themselves.
And since hunger is the best teacher, they either learn to fight for their freedom or… die of starvation. Pol Pot’s Cambodia would be a good example, even if somewhat extreme. The fall of most communist regimes also makes a compelling case for what I have in mind.
Even more interesting, though, is what had happened to the American Automobile Industry. General Motors and Chrysler Corporation, once the dominant stars of the market – along with Ford, had to be rescued by the government. Quasi monopolistic positions tend to be bad for the monopolists also, not only for the rest of the market. Given enough time, true enough…

There’s a seemingly unending debate about what “my liberty ends where yours begins” really means.

The initial saying was a little longer, Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”, and had been coined during the disputes between those who tried to impose the Prohibition and those who opposed it.

In that context, it made sense.
‘How close to my house – a teetotaler, should you be allowed to open a bar and why should I be able to tell you what to drink/serve in your house.’

In a wider setting – individual rights, for instance … not so much!

‘Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins’ only if at least one of the following is true:
– My arms are as long as yours AND I’m willing/able to defend my nose.
– You are a civilized person.
– We, the entire community, have reached the conclusion that we are better off, together, if we observe – and enforce, this rule.

The first sentence describes a situation of generalized conflict. Not necessarily ‘hot’ but, nevertheless, always ‘waiting to happen’.
In the second situation, ‘one side’ depends, decisively, on the ‘other side’ behaving ‘properly’. Nice and commendable but what happens when one of them goes berserk?
The third describes the de facto functioning of any civilized nation. Which nation, any nation, is composed of individual people. ‘Endowed’ with ‘free will’ and not always ‘well behaved’.

Hence the danger of narrowly defining freedom as a collection of individual spaces where each of us might do as they please – as long as the consequences of their actions remain inside that space.
Which spaces would have to be constantly defended.
Or could be extended, whenever any of the neighbors wasn’t on the lookout.

How about ‘our mutually respected individual liberty is the well deserved consequence of our collective effort to enlarge OUR freedom’?


Only there are a few hurdles which will have to be negotiated first.

Which ‘truth’?

Which will set me free?
Which will set them free?
Or ours?
Which will set us free?

What is Truth in the first place?

What I believe in?
What we believe in?
Something which is out there and we learn about incrementally? In a collective manner but individually driven?

How can we find it? If ever, of course….

Agree to something which has worked until now?
Listen to what those around us have to say about the/any matter?
Do your ‘own homework’?
All of the above, in a respectful manner?

Freedom is too bothersome?!?
Have you considered the alternatives?

Nowadays, too many individuals are afraid of freedom. Specially of other people’s freedom, since other people’s freedom might bring in ‘unwelcome’ change.
Other people’s freedom might challenge our established way of life.
And why risk it?

Still interested?
History strongly suggests that societies which had considered the stability of their ‘established way of life’ to be more important than the freedom of any individual member to respectfully question everything have eventually failed to preserve that over-cherished way of life. Simply because those societies had not allowed their individual members to adapt their mores to the changes which inevitably alter the ‘environment’.

Liberty is of utmost importance.
For both individuals and societies, equally.
And, as a matter of historical fact, real – as in ‘truly functional’, freedom can be achieved only together. By the individual members of a society, acting in concert. Through a robust mechanism of checks and balances – a.k.a. real justice, based on mutual respect between the members of the society attempting to maintain this arrangement.

Since we currently experience a growing distrust among the members of many societies – America and Western Europe included, no wonder that actual individual liberty is sliding down a dangerous slope.
Simply because nobody is going to defend the liberty of somebody they do not trust/respect.

%d bloggers like this: