A tale of two freedoms
One life-giving, one life-threatening
AJAZ UL HAQUE
The word `freedom' is something that we really feel so excited about as it has been our collective urge to be free. We all want freedom because we all need freedom. To my modest understanding of the word, there are two sets of freedoms and humans have an instinct for both. (No I am not referring to Isiah Berlin's concept of `positive freedom and negative freedom'. I mean our own versions of freedom which may not fit anywhere in the philosophy of freedom he propounds). My two sets of freedom emanate from two extremes. One is extremely fascinating and the other extremely repugnant.
One goes like this.
Freedom to express, freedom to oppose, freedom to defend, freedom to accept or freedom to reject and even freedom to debunk sacred cows of the time, freedom to destroy the pyramids of falsehood raised by the merchants of religion and politics, and freedom to expose - subtle or brazen - all forms of exploitation.
Then there is another set of freedoms - more tempting and, to some, more gratifying.
Freedom to abuse, freedom to defile, freedom to throw muck, freedom to revel in others' agony, freedom to slander and freedom to trample over all imaginable levels of decency.
One set of freedom is healthy and the other hideous. One encourages accommodation and a pleasant sense of understanding each other not necessarily based on mutual agreement. And the other turns us petty ugly sadists who can live without food but not without seeing others in pain. One means responsibility and the other indulgence. One ends where someone's nose begins, and the other begins where someone's nose ends. One stems from moral courage and the other from moral corruption. Which freedom we profess? Obviously the first, but which freedom we practice. Unfortunately the second. (And when I say `WE' I never mean we all, but I do mean we `overall' (to put two incompatible words together). The bad news is that sane few are always rendered invalid by insane many. So the application of plural pronoun can't all be unfair)
To be free we need to be decent first. Civilised accept freedom as a gift, uncivilised see it as a license to hit below the belt. Granting freedom to indecent means subjecting decency to imprisonment. That makes us unsafe in each others hands. The law of justice demands dangerous creatures to be caged as freedom to them means endangering the lives of others. A question we all need to ask ourselves. Do we really deserve to be free. I don't say we don't. I say unless we seriously try answer this question, we certainly don't.
(Text of the talk presented at a book release function organised by GK Foundation)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 9 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST
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