Freedom, a concept which many of us seem to know, yet at the same time do not know anything about. We probably first personally experience this word as a teenager as we were fighting for freedom from our parents’ control. On a national level,
blood money freedom is one of the core values upon which the world greatest country is built and which many countries are still trying to truly achieve.
As we crossed over from 2022 to 2023, many of us will once again make a new year resolution. I have stopped making new year resolutions since I was a child, because I know they never get fulfilled. If one is determined, any one of the 365 days can be a starting day. There is no meaning in setting goals on the first day of the year. Just because the calandar changed to a new one does not signify anything. Time is but a construct to help us take note of and do better the things we are supposed to do, such as noting the seasons for farming and winter preparations. But that is a philosophical debate.
In the movie ‘The Kingdom Of Heaven’, Sultan Saladin raised a massive army to take down Jerusalem. Geographically, Jerusalem was not as important for the empire. However, religiously, it is a holy land fought over many years by many factions. Freedom, in a way, is like Jerusalem.
The masses generally do not care who is king. People are generally also not interested in politics or even the wider view of things such as economics. They only care about one thing – whether they will have a decent job, an affordable house and the capacity to raise minimally a small family of their own. If they have the money to go on a holiday trip with their family once a year, you can say that the general population will be quite contented. Of course, this is separate from the petty grumblings the society may have with the current set of leaders.
In many Asian countries, freedom of the people is not as extensive as the West. However people do not generally mind. One common thinking which I also had, was that it does not matter if some parts of freedom was taken away from me, as long as I have a decent life in a peaceful society. Freedom in the West does also comes at a cost in terms of demonstrations which resulted in disruption of businesses, mass shootings and many others. In this respect, I do agree that people in society should not have too much freedom such that it disrupts the basic life of others.
Those of you who have been reading my articles know that the freedom I am talking about is not the freedom to carry a rifle, nor the freedom to say anything I want even if it harms others. The freedom I am talking about is the option to choose. To do what I enjoy doing instead of being stuck grinding away at a job, to go where I want to go, to buy the things I want to buy, to eat whatever I want to eat, all within reasonable limits of course. It does not mean to say once I have achieved freedom, I will not work hard. I will work hard at the things I find meaningful, I will still get a job but will no longer be subjected to the daily grind. As much as I hate to admit, work is beneficial for the human physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.
To many around the world, such a freedom is also not necessary. Using an extreme example, recalcitrant inmates who have made the prison their home gave up much of their personal freedom but have everything else taken care of. They may not get to choose the food they eat, the cell they sleep in or the rations they get, but any proper prison would have provided 3 meals, medical care and a roof over the head. For the common citizens, the freedom to get out of a grinding job is unnecessary. The job provides other freedom such as the financial capacity to eat whatever they want, to go for holidays and to buy a house and a car within a reasonable limit.
From the above we can see that for most people there is no complete freedom at all. There is always minimally one aspect or two they would be tied down on. Of course, with or without freedom, most people will still get a house to stay, 3 decent meals, the ability to set up a small family and all things an individual require. While people’s wants are endless, their needs are actually few. People will go all out to satisfy their basic needs for survival, but beyond that, it is always a struggle between one’s desires and one’s laziness.
If in the end, after all the struggles, you achieve your freedom yet still come back to these few needs, then what is the point in chasing after it? That is why many people choose to live their life in the moment and slowly prepare for the faraway future, which will be ready when they get there. Grind at a job, take a salary to buy what makes them happy and at the same time slowly save up for their retirement. At 60, they retire with some assets and savings as well as grown up children. Such is the life for many for thousands of years.
Beyond the basic needs, any more will be classified by society as greed. The desire to have a bigger house. The want for multiple sex partners. The greed to have a fatter wallet. Just like the empires which fought over Jerusalem, Jerusalem was not necessary for the territorial expansion (tangible) of the kingdom. Yet many expended countless resources to get it. Was all of that greed, or was it out of necessity? Only the king would know. Only the king gets to decide. But it did of course had a great significance for whichever empire which took it down (intangible).
Freedom in this aspect, means nothing for the majority of the people. Because they do not need it. Because they are happy with what they have. That is why, for those who are aiming for financial freedom, and by extension having the freedom to do many other things, they need to have a very clear goal, undeterred by any other obstacles in life and the tenacity to carry on despite repeatedly falling down.
Perhaps as we cross over to 2023, we can ask ourselves this question. What does freedom mean to you, and what will you go to in order to achieve it? Unless you can answer yourself with conviction, chances are you will never achieve it.