Saturday, June 9, 2012

Freedom's Just Another Word

"Freedom's just another word
For nothin' left to lose.
Nothin' ain't worth nothin
But it's free!"
                      -- Kris Kristofferson, Me and Bobbie McGee


What is freedom?


Does Kristofferson have it right or wrong? Is freedom really just another word for nothing left to lose? Or is it something else?  

Freedom is about alternatives. Freedom is about choice.  Archibald MacLeish writes that "Freedom is the right to choose, the right to create for yourself the alternatives of choice.  Without the possibility of choice and the exercise of choice, a man is not a man, but a member, an instrument, a thing.

Another source paraphrases MacLeish as follows: "Freedom is the right of an individual to form alternatives, evaluate them, and to select from among them." 

Freedom is predicated on alternatives. Be wary of attempts to limit or exclude alternatives. Less alternatives mean less freedom. A single alternative allows no freedom at all. If I have no alternatives, I have no freedom.  

Freedom is predicated on being able to develop options and alternatives. Be wary of attempts to provide a limited menu of ready-made options. If I am not allowed to form alternatives, I have no freedom.  If I am not allowed to develop multiple alternatives, I am not free. 

Freedom is predicated on choice. Be very wary of those who would choose your preferred option for you.  If I am not allowed to select for myself from among alternatives, I have no freedom. Choices lead to actions, and actions provide outcomes. And those outcomes lead to the choices I have available today.

Rather than another word for nothing left to loose, freedom is another word for many things to choose, for the duty to form and select among alternatives and options available to you, and the responsibility, for better or worse, to own the outcome.

And, even when alternatives don't exist or are denied us, we have the choice of deciding how we will act and react. Even on the darkest of days, we are left a choice. Even in the darkest prison, we have this one freedom.

Consider yourself.

What options are available to you?

What are the likely outcomes of each?

Choose wisely and well, for in that choice is freedom.