Saturday, 12 February 2011

What Freedom Means

When asked what she thought freedom was, ex-Black Panther - and current day exile in Cuba having escaped from political imprisonment in America,  Assata Shakur - withdraws into surprise for a few seconds before speaking,

"Freedom? You asking me about freedom?" 
"... asking me about freedom!" she whispers, as if stunned by the irony of the question.

"Well I'll be honest with you. I know a whole lot more about what freedom isn't than about what it is ... because I myself have never been free. I can only share my vision with you of what freedom is ... the way I see it, freedom is the right to grow, the right to blossom, freedom is the right to be yourself, to be who you want to be, to be what you want to be ..."

Freedom is an idea or a word at worst, but when you've never had freedom it is like falling in love for the first time. It is pure romance, and this lover takes the shape of all gods, it is elevated above everything and you will die for it, lie for it, and cry for it. You will climb mountains for it ...

But ultimately, freedom is an unfaithful girlfriend ... and remains elusive even at the best of times. It is something that ultimately only we can give ourselves, even when the shackles are gone.  Freedom is hard to live with sometimes, as everything is in your hands and you have nothing and noone to blame when it all goes wrong. Freedom the lover, demands your utmost humility. Ironically, she demands your submission if you are to drink at her cup. 

Freedom is not arrogant or bellicose. Freedom is oblivious at best. But it still has to be fought for, over and over again, and make no mistake, everyone wants to make freedom their sole property and hoard her away for themselves. Some use money, power, difference and status to obtain an unshared freedom. Noone succeeds, but everyone tries. The futility and irony of trying to capture freedom never occurs to those who are desperate for it, and so they yearn for and desire the unattainable through what can be attained, and real freedom remains elusive. 

Real freedom is both personal and shared, it is both sides of a coin, and can only be found when one or all stops running from fear. Freedom is discovered through confronting fear, and living with it long enough to transform it. Freedom cannot be won. Liberation can be won, but not freedom. Too many people are liberated but are everywhere in chains, even without a Mubarak in their lives, and living with freedom necessitates dealing with this paradox. 

So what of freedom in Egypt and the middle east? Egypt has been liberated, but it is not yet free. It is a baby discovering freedom, a one day old child born free, yet everywhere in chains. The Egyptian people need to maintain their momentum through civil mobilisation and action at local level if they want to ensure that this transition leads to a freedom and liberty that is meaningful. 

No comments:

Post a Comment