Monday, January 12, 2015

Freedom From and Freedom For

"Blowing in the Wind"
 - At the Desert Retreat House -

I saw this posting on someone's Facebook page yesterday:

On the day 12 journalists were killed by religious extremists,
24, 000 children died due to poverty.

I found this one little phrase to be very thought-provoking.

The killing of the French journalists has elicited a visceral, world-wide response over the value of "freedom of speech." Yesterday, millions of people gathered in Paris (and throughout many major cities around the world) to protest the brutal killings of the journalists, expressing outrage over any oppressive system that might limit freedom by evoking fear. 

And yet, where was the outrage over the deaths of 24,000 children who also died that day throughout the world because they were poor and hungry or homeless?  Were most people even aware that these deaths occurred?  Who was marching on their behalf? Who was taking to the streets vowing that these deaths from poverty would never happen again?

Several years ago, the psychologist, Eric Fromm wrote about two kinds of freedom; "freedom from" and "freedom for."  Oftentimes people define freedom as "freedom from" - freedom from constraint, freedom from external interference that prevents you from doing what you want and when you want to do it.  And so people often assume that if they live in a "free" society they should be able to do or say anything they want to do without anyone stopping them from doing so. 

And yet "freedom for" is indeed another type of freedom - the freedom to share resources, to use gifts and talents "for" others - on behalf of another's good, on behalf of the common welfare.

It seems to me that "freedom from" must always be tempered by "freedom for" in any civilized society if it is to be truly free.  

True freedom goes well beyond the lack of constraints. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the freedom to live where you want, maybe buy a house or own a car - of course these are freedoms that we all enjoy.  

But true freedom is also a "gift" that we are given so that we can build one another up and share each other's burdens without restraint or external pressure to do otherwise. And any society that doesn't use this gift of freedom in this way is surely on a slippery slope.

I am reminded of something Nelson Mandela once said:

To be free is not merely to cast off chains,
but to live in a way that enhances the freedom of others.

I was very moved by the rally on the streets of Paris yesterday- world leaders walking arm in arm, citizens on the street raising their voice on behalf of "freedom," vowing never to be silenced out of fear.  I deeply respect their voices so loudly raised on behalf of those 12 journalists who were killed.

I also pray that the people of the world might walk arm in arm and raise their voices just as loudly on behalf of those thousands of children who died that day due to poverty. 

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