After the recent tragedy at the gay club in Orlando, and with many other attacks on our modern values the last years, its wise to reflect about freedom and what this word means to us.
The Queen has a song called "I want to break free", where Freddie Mercury talks about how much he want to be free. Considering the flamboyant lifestyle of Freddie Boy before he died of AIDS in 1991, it is hard to imagine that he could actually live so much more free, but on the other hand; maybe Freddie also, like most of us, felt he had some un-freed potential, something he wish could be released. Many believe that "I want to break free" is about the society's attitude towards gays — an attitude that banned their sexuality and choice of life partners, and thus restricting their ability to be as free as any other.
Freedom is a word that is not easy to define, and which is very contextual. Many people associate freedom with peace — that is, freedom equals absence of war. Unfortunately, in many countries around the world, peace (involving freedom) has been seen as a limited period between two wars. Therefore let us separate freedom from peace in this context, and concentrate on what freedom means.
Think of how many times you have heard someone talk about how they did not value something they had, that they took for granted — until they lost it. Have you met anyone blaming themselves for not valuing a person that was important to them in their life, that they cared more for their driver's license, water supply in their home, good health or a safe job and stable income – and that it wasn’t until it was gone they saw the real value of it?
If we transform this to freedom and lack of it, it becomes even clearer. I have talked to some jail birds in my life, and everybody tells me that the worst thing about being imprisoned, is their absence of freedom; not being able to go where they like, or to do what they want, without being controlled by others. Even though many of them deserve to be imprisoned because of their actions, I guess we all can imagine the pain inside them for having “sold” their freedom. So; taking away a person's freedom, is some of the worst punishment you can give them — and now I talk about freedom in a broader meaning than putting criminals away.
But let’s not have the negative view on this, let’s turn it the other way around: Giving someone freedom, may be the greatest gift you can give them, provided that they are able to appreciate the gift and enjoy it.
In modern cultures like we have in the developed countries of the world, many believe that we live in freedom, because we have freedom of speech, equality (to some extent), we can move around freely and (within limits) we can choose our path in life. Still, there are many who thinks the opposite; we are not free cause much of our life is regulated by laws and regulations, we are controlled by government authorities, we live under quite strict “rules” of what is social accepted and not, and so on. In other countries many envy us for the freedom we have, and all our possible choices. Like I said, freedom is contextual and what is considered freedom in one country or culture may be regarded as lack of freedom in another.
Like many envy us our freedom, many hate us for the same freedom. Much of the recent mass killings and terrorist attacks, are not attacks on us as persons, but attacks on our freedom. In Orlando, gay people had their own free zone where they could be themselves, but a killer with a twisted view on what freedom is all about, ended many of these peoples life. It’s sad, not only because it was homosexual people — a group that for too many years have been living under the “evil eye” of moralists — but because there are too many people or groups around the world who can’t be themselves and live their life free. Many women, who live in a marriage-prison with a psychopath husband, would certainly love to break out and have some breathing space. Gay people would certainly want so much freedom that they could show their love just as blatantly as heterosexuals. Muslims who like to draw small witty Mohammed drawings, would certainly want so much freedom that they could draw until they had cramp in both forearms.
I go to a lot of boring meetings in my job. Sometimes I would certainly want to arrive at the meeting, stepping up at the table, pissing on the computer in front of my boss, and say that the meeting is cancelled. The only reason I don’t do that is because a stable income gives me the freedom of enjoying time off with my family and friends.
As you see, there are many ways to understand freedom. I think the vast majority of us dream about experiencing as much freedom as we need to be able to be ourselves fully, without doing harm to other people. By allowing other people to do this, we are giving them freedom. By doing this, we all take a small step towards a better world.
John Deacon, who was the quiet, modest bassist in the Queen, is the man behind the lyrics to the song "I want to break free". Maybe it was his quiet protest, since Freddie Boy stole all the attention with his flamboyant lifestyle, and that Johnnie Boy wanted more breathing space, sufficient freedom to be himself, and a bigger piece of the pie.