Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

Search terms 3

Ok, it’s the third installment of the Search Terms posts. In this one, we have your average search about Highgate or Kingston Uni or what to do with bingo wings. But then right at the bottom, a strange Donald Duck search, which must have lead to disappointment when Google sent them to me….

lazylauramaisey
dairylea triangles music
“ici logo”/ “wavy lines”
things to remember while swimming
deaflympics in brazil 2016
are you going to scarborough fair?
vaynites
upstairs downstairs
robinson helicopter garage
the grove highgate george michael
sandy denny maddy prior
once i’ve finished i dont like them
the song remind me of the good time
london eye chairoplane
inspirational quotes about new adventures
laura maisey
gold leaf wedding cake disaster
alwasy moisturise bingo wings
how do i put my kingston email
i like my childhood friend who is my hero
inspirational quotes
kate moss house highgate coleridge
salt works liverpool 1871
i don’t want to finish reading my book
through on my mind right now
my reflection in swimming in word
motivational quotes about journey in life
fromromewithlove.de
what do people say about working with chickens
taxi drivers don’t know the way
first bikram yoga class fainting
i don’t want to finish reading my book
skytrain o2 arena
whelk stall
what is the background laughter in parties
drunks refuse to pay for taxi cabs
chairoplane london eye
moss covered stump
upstairs downstairs 2012 and downton abbey
cockle & welks stalls 1950’s pics
store with this apron close to pantheon
why do i say things twice
goat and dog train boy
trolleyology
college bucket list
hit by bird droppings
goat met dog
what are renegade squats
which road in highgate does george michael live on
listening the songs reminds me of holiday
shakeing my head when swimming
who said “freedom is the absence”
letters and dolls
neologism of big brother
did it rain on may 7 2012
dedication sample
why do kids say things twice
my feeling about olympics
freedom rules
things to remember when swimming
books about truffles
a memo in a polite way to my lazy dog
kingston uni pgce interview
donald duck girls big tits

The end of freedom

It’s the final in my guest blogger’s series on Freedom.

We now come to the 6th & final instalment of the series on Freedom. There is obviously a lot of ground we haven’t been able to cover but if you’re still with me thank you for persevering. What I want to do is try and bring the series to a close by drawing lessons from the first five parts but also by giving you some further food for thought.

I hope you’ve seen that each of the areas we have looked at (musicartliteratureinternet) has its own problems with regard to freedom. However there will always be those who want more freedom than they have. What I’m about to say now may strike you as being a bit odd: total freedom equals total chaos! How so? Let’s look at a couple of examples from real life. Take the network of roads across whichever country you live in. Ask yourself what will happen if drivers have complete freedom? They can drive on whichever side of the road they want at whatever speed they want, they can ignore road signs and traffic lights particularly if they’re in a hurry and so on. What is the result? – Probably lots of accidents, no claims because everyone can do what they want so no-one is responsible, and therefore general mayhem. Roads & drivers, and indeed all road users (cyclists, pedestrians etc), need rules otherwise the system breaks down.

Now think of sports or athletics. In a game of football, baseball or whatever – what happens if you allow all the players to do whatever they want? What happens if runners on an athletics track can deliberately trip up other runners or ignore the lane they have been given to run in? – Once again chaos because there is no order to what is going on. Imagine watching a game or an athletics event with no rules! How long would you stay? Rules are needed for there to be a meaningful competition between opposing teams. It just doesn’t make sense to have no rules.

Try this one – Draw a circle or rectangle on a piece of paper. Put the point of your pen inside the line(s). Now move your pen wherever you want to within the boundary of the figure you drew. You can go wherever you want; you have complete freedom inside the lines, you could draw, sketch, paint, crayon or whatever. If I gave you a piece of canvas 77cm x 53cm (30in x 21in) what could you do? I would probably just have a mass of lines and colours not looking like much. (However, looking at some of the pictures in recent exhibitions featured in the news, I think I might have a chance!) Perhaps you would do better. Not many could produce a picture like the one of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo – (Mona Lisa, in case you were wondering.) Da Vinci, in the early 16th century, did. The painting had to have boundaries and within those boundaries he produced a fantastic piece of work.

Transfer these analogies to real life and let’s ask the question again. How can society function if everybody does whatever they want because they want the freedom to do that? They do not want you or me or some authority telling them what to do. They don’t want boundaries on their behaviour. Why should the idea of rules be any different for a society of human beings than for any other activity they engage in. We must have rules otherwise we and our society can’t function. The real problem arises when we try to specify what those rules are or should be. Who is going to make them up? Who is going to police them? And who is going to apprehend & prosecute those who do not obey them? In a democracy we give that responsibility to the elected government & its law enforcement agencies – they are the law makers and enforcers.

Do you think it’s best to live in a democracy because that gives the most or the fairest rights to those living under it? Most will agree it’s better than say a dictatorship. We tend to believe that democracy equals good, non-democracy equals “not as good” or even potentially bad. Would you consider the following example and seriously ask yourself if you still agree after reading it? Suppose you’re on a ship and the ship is sinking. The alarm goes out to “man the lifeboats” and the crew begins loading people in and lowering the boats into the water. Let’s say each boat is built for say 10 people and has emergency food rations for that number. Once the boat is launched and has been rowed or drifted away from the sinking ship you find that there are 11 people in the boat. The boat is unstable with 11 (6 one side, 5 on the other), it’s too low in the water and there are not enough rations to support 11. A vote is taken on who the people think should be thrown out of the boat. It’s democratic and it’s fair and YOU are picked. Are you still a big supporter of democracy? Or are you now frantically trying to state your case? – Why you should be kept in the boat and someone else, who in your estimation, is less worthy should be thrown out. Do you see the problem? Democracy is great until it’s you that has to leave or be sacrificed for the greater good. This is not a “balloon debate” – this is real life. What gives them the right to throw you out? Errr..Democracy actually!

Another quite serious example from the TV last Sunday – would you or your town/area want nuclear waste dumped underground there (in safe containers of course)? In the area of Cumbria, where the Sellafield Nuclear Plant is located, in a survey, 68% of people (just over two-thirds) agreed with the proposal to use their area. A democratic result but those who oppose it simply won’t accept that. In other words, in a democracy when a vote is taken, you want (and probably have) the right to object to it. So a democracy which produces a majority decision must allow those in the minority to oppose that decision which means a democracy may not produce a democratic outcome. Or at least only a democratic outcome in certain areas because some people don’t like the result of the democratic vote. Hmmm….

Bring it, literally, nearer home – suppose the people in your street decide they don’t like you and don’t want you living in their street. You have to move. What gives them the right to force you to move on? Democracy again. It’s not as easy as you thought is it?

This is not a new problem. Almost 2,400 years ago Plato was considering exactly the same sort of issues in his work The Republic. Philosophers and thinkers down the ages have wrestled with the same problem. Plato believed the best way for a just society to function was to divide everyone into one of the following groups: producers (those who literally make stuff: food, objects, etc), auxiliaries (warriors or upholders of rulers wishes and making producers obey) and guardians or philosopher kings (rulers). (Social mobility is not allowed; once you’re in one group or class you stay there because that is your function. Seems like a precursor of the caste system perhaps? Also with the restriction of medical care to certain classes we see a worryingly early form of eugenics. Not a freedom, I hope, any would espouse. You might be surprised at some of the supporters of “The First International Congress of Eugenics” in 1912 which included our own Prime Minister at the time!) When the three groups, in The Republic are in the right relationships with each other, and the people in them understand and perform their functions, everything will be fine. Interestingly, personal freedom isn’t considered important and is subject to the good of society which comes first. He also believes poets need to be banished from this proposed ideal society (Book X). If you want to know why and the answer to other questions you might have but don’t fancy reading the whole treatise there is an excellent summary on the Sparknotes Website at:

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/republic/summary.html

So we can say quite clearly freedom has to have boundaries, has to have limits beyond which we cannot go. What that means is that you can do whatever you want within the boundaries – in a sport for example that’s where we can see the skill of a player. One person can do things another person can’t because they don’t have that ability. Look at footballers with their ball-controlling skills, watch them as they dribble around other players in a match because of their superior skill and applaud the goal or home run or whatever is achieved within the rules. A referee decides on penalties for those breaking the rules. The admiration comes from recognising their abilities working within the rules of whatever sport is involved. And so it is with society. It is just a fact that things will work better and people will feel safer if there are rules and people keep to them. Those who want to push the boundaries have a big problem – how far? And who says how far? And once one boundary is pushed are we then waiting for the next person to come along and push even further? Again, I have to ask, “but how far?” Each new level simply proves that people are never satisfied because they want always to push a little harder, to go one step further. (In the newspapers, a couple of days ago, we read of the fastest selling paperback since records began (beating Harry Potter & the DaVinci Code!). It is described as an explicit novel and last week alone sold over 100,000 copies. Another boundary pushed! I hope you can see the inevitable consequences of this pushing. They’re actually all around us in the state of our societies.

Plato had an idea that the values a society needs to live by could come from someone or somewhere outside the people living in that society. Now there’s a thought – what happens if we don’t really know best? Who’s going to admit that – musicians, artists, writers, bloggers? What happens if freedom really does exist only within the rules not outside of them?

That’s the end of our look at Freedom in various fields and in society as a whole. Whilst it has only been brief I do hope you’ve asked yourself some important questions and perhaps found some answers or at least the road to some. I’d like to finish with the proposition of Democritus who said that a life of contentment cannot be achieved through either idleness or pursuing worldly pleasures but only by being satisfied with what you have, giving little thought to envy or admiration. So there you have it – the freedom to be content! Or not? It’s up to you. More to it than you thought? Of course there is!

Freedom internet

The next installment of our guest blogger’s thought-provoking series on freedom….

After Freedom RulesFreedom MusicFreedom Art & Freedom Literature we now come to Part 5 which I’m calling Freedom Internet. As you probably guessed I’ve been covering elements of what most people call popular “culture” (music, art, literature). I think we have to accept that the internet has now become an element of culture in its impact and coverage. Not only is it an element of the culture here in our society but it also affects most cultures in societies across the world. Wikipedia has become the ubiquitous reference tool despite not having the reliability of the printed encyclopaedia. In the past, print had to be far more rigorous in what it published but today’s Wiki sites have only to say: “No ref” or “Citation needed” to indemnify themselves against claims of being conduits of false, confidential or potentially malicious info. And here lies a far bigger issue – unsubstantiated info appears alongside verified stuff with the result that people end up not being able to tell the difference.

The first thing to notice is that “the internet” or, as its altruistic creator Tim Berners-Lee called it, the World Wide Web, does not exist as a separate entity or area like which previous freedom subjects did. Remember his original idea was simply to enable scientists to share info & research without having to resort to paper, telecoms (telex, fax, at the time) & postal connections. There is no unique place called the internet. It exists only on computer chips, in telephone lines and on many different servers across the world. It is actually an open network of linked servers with various files which can be shared. It’s a bit like a library, not of books but of other libraries all across the world.

From that point of view what you see as “on the internet” may not be what someone else sees: take China, North Korea & other nations who severely restrict the access of their inhabitants to it. Their “internet” is not the same as mine or yours. One server owner may agree to content which others may not. These server owners then become the arbiters of what will or will not be released into the public domain. Quite simply they have now become the ones who, to put it mildly, “push the boundaries”. More bluntly they have become the source of much of today’s morality and the setters of standards apparently deemed acceptable. How so? Well think of it this way – to whom are they answerable? There is no ruling body for “the internet”, no high council (or committee) who decide the rightness or wrongness of putting a particular site up for public viewing. It is completely in their hands. The internet is an open network with no controls – except the consciences of the server providers! Comments made in print, film or artistic endeavour are more rigorously scrutinised because of the potential for libel claims. Where the internet is concerned, people can just “hide” behind made up names and identities.

The potential for criminal activity is greatly increased. I don’t suppose there are many of us who have not received an email telling us that upwards of $100,000,000 is lying in a bank account somewhere in Nigeria and that we are the only ones who can unlock this vast store of money. Why would you believe a totally anonymous stranger would want to give you a huge chunk of money? Most don’t; email deleted, move on, no worries. But, and it’s a big but some DID believe it and sent their bank details. Their accounts were emptied, no-one was caught; they suffered the complete embarrassment of being taken in by the scammers. Then there are the internet sellers who simply take the money and no product arrives or, if they’re buying, receive the product and stop the payment. And so it goes on. Starting up a proper trading company takes a lot more effort than sitting in front of a keyboard and conning people. Are we surprised so much of it goes on?

Then there are the “Munchausen Syndromers”. The internet has many forums for people with various illnesses and disorders. It’s an ideal breeding ground for attention seekers. A recent UK radio prog discussed the issue and interviewed people who had gone onto cancer sufferers’ web forums pretending to have cancer and how they were managing day-to-day. Not only was their condition fictitious but they often invented other family members: girlfriends, boyfriends, children to make their situation seem believable. (I think most people will agree that it’s one thing to pretend to like sport on a sport website forum but quite another to pretend to have a terminal disease.) People were befriended and some completely taken in by the person who was not ill at all just pretending they were. (LLM’s “Chat” blog from yesterday referred to it in para 3 without actually naming it.) There is a further condition known as Munchausen by proxy but we don’t have space to go into that one here. In the internet world Munchausen’s Syndrome has become known as MBI (Munchausen by Internet). Those duped by such people are (rightly) devastated to learn that they have been conned, sometimes out of money they offered to help a situation which really didn’t exist. How can the forums’ hosts check out everyone who joins them? They rely on the trust and truthfulness of those who join to give the site the credibility so that people can feel secure revealing details, often very personal, of their condition and their feelings about it.

In real life, meeting someone talking like this you would pick up a number of signals from their body language, facial expressions and the like. On the internet all these human interface reactions are not on show. You are, or you become, what you type because no-one can see you. Only the perceptive or the ones who’ve been through a similar experience and pick up on stuff that doesn’t ring true will see through the lies. That incidentally is how a number of these cancer phoneys were found out. Very soon after they take their details down, disappear and some admitted they just create a new identity and begin the whole process again.

Recent surveys in the UK highlighted the age at which kids admitted they had first viewed pornographic material on the internet. Some admitted seeing it between 10-12 years old and from that I think we could assume that they had done so at a younger age but were wary of confessing to that so they said an age that to them seemed acceptable. Is a button asking them to confirm their age going to deter them?

Further areas of intimidation or “cyber bullying” as it’s called have resulted in a number of suicides over the past few years here in the UK and I suspect in other countries as well. How can it happen? Simply because if one person wants to call another person names or say things about them which are untrue they can. Until a complaint is made any comment is allowed, it seems. Even then the damage can be done and taking the comment down does not reverse the effect on the person hurt.

Without an overall arbiter of web content we should not be surprised that things have gone rapidly downhill in the moral sphere as well as the practical. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle; closing the barn door will be no good, the horse has clearly bolted and we’re not going to catch it. But how many really want to catch it?

Imagine standing at a bus stop and a bus comes along but it has no destination on the front. Would you get on or would you ask the driver where it is going? Even if it’s going the right way would you like it if the route was decided by the passengers shouting out where they want it to go next and not by the bus company. If I travel from say Glasgow to London I will see signs along the way telling me, as I get nearer, that London is 400, 300, 200 and so on miles away. It’s there on a blue metal road sign at the side of the motorway. I know where I’m going and I know how far it is. As you’re reading this you’re obviously on the “internet bus” and probably got on some years ago. Are you just on to enjoy the ride? A Magical Mystery Tour? Perhaps serendipity? Or do you worry about where the bus is going? Will you get off if the bus starts going down a road you don’t like and get on one that doesn’t go that way? A different service provider for example.

The internet has done so much good in many different areas and undoubtedly is greatly beneficial in the realm of study & research, commerce, communications for families and so on. That is to be welcomed and applauded. However we will reap what we sow and sadly we’re seeing a lot of negatives. Whilst I can only raise a few pointers to the current situation I hope you can see that unless controls are introduced the whole thing will continue down the road of decline. Freedom on the internet has had very serious consequences for us all. In a way it is breaking down societal norms and the differences between societies because those with unrestricted access can see what others are doing or how they are behaving. They then press their governments for change and, if successful, their society and culture changes. But to what? – To be more like ours? Why should ours be better than theirs?

Perhaps I can finish with some crucial questions: “Where do you think we as individuals and society in general are heading in this very difficult area? Are we, in reality, just being led by the internet? Can you see any signs? Is freedom helping us get there?”

Now moment of truth! If you look in a real mirror you see what you really look like. If you could look into an “internet mirror” what would you see?

Are you who you are or are you what you type?

Freedom Literature

The next in our guest blog series on freedom. Enjoy!

After Freedom RulesFreedom Music & Freedom Art we now come to Part 4 which I’m calling Freedom Literature.

Once again this is a vast subject and I can only take a brief look at it. Hopefully it may prompt a few thoughts in your mind. I’m going to take just a couple of examples and, as in previous pieces, ask some questions. Let me start with: how is freedom portrayed in literature? And what sort of freedom? There are plenty of biographies about people who have fought for causes to free others or for their own freedom. There are those written about bringing new freedoms to situations or to countries where they don’t have them. I’m going to take just a couple of examples from novels to illustrate how a couple of writers have treated the subject. You may have others you feel illustrate the point as well.

Let’s begin with Indian-born George Orwell (1903-50, real name Eric Arthur Blair) and his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948). In the land of Oceania The Party rules and Winston Smith imagines how he could rebel against Big Brother. Once again the loss of basic freedoms is apparent from very early on as we see how the society works. The rebel, the main protagonist, in this book and in Bradbury’s below, is a heroic figure battling the discriminatory dictatorship ruling his world. As soon as we read of his situation we want to side with him and see him victorious. We want to see the lost freedoms he is fighting for restored.

Next, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) written just 8 years after the end of WW2; a film followed in 1966 and it’s well worth catching if you can. Like Orwell’s book Bradbury’s has been described as a dystopian novel and, at times, has also been banned or considered “intellectually dangerous to the public” (Wikipedia). It looks at American society in the future where books have been banned; the freedom to read taken away and, in this case, replaced by the government’s TV broadcasts. However not only are the books banned but they are burned by the authorities. The people employed to do the burning are called “firemen”. (Throughout history the burning of books has been undertaken by various regimes or groups within a society as a means of control.) The aim is simply to stop the spread of ideas contrary to what those in power want. In Bradbury’s novel the burning campaign is quite extensive. Even so, the firemen are always looking for more books to destroy and for people who may not be obeying the rules. Given the risk of being discovered some individuals, who oppose the government policy, come up with a plan: they will preserve the content of the books by memorising them. They have to move out of the city to somewhere in the countryside to avoid detection. One person, in the group, memorises one book, another person another book and so on. Although the book is gone, the knowledge of that book will not be lost to future generations.

The freedom to write whatever you want is probably epitomised by the content & style of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939). Most readers of more than just a few pages, without a commentary or notes on it, will struggle to remember what they’ve read and what might it mean.

Nonsense verse has a number of famous examples. For just a couple, think of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, (begins ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe) and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat,(begins, The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea green boat, They took some honey, and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five pound note). The Mayor of Scuttleton by Mary Mapes Dodge and Oh Freddled Gruntbuggly by Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz (Douglas Adams) add to the list of meaningless poems. So freedom may produce nonsense; interestingly forms like this do, however, use a regular form of poetry to do it – hmm..).

The minute we move into the controversial areas of politics, religion & sex in literature we come to that, now familiar, territory of whether I should consider if I am causing someone, who reads my writing, to be offended. Should I care? Or should they just “Get over it”? Does the society I live in have the right to legislate about what I can write? Do we need censorship & specific rules to govern the publishing process? If we don’t have them what happens?

Among the many books which speak of freedom, you may be surprised to know that The Bible has these words, (in the book of Galatians): “..do not use your freedom as an opportunity to do wrong but through love serve one another.” Here the emphasis is very much on the responsibility that comes with having freedom. This has to be a vital element in the smooth functioning of any society. If individuals don’t take responsibility for the consequences of their actions it will be a very selfish society that is created – a sort of “I want whatever I want – no matter what you think.” Not good.

I wonder what you or I would do if we had to take charge of the publishing industry. What would we allow into print? And what not? It’s tough isn’t it. If we allow anything, we could easily be accused of letting corrupting influences take hold; if we restrict, we may be accused of being too negative or censorial in our attitude. Should publishers be accountable to the society they release material into? Are there books you would not like your children to read? Why?

There are so many questions because it’s such a difficult area. Perhaps you’d like to make a comment on a blog. If the blogger doesn’t like it, it won’t show or will be taken down if already posted. Is even that restricting your freedom? The further you look into it the harder it gets.

Should revealing details of the operations of the military and security services, in print, be banned? Just this last week, it was reported in the UK press, that the Ministry of Defence tried to block a book written about British forces in Afghanistan. The author said, of those responsible for the situation: “To paraphrase George Orwell, if liberty means anything at all, it means the freedom to tell people things they don’t want to hear….” Is the author right?

As with the other areas, Freedom Literature seems to raise more questions than it answers. Surely somewhere along the line there must be some form of literature control otherwise anyone could publish whatever they want about whatever subject or person they choose? And then we run into the scenario in the poem at the end of my previous Freedom Art blog that morality ceases to exist in this area. Can that be right?

Interestingly, this day (30th May) in history has not been kind to writers:

1. In 1593, English dramatist, Christopher Marlowe died.
2. In 1744, English poet, Alexander Pope died.
3. In 1788, French writer, François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire died.
4. In 1960, Russian poet & novelist, Boris Pasternak died.

Finally, in 1431, although not a writer as such, Joan of Arc died. (She wrote a number of letters to various groups & people.) She is most famously remembered for the bringing of freedom to the city of Orleans which had been under siege by the English, 1428-9. (This eventually led to the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles VII.)

Freedom Art

After Freedom Rules and Freedom Music we now come to Part 3 and Freedom Art. Thanks to Therabbitholez for last week’s comments on areas I’d not had space to include.

Much has been written on the way art embraces or represents freedom. I’m not going down those roads particularly or into the work of individual artists’ (save one) as there just isn’t the space. What I want to do is ask, in the context of our approach to the previous two subjects, should art and artists be governed by any kind of rules? Throughout history there have been many “schools” or groups in art who have sought to “push the boundaries” of taste, decency & style. Here are just some with an example of one who painted in that style: Impressionism (Monet), Fauvism (Matisse), Cubism (Picasso), Surrealism (Magritte), Abstract Expressionism (Jackson Pollock), Pop Art (Warhol) and finally the anarchists of early 20th C Dadaism who challenged the established ways of painting or presenting art. Artists claim they want to have the freedom to paint or draw whatever they want. Should they?

How many of you would, for instance, want a young child to see pictures like those displayed in the 2004 Biennial International Exhibition in Liverpool by Yoko Ono? In the town centre, in the main shopping area, pictures of women’s breasts and crotches were displayed on large posters hanging from lamp posts – one picture, from the local press at the time, shows 10 down the side of just part of one street. Despite many complaints from parents concerned about these images being displayed where the very young could see them the exhibition went ahead. Is this the type of freedom you want? A repressive political regime restricts those under it but, in this case, a town council forced its people to look at images which many did not want to see. (There have been many other examples across the UK.) So what happened? Locals complained; visitors to the city complained; objections were overruled; objectors were vilified as “stick-in-the-muds”, frumps or puritans. Is that freedom or repression? Can you see the problem? Once again we have a situation where people who want one form of freedom override others who want a different sort of freedom.

If we talk about TV, books or exhibitions then the answer is clear – if you’re offended, turn it off or don’t look at or buy them, or don’t go to them. You are not forced to see these things just so you can complain. However, in the Liverpool example, in public streets with so many pictures, it’s difficult to avoid seeing what you’d rather not see!

If we introduce rules to keep “offending” material out of public areas then, providing it is legal, it will be shown at galleries or maybe in private exhibitions. That’s all well and good but are we then creating a kind of underground class of avant-garde arty types? – Do they become the ones who want to accept what the wider society rejects? Of course that division already exists and probably has done for hundreds of years. You can choose to be part of it. You can choose to reject it. At least you have the choice – the freedom to choose! In a public place you don’t.

The website Blurb.com has an interesting book from 2008, entitled Freedom & Art. The look inside preview is excellent and well worth a visit. (I’d be interested in any comments you may have on the individual quotes.) It is “dedicated to Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and is a fundraiser for Amnesty international. 74 international artists from 27 countries have donated art and written about the synergy of freedom.” (The Burmese pro-democracy leader had been under house arrest for 15 of the 21 years between 1989 & her release in Nov 2010.) It contains quotes from each of the artists who work is featured in the book. I can’t remember any which particularly acknowledge any responsibility being attached to the perspective on freedom which they espouse. Once again much of it seems to be mostly about the “me-me” view and not about whether my freedom has any effect on yours. It’s dangerous territory! It means that I, as an artist, am entitled to force my work into the public domain and you can’t stop me because then you will be limiting my freedom. Are you ok with being forced to see stuff you don’t really want to see? Is that the price of having a “free” society?

I hope you’ve spotted a key element in each of these lines of thought – offence. Without going too deeply into it – perhaps a topic for further investigation – it’s another difficult area isn’t it? I’m offended by something which you’re not; you’re offended by something which I’m not. Is either of us right? In a democratic society is it the majority that is right? Or do they just get their way because there are more of them? So 51% = right, 49% = wrong?

Just as with freedom in music so we face a similar problem with freedom in art. I suspect you can now see that freedom as a concept is becoming slightly more difficult to define – amorphous even. If freedom were a tree it would have many branches: political, religious, societal, musical, artistic etc. The trouble is these branches do not grow independently outwards and upwards. They are intertwined and, at times, may appear almost symbiotic. Trees, in the natural world, grow by a process called photosynthesis. An outside agent (in that case, the sun) provides the means by which they, and other plant life, grow. Where are we going to find the photosynthetic agent, if there is one, for our freedom tree? How does it or can it grow in the future? And who says whether my freedom tree is better (or more worthy) than yours?
Perhaps we’ve set out on an impossible journey. Perhaps the key is finding out how personal freedom is possible without infringing someone else’s but living within the laws of a society where the rights of the individuals in it are acknowledged and respected. Can those free-thinking inhabitants of “Art-Land” show us the way? Realistically, how can art help us in our quest especially when its practitioners seem to reject the very idea of rules governing what it & they can do?

Here’s a thought from A.P. Herbert (1890-1971):

“As my poor father used to say,
In 1863,
Once people start on all this Art,
Good-bye moralitee!
And what my father used to say,
Is good enough for me.”

Freedom Music

It’s part two of my regular guest blogger’s thoughts on ‘freedom.’

Popular music, through the last five decades or so, has, in certain ways, reflected what the young see as their desire for and, in some ways, their definition of freedom. It will only be possible to take a few examples as there are so many songs could fall into this category. I hope they will illustrate the point.
In 1965 the Rolling Stones recorded a song I’m Free To Do What I Want. The lyrics also tell of being free to get what “I want”. In other words it’s actually talking about probably the most selfish sort of freedom you can imagine: the freedom to do, get or possess whatever you want. The song makes no reference to any effect on anyone else. From the writer’s point of view I don’t think he has even given that any thought. What’s behind the words then? I think simply a rebellion of youth against what it saw, in those days, as the rules or way of life of the older generation. Is that the freedom you’re seeking – to choose to do & to get what you want?
Are you attracted by that archetypal image of the apparently free-roaming hobo riding the freight trains across America taking him wherever they’re going? Or the “southbound odyssey” of Steve Goodman’s song The City Of New Orleans, (recorded by Arlo Guthrie on his album Hobo’s Lullaby, & by a number of other singers).
Perhaps the Easy Rider type of journey appeals – on your motorbike, travelling free. The 1969 film is described in its Wikipedia entry as “the story of two bikers….who travel through the American South-West and South with the aim of asserting their freedom”. The song The Ballad of Easy Rider contains the aspirational phrase, “all they wanted was to be free”. The film certainly kicks off with a great travelling anthem as the opening credits roll (btw some 7 minutes into the film!): “Get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes our way”. Towards the end, after they’ve made their money (illegally, remember), they’re sat round the camp fire talking. Billy (Dennis Hopper) is rejoicing – “you go for the big money and you’re free”; Wyatt (Peter Fonda) says they blew it. Presumably, to him, they didn’t have the sort of freedom he thought they would.
Van Morrison has a song called You Make Me Feel So Free speaking of how another person can give you a sense of freedom. From his mid-eighties album No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, one song speaks of going to a town called Paradise “where we can be free”.
Some years later, Oasis spoke of freedom in their 1994 song Whatever (I’m Free). They wanted the freedom to say whatever they liked. Worryingly, they go further by not caring if it’s wrong or if it’s right! Fellow blogger, therabbitholez, made a comment on last Weds’ Freedom Rules piece which I agree with. If you have a look at that, I hope you can see there’s more to freedom than just the “I want” part which Oasis focus on. The B-side of that record, (It’s Good) To Be Free speaks of it being good to be free in the context of living where they want. Of course for those living under oppressive regimes the choice to live where they want is not an option. Popstars have enough money to be able to make the choices which make them happy. Others, less well off, don’t.
In case you think it’s only modern(-ish) songs that take this a theme – it isn’t. There is, for example, a 1933 Jimmy Rodgers song (also recorded by a number of others) called I’m Free From The Chain Gang Now. It has these words, by an innocent man, in one of the verses:
“Back home, I was known and respected then one day I was wrongly suspected,
So they put me in chains in a cold freezin’ rain but I’m free from the chain gang now.”
Much further back in history, there are examples of songs written in the 18th C about freedom & liberty. Some of those include a call to men to lay their lives down for the cause of freedom. Have a think on the last verse of American Hero (by Andrew Law, 1748-1821):
“Life, for my country and the cause of freedom,
Is but a trifle for a worm to part with;
And if preserved in so great a contest,
Life is redoubled.”
Of course there are many other songs referring to the freedom from oppression sought by people in various nations, not just the USA. Also, the verse above could apply equally to those who gave their lives in the two World Wars of the last century so that succeeding generations could be free from the control of a tyrannical invading power.
In Freedom Rules, I gave the 4 types of freedom specified by Roosevelt which, he said, should exist for everyone around the world. Gary McGrath at mcgrath.com/freesongs puts it this way:
“Freedom is the absence of forcible constraint on actions which do not violate the rights of others.”
Another good definition. It highlights what I think most people believe – that an individual’s freedom must incorporate an acceptance by that individual of responsibilities to the wider society. Our societies today focus very much on personal rights but not so much on those personal responsibilities. I wonder why?
The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins with these words: “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world..” Article 1, of the same document, opens with “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
I think that enshrines much of what we would like to go into a definition of freedom. However, when we look at the record of some countries, within the UN, who’ve signed up to this there’s a big question – how, in reality, can it be enforced? And will it ever be?

Freedom rules!

It’s Rambler5319 again today, the regular guest blogger.

 

Another possible oxymoron? How can there be freedom and rules together? Surely freedom means not having rules? Or might it just mean freedom is the best thing? Obviously it won’t be possible to do in a few blogs what philosophers and the rest of mankind have pondered over for thousands of years but let’s see if we can discover anything of interest. I’m going to do a quick general overview for this opener. Next time I hope to do something on the concept of freedom as found in popular music, then literature/films and for part 4 maybe tackle, in more detail, the awkward bit about the rules and their interpretation.

On 6th Jan 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke about looking forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms:
1. The freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world
2. The freedom of every individual to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.
3. The freedom from want – everywhere in the world.
4. The freedom from fear – anywhere in the world.

I wonder if you remember when you were younger words or phrases that were used to extol the perceived virtues of say footballers, singers or other heroes from the past and present.
Many who passed through the student ranks of tertiary education will remember the ubiquitous and iconic red & black “Che” poster which adorned the walls of theirs, or their friends’, rooms or the T-shirt which adorned the budding Marxist chest. Ernesto (Che) Guevara (1928-67) was a Cuban Marxist revolutionary – a ‘hero’ to many; he represented the way to fight for freedom from an oppressive regime. The Bolivians didn’t agree. Their armed forces captured and killed him in 1967. (He had been trying to stir up the Bolivian people up to rebel against their government.) On 9th Oct 1967, in La Higuera, Bolivia I wonder if Che realised that, co-incidentally & quite bizarrely, Engelbert Humperdinck was at the end of a 5-week run at No.1 in the UK Charts, with the song The Last Waltz? (Its first line reads “Should I go or should I stay?”) Probably he didn’t! Dodging bullets was definitely a higher, but unachievable, priority.
As I grew up, I remember seeing instances of graffiti, on walls, bridges and flyovers with the words “Liverpool or LFC Rules, ok!” or “Everton or EFC rules, ok!” or “Kenny (as in Dalgleish) rules, ok” and a number of others. They all wanted the viewer to know that their team or hero is the best.
Another type was painted by people who felt injustices had been done to an individual or group of people through a court sentence: for example in the UK, “Free the Birmingham Six” (given life in 1975 but freed after an appeal in 1991) and “Free the Guildford Four” (life sentences in 1975, freed after appeal in 1989). In these two examples the freedom is clearly from a prison cell; for Che & Fidel Castro it was freedom from the rule of a government they did not agree with.
Perhaps you hanker after a freedom closer to home: freedom from parents, parental control or from a bossy sibling. Would you like there to be more freedom in your school or place of work because you feel too restricted the way things are? We’ve seen in the press over many years cases where a pupil in a school wants the freedom to wear something or follow a fashion trend which flouts the school uniform rules. Should they be allowed to? Shouldn’t they? They want to break the rules, often in the name of freedom?
There are also cases of religious objections. For example, here in the UK, a Sikh can by law, wear a turban whilst riding a motorcycle instead of a crash helmet. A number of Christians have been in the news because of clashes with their employers about wanting to wear a crucifix (cross), as a symbol of their faith, in the workplace. And so it goes on with many different cases on our TV screens and in the press. Does this mean religious freedom trumps the law of the land? Sometimes, it does! Is it right to do so? I’ll leave that one with you.
Suppose you own your own house. Do you have the freedom to do whatever you want either with the building or in terms of the activities that take place there? Clearly not. For instance, you cannot play your music at full volume. Why? Because it causes a nuisance to neighbours. In other words there are rules! You cannot use it for business unless it has been authorised. Why? Because the rules say you can’t. What about your neighbour’s freedom to have peace and quiet? Do you see the problem? The use of your freedom may infringe someone else’s. Maybe that’s where the rules come in but who enforces them?
Think of those early pioneers in the 1960s Hippie movement. Freedom from society and its restraints was at the top of their list. However it doesn’t take long to figure out that this is an impossible lifestyle without money. If they work they follow the rules of their employers, if they don’t work they get benefits but either way they need and obtain money to fund their alternative lifestyle. Freedom costs!
Remember the bravado in words of the chorus to the song, “Society” about being free to go it alone, from the biopic, of Christopher McCandless’s life (1968-1992), Into The Wild:
“Society you’re a crazy breed
Hope you’re not lonely without me.”

Are you beginning to see the problem? Freedom does not, and cannot, mean freedom to do anything you want; and it cannot be achieved without monetary resources of some kind. Now what sort of freedom do you really want for yourself and others? What types of freedom are actually possible across the world? More importantly what are you, and others, willing to give up in order for more freedom to exist?