Posts Tagged ‘Roosevelt’

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?