Sunday, July 14, 2013

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Way back, I mean way back, in the ninth or tenth grade when we covered world history, we learnt about the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille.  Suddenly the phrase "liberty, equality, fraternity" became familiar.

However much I might complain about the contemporary world, I am equally convinced that humans have never had freedom at the individual level as we do now.  With more and more countries transitioning to liberal democracy, the number of people with liberty will only increase.  We owe a huge thanks to the Magna Carta, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution, that got this liberty ball rolling.

The turmoil in the Arab world or Myanmar or Tibet are all nothing but examples of people fighting for their freedoms.  Whether it is societies like those where liberty is highly restricted, or here in the US or in France, the rally for liberty depends on we the people. It depends on us.  We worry about the NSA snooping around, for instance, because we understand how much the liberation of individuals could be easily reversed.  The quieter we become, the odds of freedom getting restricted rise, and rise rapidly.

Here is the late poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz on the urgency of it all:
Speak, by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Speak, your lips are free.
Speak, it is your own tongue.
Speak, it is your own body.
Speak, your life is still yours.

See how in the blacksmith's shop
The flame burns wild, the iron glows red;
The locks open their jaws,
And every chain begins to break.

Speak, this brief hour is long enough
Before the death of body and tongue:
Speak, 'cause the truth is not dead yet,
Speak, speak, whatever you must speak.

3 comments:

Ramesh said...

I have a view that you have to define freedom. What is freedom ? Is it just the right to yell that Obama is a %$^ker and not get arrested. I believe freedom is a deeper concept.

Economic freedom is a prime freedom - the freedom to pursue your best chance of economic advancement. By that narrow definition, China is one of the freest of societies.

Personal safety is another big freedom. The freedom to go where you please within reasonable safeguards and hope to be able to be safe. India would dramatically fail this test of freedom as would certain parts of the US. China by contrast would score very highly on this.

Equality of opportunity irrespective of class also falls in the area of freedom. India fails because of the caste system. China succeeds reasonably. The US is the star - despite its faults it affords the best in terms of equality of opportunity.

Freedom of belief is an important freedom I believe. China would completely fail, India would be a big success.

Freedom to live within the law (redress in the judicial system) is another important freedom. Both India and China would fail, the US would middle (because of costs) and Europe would probably score the highest.

A safety net - that you wouldn't fall completely into starvation is also an important freedom. Europe leads the world, the US follows, everybody else fails.

Political freedom comes last in my belief. This is important, but not prime. Here western democracies probably score the highest, although India wont be far behind.

So what is liberalism. How broad should the definition be ? Perhaps you might elaborate your view.

Sriram Khé said...

i am so upset that a loooooooong comment that i typed just disappeared :(
just gone ... have no idea what happened.i mean it was loooooooooong. longer than many of my blog posts.
am so pissed off with blogger now :(

Ramesh said...

Blogger sucks