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How would you define FREEDOM?
What are the limits of freedom?
Freedom is a word that has meant a lot to humans from the very beginning. Countries have fought bloody and countless wars in order to obtain "freedom", but what is it really? Is it total, or is it confined to certain limits?
In the sense of history, entire populations have fought to be free from tyrannical powers; humans have always and will always want to do things without any sort of limitations. In ancient times, humans were so limited to specific degrees of freedom which today we can say they were practically none (they were not free at all). Women had to be subject to men- had to even marry a man chosen by her family- and men had to abide to the government laws which then included serving in the military from a specific age, and live a life as designed as mandated by a culture or religion. Today, many countries still have limited degrees of freedom, based on culture and religion. The United States is an example of a country where there is an "apparently" guaranteed degree of freedom for people to live their lives as they please, so long it does not directly harm others (for example, you are not "free" to go and kill someone, and unless society decays to highly immoral levels, hopefully such a degree of freedom will never occur) and in comparison to many countries it enjoys a very large degree of it. But even though the law guaranteed people to enjoy certain rights, there are movements that still work as obstacles to people to enjoy such freedom.
Religious and ethnicity obstacles
In the United States, and many other countries that enjoy a similar form of government, there is still a strong religious wave that "forbids" people to do certain things. Examples of them include living in a domestic partnership, drink alcohol, be homosexual, marry people from different ethnicities, and even voting for certain candidates that do not follow a religious rule or standard. Unfortunately, this movement is very strong and in some cases it still has influence into legal aspects, like for example, states banning same-sex marriages (see my hubs for more details). Prejudice prevails, to the point that, 500 years later after the British and Western Europeans arrived to the coasts of Massachusetts, we still can see a strong wave of segregation all over the country. In Latin America, the race that prevails is that of a mixed race, there are no many "Caucasian" or "Afro-Americans" in comparison to the mixed races from Mongoloid ethnicity (Native Americans), Negroid ethnicity (Africans) and White/Caucasoid ethnicity (Europeans). Although with some exception, whites get along with whites, blacks with blacks and so forth. Segregation is strong, so strong that the government had to employee a process to guarantee all ethnicities are considered for simple things like applying to a job.
Freedom of speech
Americans tend to boast on their "blessing" to freely express what they feel, unlike other countries where you can talk ill about a government as go to jail or even face harsher punishment. Truth is that most countries today promote freedom of speech. Threatening expressions are not included within the acceptable freedom of speech rights because they do harm others, but I have seen people here that consider you a threat if you only insult or do not agree with what the President says or does. Obviously, the best thing is to keep a tone of respect in your disagreements, but if you say something like "X President is an idiot", or "X senator is very stupid", can you locate the aspect that makes it threatening? Such expression should morally be avoided but they are within the limits of freedom of speech. You probably did not vote for the current President and disagree with his postures, and express as you feel so long you don't go beyond the limits of freedom of speech such as doing threatening expressions, which almost everywhere around the world, is illegal.
Dangers of excessive freedom
What some people do not realize in capitalistic societies is that, like everything in life, extremes are bad even for freedom. As said, you can't have the freedom to harm others, but do not always harm others directly. The economic system in this country allows people to be able to do lots and lots of money to the point of becoming ridiculously wealthy- billionaires and multi-multi millionaire people that have enough money to even buy some small nations. Normally, people who tend to do a lot of money are not very known for being humble and generous. That's the truth. There are some exceptions, of course- like Bill and Melinda Gates. But some "very rich" people do not care on the issue that today's resources are very badly distributed. Some go into the point on protesting for having to pay lots of taxes, even when after paying such taxes they still remain beyond wealthy. Meanwhile, a majority of the population struggles with a hard economy, having to incur in loans and other forms of borrowed money to survive because things keep getting more expensive and costly. Of course, the government is also responsible for this for not establishing a good plan to help those who have financial trouble and help the wealthy who are not the ones that need help. Then, where is the financial freedom for those who are not wealthy?
Money and freedom
Part of human corruption involves exchanging some rights for money. For example, one of the main oppositions to death penalty is that such punishment is only reserved for those who do not have a financial power. There have been countless claims that murderers who have a lot of money have even being bailed from jail, while murderers who are poor or middle class have to face the fiercest punishment. So it looks like punishment is reserved only for those who do not have enough money to exchange for an indulgence. A country cannot boast of freedom rights if such freedom is not done in a fair manner. All people who commit crimes must pay with the removal of their freedom, because they have proven not to be trustworthy to walk around people. Regardless if they are paupers or if they are billionaires. Freedom is not supposed to be bought or acquired through money.
Freedom in other cultures
The world is very diverse and not all people have the same perception of freedom. But we human beings simply can't avoid trying to force others' our personal perceptions. An example is the lack of respect of what freedom is in other countries like those in the Middle East. For Muslim countries, freedom is based on the principles of the Qu'ran, not the Bible. Yet, part of the Christian people with their arrogant perspective that their religion is the sole and right one go to other countries to force their views and such as created a very violent environment, because they define life different from Muslims. For the latter group, you simply have to understand that their definition of freedom is different- it's what they have learned, what they have seen, and if they don't agree with it they can try to go somewhere where they can enjoy their expectations of what freedom is. Is much like if you are gay and want to marry, you go to either Washington State, Massachusetts or New York, and enjoy your freedom of marrying your partner there- but people from states that don't recognize gay marriage cannot force their ideas into states like Washington, NY or Massachusetts. People are different. Yes, we may say that women deserve certain rights in the Middle East. But only when they decide that the culture evolves and recognizes certain things and manage to wake up from religious dogmas, the only thing we can do is respect their culture and definition of freedom. This also applies vice versa, Muslims must respect our definition of freedom here in America and cannot come here and force theirs to us.
So freedom is relative, some people enjoy larger degrees than others, and only when there is a real understanding of what freedom includes, the entire world will enjoy a level of freedom where there is respect and tolerance among all humans. But freedom have a limit, there is no infinite freedom. You cannot be free to steal, kill, rape or do something that harms others. You can be free to do anything so long you don't harm or affect others with your decisions in life. And by affecting others it does not mean be controlled by others' opinions. For example, if you are an atheist, you are more than free to be one, regardless of the opposition to your ideas- but if your mother or father "suffers" from your decision, then that is not really your problem, because you have the right to change your mind and they have to respect you even if they don't agree with it. A person who suffers from others' opinions is being manipulative and that violates the principle of freedom. This can be applied also to general society in regards of issues such a homosexuality, religion and diversity.