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The Daily ParadoxLeadership

The Daily Paradox: Wasted Freedom

The West is destroying freedom by wasting it. To misuse anything is to waste it – food, water, air, climate, beauty, time, money. We accept that the world is crowded and threatened but continue to waste its resources prolifically. Worst of all, those who have it waste their freedom. A world of nearly 10Bn people must have rules if it is to avoid chaos and conflict.  Every day governments across the globe pass laws that restrict freedom. Many are necessary and many are ridiculous. They all have one thing in common – they reduce the individual’s responsibility. This is true both legally and morally.

What is freedom? Is it the right to say and do what you please provided it does not hurt others?  If it is, we all transgress it every hour. The world has always been competitive. It is more competitive than ever today. We all know minute-by-minute who is winning and who is losing. Our natural competitiveness, in itself a source of hurt for others, is thus fed by jealousy and envy which can easily turn into hatred and war. The speed of the world’s communications and the present state of international relations give testament to this.

Freedom has to be more than the right to compete. It must also be the right to become exemplary people. We will only do that if both we and others appreciate the value of being exemplary. Personal standards are set for us when we are children. When we grow up we either accept them or develop our own. That process continues throughout our lives, which is why learning has to be continuous. In whatever way we arrive at those standards and however many changes there are to them during a lifetime, we need them to be predominantly standards that benefit other people, not just ourselves.

The United States was the world’s example of healthy competition, at least in concept. ‘Work hard, play hard and achieve the American Dream.’ But something allowed competition to dictate a state of selfishness that has become ruthless. The gun laws are one example of this; the streets of San Francisco, another. The USA was also the epitome of freedom. Its abuse of that freedom is the cause of so much doubt in the rest of the world about the value of the ideology of freedom. The right to live is not the right to kill.

I quote the United States because it is the obvious example of freedom being wasted. Also, being half American myself I care for and about the people there – not just my family but all the people. As a nation they have done more than any other to try to stabilise society but they have allowed greed to run away with the good intentions. Other ‘free’ countries are the same, sometimes less obviously so. That doesn’t mean that authoritarian countries are preferable.

The criteria for success have changed in my lifetime from service to wealth. There was always a wish to be well off and there are still many people who deliver wonderful, reliable service. But the measure of achievement has become wealth. If that remains the prime purpose of life it will destroy humanity. If freedom is only to become rich, what the world offers is lost. All the resources we have, the technology coming to improve health, length of life and happiness, are pointless unless others have them too. There will never be equality but going in the present direction there will be increasing inequality. That will lead to war.

Freedom is a state of being able to understand and enjoy life. If the understanding is of starving children in Gaza and Yemen, the enjoyment will have to be oblivion to blot it out. Drugs are already masking the realities of life from some who cannot face it. The pain of guilt can get worse and when it does there is little recourse to natural enjoyment. Many of the things we do bring us pleasure but we are appreciating that less and less. The soft breeze has become a raging storm. We caused that.

The way back is not by laws, drugs, loss of dignity. It is by personal responsibility.

And there is only one person who can do that.

Good morning
John Bittleston

Do you agree? Please tell us at [email protected].

If you have a chance please read Georgina Quach’s FT article of 22Apr24 “Inside Politics”.

23 April 2024