Freedom to –
“The more people chant about their freedom and how free they are, the more loudly I hear their chains rattling.” ~George Orwell (1903-1950)
We’re a free country, aren’t we? Well, kind of. We are encouraged to think so. Our government tells us we are. The more they tell us the more we wonder.
We have a democracy, freedom to vote and elect our members of parliament. We used to feel superior to the Soviet Union where they had votes, but you were only allowed to vote for a member of the Communist Party. We, on the other hand, can only vote for the candidates the political parties give us. We may have good conscientious prospective parliamentary candidates who work hard, or we may have some semi-aristocrat with connections parachuted in at the behest of the government, perhaps, like Pooh, of little brain. Perhaps a trade union leader who wishes to try his hand at politics, but with no local knowledge but a burning desire to destroy capitalism. There are people with the gift of the gab who realise that an MP’s salary is good and their expenses allowances are very flexible. They need only to obey the party whip and life can be easy.
We have freedom of movement; we are not like the serfs of yesteryear who were tied to one estate. Yes, but come March 29th we will lose our right to travel, work and live in any of the 27 other countries of Europe. We will have the right to travel freely only within the UK. Of course, you can apply for a visa but if you have to ask permission, you are not free.
We have freedom of speech and expression. Yes, but if you are an A level student doing a chemistry project on explosives and your name happens to be Mohammed, how long after you start using the internet before your freedom is questioned? Last week, a man was interviewed by the police for approving a ditty about transsexuals.
Kamila Shamsie, whose book Home Fire, involves a story about an Islamic Fundamentalist felt it wise to get a friend, with an Anglo-Saxon name, to do her internet researches for her.
We have freedom of religion. Yes again, but some of our religious leaders insist that a child is saddled with the same religion as its parents. In some cases, the child is not allowed to change on pain of death. A lesser sentence is for the person to be ostracized by the family.
“Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ~ George Orwell.
Freedom from –
That’s freedom to – to vote, to move, to speak and to worship. Now for freedom from; freedom from famine, flood, fire, fever and fighting. What about freedom from homelessness?
Food banks are keeping famine at bay, but are we proud of that system? We failed to deliver freedom from fire for the occupants of Grenfell Tower and the survivors became homeless as well.
Freedom from flood. Yes, but only if you live in London which has the Thames Barrier. Those on the Somerset Levels, those whose road subsided on the Isle of Wight and those in several places in the North who lost bridges, roads and properties, have been poorly served.
Flood morphs into the larger problem of rising sea levels and global warming. The ‘Greatest Nation on Earth’ has decided climate change is all bunkum and there are no votes to be gained from considering it.
Freedom from conflict is under stress as NATO is being denigrated by some. Our own government has been unable to respond to threats, cutting the army and providing aircraft carriers without aircraft. I sat watching a lone Sri Lankan fast patrol boat, off Columbo last week. They have at least 6, I have seen them all together. We do not have even one in the English Channel just now. I believe we have three, somewhere.
We have freedom from slavery. Yes, but with wages fixed and costs rising – travel, power and housing, we are having to work harder to stand still. Taking debt to ‘tide you over’ is encouraged by banks and government, but it can enslave you.
Two men did some work on our roof. They were an odd couple, one younger and skinnier than the other. Later we discovered they were master and slave and the master went to jail. Next time, I hope I recognise the signs and do something about it.
When the government speaks of freedom, as they are now, with trade deals, sunlit uplands and freedom from our neighbours and obligations to the EU, listen for the rattle of chains. You can hear it as they plan for Martial Law. The rattling of chains was never louder.