Musings

The meaning of freedom

The main road near my house has been dug up for major repair work. Vehicles have to navigate trepidatiously as only half the narrow road is available for movement. It is expected to take almost four months before this work is completed. Barricades mark the dangerous edge of the road where there is an abrupt drop to the dug up part.

Since the past few days as I leave for work in the morning, I have noticed that all the poles used to mark the barricades have fallen down. It has happened too regularly to be a random occurrence. And it isn’t just one or two, but all forty odd poles which are lying flat on the road. That patch of road doesn’t have too many lights and is decidedly dangerous at night minus the barricades.

I asked my driver and he said that he had spotted a group of guys on bikes the previous night. They were playing a game of knocking down the poles while driving past on their bikes. Apparently they were doing that every night.

With our rights come our responsibilities. What is merely an adventurous game to these youngsters can easily end as permanent darkness in another’s life. Our freedom does not give you the right to step on another’s toes. When we demand our privileges, we are not authorized to trample others’ rights.

It is been more than seven decades since we have freed ourselves from British imperialism. Today freedom has different connotations. The freedoms we seek are different. When we troll another online we are guilty of obstructing another’s freedom of expression. All around we are fed propaganda. News comes to us filtered, garnished, exaggerated, falsified and glossed over. And we swallow it gullibly. We believe fake forwards which have now attained the status of gospel truths.

Slavery exists today. Surreptitiously. The clamping of voices is happening all around us. It doesn’t bother about being subtle any longer. And we choose to remain indifferent and blind. People get lynched and we look away. Worse, entire towns are shut down and we celebrate.

Freedom is a double-edged sword. If your concept of freedom tramples another’s rights, think again. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

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