As a social studies teacher, Christian, and human being the topic of freedom is a very important one. I spend a great deal of time meditating on the subject in my personal reflections. I just thought I would share some highlights from a recent conversation I had with a friend on the subject.

In my personal worldview I had been stuck on the idea that freedom was an ironic thing; maybe even a hypocritical thing. I thought that in order for an individual to have true, unhindered freedom, that someone else’s freedom would have to be infringed upon. For example, if I wanted the freedom to eat the very last ice cream bar in our freezer, I would then be denying my roommate the freedom to eat the last ice cream bar in the freezer.

Simple enough right? That’s what I thought, but I thought wrong. My friend Tom was persistent that if you are denying someone else their freedom, that you are somehow infringing on your own. I wanted to agree, but I couldn’t see how that would happen. Like the good social studies teachers we are we set to compiling our past knowledge and experiences in order to reach a new understanding of the topic (aka Scaffolding).

This is where things get exciting and fast paced, so try to stay with me.

Based on the United States Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we agreed that ALL humans have “equal and inalienable rights.”

We agreed that when someone infringes on another person’s rights, they are causing a rift, separation, or eliminating the relationship altogether that they would otherwise have with that individual, based on personal experience. For example, if I exercise my right to free speech by verbally harassing you, we probably won’t be going out to coffee any time soon.

To connect the two “truths” above we looked to an African concept of community spoken about by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu has been translated into English in a few different ways, “I am what I am, because of who we all are,” or “You can’t exist as a human being in isolation.” I’ve also heard it explained as, “I cannot exist as a human, without you to recognize my humanity. And you cannot exist as a human, without me to recognize your humanity.” If this is the case, then it is in community and generosity that we are affirmed as humans.

With that as our perspective we concluded that someone loses their own humanity when they oppress others. For example, if I oppress you or infringe upon your freedoms I have also caused a separation in our relationship. If we do not have a relationship, we do not have an opportunity to affirm each others’ humanity.

Following so far? If not, just read the last couple paragraphs again.

Getting back to logic and reasoning, if I have removed your ability to acknowledge my humanity, I have conceivably removed myself from what makes me human; and if I have removed myself from what makes me human, then I have removed myself from the possession of “equal and inalienable rights.” This provides a logical progression (given you agree with the scaffolding we used to achieve understanding) of how someone would limit their own freedom by infringing on someone else’s freedom.

If you don’t get it, read it again. If you still don’t get it, it is probably my lack of proper wording. If you don’t get it and would like to, let me know and I can share a few more examples or clear up any unclear wordings.

Also keep in mind this is merely the late night ramblings of two 23 year olds. Let me know what YOU think! What other connections do you perceive? What pieces of knowledge and understanding from your experiences add to this? Comment! Please!



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2 responses to “Freedom

  1. Danny L

    I agree totally. This reminds me very much of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in The Cost of Discipleship about how we can’t truly know each other until we know God (because the way He sees is is unabashingly realistic) and how we can’t truly know ourselves until we know Him. It’s a bit unrelated to what you’re saying but similar.

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