What does freedom mean?

This is another blog arising from the book ‘The world until yesterday’ by Jared Diamond. It is a great book and I would highly recommend that you read it if you have any interest in the development of humanity.

Freedom is a subject that also interests me.  It is a difficult concept to define.  It means different things to different people yet for me it is about having the latitude to live your life as you would.  Of course there must be some social boundaries within which we all live otherwise society would collapse and there would be little if any freedom.

DIamond writes however that for one of his colleagues, freedom meant something that I had not considered in any depth.

‘One new Guinea friend surprised me by telling me that what she most likes about life in the US is its ‘anonymity’.  She explained that anonymity means to her the freedom to step away from the social bonds that make life in New Guinea emotionally full but also confining.  To my friend anonymity includes the freedom to be alone, to walk alone, to have privacy, to express oneself, to debate openly, to have unconventional views, to be more immune to peer pressures and not to have one’s every action scrutinized and discussed.’

This is a much wider freedom, one of thought and association.  The ability to be alone, even in the crowded streets of an American city, and the chance to pick and choose who you associate with were freedoms that she was not able to experience in the more confined society in which she was brought up.

As someone who leans towards being an introvert, I can empathise with what she was saying.  I am comfortable around people yet relish the time I have away from the madding crowd.

Freedom is a broad church. The ability to be who your are, express yourself the way you want to, think the thoughts inside your own head and associate with whom you choose are treasures of modern society worth persevering.

I should add the freedom to be anonymous to my list.

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