Posted by: nastylittletruths | August 8, 2008

Are We Really Free?

I know it’s a week past Emancipation Day (that’s how long, sometimes, an idea comes to mind to  completing the post…) but I was reading some readers’ responses to the Saturday’s Express question, ‘Are we truly free?’ and I started to ponder on it myself. As expected, most of them said yes, but here are parts of the five responses:

1. “Yeah, I want to believe we are truly free because after all we have nothing to be slaving for…”

2. “Of course we free. This is a free country… I know I free in my mind…”

3. “We all free. All Trinidadians free. This is our country. We are free to do what we want here, enjoy weself, be happy and be merry…”

4. “The abolishment of slavery, yes… Everybody could speak out democratically…”

5. “We are free but in a next way I think we are still being oppressed. We not totally free in certain ways…”

The difference between comments no. 3 and no. 5 is remarkable. In a typical Trini reply, no. 3 is expected, but you can see that no. 5 had this reservation in her mind… I may be biased, but as I probably have a different concept of freedom, response no. 5 seems destined for more analysis/discussion.

My first prerequiste for ‘freedom’ is education. And when I say education, I mean that in the broadest possible term. Not that you need PhDs or degrees, but just the simple concept of open-mindedness as opposed to closed and blinkered. There must be a conscious effort – to want to learn, to want to explore that distant horizon, to question why things are the way they are. Again, in my humble opinion, nothing can be more akin to oppression if you revel in your ignorance. Admittedly, there are the influences in your early life, and later on too, who will purposely try to keep you uneducated. And to what end? Yes… to control you; to ‘enslave’ you in thinking and acting in a certain manner.

My second, or 1.1 for that matter, is freedom of movement. I know that freedom of thought and expression will rank very high up there for most people, but you can be in a prison cell and still do that. Ask Nelson Mandela. Some of you may remember one of my previous posts about the ongoing passport issue in TnT so you know that I get very edgy about anything that can curtail free and unencumbered movement.

I hate the fact that as a TnT citizen I have to line up by foreign embassies to beg for visas, but I accept it as part of their fear that we will ‘invade’ their countries for economic benefit. But how do I justify in my mind the lining up, now by appointment to line up, and then weeks wait to get a passport to leave your own country? Is our freedom not being curtailed either through design or by conspiracy masquerading as incompetence? As a side thought – will we still have to line up for visas in 2020? I mean if are a ‘developed country’ by then other First World countries should just dismantle their visa restrictions and let us through the gates..

But if it seemed that I digressed, Eric Hoffer (an American writer) had said, “The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than what we are free not to do…”  Yes, as Trinis we are free to do many things as respondent no. 3 said, but it’s not a measure of our liberty and freedom. Respondent no. 5 had a reservation and she was right. We are oppressed in many ways, but it’s more economic and psychological rather than physical chains. Marketeers stay awake though the night devising ways to separate you and your money. Creating false sense of needs when you can do without. Banks form cartels to set interest rates on loans and savings. The spread between both is a sick joke.

So at the end of the day, try and answer truthfully if you are really free, and if yes, in what way? We are ‘slaves’ to many different and diverse things, whether you believe it or not, but the main underlying link is that we still work hard and the fruits of our labour go towards making the elite richer. Not much different from 170 years plus ago…

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