A lot gets said nowadays about freedom. Freedom seems to be the buzzword of the modern age. However, it’s actually quite funny that in these supposedly educated, liberated times, the term “freedom” is still used in such a confused way.
I find it ironic to think of how free I am when I’m stood at airport security with no shoes on, my belt removed, and my passport in hand, even if I’m only flying to another city within the UK (my home country).
What I want to talk about today though is what I consider to be the most important aspect of freedom, choice.
When you break it all down, what freedom is really all about is choice. Being able to choose what you do, where you go, and what you say are all considered to be important pillars of freedom. Unfortunately, freedom of speech is where things often get a little confused.
Freedom of Speech
Nowadays, many people seem to interpret freedom of speech as the right to say whatever you want, wherever you want. Therefore, when a website such as Facebook, or more recently, Reddit is found to be censoring content, it’s seen as an infringement of freedom of speech. However, I don’t believe that to be the case.
Freedom of speech gives you the right to say whatever you want, whenever you want, but if you’re trying to speak through somebody else’s platform, then they also have the freedom to choose what content they want their platform to carry. I hate to shock some people, but Facebook and any other social media platforms are not democratic tools of the people, they are private entities, with a right to operate anyway they wish, within the limits of the law, of course.
If you really want to exercise your freedom of speech, create your own platform. That way, as long as you’re operating within the limits of relevant laws and regulations, nobody can censor you.
One person’s freedom is another person’s hell
One of the biggest problems with freedom is that it’s a double-edged sword. For every person who interprets freedom one way, there’s likely to be somebody who interprets it in an opposing way.
As an example, take the issue of smoking in public. Smokers will argue that smoking cigarettes isn’t illegal, and therefore they should have the right to smoke wherever they want. Any attempt to restrict where they can smoke is seen as an infringement of their freedom. However, non-smokers have the right to breathe clean air that’s not going to cause them health problems, so you get this butting of heads between people’s rights.
The same can be said of the issue of gun control in the US. Many people say that it’s their right to possess guns. However, many other people also have the right to live a safe life without fear of being shot. So, how do you balance those two opposing interpretations of “freedom”?
One of my favourite sayings that relates to freedom of choice comes from Diamond Dallas Page, former pro-wrestling superstar, and creator of the popular DDP Yoga. DDP says:
“Live your life at 90%”
Now, to those of you used to hearing all about “giving it 110%”, DDP’s statement may seem like a bit of a slacker view. However, when you listen to the full definition, you’ll understand how brilliant it is.
What the statement means is that at least 10% of what happens in your life is going to be out of your control, so don’t waste your energy on it. Instead, focus all your energy on the 90% of your life that you can control. In other words, you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.
Look at the people who are upset by the outcome of the recent US presidential election. Regardless of what the cause of the result not going their way was, even if it was due to an outdated electoral system, the result cannot be changed now. What they can change, however, is what happens from this point forwards. They can control their reaction to the result, and the action that they take.
The Freedom of Nelson Mandela
Another example is that of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned in South Africa for nearly 30 years. Whilst he was imprisoned, he didn’t have much freedom at all. In fact, you could argue that perhaps 90% of what happened to him during that time was out of his control. However, he still stayed focused on the 10% of his life that he could control. He never let his spirit be broken by his imprisonment, and therefore, on his release, he was still a man capable of helping to end Apartheid and becoming South Africa’s first black president, rather than coming out of jail a broken man with no will to fight.
This is the most important thing to remember in life. No matter how much situations seem out of your control, or how little freedom of choice you seem to have, you will always have the freedom to choose your reaction.
Whether you react positively to a situation or whether you react negatively to a situation is one of the most important freedoms of choice that you have, so use it wisely, and don’t let others force you into making the wrong choice.