Freedom vs. Responsibility

People have fought for freedom over the years. They have literally fought for it. Having no freedom drains you. The daily reminders drowning out your goals and ambitions. People reach a breaking point and it’s at that moment they allow their conscious to take control over their actions. They fight for a world where they can be free because they believe it’s what is best. Best for the individual and best for the society. A nation of free citizens.

But now that the vast majority of world powers offer these freedoms to their people why are we not enjoying the paradise our ancestors fought so hard for? Is freedom alone enough to make the world a ‘good’ place? Where does responsibility fit into all of this. The relationship is quite special when you take the time to look at it.

A serf had certain freedoms. She could decide when to wake up in the morning and what clothes to wear. She could chop her hair off or braid it on both sides. At the same time, she was restricted by the wishes of the local lord. She had to work a specified job, give a certain amount of her earnings to the lord and was blocked from moving her home to another lord’s territory. These constraints coming from outside her own authority are what feed the desire to be free. Year after year, the laws others hold you with begin to seem unjust. You own self worth tells you that you could handle these matters on your own and you’d be much happier in doing so.

So let’s more forward to the present day. That same land where the serf lived is now a shopping center. Free people drive there to buy whichever products they want and spend as much time as they like doing the things that interest them. How lovely and free, yes? But the unattended baby throwing a tantrum on the public bus, the man littering in the parking lot, woman ahead of you in line not paying attention, the teenager eating all the free samples… these free people are making your life worse. Being free from the control of an overbearing and unfair rule maker they have forgotten critically examine their own actions. Whereas the old serf thought she could do things better on her own, today we don’t seem to care at all about citizenship. We forget that for any group of people to work well together there must be some rules, written or unwritten, that govern that society.

Helping a stranger clean up a spilled cup of juice at a cafeteria certainly won’t be the law of the land. But if we govern from within, it not only helps us live in a harmonious society but it allows our governments to focus on other matters. There is no law requiring citizens to shower. An out of work man struggling to support his family of four lands a job interview. He has the freedom to not shower, or print a CV. He has the freedom to wear his hair any way he pleases. But many will believe he has a responsibility to his family to dress appropriately and do his best to get the job. He could stink and complain and demand the laws be changed to end discrimination against smelly lazy people. But a world moving in this direction abuses the word freedom.

But imagine if we all followed that path. The electricity at your home is out. You want to know who is responsible for keeping the power on. But you find out the engineers have all taken to the parks to picnic with their families in the spirit of total freedom. The drinking water is poisonous, the financial markets unruly, the criminals running wild, wifi down… We need responsibility to survive in such an interconnected society.

Freedom puts us at 0. It levels the playing field. We are all equal at the starting blocks. Responsibility is the guiding light that follows us along our unique paths in life. No matter what we strive to, we can surely achieve it by also being responsible members of society. The same society that gave us our freedoms.

Only when so many shirk their responsibilities government is forced to step in. The police are called for a noise complaint. They enforce the rule you should have placed on yourself. Be a good neighbor. Be a good citizen. Let’s make this easy on each other.


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