Cry freedom!

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By Henrylito D. Tacio

Regarding Henry

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


THIS story happened when slavery was still the norm. The heartbreaking sobs of a black slave girl who was about to step up to auction block to be sold caught the attention of a wealthy plantation owner. Moved by an impulse of compassion, he bought her for a very high price and then disappeared into the crowd.

When the auction was finally over, the clerk came over to the sobbing girl and handed her the bill of sale, telling her who her owner now was. To her astonishment, the unknown wealthy plantation owner had written the word FREE across the paper that should have delivered her to him. She stood speechless as, one by one, the slaves were claimed by their owners and dragged away.

Freedom, according to Egypt’s Moshe Dayan, “is the oxygen of the soul.” Rabindranath Tagore shares this illustration: “I have on my table a violin string. It is free. I twist one end of it and it responds. It is free. But it is not free to do what a violin string is supposed to do – to produce music. So I take it, fix it in my violin, and tighten it until it is taut. Only then is it free to be a violin string.”

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Joseph Sizoo further explains, “Freedom is like a coin. It has the word privilege on one side and responsibility on the other. It does not have privilege on both sides. There are too many today who want everything involved in privilege but refuse to accept anything that approaches the sense of responsibility.”

Freedom is a very broad concept that has been given numerous different interpretations by different philosophies and schools of thought. The protection of interpersonal freedom can be the object of a social and political investigation, while the metaphysical foundation of inner freedom is a philosophical and psychological question. Both forms of freedom come together in each individual as the internal and external values mesh together in a dynamic compromise and power struggle; the society fighting for power in defining the values of individuals and the individual fighting for societal acceptance and respect in establishing one's own values in it.

In philosophy, freedom often ties in with the question of free will. Libertarian philosophers have argued that all human beings are always free. Jean-Paul Sartre, for instance, famously claimed that humans are “condemned to be free.”

The philosopher Isaiah Berlin drew an important distinction between “freedom from” (negative freedom) and “freedom to” (positive freedom). For example, freedom from oppression and freedom to develop one’s potential. Both these types of freedom are in fact reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Freedom as the absence of restraint means unwilling to subjugate, lacking submission, or without forceful inequality. Natural laws restrict this form of freedom; for instance, no one is free to fly (though you may or may not be free to attempt to do so). "There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought," said Charles Kingsley.

Freedom has often been used a rallying cry for revolution or rebellion. For instance, the Bible records the story of Moses leading his people out of Egypt and its oppression (slavery), and into freedom to worship God. In the Philippines, Filipinos rallied for Corazon C. Aquino forming the so-called “People Power” to free them from the dictatorship of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved,” said American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a speech delivered on September 22, 1936. Abraham Lincoln stated rightly: “Freedom is the last, best hope of earth,”

“Let freedom never perish in your hands,” warns Joseph Addison. “Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err,” declares Mahatma Gandhi. “Without freedom, no one really has a name,” points out Milton Acorda.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 11, 2014.

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