Monday July 16, 2018

Carvajal: Freedom

“In truth, freedom is a relationship between two persons. Freedom means being free for the other because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free.”
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

THE core issue of martial law has always been freedom. Martial Law, the worst but not the only form of authoritarianism, is abhorrent because it deprives people of their defining quality, freedom.

But as Edsa-1 has shown, ousting a dictator does not necessarily restore freedom. Not if the freedom-fighters are from different corners of freedomlandia and take diverse roads to different places after the smoke of the battle (for freedom) has cleared.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who died in a Nazi prison for opposing Hitler. By “the other” he means the “defenseless.” Thus he advocates for Christian freedom “to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, the hungry, the downtrodden, the marginalized.”

Because perhaps somehow I took this to heart, I found myself blissfully free in my life’s darkest moment inside a military safe-house. After the arrest’s initial shock and fear, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom when I accepted the grim consequences of my choice to stand in solidarity with the marginalized in Philippine society.

Modesty aside, this hardly appears to be the freedom coming out of the power-grab noise in the country today where protests and counter protests do not go beyond nasty mudslinging, pointless investigations and screams of time-worn slogans to make strides in the search for solutions to the problems of the neglected poor.

In his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who survived a Nazi concentration camp, writes: “For everyone in any dire situation there is always someone looking down, a friend, family member or even God, who would expect not to be disappointed.”

Believers need to be free to choose to be that friend, family member, even (representative of) God who would not disappoint the “defenseless, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the marginalized.”

Humans are defined by relationships. One is always father, mother, child, friend, boss, subordinate, etc of the other. Thus the loneliest and most unhappy people are those who, in Bonehoeffer’s terms, opt not to be free for the other.

Beyond protest, beyond remembering and retelling, freedom should mean being free for others. Politicians will always have their pointless investigations, self-serving raves and counter raves. It is up to the rest of us to choose to be the friend, the family member and even the God who looks down and tries not to disappoint the downtrodden.

That, not incidentally, should also be the meaning of press freedom.