The Freedom “To Do”

We in the "western" world, particularly the US, have a fondness for reminding people - particularly each other - of what our freedoms are.

At a party: "Mind if I use your bathroom?" "Feel free."
Discussion the mass media: Freedom of speech.
At a nudist colony: Free yourself.

More seriously, the concept of "freedom" has become so ingrained in our collective thought processes that I think a lot of us don't actually know what it means anymore. We have "freedom to do" things and "freedom from" things happening to us.

In the US we are largely inclined to lean toward the "freedom to do" freedoms; freedom to carry a gun (I want a bazooka); freedom to worship as we want (Pastafarianism); freedom to print what we want (Tidwick). And so forth.

Sometimes these freedoms become strangely ingrained in our psyche to the point we might not be able to explain them. I am, for instance, free to carry a loaded and cocked assault rifle into a restaurant, but I cannot carry a knife into a convention centre or walk around main street nude.

We confuse freedoms with rights, and rights with freedoms. Some of our rights we need to purchase; I'm "free" to own a dog, but only if I buy a licence. I need to buy a licence to buy a firearm (I still want a bazooka), which is a constitutionally afforded "right," but I do not need to pay anything to be able to vote, another constitutionally afforded "right."

My father and I used to have heavy discussions about freedoms and conflicting freedoms. He would either be confused or feign confusion when people became upset over his world views. His indignation stemmed from the argument of "I am free to say what I want." Sure! But the consequence may be that people are disgusted with you. Further, other people are free to ignore you. The freedom "to do" something doesn't wash your hands of the consequences; in some cases it just may mean that you're free to fill your life with such dumbfuckery that nothing good ever comes of it at all.

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