Freedom: Our Dilemma
MARCH 01, 1967 by W. WATTS BIGGERS
Mr. Biggers heads the Biggers and Stover firm of advertising consultants in Massachusetts and also is President of Total TeleVision Productions.
If we are free men and if freedom is the cornerstone of our ideology, have we not already achieved ideological perfection and thus become a nation of people without an aim? In short, is the ideological road to freedom nothing more than a dead-end street?
No! If some of us are people without an aim, this is because we have failed to recognize a simple yet most important fact: We are not free.
So long as a single man is bound by the chains of prejudice, ignorance, or fear, we are not a free people. The fact that we are not surrounded by concrete walls or steel bars blinds us to the fact that barriers just as real and just as important prevent us from being free. One man may be struggling to free himself from ignorance, another from prejudice, another from fear — but they are all prisoners. And each of us has a responsibility to these men and to ourselves to join in the battle for freedom.
Could we really be free and still hate each other? Am I free if some prejudice instilled in me as a child prevents me from judging all men on the basis of their individual merits rather than race or creed? Are any of us really free when, in moments of stress or panic, we are guided by twisted fears or primitive instincts rather than sane common sense?
We are not free. The brave men of this country who give their lives in wartime do so in order that we, the living, may be outwardly free to work toward a far greater freedom. It is our failure to live up to this responsibility — our failure to understand the true dimensions of freedom — which has made many of us lose our way.
We have failed to see our responsibility; to recognize that it is our duty to struggle for greater freedom both for ourselves and our neighbors. Make no mistake about this: If a man is truly searching for freedom — struggling to untie the knotted cords within himself —then he cannot be crass and materialistic; he cannot be solely concerned with fame and fortune.
If a man is struggling for freedom, he will not devote all his nonworking hours to the pursuit of flimsy, meaningless "entertainment." Rather, he will recognize that increased knowledge means increased understanding of ourselves and of others, and only through such understanding can freedom be gained.
The man who struggles for freedom will not confuse freedom with license. He will recognize that only through full regard for the rights of others can he hope to keep even the degree of freedom he has now; that any crime he might commit, however large or small, would violate his own right to this freedom. And so, he will be law-abiding out of understanding, not out of fear of penalties prescribed by law.
The man in search of true freedom is a man attempting to find himself. Each job he undertakes he will attempt to approach in a new way — his own way, in the way best for him — and, in this manner, he will attempt to fully utilize his own particular talents. He will try to see and think for himself, to free himself from conformity and, thereby, bring to the forefront his own individuality.
Each Advance Affords New Opportunities—and Responsibilities
Man moves toward freedom slowly — one step at a time. If he achieves physical freedom or religious freedom or political freedom, he simply opens up another frontier of freedom — the fight against the enemy within himself. And he must recognize that each new freedom gained places additional responsibility on his shoulders. The continuation of his own search for freedom demands a society in which all men are free to work out their own destiny; and so, along with his individual struggle, he has the responsibility to work toward attainment or preservation of outward freedom for all men everywhere.
The man struggling for freedom will understand that revolutions may be fought because men are not physically, politically, or spiritually free, but that wars are fought because men are not free from the animal within; that the assured continuation of our free society by way of permanent peace will be possible only when all men everywhere are on the road which leads to complete freedom.
But this road is no four-lane highway. It is a narrow road filled with pain and suffering, a road with treacherous conditions: wet with the blood of men enslaved; darkened by the shadow of gallows; filled with rubble from wars of revolution; made a nightmare by the conflicting wants, passions, hatreds of every individual; made almost endless by the steel-like grip of man’s powerful animal heritage.
No man can travel this road for another. No man can give to another the rewards which lie thereon. No man can force another onto the road to freedom nor force him to leave it except by death.
There are no shortcuts to the end, nor any special modes of transportation to quicken the journey or make it more comfortable. It is a long road, but it is the only one which can lead to the fulfillment of mankind’s great potentiality.
We, as individuals, can best protect the degree of freedom we now have by joining in the struggle for still greater freedom — by working to rid ourselves of hate and fear; by understanding that each man is a participant in this struggle and therefore our brother; by fighting against conformity, and struggling to realize our own true individuality, and helping others to do the same; by recognizing the power of our still primitive instincts and struggling to overcome them; by fighting against poverty and ignorance and hatred and prejudice where-ever we meet them; and, finally, by helping ourselves and others to understand that only in the fight for greater freedom can we possibly find self-fulfillment.
No, the road to freedom is no dead-end street. We have simply stopped moving. It is time we started again.
John Stuart Mill
It is an abuse of the principle of equality to demand that no individual be permitted to be better off than the rest, when his being so makes none of the others worse off than they otherwise would be.