On Not Defining Freedom

Apropos of my previous column, a reader with the rather tenebrous yet archangelic name of Dark Seraphim writes as follows. His words are so clear and passionate on a topic where dungheaps of obscurantism have been erected that I quote him here in full and without comment:

I came to the originating discussion rather late, unfortunately, although still it seems to have some traction. I would draw attention to a particular point I made in the earlier post comment section.

The Freedom which is up for discussion is an absolute. It is not an issue of gray areas. While I understand the necessity of defining something for the sake of philosophical discussion, I also recognize the danger of over complicating something that needs not be complicated in the first place. I would submit this, instead:

Freedom is defined as the ability to choose a meaningful course of action, without restraint. (By nature, it must be agreed that a self-imposition of restraint here is poor logic at best. Choosing to restrain oneself requires the freedom to do so in the first place, and is circular.)

Let me expound upon the word meaningful in this context: If I choose a course of action, but it does not change the reality of the situation, it is not meaningful. For instance if I slam my tankard upon the rough oak table, climb onto it, and declare myself the king o’ bloody England, it does not make me anything other than a drunken idiot. It might get a few laughs, but is meaningless. Now, should I wax profound upon mine impromptu soapbox and convince many a fellow man to raise up arms against the king of England, that I should be better than he, and we succeed, then I have changed reality in a meaningful way. I am now the king, drunken or not. I may choose to disband the monarchy, or live out that infamous proverb: “It’s good to be the king.” Mel Brooks aside, the history of the world has been shaped, for better or worse, by the decisions of men with power, means, and vision. To debate the whether or not the people making the decisions of who to kill, who to reward, who to exalt, and so on had the freedom to do so seems like an exercise in redundancy.

If I make a choice, but it then falls upon someone else to decide if that choice is valid or not, important/legal/impactful/etc. or not: I am not free. I am subject. Subject to their logic, their emotion, their whim, their wisdom or lack thereof. It mystifies and appals me that people need this explained to them in the first place. Living in America or not, this truth is something every man of every faith can embrace. “We hold these truths to be self-evident” is not some meaningless phrase to be discarded on a whim! Let us not forget that which immediately follows it: “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Some key words here: Creator, Liberty, and Consent.

The Creator, God Most High, gives us the liberty. We, by consent, agree to be governed not to diminish these rights, but secure and preserve them. Freedom is not something that can be altered or taken, by definition an absolute.

To that end, I find it necessary to clarify in advance of the illogic I foresee: it is true that in the moment which a sword, metaphorical or otherwise, is held to your throat, a decision is placed before you. But the decision itself, nor the action preceding it as cause, do not rob you of your freedom. You may very well die if you do not submit, but it is your Freedom and right to choose not to submit and bear the consequences. Your Freedom cannot be taken from you, only given by consent. It does not matter whether you were coerced or not. It is by this very Truth that we establish that we must take up arms in the defense of our Freedom, lest someone take up arms first to attempt to force a submission of our sovereign will.

I also wish to clarify that I am not admonishing Mr. Wright in any way for trying to explain freedom. I am, in fact, admonishing those who made it necessary for him, to need to explain something that all men of intelligence and logic should easily understand. It is akin to sitting down to discuss the topics of importance in today’s world, and then bickering endlessly over the meaning of the word important. Is it done? All the time. It’s also ridiculous, contentious, and just plain stupid. If you must bicker over a concept so easy to understand, do it somewhere else. Don’t bog down and derail an otherwise meaningful conversation over the nuances of a word that, by implied consent of coming to the philosophy debate in the first place, you have agreed to.

In another place, the Dark Seraphim says this:

I need to make clear from the beginning, that I am not singling out an individual response: there are many that have drawn out my bladed tongue. It is in the hope that enlightenment should follow.

I have no problem understanding the concept that Mr. Wright asserts. I find it appalling and troubling that any do, despite what seem like well-worded attempts at rhetoric. Unfortunately, I find them to be such: rhetoric almost as if for the sake of having something to say. If you care at all, please read on. If you do not, please read on in the hopes that you might understand what I and my ilk have both lived and died for.

1. Mr Wright asserts that he would rather die than bend the knee to a mere human, someone no different than he. This is a fundamental and blood-soaked tenet of Freedom. I understand the many voices of confusion because we are surrounded daily by lies and shadows of tyranny. But the concept of Freedom is an absolute, in the same way that both Sin and Redemption are absolute. We are born into Sin, equally. We are inferior to Christ, equally. We owe him our lives, our deaths, and our very souls, equally. And we are called to live as such: equally. Only in the salvation of Christ do we find any respite for the condition we are born into: Slavery. A concept as absolute as Freedom. These are not hard concepts to define, nor are they difficult to wrap one’s mind around. These repeated questions amount to asking “Why is a serf not free?” and “Please define what freedom means to you?”…. They boggle my not-insignificant mind. “We hold these truths to be self-evident” is not some meaningless phrase to be cast aside. The men who bled and died for your freedom to have this very conversation felt the same as Mr. Wright: that no man is born superior to any other, and that only God deserves our fealty. It is only as a condition of sinful man that we need any further form of government, and our fore-fathers recognized this.

2. This is the very problem: under a monarchy, any similar conversation is a mental exercise at best. A discussion of philosophy: one that, depending on the monarch, is best held behind closed doors and only then in the company of those you deem of similar mind as to not betray your confidence. At worst, it is treason to the crown. You may no more act on it than you may change the weather. Even if you should take up arms, you achieve nothing without consent of your monarch. Until such monarch recognizes your independence, you are nothing more than traitors and rebels. The only out you possess is to kill the monarch, cast down his throne, and declare yourselves free in the absence of any leader. You must understand, the moment you bend your knee to another man, you have no freedoms but what he deems yours. You argue and question like children, bickering over whom daddy loves the most. It does not matter if your monarch is a tyrant, or benevolent. Whatever “freedoms” you have are but chaff, and will be revealed as such in the presence of so small a flame as a candle. Freedom cannot be revoked. It cannot be granted. It cannot be made to serve any definition other than Freedom. It cannot be bought, bartered, sold, or manipulated the way petty arguments and rhetoric may. The only thing you may do with your Freedom, that God-given right, other than to embrace and defend it with your very lives? Cast it away. Give it up, freely.

Make no mistake: to bend your knee, as was the original topic, to any man, requires that you must first be free to do so. If you are not, then bending the knee is nothing more than a trite gesture intended to curry favor with a superior who you believe egotistical enough to be swayed by such a meaningless action. If you are free, then you are throwing away the very gift Christ was tortured and brutally killed to bring to you, as have many others since. In that case, you are a formerly free man who made a ridiculous and suicidal decision not to be free. This is not an issue of gray areas. Kindly stop trying to confuse it as such.