This is an essay dedicated to college students in Hong Kong, especially those who would not agree with me now. I wish you can understand, sooner or later.
The song I love most is one called “Blue Lotus”. It begins with a magical melody and the lyrics “There is nothing in the world, to stop your dream of freedom”. Indeed, “freedom” is a word that makes everyone feel differently, yearn for, and quest for in his/her entire life. You may want to say “this guy is funny”, because you may be thinking this question, “isn’t freedom something everyone was born with, at least for most people in the world?” I wish you are not too angry when I tell you, my answer is actually “no”.
The freedom I want to discuss does not mean the same thing to you and to me, at least not entirely.
Everyone needs to express himself/herself at times when they are happy, or unhappy. When you feel the coldness of the world and get nobody’s attention, a feeling of desperation probably would be triggered in your mind. When your heart is filled with sorrow and it luckily meets the warmth from another mind, we all know how special that moment can be. However, if we cannot find the warmth we need for a very long time, we may get frustrated, and lost. Crash of emotions occurs between us and others, such as our parents, partners, children, friends, and of course, strangers.
Occasionally, the expense of these crashes is unexpectedly high. I came across a simple but very touch movie recently. It is called The Mustang, which tells the story of an inmate learning how to get along with a horse and to a deeper level, with himself. The most memorable moment in the film to me was when a psychologist asks a group of prisoners how long it takes them to make the wrong decision and action that lead them into cells. To my surprise, the unit used by the inmates is seconds. One guy said it took 22 seconds for him, another said 2 seconds. There were some other answers, and the answer from Roman, the protagonist, was split second. The price he was paying for that split second was 12 years. What made him feel worst probably was not the loss of superficial-level freedom, but the loss of SELF. He made his wife paralyzed, and left her to his beloved daughter, who was still a child then. He was lost.
You may be a little confused now. How can one lose his/her “self”? People are not born with a “self”. Children develop the awareness of self around two when they start to learn how to say “no”. Then when they become teenagers, they say no more meaningfully, they model pop stars, instead of their parents, in the ways they say and do things. Then when they grow into adulthood, role models dive into the subconscious level. However, there are always differences between who I was, who I am, and whom I want to be, the ALL THREE of which are what I call SELF.
When we do not have a SELF, we do not have the true freedom, because you cannot be what you want to be without accepting who you were in the past and who you are now. You cannot make a tree grow taller by cutting it in the middle. The three components of SELF need to be consistent, or at least compatible, with each other. How to make that happen is easy for some of us, but difficult for others.
So, why am I talking about all this when the discussion is about freedom. Because today, I see many people not seeing the difference between true and false freedoms. I grew up in China, which is infamously a place where people do not have the “freedom of speech”, where human right is not respected. I thought it is true. Untile I spent many years in the US, which is a place famously where people have the freedom. I found they allow people to call their president and his family “chimpanzees”, they allow armless African American to be killed without letting the murderer pay a penny, they isolate minorities by segregation, they “encourage” black youth to commit robbery crimes by allowing a popstar to say that is cool in his song … Those are freedom, which even let their presidential election interfered by foreign nations. Oh, yes …, freedom of speech, foreign nations have that too.
I am somewhat mean when I was saying all those. Some people in the US may argue with me that the following was what was said in the Declaration of Independence,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.”
My friends, you are exactly right, but do you remember what was said after this one. It is the following,
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men …”
So the exact purpose of Governments is to constrain some people at some time. When citizens cannot tell fake news from the truth, isn’t the government’s responsibility to eliminate them? When a popstar is teaching my son how to rob others “safely”, isn’t the government’s role to regulate? When a person is abused in social media, isn’t it a government’s duty to protect?
I am not saying the Chinese government was always right. I just want to say it is not so different from other western-style governments in protecting people’s freedom. I do not really care if I have the freedom to defame Trump, I care if I can have HAPPINESS. I want to be a good father, a good husband, a good professional contributing to the world. And to do all of that, I want to live in a SECURE society, so that my happiness won’t be disregarded because other people’s “liberty”. I do not want to be abused on social media, so I am not going to do that towards others either. And I do not wish others are allowed to do that by a government.
Freedom of speech is just a lollipop. I am not a kid. I want to pursue the true freedom, don’t you?