Sunday, August 15, 2021

Some more thoughts on freedom

Squeeze your lids over your irises, until the inner mirror fogs over, and say the word ‘freedom’. What image do you see?

I see a keen blue and bale upon bale of cottony white sky. Freedom to me is an unbroken expanse, full of light, full of beauty and unlimited potential. Like the sky, it is unfailingly present. Like the sky, it is simultaneously universal and particular, and forever in need of watching. It changes each hour of each day, and my slice of sky can grow black and thunderous even as it remains blue for another citizen in another town. Yet, the sky is comprised of the same materials everywhere.

What of freedom: what is it made of? 

In an article about the dangers of a philanthropy-centric approach to pressing problems rather than a rights-based one, political philosopher Gwilym David Blunt had posed an interesting question: ‘Let’s say a kindly benefactor offered you a better standard of living than that which you currently enjoy, or can realistically aspire to, and credibly promises to treat you very well. The only condition is that they would own you. Would you accept the offer?’

I know I would not. And yet, why? What is it about this word — freedom — that I am willing to pay for it with my life? Why did our ancestors pay the ultimate price? Thousands were executed in 1857 and in the 90 years that followed, tens of thousands lost precious years of youth and health as they were jailed, exiled, stripped of their properties. The word gulaam, slave, was used to describe the status of India before we won Independence in 1947. It is a question still worth asking: what made us feel enslaved?

Some thoughts on what comprises freedom in this new essay in The Hindu

Tweets by @anniezaidi