On U.S. Independence Day, a QuestionJuly 4th, 2012 by Dean Foster | Discuss This »
What’s More Important to You—Freedom From or Freedom To?
U.S.-Americans believe deeply in freedom as a central value of their culture. Most other cultures, of course, also value freedom, more or less, but for U.S.-Americans, it is definitely on the “more” side, when compared with other values, which, in other cultures, might predominate over the value placed on freedom. For example, while freedom is an important value in many Asian cultures, perhaps it is not as dominant as the value of consensus. Consensus not being a primary value for U.S.-Americans, therefore, predisposes U.S.-Americans to see certain Asian cultures as minimizing their valuing of freedom, while Asians often tend to see the U.S. as overemphasizing the importance of freedom at the expense of consensus.
Moreover, “freedom,” as such, is a very broad term, and how we define it depends, well, often on our culture. For example, when U.S.-Americans use the term “freedom”, they are more likely referring to “individual rights” in opposition to something, while many European cultures, also significantly valuing freedom, more likely define freedom as “citizen rights” granted to do something. The U.S. as a nation was founded in revolution against all things European, specifically the English Crown, based on a radical Puritan notion of individual responsibility. Many European nations have governments and political systems today that were founded on revolutions for citizens’ rights, with the expectation that government must provide for its people, and with cultural and religious systems that bore no resemblance to the Puritan ethos of U.S.-American colonial pioneers.
Therefore, when U.S.-Americans speak of freedom, there is a strong element of revolutionary “freedom from …” to it: Freedom from tyranny, from excessive government, from a neighbor’s prying intrusions, etc. When Europeans speak of freedom, there is a strong element of “freedom to … ” inherent in it, built in to the national rights of its citizens: Freedom to retire in security, to expect decent education for the kids, to depend on a living wage. While freedom might be a universal striving for most people in most cultures, how we define freedom varies significantly. What’s more important to you—freedom from or freedom to—and what might that freedom actually be?
Paola, July 11th, 2012 on 2:28 pm
I find your point of view very interesting and stimulating.
For me freedom is both at an individual and at a fellow human being level. Freedom is my right as much as the right of others: I guess I feel for the words Liberte’ ~ Fraternite’ ~ Egualite’ strongly.
Freedom for me is right to dignity and opportunity, is right to be different, is right to express my uniqueness, is right to serenity. Freedom is also freedom from …. privacy intrusion, bullyism, discrimination, prejudism etc. I wish all this and more for me as much as I wish for others their ideals to be realized. I believe in living my own way and let others to live their own way.
In my 18 year experience of living abroad, I sometimes felt that only partial freedom was recognized to me because my being a foreigner. And true to my Italian origins ….. I have not kept sillent
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