I’m disturbed at how a small minority (including some very powerful and wealthy corporate interests) are using the word ‘freedom’ to create intellectual, cultural and social chaos;  playing on natural fears and frustrations to turn people against both health and environmental advice and regulation. Much of their rhetoric is actually a call for individuals to ignore the common good. Yet all of us—all beings—are connected. No-one can be free alone.

Perhaps we need to fight for this most important of concepts;  become articulate about the discipline required to  maintaining our delicate gift of freedom. We need to protect it from those who would corrupt it and even weaponise it to undermine our shared wellbeing.

So I’ve done a thought experiment: What would a ‘Declaration of Shared Freedom’ look like? (I haven’t been able to find any, in the sense that I mean it here). Could we develop  a statement of our shared understanding of freedom in 2022; a statement that might clarify our dialogue around freedom?

I’ve made an attempt which you can read below (This is the raw text. Get back to me if you’d like a better formatted version.) I’d LOVE to receive your response to this (via comments or email) and, even better, your  ideas for enhancing it.

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DECLARATION OF SHARED FREEDOM

Freedom is a beautiful gift of democracy. But it is fragile, and needs to be nurtured and guarded. If it comes to mean, merely, freedom from constraint, it will lead to chaos.  True freedom gives us the opportunity and the responsibility to optimise the wellbeing of ourselves and those around us – be they loved ones or strangers.

Freedom requires discipline, justice, clarity and care—from individuals, communities and governments. 

………

In order to secure and sustain our individual and shared freedom we declare, together, that:

  1. The human spirit is best nourished when people are free;

and

2. We can only be free when we are adequately protected from the harmful choices of others

and so…

3. in exercising our freedom, we have a shared responsibility to the wellbeing of all.

We recognise that freedom, if it is to survive and flourish, requires personal and corporate discipline to counter the natural (and often productive) human tendency towards self-interest.

And so…

4. To optimise collective wellbeing we, collectively, will design, modify, agree and abide by guiding principles (including rules and regulations) in the interests of the common good.  We elect governments to coordinate that work, and call on them to do it collaboratively equitably, transparently and responsibly.

These guiding principles will include the following:

5. Freedom of action cannot take precedence over the safety or wellbeing of others,

6. The ‘free’ choices of an individual or corporation (no matter how wealthy) cannot take precedence over collective wellbeing.

7. The right to free (public) speech must be protected with care. It does not include the right to:

  • lie, or to generate or share false information;
  • ridicule, demean or exclude others, based on their identity, particularly those belonging to minority groups that have commonly experienced exclusion or alienation.

………

8. As far as possible each person will be free to be and express who they are, and who they identify themselves to be, (within guiding principles 5 – 7)  

and

9. No-one will control the identity of another, or restrict their rights or freedoms based on that identity.

………

Together, we will strive for true, shared freedom, so that the human spirit can flourish – individually and together.