Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What do you mean by freedom?

Happy [late] 4th of July.

Understanding the Meaning of Freedom:
"The Culture War today is once more about the question of what freedom is to be in America. But it is subtler. No slaves. Instead, ``detainees' in Guantanamo, held without due process; more than a million young African-Americans in US prisons, many held for nonviolent or victimless crimes; torture in Abu Ghraib and at secret destinations in Egypt and Syria; government spying on ordinary citizens. No slaves. Instead, illegal immigrants who want to come here to do back-breaking work for low pay and few rights. Remarkably, all this is in the name of ``freedom.' It is a right-wing conservative conception of freedom and it flies in the face of the freedoms declared by the Founding Fathers and expanded upon since.

...The mechanism of redefinition is cognitive. It is in our brains. We can't see it. Freedom is what cognitive scientists call an ``essentially contested concept," which means there will always be distinct and disputed versions of freedom that are inconsistent with each other. There is no single, universal, and objectively ``correct" meaning of freedom. There is a single, uncontested, but limited, core meaning of freedom that we all agree on. But that is the limit of consensus. Progressives and conservatives have different value systems that extend the uncontested core in opposite directions.

Progressives: There should be a freedom to marry. The government should not be able to decide who can marry whom.

Conservatives: ``Freely elected" government officials should determine who can marry whom. That's what a ``free country" means.

Progressives: Social security, the minimum wage, universal healthcare, college for all are ways to guarantee freedom from want.

Conservatives: Giving people things they haven't earned creates dependency and robs people of their freedom.

Progressives: Freedom of religion includes freedom from having a religion imposed on you.

Conservatives: Freedom to practice religion for fundamentalist evangelicals means spreading the good news of the truth of the gospel, which implies school prayer, ``under God" in the Pledge, the Ten Commandments in courthouses, and the teaching of intelligent design.

Progressives: The president's spying on citizens without a warrant is a violation of freedom.

Conservatives: The president is just doing his duty to preserve our freedom."

1 comment:

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