North America and Western Europe have often been called the Free World, with the American President usually self-appointed as the Leader of the Free World. The distinction can only be understood in terms of the Second World War and the Cold War era when these countries were compared with communist regimes where democracy and freedom were noticeably less on the agenda. So are we living in a Free World, or are we simply living in a world more free than certain others?
It was easy 50 years ago to define the free world; it is not so easy now. It is not enough to say that we are free just because others have it worse than us, as it would not be fair to say we are living in rich countries because Africa is starving and we're not. I'm starving, I've always been starving, and yet, I've always lived in the so called free world, and oh, by the way, I never felt free, either.
With more rules and regulations coming into play every day by many governments, with the advent of new terrorism laws and patriot acts, I can see that collective freedom has taken a beating, and that the little freedom we already had has just gone up in smoke.
Still, this was not freedom in my mind because I can only define freedom from my own small frame of reference. Every citizen is actually free, taken individually, but not as a nation. So were we free before those terrorism laws?
I feel that any kind of small freedom you might wish to take has a high price attached to it. And you would be right to wonder if it is worth exercising your right to freedom, with such consequences happening every time you choose to do so. This can be better understood when assessing what goes on in our daily life.
So, until you are at least 16, perhaps 18, sometimes 21, you are not free by any means, you have to do what you are told by a string of different authorities which will insure that you cannot deviate even slightly from the path they will lay out for you.
By the time you are old enough to free yourself from your parents and other authorities, let's see how free you really are. You have to work, and since those previous authorities would have guided you for nearly 20 years, you will usually be trapped in working in a certain field depending on what you studied.
You could always decide not to work, but then you cannot simply decide to find a bit of green somewhere and erect your little cabin there to live. That bit of green will need to be purchased, taxes and other bills will need to be paid, and so you are not free to do as you wish, you have to work or receive some sort of government benefit. In which case you will not be free at all and will once again have to live where you are told and do whatever else they order you, or else you won't get your benefit.
When you have a job, how free are you? I've already said so, and there is not much else I could add, being chained to a job is as good as being in prison. You again have to do what you are told by your boss or manager, and if you don't, you will quickly realize how little freedom you really have. You are free to change jobs, find a new employer, you might then be a little bit more free, but probably not by much.
Then you could always start your own business, be your own boss, you are free to do so, if you have the money, usually you don't. And then you will understand that this is hard work, with little freedom, as if you had a boss. Because one way or another, you always have to answer to someone else, be it creditors, banks, governments and tax people. Not getting up one day cannot become a normal occurrence, you will be married to your business and it might be more demanding than a hysterical partner or a control freak manager.
Which brings freedom on a personal and social level. You are usually not free to sleep around, you are required to marry and have kids, and after that, any sort of freedom you might take could lead to disastrous consequences. Being in a relationship is like the end of your last freedom. You need to report back on everything you do, spend or decide, and it is never easy. If you have children, you might as well consider you have lost all your freedom, because then you have, in the eyes of the law, a whole book of responsibilities and obligations.
Though you will be able to enjoy holidays abroad once in a while, if you work hard enough to save money to do so, and then again, many places will require visas and other form of bureaucracy. Aliens from outer space witnessing such a state of affairs might be puzzled by our lack of freedom to roam the world and the chance to live wherever we want on this small planet of ours.
And finally, perhaps the most important freedom of all, the one to say what we feel inside, the freedom of speech. We are all told that it is in the Constitution, but really, we have no such freedom. Criticising the American President in recent years has proven so. Anyone who decided to say that going to war with the Middle-East was a bad idea, has been ostracized by everyone else and their career standing in shambles right after, with no more credibility than a child who has not witnessed anything in his life and doesn't know what he is talking about.