Few words are more cherished than freedom or liberty. Due to divergent definitions and perceptions of the term, freedom is both pursued properly and abused wantonly around the world, making it one of the most controversial words.
In a narrow sense, the possession of personal physical freedom constitutes the prerequisite for a normal life. Being bedbound or home-bound with disabilities or illnesses strips the individual of freedom of movement, greatly affecting his or her life.
Inadequate infrastructure including underdeveloped transportation and communication limits the freedom of the members of a community, consequently retarding its development. Tens of millions of people living in areas cut off by high mountains, vast deserts or remote distances from civilization miss opportunities to advance with the times simply because of the lack of their freedom to embrace civilization.
If physical freedom is essential for human existence and development, then spiritual freedom is necessary for human dignity and enlightenment.
Slaves did not have personal freedom, so they were virtually walking tools. In tyrant-ruled or lawless societies, civil freedom was nonexistent or limited, so their destiny was at the mercy of the ruler or the conqueror. Economic and social progress were stifled in freedom-deprived societies.
That’s why the advocacy of and fight for freedom is hailed and encouraged around the world. The dominant Western doctrines have further materialized the abstract idea into concrete concepts including the freedoms of speech, association, press and the like.
Like such lofty ideals as equality and human dignity, however, spiritual freedoms have never been without mixed definitions and consequences.
Throughout history, endeavors have never ceased to seek equality and human dignity. During the Qing Dynasty of China, a group of peasants rose in rebellion against the Imperial rule and announced the founding of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-1864). Years later in 1871, the earliest communists or anarchists, as referred to by different scholars, set up the Paris Commune. Their common goal was to create a world without exploitation or suppression, but they were both short-lived with the former lasting for a little over a decade and the latter only two months. Endless social experiments have been conducted afterwards until present, including those in the Soviet Union and China. It has dawned on humanity that the ideals of equality and dignity remain as remote as they were hundreds years ago, if not further away.
The same is true of liberty. Instead of being sought and employed judiciously, it is increasingly abused. Justice-seekers are crying for it and vandals and terrorists are shouting it, too. Some rascals struggle for their own “freedom” at the expense of that of others.
Daryl Morey, general manager of the U.S. basketball team Houston Rockets, claimed in his tweet on Oct. 4 to “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The act enraged millions of Chinese including the team’s fans, for he chose to hurt Chinese fans who helped NBA business prosper in China by supporting Hong Kong terrorists. So far neither Morey nor Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has made an apology, citing freedom of speech. Americans are demonstrating hypocrisy with their double-standard “free speech.”
In Hong Kong, abuse of freedom has gone beyond comprehension. Under the pretext of fighting for freedom, black-clad, masked terrorists are committing horrendous crimes barely seen in modern history. They are running amuck throughout the city, storming into legislative buildings, besieging and burning police stations and vehicles, beating and stabbing police officers, occupying the airport and disrupting its operations, smashing and burning subway stations, shops and offices, and threatening and attacking individuals or organizations that oppose their violence. Hong Kong has descended into a hell of anarchy and terror.
Ironically, when violent unrest of the same nature occurs in some European countries including Spain, France and Britain, freedom advocates in the U.S. and Europe become blind and dumb to the truth. Shamelessly, they call Hong Kong terrorists freedom fighters while the same mobs in Europe terrorists.
Oh liberty, what crimes have been committed in thy name! Western hypocrites must be reminded: you will reap what you sow!
(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)