Fighting for Liberty Worldwide
I have long been of the opinion that the struggle for freedom, just like all things not learnt naturally, needs its role-models and its teachers.
In the past, despite the reality of America never really being an egalitarian “Land of the Free”, the mere existence of America being a country that seemed to possess a functional democratic system, the mere existence of a country that seemed to willing to play the role of a moral leader, to address inequalities and suffering, to condemn forms of the mighty bullying the weak — the possibility of such an America was already hope enough for people like me to believe that a better system out there existed, and could exist. This was a naive dream I took for granted, that a country could flourish without effort, that the beautiful label of ‘democracy’ could remain untarnished forever. I simply believed this to be a doubtless truth: every human surely must desire the ability to be able to determine their own fate and so, would support the existence of such a system.
Little did I know just how unstable the system of democracy was, and how quickly such a beautiful ideal could be turned into protective shields for those who would exploit and hurt to hide behind. I wish I had understood sooner how fiercely we must all now band together to reclaim liberty, and how much we must fight against tyranny on an everyday basis despite our fears, and without respite.
Hong Kong has been in a state of protest for almost one year now, and I dare say that the normalization of our protests have had a ripple-effect on the world stage, despite how ineffective our protests in our city may have honestly seemed to be.
From Hong Kong, to Catalonia, to Venezuela, to now Minneapolis and cities across the States — the common thread, no matter the success or tragedy throughout all of these states has been that we have been protesting for our liberty. Our freedom, not as defined by others, but as defined by ourselves, by our hearts, by our understandings of not what the world is, but what the world should be. I dare not speak for other cities, but for Hong Kong, the primary concern that we have is that promises, when made, should be kept. Loyalty too, is earned — it is not bred.
John Locke established this in his treatises of Government, arguing against the concept that “men are not born free”, pushing against the idea that one’s existence was always subject to a greater power, and that this was the natural state of man.
And while we have lived in a world for so long in which the idea of ‘all of mankind is born free’, engrained within us, it is so easy to forget that for centuries, monarchs, and emperors and empresses reigned over the population. It is easy to forget that with the opium of the phrase that we all equally have the right to possess freedom, that freedom is not equal. It must be fought for.
In what is continuing to be a horrendous year of quarantine, lockdown and protests, I find myself scouring older books because I am hoping that somehow, I can pillage from great minds in the past ideas that can solve our answers today. I am hoping that, by understanding what ‘government’ is, by understanding what ‘social contracts’ are, that I can begin to understand what has been gained over the past few decades, and more importantly, what has been lost.
The phrases and battles of, democracy and free-market capitalism against socialism and state-controlled communism, between ‘fake news’ and necessity of the fourth estate have become so ubiquitous in conversation that all meaning is lost. We must reclaim the knowledge of what these systems are, what they promote, what dangers they contain, and identify at which stage we find ourselves.
Are corporations becoming far too powerful, and is this a fault of capitalism? Is the two-party system in the States, or the Tories against Labour the natural result for democracy, as we band together in our tribes in order to win the battles we wish to win, or, to ‘lose least’?
Is all of this unnecessary? Do we need to learn Rousseau, Locke, learn about the enlightenment, the French Revolution, the enlightenment, about the Cold War, do we need to learn about any of this at all?
I think we do. And I don’t mean it in a way to flex education on anyone or to claim some sort of elite status because of my ability to name names — I don’t understand half of what’s going on in these texts, and everyday I have conversations with my wife who is far brighter than me, more widely read, and with a more critical mind than me.
But knowing a little bit of history, even if from the perspective of a layman (me) trying to piece together history and philosophy and contemporary thought, I believe that will be useful.
I think that being angry and passionate about things is important, but this passion rises and falls, it numbs the pain that one by satiating it with action. But these actions must be followed with real learning and real healing, or if not, being angry will just be the same as taking a pill, soothing a wound with balms, but never lying down to rest, to learn, to heal. We can’t just pop pills of passion and anger and go to sleep. We must rehabilitate ourselves, train ourselves to be better tomorrow once that pill wears off, so these injuries don’t return. We must progress. Through knowledge and learning, some of this progress can be made.
So, today I want to ask:
Are They Kings? And are we Free?
China has recently pushed for a National Security Law, something that has been missing from Hong Kong’s Basic Law for a while. While that part of the law (Article 23) has existed since the Basic Law was written, the specifics of it have never been fleshed out.
While National Security Laws are important for any state to possess, the issue that has continually emerged in Hong Kong, is the question of what it means to be both a city as a ‘Special Administrative Region’ with a ‘high degree of autonomy’, and to have ‘National’ security laws which would be in the interest of China. By possessing these laws, would Hong Kong be losing some of its autonomy?
At this point, legal issues start to give way to more of a question of patriotism and loyalty. Since Hong Kong is part of China, there should be no question about these National Security Laws — if the people of Hong Kong love the country. And therein lies the problem. Love for China at the moment is synonymous with love for the ruling, dominant Party. It becomes acceptance of censorship, of corrupt officials, religious silencing, discrimination, and the allowance of history to be re-written at any time.
This is where Rousseau (The Social Contract, 1762) and Locke (The First Treatise of Government, 1689) come in. Locke believes that people are born free. Rousseau also believes this, and building off of this, writes of the notion that, if people are born free and not into slavery, then they must have choice to determine elements of their governance themselves.
This is where the China and the CCP (Communist Party of China) are not in explicit, but implicit disagreement. By assuming loyalty to the country and disagreement to be disloyalty, the CCP set themselves up as kings, and all of its citizens, slaves. To accept that as the truth and to not resist their treatment of the Uighurs, the censoring of Tiananmen Square, the destruction of Churches, the political pressuring of China on Taiwan and the South China Sea, on Tibet and now Hong Kong, would be to submit to a tyrannical government. We would be submitting to the notion that we are not free — the CCP are kings, and our lives are theirs.
Regardless of whether or not Rousseau and Locke are relevant to China post-Cultural Revolution, humanity is humanity, and the form that society has taken on has led to an interaction between a form of government and its people. Ultimately, the question at the heart of this debate returns to the same debate regardless of history and culture:
Is the government king? Are its citizens free?
If no to the former and yes to the latter, then real choice must exist. Then the will of the people must be heard, and those deciding the fate of others should have their fates determined by the people choosing to elect or re-elect them to, or to keep them from, office.
Those in charge are not by default, morally good, or necessarily looking out for its people, just as parents are not automatically good parents. At a certain coming of age, children are allowed to determine for themselves if they are obliged, grateful or loyal to their parents, or if they want to break free, and to what degree.
That is the ability of the freeperson, and for any form of government that is not trying to establish themselves as Kings, they must learn to accept that they are not adults dealing with disobedient children, but that they are adults who have every right to determine and affect their own fate.
That all being said, this responsibility to freedom bears its own responsibilities, beyond a simple vote. It requires knowledge and not a physical arming of the people, but the equipping of one’s own mind. Those in power within the system will never give up that power easily. They will manipulate and turn its people against each other, convince people to fall into lethargy and apathy, and to rise up only when their own personal comforts are at stake.
Most importantly, out of all responsibilities, this requires the empathy of the individual to understand that their freedom is also their neighbours’ freedom. To not fall into the trap of desiring and voting only for ones’ self interest, but to understand that a democracy ignores the plight of the least powerful will continue to oppress the least powerful, despite how those, by definition, in the minority of power are born just as free as everybody else is.
If a citizen wishes to enjoy their own freedom, they must fight for the freedom of others too. If one is free, the others too must be. Therefore this fight is worldwide, no matter where you live, no matter what system. Because we are free, we must guard freedom bravely, unselfishly, and vigilantly.
(This is today’s write-up. There are too many parts. I hope to write a little more about the importance of education and why an educated public is a danger to those in power. After that, I want to write about the importance of the fourth-estate and how it has been harmed by the phrase ‘fake news’ as used by DT. I might also talk about the growing danger of corporations and how the ‘yellow economy’ from Hong Kong could serve as a model going into the future’)