What exactly is freedom today and how does it affect us? The Oxford English Dictionary defines freedom as “The state of being able to act without hindrance or restraint, liberty of action” (524). More often than not, people do not take the time to realize all of the freedoms in existence around the world today. Bronislaw Malinowski states that “Freedom is the most dynamic, essential, and general factor in the problems of to-day” (22). Take a moment and realize the importance of freedom based upon the many struggles today and in the past for this ideal. Many major campaigns, wars, and conflicts have been driven by the conquest for freedom. The definition of freedom can be explained best using the literary concepts of description, exemplification, and negation.
Freedom is a very complicated word to define in any one way. Sometimes the ideal is thought of as “the driving force of the cultural process”. It presents many challenges in our direction (22). The concept of freedom has been fought for by many groups of people including Americans and is an ideal that is very dear to many people’s hearts. The basic word “freedom” is appealing to most cultures emotionally and is used very often in political speech (23). It can be interpreted various ways because there are so many freedoms that are available to discuss and consult. If people were not allowed basic freedoms, such as freedom of speech, the world would be a drastically different place to live in. Malinowski wrote, “Freedom is a symbol which stands for a sublime and powerful ideal. The same symbol, however, may become a dangerous weapon in the hands of the enemies of freedom” (24). Indeed, freedom is quite powerful and when the wrong person possesses the power, it can become very limiting upon society’s basic freedoms.
Bronislaw Malinowski wrote, “Freedom can be defined as the conditions necessary and sufficient for the formation of a purpose, its translation into effective action through organized cultural instrumentalities, and the full enjoyment of the results of such activity” (25). It is true that many prerequisites must be met to get a freedom established. Freedom has never come easily and most likely never will for anyone or any place. Many people have to join and fight to obtain the freedom required. In the past, freedom has been thought of as “a fighting word”. In today’s society, it is considered more of “an honorific word”. People with great freedom in their lives are always proud and delighted at the achievement. Many countries have large demands for more freedom, but have not been capable of acquiring it. “Whether we turn to Japan or Ceylon, to West Germany, Latin America, or the new African states, we find discussion ragingsometimes not confined to wordsover the nature, meaning, implications, limits, and justifications of freedom” (Hook 2).
There are certain concepts that can be compared to freedom, but are not the same in true meaning. The relationship between freedom and wisdom could be compared quite easily (13). While wisdom is related more to intelligence, freedom is related to independence and sovereignty. Sidney Hook states that “All choice of freedoms commits us ultimately to an ethical position” (13). This is stating that once a group of people has a certain freedom declared to them, they then have a standing position about the issue. Across the world, many people desire to have all freedom possible. It is not reasonable to ask for the freedom to do anything that is wanted, because it is impossible to have all freedoms (10). If all freedoms were granted worldwide, civilization would eventually turn into chaos.
Freedom is based upon culture and daily expectations. People cannot live without any type of freedom at all. The reason freedom is sought after so often is that not being free can be a painful and unpleasant experience. Look back at the days of slavery in the United States. Although this is something that everyone would like to forget about, freedom was fought for among our own culture. This is definitely a defining point of freedom. In the end, the definition of freedom boils down to being able to act with liberty and without hindrance to a certain action (OED). We should all have our own definition of freedom that comes from our heart based upon our cultures.
“Freedom.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.
Hook, Sidney. The Paradoxes of Freedom. Berkeley: University of California Press,
Malinowski, Bronislaw. Freedom and Civilization. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1944.