During the early part of the decade of the 1980’s, I wrote a series of articles entitled “Freedom and Government” for the Bahamian Review Magazine and subsequently for the Freeport News. As was the case, in the early part of the decade of the 1980s, this treatise is still relevant to the basic understanding of the relationship between government and the governed. This being the case makes this work relevant to this present decade and beyond. It is my fervent hope that this series of six articles will provide all, who read and study them with the tools that are necessary to protect their fundamental rights and freedoms which are entrusted to those whom we allow to govern us.
Freedom and Government Part I
Many persons only think of government and its relevance to their lives at election time. This is dangerous. Dangerous because those who are given the mandate to govern us feel that they can make empty promises at election time and not keep them because they will not need us until election time comes around again. It is for exactly this reason that the electorate must be vigilant and not be lulled into a false sense of security.
When election fever is in the air, it is evidenced by the fact that:the Government, political parties and the churches are encouraging all eligible citizens to register to vote;
- the Boundaries Commission is usually appointed;
- major political parties hold their national conventions;
- political slogans are chosen by these political parties;
- predictions of when the elections will be called are made by the political pundits and prognosticators;
- those who would be politicians express their interests in offering themselves as candidates for either of the major political parties or as independents;
- political rallies are held;
- candidates are prematurely ratified for some constituencies;
- the deadline for termination of the voter’s register is determined;
- assassination of character begins to raise its ugly head.
With all of these potent signals being sent to the electorate regarding the imminent electoral vote, polarization is inevitable.
As election time draws near, it is important and imperative that the Bahamian electorate is not polarized to the extent that they become entrenched in their division. The German philosopher Hegel though that polarization and its eventual resolution explained everything: Thesis, antithesis and synthesis. One whimsical commentator holds that polarization explains human existence: Good versus evil, life versus death, east versus west, Democrat versus Republican, F.N.M. versus P.L.P., black versus white, female versus male and rich versus poor etc. etc. It is unfortunate that political polarization has become a feature of the Bahamian way of life. It is this writer’s hope that Bahamians can go counter-culture with respect to political polarization and focus on the issues and what freedom and government are really all about; so that they can create a better Bahamas for their children and generations of Bahamians yet unborn.
I do hope that the readers of this treatise find it informative and interesting. It would be appropriate to note that the term government as used in these series of articles is in no way a reference to any government past, present or to be, local or foreign.
“We shall probably all agree that freedom rightly understood is the greatest of blessing…” ~ T.H. Greene in his essay: Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract.
The decade of the 1980s and 1990s will go down in the annals of history as red letter decades because it was during these decades that the people of Haiti, the Philippines, South Africa, the former Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic, East Germany and Eastern Europe chose freedom over dictatorship, thus proving that they understood that freedom is indeed the “greatest of blessing.” They have also learned that freedom, true freedom comes with a price that is not cheap. Many, of the citizens of these countries, have paid the ultimate price for freedom because they have paid with their lives! Elmer Davis who lived between 1890 and 1958 in his book “But We Were Born Free” (1954) wrote:
“With a great price our ancestors obtained this freedom, but we were born free….But that freedom can be retained only by the eternal vigilance which has always been its price.”
It is now generally accepted fact that, the people of Haiti, the Philippines, South Africa, the former Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic, East Germany, and Easter Europe and freedom loving people everywhere act in response to their convictions and beliefs. It is also safe to assume, that if these convictions and beliefs, are based on false ideas and myths. Their actions will be void of substance and generally speaking, not in their best interest.
When people act, that is, if they are rational and reasonable, they should be better off after their action than before. This principle of human action is universal. However, it is sad to note that daily, hundreds of thousands of people act contrary to their own best interests. But, they, by their acts, demand the same of their government. This is so because they are acting in response to convictions and beliefs that are based on false ideas and myths. These actions along with those of Government cause their conditions to be unsatisfactory and eventually deteriorate.
It is obvious to the casual observer, as well as the students of human behaviour, that something must be done to correct this situation. One solution to this dilemma is to replace false ideas and myths with truth!!! The sixty-four million dollar question is: what is truth? According to Kenneth W. Ryker, Academic Dean of Norwood Institute of Texas:
“Truth is that which is self-evident and that which proceeds logically out of the self-evident. Truth is rightness: it is correct, genuine, based on right principles. Truth is natural and most important of all; truth is its own witness.”
One cannot practice a lie and hope through it to bring truth to light. It is obvious that to reach the truth, one must start with the truth. It should be obvious by now, that in order for people to appreciate freedom, there must be an appreciation for facts and most importantly truth. The eminent Professor Ludwig Von Mises said:
“The essential characteristic of Western civilization that distinguishes it from the arrested and petrified civilizations of the East was and is its concerns for freedom from the state.”
We. in the Western would, have fought for our freedom, because freedom provides us with the opportunity to achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves. It would be safe to say, however, that the fore-mentioned statement is true only in theory. There are some people in the western world who do not enjoy complete freedom to achieve the goals they set for themselves – this is so even in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas!!!
Our rights and freedoms are supposed to be protected by our constitution. However, we must not be lulled into a false sense of security because when all is said and done, freedom lives in the hearts of men and women: If this freedom is allowed to lay dormant or die in the heart, no constitution, no law, no court can do much to help it!!! Freedom is never free and therefore, it must not be taken lightly. The freedom we enjoy today was gained through sacrifice and will only be maintained through continued sacrifice and vigilance. Freedom – our freedom can be lost, just as surely, just as completely and just as permanently – victimization by victimization, and regulation by regulation. It is well to remember that the price of freedom is not only sacrifice and eternal vigilance but unceasing work.
Freedom must be struggled for, achieved and jealously guarded even in the homes of its friends. The maintenance of freedom has to be fought for everyday afresh, lest the lazy acceptance of some particular imposition give a toehold to some party that will end up imposing a general tyranny. It must be remembered that some of the greatest tragedies in history tell of the remorse of those people who did not realize the value of human freedom and personal liberty until these rights had been snatched away or stealthily removed: then it was too late to defend them. They were people who shrugged their shoulders and were silent in the face of injustice to their neighbours in the next house, the next country or another continent. Martin Niemoeller underscores this point very well when he said:
“In Germany, they came first for the Communist, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionist, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Bahamians must make a concerted effort to preserve the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity. This can be achieved only if there is a new birth of freedom in the hearts and minds of each and every Bahamian.
There is no absolute solution to this problem. The solution, however, may lie in new, social, cultural, economic and political leadership. The solution may possibly take the form of a great “crusade for freedom” under new leadership as mentioned. The solution may also lie in producing a new philosophy of freedom which can be presented in a new, concise, easily understood form. These are all possibilities – maybe the real solution is blowing in the wind.
T.H. Green in is essay: “Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract said:
“We shall probably all agree that freedom, rightly understood, is the greatest of blessings….”
I implore my fellow Bahamians to strike a blow for freedom – the greatest of all blessings!