The Audacity to Blog – My blog is one this month!

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To celebrate my blog being “one” (I deleted my first attempts) today I will write about freedom

I was huffing and puffing my way up a hill on an organised walk, when suddenly a young boy cut gracefully across the path. He took the hill with ease to hide away in a rock formation “lookout”. That looked like freedom to me; as did the sound of children’s voices as they played out. Sadly, for some children the freedom to play is no longer an option.

Is it possible to be “free” once we have left our childhood behind? Does freedom begin to decline with the onset of homework deadlines and other responsibilities? I did disagree with my children being churned through the SATs testing system whilst in primary school. Some would say that such testing helps the children to achieve their “potential”. Perhaps children have other potential that can be harmed by too much pressure and testing. On the other hand, science and testing achieve many things and perhaps liberate some people to live a fuller life. Yet in our testing, knowing and analysing are we not taking away autonomy and privacy from the individual? Of all the novels that I ever studied, George Orwell’s “1984” is the one that seems to speak the most truth to me, and much more so now than in 1984.

Many years ago, books about people who managed to survive imprisonment fascinated me. Such books as: “One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich” (Solzhenitsyn), Midnight Express (Billy Hayes) and Audacity to Believe (Sheila Cassidy). It seemed to me one of the noblest things a human being was capable of was to resist being degraded by their captors; remaining free not broken within their own mind.

Recently, I’ve read “La Prisonnier” by Malika Oufkir (and Michele Fitoussi) it tells the true story of how a whole family, the youngest three years old, were imprisoned for the whole of their youth by the King of Morocco. This punishment occurred after their father, General Oufkir, was involved in a plan to assassinate the King. Detentions such as this, a large power taking vengeance on the weak, seem clear cut and easy to condemn. Yet, are any of us free from our own little dictators?

How often does someone impose their judgement upon their family and friends? OK, we might not physically imprison our friend when they do something that we have judged them for, but we can certainly go a long way to punish them through estrangement. How many times have we imposed our “way” on someone else, though they protest they are miserable, because we feel that our judgement is “right”? Blake’s poem “The Clod and The Pebble” expresses this well:

“Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to Its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite”

Oufkir makes a point in the book that, although she had been deprived of all the normal experiences of a young woman, when finally released she found the pettiness of the daily lives of her friends a wasteland. Is living and freedom really to be measured by experiencing things such as travel, driving, parties, and collecting supermarket “points”, or is to be measured by being in control of one’s own mind. Hopefully one can find some kind of balance.

Going back to my image of the youngster running free in nature, is it possible for him to remain free once he leaves behind his childhood? Or is it just that there are many different kinds of freedom?

– La Prisonniere, by Malika Oufkir & Michele Fitoussi
– Audacity to Believe, Sheila Cassidy
– Midnight Express, Billy Hayes