Monday, December 10, 2012

Can There Be Too Much Freedom?

This is a reprise of a post originally published in 2009.  But given my last two posts, one concerning a Chinese masturbation contest and another, porn stars raising money for AIDS by selling people touching rights, again raises the question, is there such a thing as too much freedom?

There was a time in my life when I was totally pro-liberation and my attitude was that freedom of speech was unassailable and if you don't like what you see, don't look at it.  I believed that your freedom to swing your arms ended at the tip of my nose and that anything short of that was OK.  However, from the vantage point of being a few decades older, I now realize that I was wrong.

I still strongly believe that anything done by consenting adults behind closed doors is nobody's business but theirs and that all drugs should be legal and you, as an individual, should be responsible for your actions.  But as I look back over the years and see what the "freedom" movement of the 60's has wrought on society and our culture I have come to conclude that there is, indeed, such thing as too much freedom.  Civilization needs a code of conduct, a code of acceptable behavior if we, as a civilization, are going to advance.

The individual freedom creedo of the 60's turned into the "me" generation which spawned the Age of Entitlement and the nearly complete destruction of public mores and acceptable standards of public behavior.  The result is a society in disarray.  A society in a stand-off with itself, each proclaiming their rights, neither giving an inch to the other.  This is the path to anarchy and oligarchy.   The science fiction vision of a futuristic America populated by the unwashed masses, ruled by the few from their gleaming towers is, indeed, coming to pass.  A Tale of Two Cities and Le Miserables all over again.

Is this what we want?  I don't think so.

Values that promote respect for each other, that protect the family, that appeal to the highest and best in us, are essential to an organized, advanced society.  We the public have a right, indeed, an obligation, to censor those who respect nothing but their own lust and greed.  And we, likewise, have an obligation to support those who speak up for such standards whether or not we totally agree with their positions on other issues.  We all have an innate sense of right and wrong, good and bad, and we can reach a general consensus and make it the law of the land.  The founding fathers would totally approve.

Again, so as not to be misunderstood, what you do in private is your business so long as no one is injured by your actions.  But when you make your business public, it is no longer your business, it's our business.

The original 2009 post:

These images are from a NY Times article about billboards around the city and their effect, pro or con, on public sensibilities. Every reader was asked to vote on which was best or worse. Have we become a decadent society? Does the over-saturation of such images (like the word 'fuck') desensitize us to the point that we simply tune them out? Or do they turn you on and make you want to buy this product? My question is this, have we gone too far? And if so, what can be done about it?



  1. Would you agree that the difficulty comes when governments or religions decree how "free" we can be? And I honestly think that the US is still a puritan society - marketers of garbage like the Calvin Klein ads are really no more than naughty adolescents pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, and in no way represent the whole of society. Maybe we humans will one day evolve, and grow a "common sense" gene so that there really is a common good. In the meantime, I don't want an officially sanctioned censor keeping an eye on things.

    (PS - The editor in me suggests that you correct "moray" to "more" in paragraph 4. You'd better do it before JJ gets here.)

  2. Have to disagree with you on this Intelli. Yes, government does have to decree how "free" we can be. Who else will? The church? It's our job to be sure government does what it is supposed to do and no more. A good example are drug laws. We all know that the punishment is worse than the crime, and because of that, we lose respect for the law. Not just drug laws, but all laws. And with that, respect for any authority and each other. I see it played out everyday in hundreds of ways. I believe the great majority of us share a common morality. We must somehow figure out a way to define and assert it.

    Thanks for the editing tip.

    1. I guess my main objection, Mr. C, is when government wants to legislate morality. That's usually proven to be a pretty bad idea. I wasn't advocating for a lawless society, in spite of the fact that there are a lot of powerful people who hold themselves to be above the law....

    2. I understand. I believe we're on the same page. I'm one of those persons who can see a problem but who doesn't know the solution.

  3. The problem with the whole "if you don't like it, don't look at it" approach is that when the images/behaviors are public, I can't avoid it even if I want to. If, for instance, someone has a poster of a scantily clad woman up in their office, is that freedom of expression or a hostile work environment for women. I say the latter. And we all do indeed get desensitized to it, and it demeans us all. It promotes the idea that women are nothing more than sexual objects. Quite honestly, I don't even like to see it on a blog. I wouldn't want to censor it, but I feel assaulted, and have stopped visiting more than one blog when it become clear that the person is going to continue to post pictures that I consider demeaning to women. And yes, that includes the last post. My impression is that that sort of photo isn't the norm here, but if it were, I'd quietly disappear. So when it comes to what is on view in public, is my right to expect civility and a freedom from degrading images superceded by someone else's wish to see them? Should children be subjected to those billboards? Why can't we, as a society, demand better public behavior?

    And just as an aside, porn stars/prostitutes/strippers often are the products of childhood sexual abuse and/or are basically indentured servants forced into those jobs and held hostage by their pimps or managers. Makes the whole enterprise seem a lot less like "freedom" doesn't it?

    1. Right on Secret Agent. As I hope you have seen, my purpose here is to investigate anything that crosses my path, some of it very distasteful, most not. What is the term... All things considered?

  4. What are they selling?? It reminds me of a woman at Macy's. She was in the next ailse from me, cussing, swearing yelling on her cell phone. I decided I shouldn't have to listen to this, so I went over to talk to her and was SHOCKD to see she had 2 young children listening to their mother go off like this.
    We talked. She apologized. I heard about her in-laws and her sisters no-good ex-husband, and a bunch of relaives who sound like moonshiners. She seemed calmer. For those kids' sake, I hope so. What freedoms do we have???? I suppose the anser is: A LOT if you live by yourself on top of Mt. McKinley, the more people you're around, the less personal liberties you can expect.
    (Some of our nude statues in town get dressed. I think it's rather charming when they're sporting holiday wear over their ta-tas and tu-tus.

  5. I just reread my answer, I guess I'd better go find my glasses. My typing looks like I was hanging out with the moonshiners. Sorry.

    1. To me, nudity isn't offensive, in fact, mostly beautiful (unless it's an ugly old fart lke me). It's when it's used to motivate base instincts, particularly for commercial purposes in public, that I begin to draw the line. I don't care if strip clubs have all-out dog and pony shows so long as they are not graphically advertised in public.

  6. I understand that you are talking about common spaces and what happens within them. Our generation, those born between 1944 and 1964 are one fucked up generation. Been pointing it out for years, but you older ones of that generation led the charge, then took up the boardroom chairs in not only Wall Street towers but also the glass and steel churches on Madison Avenue. So I look at freedom and the general lack of respect and division in American culture and who do I point the finger at...myself, my older and younger brethren of the baby boom generation who found out they could make money being Dead heads and parrot heads and they started to change the capitalist system from one of seniority where you learned what ethics are and experience to just cut that throat in line ahead of you and step over the body.

    Too late to put the curses back in the box Pandora. We are by far the majority generation on the planet now and we are nearing retirement are not worried about social morals, hell no we are worried about how we will retire because our brothers and sisters of our generation have spent half their lives stealing on a regular basis,and in every quasi legal way the money us poorer not as brilliant working schlubs who went to work every day to make someone else wealthy with promises of retirement that would allow us the much deserved rest we in America gave up, now find that those promises were just bullshit lies.

    Remember the bottom 50% hold only 5% of the wealth in America, there is no freedom in that. Now we find that even though we desperately are tired and do not want to work anymore we have to or we will not be able to finish paying off the debts our fellow once peace, love dope and hari Krishna men convinced us was our right to run up. "Freedom is consumerism." find me a man who worked forty years in a non union shop breaking his back to put food on the table and I will point out a man who doesn't care about freedom because he knows that he will never be free to enjoy his golden years, he will die in the shop.

    1. You want me to quit saying fuck in public because you think it crude or obscene, I want you to feed the hungry because that is what is truly crude and obscene in America, not words. A child for the love of God in a country that if nothing else could supply MRE's to ever family in America---won't. Why? because there is no profit in it, they would have to make them at cost. We could feed everyone rich and poor healthily but we won't because you are free to starve because you cannot find a job because your black and have prison record that won't ever stop following you.

      You want to go back to the pre-60's generation? Carleton you know your history as well as I do--nothing has changed. would you prefer that a woman stay silent about a date rape or a rape or a wife being beaten daily just stay inside until the bruises go away? Or a pregnant teen just be sent away or handed a coat hanger? We did not grow up free...that is a Madison Avenue dream foisted on half the republic. You think that today's kids are getting the wrong message? Better get to know a few of them, just because they put silver dollar sized holes in their earlobes and tattoo every available inch of skin most of the ones I know have true morality based not on some pipe dream of a communal nirvana. They know what they want freedom to mean to them and "it ain't nothing left to lose." It is their civil rights returned to them and a dialog among the peoples of nations.

      No and you admitted it, we fucked up, all of us no matter what side of the protest one was on. Because we believed that we had honorable people leading this country...quite the come down to find out the last honorable man to be in the White House was Carter and the last honorable Senator died and on the SCOTUS hell honor and justice and freedom are whatever they say it is and has nothing to do with that ragpaper constitution.

      Want morality to come back then get rid of the liars and thieves and put them in prison and put more stringent conditions on who can lead any group of people. You want an immoral government to regulate my morality? Cool Sens me money and I will hold a raffle for some lucky winner to have dinner with me. But remember one way or the other you're picking up the check.

      If you want to start seriously though then get rid of every ghetto and slum in this country by providing decent paying jobs and disarm this damn nation, outlaw the NRA and the Heritage foundation and ALEC and every other group or person who buys a president or congressman, get rid of all lobbyists and change the government from a two party system to a a parliamentary one where consensus building has to start at the top. That my friend would the trickle down in civility among the general population.

      Until then your freedom is non existent as far as the government is concerned. Remember rendition and the patriot act and the corporate whores that sit in ever seat of power in this country from the meanest village to the largest city? America has not been free since the Nixon years and the last nail went into that box when Reagan was president who conducted his own foreign policy as a private citizen with the Iranians. You don't think those hostages were released as soon as he was sworn in because the Ayatollah Kohemieni had a change of heart do you. Reagan was the first in a line of seditious leaders in the modern era.

      You will not see the divide in America heal or a return to common sense until people stand as one and demand their rights back. Not the right to fuck in public but the right to not be afraid of their future. Then you will see a return to the America that was prior to 1950 where we all asa a comunity gave more than a shit about our fellow man. And that is Freedom.

    2. Obscenity comes in many forms and in many ways, all of them supported by a predatory economic system driven by greed. But we also seem to agree that government is the only answer, whatever form it takes. I did an entire post once concerning how our forefathers screwed us up by creating a democratic republic and a three-tiered system of government. Easy pickings for the scavengers who could care less about the average guy that only wants to pull his weight in this world and love his family and friends.

      In the meantime, we have to find a way to stop the slide into decadence.

  7. I agree we all have an innate sense of right and wrong. That is the basis of Common Law in the British justice system i.e. it is what will be reasonable to "the man on the Clapham Omnibus" or to the average citizen. This talks about the enforcing the norms of society rather than allowing for the extremes. So yes to freedom but the definition of freedom should be that of the majority and not the extreme left or the extreme right.

    The problem of unlimited freedom is that though man knows right from wrong, we are by nature selfish and we as a whole exercise freedom not for the benefit of Society.

    Karl Marx predicted that communism would free society to develop until there was no need for laws because we would all know what to do for the good of all. As we know, communism only worked alongside oppressive laws and vicious enforcement of those laws and in the end failed. Capitalism has instead blossomed but only because it appeals to our selfishness but that too is not a good thing.

    So I believe freedom only works well for individuals and a society if it works within a structure of society mores as decided by the proverbial reasonable men and women who sit on the modern equivalent of the Clapham omnibus.

    1. Agree, but I don't believe that Communism was ever given a real chance and was never the goal of the "Communists". It was just another feel good potion to quiet the simmering Clapham omnibus so that the evil doers, the money grubbers, could do their work. It would seem that it is, indeed, a kill or be killed universe where only the fittest survive.

  8. Interesting questions. I agree our society has turned into a bunch of self-absorbed Me-First idiots. But I don't see a government solution to this. I agree with your earlier comment: "I'm one of those persons who can see a problem but who doesn't know the solution."

  9. If you knew the solution I would elect you king of the world.

  10. Your topic for this post has just become pretty relevant, eh? The immediate responses I've read in blogs, comment sections of online newspapers, and opinion pieces all have one thing in common: the opinion that the 'freedom to bear arms' either has everything to do with what happened, or it has nothing to do with it.

    We have the ability somewhat to shield our children from viewing things we deem inappropriate, nudity, public displays we don't like. How do we protect them from someone with a assault weapon while they are at school? Or at the noon showing of a Disney film? Or at a circus or amusement park? I've read everything from arming the kindergarten teachers to repealing the 2nd amendment.

    The 'freedom to bear arms' is a freedom that means there is a belief out there that results in us having no control over whether or not someone shoots us or our children. We are mortally subject to the 'freedom' of anyone who wants to carry and use a weapon.

    There is a reason that the US has a higher number of gun related deaths than and other first world country. By a huge percentage. And we are past the tipping point, there will be no change with 300 million guns already out in our population. We will grieve, then go on with our lives. Of course the victim's families will never be able to do that. Then, in a month or two, we'll do it all over again.

    Welcome to the land of the free.

  11. I would argue that it wasn't the Freedom of the 60s that led to all this societal deterioration. It was the abandonment of accountability and community and the embrace of unrestricted corporatism represented in the election of Ronald Reagan. Same bastards who wouldn't sign off on the original Constitution without institutionalizing slavery, and who showed us how Robber Barons like to roll have used churches, the media and schools to gain unlimited advantage over We The People. Jay Gould said pompously, "I can hire one half the working class to kill off the other."
    We see the results around us today.
    Except at my house, of course where we are stardust; we are golden. :) That may have been the message in the 60s - but both Buddha and Jesus brought us the same message generations ago: People don't HAVE to be assholes. Sadly, preachers and politicians have been hired by rich assholes to perpetuate assholery whether in Calvin Klein ads or slogans from the NRA. As a preschool teacher, it's my responsibility to tell little kids, "That's not how we act," all the time. Sometimes they're chucking blocks across the block area, or maybe they're pouring their beverages onto the table on purpose. It's too bad rich assholes are in charge instead of preschool teachers. We'd have the whole thing worked out pretty quick as long as we could find enough Time Out chairs.
    Much Love to you and all the crew, Mr. C


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