Fear

My fear of losing my freedom might just be a fear of completely different things. I love being free to go where I want, choose where I live, what I work, and decide on how I educate my kids. And I fear the loss of these.

This looks like a freedom of wealth. I never knew hunger, I never was bodily or mentally disabled, I always had a place to sleep, and things to wear. I was never imprisoned. I had company when I wanted it. I can’t begin to imagine what fears and anguishes those people have who don’t have all this. You don’t have to tell me there are many.

This freedom of wealth is a good one. I don’t regret having it. I regret that others don’t have it.

I’m afraid of being controlled. I rejoiced in my work when I got to create my own company, together with friends. It was great to have a say in the ultimate decision about what the company should do. It was a great feeling of freedom – it was freedom I felt – that I didn’t have to comply with requirements from bosses that I didn’t always agree with. But wasn’t that the all-powerful instinct to dominate, ‘the will to dominate all life’, a core ingredient of the One Ring?

I’m a homebody, an introvert, frightened of conflict, afraid to say things – for fear of losing the goodwill of those that I’m talking to. It took me decades to become aware of this fear, and work up the courage to actually take up and work to resolve the conflict when our survival depended on it.

The true nature of freedom snapped into my focus when Charlie Hebdo was attacked. It was the ultimate exercise: to say what you believe is right, even when you know it can cost you dearly. At the time, they couldn’t even expect to sell a lot more of the issue with the cartoons than usual. It’s after the attack that they can print a million copies. So, in a way, their sacrifice was worth it, which doesn’t make their death any less painful.

I know I failed to say things many times for fear of repercussions against myself, my family, and my company. Sometimes these things should’ve been said.

In my first post, I’ve said I want to stand up for freedom. Am I doing that? Many of us posted ‘Je suis Charlie’ on our walls on January 7. But am I Charlie, really? Do I go out there and say the truth, risking – forget my life, my reputation with some people?

Freedom is a moral issue, always was. It’s not enough to demand my own, or even fight for it. One reason I must go out there is to help others be free without having to fear for life or possessions.

Fear stops most people from speaking up or making choices. They – we – will give in to threats, to authority, to many things. Fear jeopardizes their moral integrity. I think, for most of us, it’s not possible to be good without being free. Standing up for the freedom of others helps them do what they believe is right.

I’m anguished to see how little we in Europe do about this. The Kouachi brothers were born and raised in France. The society that claims to be the freest in Europe failed to integrate them. How well do we represent our values if young people, often with no immigrant past at all, go and fight with jihadists? How well do we represent our values if, on the other side, young and well-educated people join violent right-wing groups throughout Europe?

My own country does not fare any better. But I don’t want to lose focus, so I’ll deal with that in another post.

I am not Charlie yet. But I strive to be. And I’ll help you become Charlie, too.

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