By in Politics

Selling Out One's Freedom: Is It Really Worth It?

In fellow PP community member scheng1 's recent article, "I rather have financial freedom than political freedom," it is inferred that Westerners have it all wrong for being critical of Singapore and China's governments, claiming that we have forgotten what the "common people" really find important. "Financial freedom is more important to the common people than political freedom. When you have financial freedom, you can choose to live wherever you like...send your children for overseas education...choose medical treatment from renowned doctors all over the world."

Though I can certainly appreciate that money affords one those luxuries, and that some value "having vs. being, " it also calls into attention what we define as "freedom."

I would have to disagree with scheng1 . Financial freedom, at the cost of political freedom, may not be freedom or power, at all.

In China, on International Women’s Day, March 8, five women were arrested and are being held for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” This is classic authoritarian premise for attempting to crush one's right to free thought and speech. (Even I see my word choices as my value/belief that we, as humans, have a "right" to it. I recognize that others may view it differently.)

These five women--activists willing to call attention to things needing changed--are all affiliated with a non-governmental organization that focus on the rights of HUMAN BEINGS, who are discriminated against because they are women, have a disability, or who have illnesses.

What does the government do? In spite of international protests of this situation, they go into the offices, seize computers, files, and lock workers out. This is mild in comparison to what they have done in other examples of dissent or protest over many centuries, where others have dared look to do things differently.

In 1989, look at how many civilians were murdered at the hands of soldiers (government) in Tiananmen Square, all because they dared peacefully to say they wanted freedom? Were all those people wealthy? Were there some who were "commoners," with no money? I dare say, it was a mix of people who want to make choices in their lives, without the government telling them who can speak or who cannot, who has value in the society and who does not. (And I could go on.)

So, what will become of the five quarrelsome, trouble-making women? Will they be made the example to ward off others who dare to be mouthy women who "should know their place?" Public humiliation? Extended imprisonment? Cut their tongues out of their mouths and their hands from their arms? Death by stoning in the town square? The Chinese government will certainly figure out the proper way to deal with such impertinence.

Scheng1 is correct that financial freedom offers opportunities to afford things not otherwise available to those who are "common people." But do we have a responsibility to our fellow man/woman? If we have no political freedom to speak up, all the money in the world will not be able to help those who need our help, if the government decides to devalue people based on any number of factors.

Some will say, "No, it's all about what is in it for me, what I want. Who cares about the (fill-in-the-blank)? They aren't my problem!"

When it becomes their problem, and when the government comes in to seize THEIR assets, they find a Westerner and apply for political asylum. They keep their money, and sit on their newly purchased "thrones" in a country that "should keep their criticisms to themselves."

But...there are still many of us who will go to our graves fighting for the rights of all humans to have the freedom to speak up about what is important to them. People who will fight for political freedom so that those who want to seek out their financial freedom, will have the opportunity to do so.

And yes, some of us are the common people.

© Coral Levang, 2015

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Image Credit » by Steppinstars

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Kasman wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:07 PM

scheng1 is wrong. Political freedom is the basis of all other freedoms, including financial freedom. Without political freedom we wouldn't be financially free - and, as those women in China found out - we wouldn't be physically free either.

inertia4 wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:10 PM

CoralLevang You know, after reading this, come to think of it, the republicans in this country sound a lot like those in power in China. Hmm. Strange. I guess if the right wind had all the power that is exactly what will happen here. Look at governor Tom Cotton. How he does not want to serve gays in restaurants or anything else. He feels they are lucky they don't get killed for being gay. Wow, that is very similar to what you wrote. So is the United States much different than any other communist country? Not in my book. Here they want slaves to keep them, the one percent, rich and their bellies full. That is not freedom anywhere in this world.

CoralLevang wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:14 PM

Kasman You know how I feel about this one. Having served my country in uniform, I did it for all.
That being said, I can also recognize that all who live in a free democratic state are not all "financially free" using the definition that scheng1 uses. I do not have the finances to hire doctors to give me the treatments in other countries that could benefit me in my fight with cancer, because their are governmental regulations that do not allow the same here in the US. I did not have the money to send my daughter to schools that would be SEEN as prestigious elsewhere. Yet, I also know that money does not buy the happiness (human trait) that I seek. And it it weren't for the time I grew up in, and the values set forth in my family/world, I would not understand freedom or happiness as I do.

LeaPea2417 wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:17 PM

I do see what you are saying, political freedom is very important.

CoralLevang wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:18 PM

inertia4 I could make the same argument about any political system in power here in this country. The democrats are equally as corrupt, and many of the "one percent, rich and their bellies full" are not republicans. It is the love of money that makes people corrupt.

CoralLevang wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:19 PM

Thank you for your read and comment.

FourWalls wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:22 PM

Political freedom is more important. If you have that you can make your own financial freedom, the way people like Bill Gates did. When you do NOT have political freedom you have no guarantee of anything else. The government can decide they want your money and confiscate it, and there goes your financial freedom. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither."

Kasman wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:23 PM

It's not the fact that's important, it's the idea. It may only be in theory but in theory you and I and all who live in a 'free' society have all of those freedoms (within obvious limits) of speech, action and the ability to decide our own fate - which those who live in a totalitarian society do not. We have the ability (again, in theory) to be what we want to be whilst many live in societies which forbid certain courses of action. I would rather live in a free society than one which imposes political restrictions upon me - and I'm sure you would too.
PS: &FourWall 's comment says it all.

Last Edited: April 3, 2015, 12:25 PM

inertia4 wrote on April 3, 2015, 12:30 PM

CoralLevang I am not saying no. I agree. Politics are just a way of controlling the people. Us. I wish once, just once, we would get an independent in the white house.

CoralLevang wrote on April 3, 2015, 1:30 PM

I absolutely agree with you, FourWalls . This is something I try to convey to my students, when they say that they "will do anything as long as they pay enough." I follow that up with this question: "At what price will you sell your soul?"

I think that there is a a shift in our society today that is reaching global proportions that "he who has the most money wins." I think it has been a long time spoken/felt, but there is something that seems to be changed that it was before. Perhaps, it is because it is not only the wealthy who can afford the toys that wealth used to allow.

When I hear those who claim to be "poor" by economic standards-- have a nicer place to live in than I do, afford electronics and cars and other things that I do not have, who use food assistance money (I am not denying them any right to these things, by the way), and are spending money things on status symbols in their peer groups, etc.--and insist that they are unable to take anything less than $80K salary to "make ends meet" including the compensation they will receive elsewhere, I am simply dumbfounded. These are not people who were living on a welfare system, per se. I live on less than half of what they expect. I have heard some say, "So what ? You're going to die soon anyway. Why should I care. I will get mine."

All I have to say is that when their worlds crash down around them, they will be inept to pull themselves back up, not because they cannot, but because they have no understanding of what is truly important and how to live life and be happy. Accumulation is the only thing that many know.

wolfgirl569 wrote on April 3, 2015, 2:59 PM

You said it good, once they allow discriminating against one group then another will follow and so on. Money can not buy everything

Ellis wrote on April 3, 2015, 3:47 PM

There is no such thing as freedom only varying degrees of captivity...

SoundNFury wrote on April 3, 2015, 3:52 PM

I haven't read the original article. But I would think it difficult to have financial freedom when you don't have political freedom. To me, freedom is a mindset. It means being able to think of one's own accord and not buy into all of the ideas and falsehoods that we are force-fed throughout the years. Not many people are truly free. Even in our country, where we like to praise all of our "freedoms."

Soonerdad3 wrote on April 3, 2015, 3:56 PM

I personally believe political and financial freedom are both important and it is what sets us apart from many other societies. I have to ask what you mean by "do we have a responsibility to our fellow man/woman? As a head of my household I have only the responsibility to provide for all in my home/family. Anything else I do of my own free will not to be forced upon me by anyone.

trufflehunter wrote on April 3, 2015, 4:10 PM

Umm for starters, scheng1 is a woman. Maybe it depends on where we are born. If you happen to be born in North Korea, perhaps all the money in the world will not help you.

valmnz wrote on April 3, 2015, 4:56 PM

I agree with you. Without political freedom there is no freedom. I am an a very ordinary person, not sure about the term common people. Happiness cannot be found in money, but in being able to enjoy the basics of life

alexdg1 wrote on April 3, 2015, 8:36 PM

I think the problem is that scheng1 is from a culture that is far more conformist than that of most Western nations. In most conformist societies, it's easier to accept limits on political freedom, especially when a nation basically trades one type of authoritarianism (say, foreign imperialism) for another (homegrown autocratic rule).

scheng1 wrote on April 4, 2015, 2:03 AM

i mention political freedom, not about freedom of speech or action. Actually the people in both China and Singapore are very vocal about everything under the sun. Having freedom of speech is useless if the politicians choose not to listen.

BarbRad wrote on April 4, 2015, 2:55 AM

I agree. My husband and his family escaped from a country that had jailed them and tried to kill them -- even the young children. Why? Because of a political difference of opinion. They had money and could have kept their mouths shut. But they didn't. And they left the country with almost nothing and had to build a new life from scratch in Canada and then continue building it here. I'm glad they didn't live long enough to see what this country is turning into.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 4:04 AM

Thank you so much. I just think it (loss of freedom at the hand of a government) is a big can of worms.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 4:05 AM

That is certainly one way to look at it.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 8:26 AM

SoundNFury ... I know many who are not free because of the things that they buy into. Again, I think you and I are very much on the same page.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 8:32 AM

Don't worry, Soonerdad3 , I did not ask you to pay my rent or feed me, nor am I standing out on the corner with a cardboard sign "Please help, disabled veteran, God bless."

But I will ask you, good Christian man that you are, do you have a responsibility to your fellow man/woman?

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 8:51 AM

Thank you for letting me know, as her "anonymity" does not indicate otherwise, and I made that assumption based on a style I have observed. I was obviously wrong.

I think much depends on experience of life, yes. I have friends who are from Cuba. She was doctor. She made the equivalent of $30 USD a month, and they were given a cow. They could not kill the cow, as it was provided to them for them to milk. If they killed it for food, she would have been imprisoned.
She thinks she had a better life under Fidel Castro than her son who won lottery to come to America. He hates the Castro regime; she misses it. But she heard the stories of Batista and saw those struggles in her childhood, so Fidel became her savior in her teens. They made little, but all had something.
My definition of freedom is certainly colored by when I grew up and the experiences I had as I made my way through life.
And the comment you pose, "If you happen to be born in North Korea..." is one I would say about any country and its people.
All the money in the world will not help someone be a decent human being. It will not make someone happy, as I know too many that are financially "free," as they have a lot of money, but they are miserable people. Of course, they do have all that money can buy and live comfortably.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 8:59 AM

And I come from a family that wanted me to not ask questions, and then joined the military to stand up for a belief I held dear, freedom of speech/expression. Again, I was told to acquiesce. I found many double-standards in how my family and military dealt with women and what we "should be." Part of 1955, when I was born and in the 1960s, "children should be seen and not heard" and "women should not be..." You can fill-in-the-blank on that one.

Though I understand the culture plays SUCH a big part of who we are, I will always advocate for people to stand up for what they believe. It does not come without a cost, however. I understand that on more levels than anyone knows. Yet, I would do it all again.

Soonerdad3 wrote on April 4, 2015, 9:05 AM

I really don't feel I have a responsibility to help anyone, I help when I can, but I don't call that a responsibility. As I said, I am responsible for my family as I took on that responsibility when I married my wife and we had three kids.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 9:14 AM

I see Freedom of speech and action as about political freedom. Government allows it or not under the doctrine set up by what that government sets as law or policy. If you could please help me understand what you mean about "political freedom." It is clear that we have different definitions.

I also understand that the Chinese are very vocal, but I see the government continuing to bully people into submission. I cannot speak about Singapore.

Your argument about having freedom of speech being useless can also be applied in any relationship. If you are in a relationship to someone and you do not feel free to share your thoughts or ideas because someone won't listen is understandable. We cannot change what another human will or will not do. Hopefully, we have some influence but they choose to listen or not. But should one just shut down and live with it?

I appreciate your bringing up the topic and having this discussion. I truly want to understand your beliefs/point of view. I think that we all need to listen to one another in this world, knowing that it is not first to convince, but to understand. Thank you.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 9:22 AM

Again, semantics.

I am not responsible to pay your bills or feed you, if you choose not to do anything about it. But if I saw that your kids were harmed because of your irresponsibility, I feel that it is my responsibility to not close my eyes. There is a thin line there, because of what responsibility is to us all.

And therein lies the big dilemma we all face as humans, and how the government decides we need to deal with it.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 9:26 AM

I agree with you here. Some might argue that money affords us the basics of owning a home, eating meat every night, buying the biggest toys, spending lavishly. We have come to a point where we (society) feel that all deserve that. It has become the norm. I do not feel these things are rights.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 9:35 AM

I am not sure where your husband and family are from, but I have known many immigrants who were in the same situation. Perhaps, that is the difference between those of us who are now the elders having heard the stories from those who lived through the horrors. We heard it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. We did not get the watered-down versions that media might share today; nor were we de-sensitized because of the constant barrage of information. We did not shut it out as easily. I think that future generations are going to go through some major growing pains. But I trust that those who will continue to stand for freedom will do so. It will definitely be (again) a bloody battle (figuratively and literally.)

Soonerdad3 wrote on April 4, 2015, 11:21 AM

I want apologize to you for taking your words wrong, it was explained to me that I have a incorrect understanding what is meant by responsibility and it is why I tend to react or respond the way I do. This not the first time that I had to be corrected, but hopefully I have learned something about understanding and compassion that has eluded me.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 11:43 AM

I am certainly not intending to tell you that you are wrong, but that we simply have a different understanding of what it may mean.
We are all products of our understanding at any given time. It is a great thing that we have an opportunity to discuss and learn from one another. emoticon :smile: I appreciate your kind comment.

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 11:50 AM

Many systems are designed for control. But that's for another debate. emoticon :winking:

Soonerdad3 wrote on April 4, 2015, 1:18 PM

I am always hoping to learn new things, just sometimes I let my stubbornness get in the way. emoticon :smile:

CoralLevang wrote on April 4, 2015, 1:55 PM

*extends my hand* Welcome to the club. emoticon :winking:

valmnz wrote on April 4, 2015, 4:00 PM

CoralLevang Being able to afford the basics is not financial freedom sure, but, if you are struggling financially, could it be because of political measures - taxes, too few available jobs., etc. I feel I have financial freedom, even though I'm not rich. I also feel I have political freedom, although I don't necessarily believe in all our government's policies.

celticeagle wrote on April 4, 2015, 4:45 PM

Women need to be sneaky, not loud and obnoxious. Sad that there are still places in the world where people(women or otherwise) can't be free in any way shape or form.