December 7, 2016
We sometimes think that the way things are now is the way they’re always going to be. That’s a natural assumption for humans who are, by nature, creatures of habit. Most people need a certain level of stability or security in their lives, and a sense of having a measure of control over those lives.
That’s why, for example, we love our homes, however humble they may be. As I’ve mentioned more than once in these essays, my house isn’t one of those fancy homes you see featured in magazines. It’s in need of a great deal of cosmetic work and even some work that’s more than cosmetic; my laundry facilities are in the basement and very difficult for me to get to, so in that respect, the house doesn’t even work for me anymore—but it is my house. We own it outright, and there is no place on earth—no fancy hotel (and I’ve been in more than a few) or fancy house (I’ve stayed in a couple of those, too) where I feel more comfortable, or happier, than right here in my own little hovel.
The same can be said for most of us when it comes to our greater environment—like our societies. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly four in ten people in the United States never move beyond the community in which they were born. As for our society nationally, we here in North America are used to living in a democracy—be it one with a parliamentary governmental system, or one that is a republic. We think this is normal and this is the way it will always be. And that can be true, during our life times, with one codicil: we must ensure the continuation of our democracy if we want it to continue. We must protect our freedom if we want to keep it.
Being ‘free’ isn’t a done deal—it’s not a “yay, we made it, now let’s move on to other things” state of being. Freedom is something that must be constantly guarded. It must be protected. It requires a certain vigilance, a certain brightness of mind and an ability to be able to see through the dross of this world to the inner core of what is. And it requires this of all of us. We all must be vigilant.
An attack on our freedom can come stealthily, slowly, a little at a time and seem like no big deal while it’s happening—or conversely, it can seem like the perfect fix for what we think is wrong with the way things are. It’s even possible that those people perpetrating these small incursions don’t even know that’s what they’d doing. They’re just spouting off, because something has offended them, or hurt them, or they feel as if someone is to blame for whatever misfortune they’ve experienced, and the need to “make it right”, or even “make someone pay”, is a need clamouring within them to be met. And so they act, but in a way that begins to contravene our freedoms.
I’m not sure where we got the idea that life was always fair, or even, that how things are now is how they’re always going to be, without any concerted effort on our part to make it so. Since the dawn of time, human kind has been evolving. Not just in the sense of “human evolution”, either. But our societies and our institutions and our technologies have evolved, changing over time. This change is a constant, practically a law of nature. If that were not so, we would all still be living in caves.
Democracy—the kind we have here in North America—is not the only socio-political or geo-political system known to humanity. It is not the only way people on this planet are living right now. It’s just one of the ways. And for now, it’s our way, yes. But for how long, do you think?
We can trust our countries’ constitutions to keep us safe, but only insofar as everyone respects those precepts, and honors those documents. Those who would steal our freedom will act to limit those sacred tenets. There is a danger in closing your eyes and trusting, blindly, that all will go on as it is, as it has always been during our lifetimes. There is a grave danger in trusting the one who says that he alone can fix things. Those are two of the lessons that history teaches us, and we’d be wise to revisit them.
We must be vigilant.
Everything stays the same, until it changes. But that change—like death and taxes, is inevitable. The only question that remains is this: what kind of change will we experience next? Will we expand our definition of rights and freedoms and democracy, and become an even more inclusive, open and just society?
Or will we slowly, but surely, let those rights and freedoms we take for granted be restricted in the name of some so-called greater good? Will we, in fact, invest the nest egg of our future in the businesses of the snake oil salesmen of the world?
Only time will tell.