Every breathing thing on this earth seeks freedom. It is an essential aspect of all our dreams and aspirations. The lion on the veldt, the hyena lunging through the brush, the sparrow thrilling through the morning air, all seek freedom. We, by this I mean the human race, see freedom as a right enshrined by nature. When we feel the unruly wind, watch the raging sea, listen to the buzzing bee, we feel this sense of freedom and we want a part of it. Some of us travel far over treacherous seas, over grand mountains, across parched deserts, in order to experience this freedom. For some, it is not the freedom of the body they seek but the freedom of the spirit; they delve into esoteric knowledge, master arcane rituals, build altars to strange names and abjure themselves of worldly desires. There are those, increasing as the centuries pass, pursuing wealth sure that it is the solution to this lust for freedom. In truth all we get at the end is power and what is power if not the ability to abuse, to control, to chain?
In our quest for freedom, began innocently, we find power. The United States fought the British and though it was freedom they sought from colonial rule, the victory over the British gave them power, a power they wield like a gloved iron fist till date. Many ethnic groups in Nigeria at the cusp of independence found power due to their majority among other minorities. I ask then, what do we truly seek when we demand for freedom?
In recent times, more rights groups have appeared demanding for freedom for the section of society they represent. Every one of these groups has been marginalised. Every one of these groups have oppressed members of other marginalised groups in our society. Search through the archives of the historic fights for freedom over the years and you will find time and time again one group seeking freedom yet enslaving or oppressing another group.
The Nigerian state for example fought for freedom from British rule and every ethnic group, big and small, was a part of that struggle. Today certain ethnic groups enjoy the largesse of the state through certain policies that ensure that they get more than a fair share of the state’s wealth whether it be through the sharing of natural resources, political appointments, education, job opportunities, etc. The Nigerian state having achieved freedom from their oppressors subsequently denies certain parts of the state their individual right to freedom. The nation state whether Nigerian or British, whether China or New Zealand denies freedom to individuals. This is not a supposition; you know this to be true.
Is power another name for freedom? For we believe that if we are powerful, we can do whatever we want. Is this not the essence of freedom? Yet, in doing what we want, we deny those around us their own sense of freedom? If a man of education determines that an uneducated young man is bad for his daughter has he not denied his daughter her freedom of choice? Has he not denied the young man his freedom to love? The seeker for truth, who denies his body its basic nutrients and his family his presence causes harm. He drags his loved ones down a path that they would normally avoid. That he is ignorant of the harm is no excuse. Yet he will be praised for discovering a new philosophy, a truth that emancipates the human mind from the tyranny of dogma and indoctrination. What all of this implies is, freedom for you means chains for me and vice versa. How then can we be truly free? In an egalitarian society, a true communism, where everyone’s rights are respected, it is expected that we should find peace, happiness and plenty but not freedom. Those states that have attempted utopia of human making or communalism have ended up creating totalitarian states, denying the individual their fundamental rights.
Freedom therefore implies a breaking away from society as it is, a retreat from civilized existence as we know it. To be free, the individual as a social entity must become supreme. All family ties, financial ties, social ties, etc., must be cut off. The individual must become like the leaf in the grasp of the wind, blown to and fro, up and down. The individual must become unconscious of their desires, only surviving on what nature has given and when death unleashes its fangs on them, they must bend head, reveal neck and allow the necessary bite. After all, death too deserves its right to take life, doesn’t it?
Every breathing thing, everything of the natural order deserves its rights to be. As we fight over human rights and consider changing opinions on wrong and right, it is inevitable that what is abhorrent today because of social conditioning, becomes acceptable tomorrow. The pursuit of freedom continues until even the dust we breathe knows the freedom of choice between being a mote and being part of a potter’s careful ministration. We will give freedom like manna to all who come with their placards raised. We will raise pedestals to heroes of violence and accuse victims as fence sitters. One day, we will give all living things and even the dead, no matter the race, colour, sex, class, desires, mental state, religion, education, pedigree, etc., their freedom. What a world it will be! Even the gods will cower then.