Freedom is the natural right of all human beings

Sunday, June 9, 2019
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Think about it. Currently 7.7 billion people live on this planet Earth. That is mind blowing. Daniel Boone is to have said when he could see the smoke from a neighbor’s chimney it was time to move on. For those of us who cling to this open space of prairie, traveling to larger cities, seeing masses of people is something we have a difficult time comprehending. In 1984, when I traveled to India, I remember sitting in our bus waiting for the other members of the group to come. The driver turned his lights on and the scene before me was like something out of a science fiction movie. There were so many people moving outside the bus, I imagined I could have walked across their heads as if I were walking down the street. It was rush hour and the populace was going home. Only then did I grasp something of the concept of over population and the stresses and strains it puts on our planet. But more importantly I realized we are not alone in this place and everyone of those people whose country I was visiting were individuals with families, with passions, with hopes and dreams just like mine. And they had every right to be here just as I did. So how to relate to all those people outside the bus?

Ubuntu is an African word that means “I am because we are.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, explains the word ubuntu. “I need you in order for me to be me and you need me in order for you to be you. We are bound together. I need other human beings to be a human being.” I define myself as a human being by other human beings with whom I come in contact.

The problem is in this country we hold up rugged individualism and we encourage people to be independent, to be strong on their own. We want our children to stand up for their rights and we believe everyone is really responsible for themselves. If people need help, usually there is a way for them to find their own way out, if they just try hard enough. Other cultures much older than our own, in contrast, see a larger picture of everyone working together as part of a group. If you don’t make it then I may not make it. It reminds me of the discussion about shopping on . Local businesses are struggling to stay open. If I shop on-line they will not be able to have a business in town. They need me and all of us to make it happen. And we need them to make the community a more robust and prosperous place to live. For other cultures the most important things in life are related to the family, the clan, a tribe or community. There is always “me,” but there is the larger “us” or “we”. The idea is that we are all part of the same family of humanity and we must all work together to survive.

In this sense there is always unfinished business for us. One author wrote, “nobody’s free until everyone is free.” We are tied to the enslaved of the world whether we like it or not. Wherever there is injustice, pain, hunger, and homelessness, people are in chains. Who can really understand words of freedom or practice a life of freedom when even one person is not free? Dr. Martin Luther King often said that in freeing black Americans to live more fully, there was a greater freedom for people of every race and condition; we read that when women have real equality, when justice is firmly in place dealing with all aspects of women’s lives, then men have more freedom as well. Freedom is not something we have to earn. Freedom is not a condition we can hold tightly to ourselves. Freedom is not ours to grant to others or in like manner to take it away. Freedom is a natural right of all human beings and that is a condition we share. John Locke, philosopher, wrote in the 1700s about the natural rights of human kind — “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We cannot take away or control what is not ours to give. It is something we share with each other so everyone everywhere has a part in the promise.

Avis R. Anderson is a retired member of the Glendive community. Her online blog can be found at