What’s Freedom anyway?

You would probably expect people that sacrifice an entire generation fighting for freedom and another generation guarding it should have a deeper understanding of what freedom means.

Considering that Eritreans have hands-on experience on the struggle for freedom but almost zero experience of freedom. It makes sense that we have a better understanding of the cost than understanding of the freedom itself.

In my experience many Eritreans, especially ex-fighters, understand freedom to mean freedom from a foreign government.

According to this very narrow understanding, freedom equals liberation and the requirements of freedom are satisfied as long as the government can show how detached it is from foreign elements.

Following this line of thinking, hostility to foreign governments is a plus. It assures that the government really is detached and hence there is absolute freedom.

Sadly, the many that subscribe to such a definition of freedom are totally blind to see oppression and tyranny all around them being committed by their own government. Even when the government is shooting down its own war-disabled comrades for daring to ask questions—that is not a gross violation of freedom, it’s just a glitch in the system.

I have lived my entire life in Eritrea. From my experience, it would be more appropriate to dismiss any acts of freedom by government as a glitch-in-the-system than the other way round.

So what is freedom?

Freedom is indeed a broad term and often blur at the edges, nevertheless it is not all edges! It might be unclear where exactly the huge mountain ends and the valley begins, but that does not make the mountain less real. Similarly, the blurring at the edges of the definition of freedom do not challenge the obvious ‘mountain’ meaning of freedom.

I find that most people understand freedom better when you first explain to them what freedom is NOT: You don’t have freedom if you are living in a prison. You don’t have freedom if you cannot quit your job—even with a 5 year notice. You don’t have freedom if you cannot choose how and where to live. You don’t have freedom if you cannot practice your religion. You don’t have freedom if you need government permission to see your wife. You don’t have freedom if you don’t own your farm product. You are not free if you are afraid to disagree with the government. You don’t have freedom if you don’t know what could get you arrested. You certainly don’t have freedom if you are shot at when trying to leave.

If any of the above describe you life for the past few years,  very likely you may not be free.