Saturday, November 17, 2012

We Will Fight For The Right To Be Free!

I just returned from the local supermarket here at Base Camp West Virginia. I was running in to pick up a couple items I couldn't find at the local Wally World (yep, WalMart carries a lot of stuff, but they don't carry everything). I walked in this supermarket with exactly two items I needed. I knew where one item was since I've purchased it there before. The other item I was looking for is something I wouldn't normally buy, but was getting it to save a friend a trip, if I could.

Now, most commercial establishments have some form of background music playing - it's often referred to as Muzak, after the trademarked name of a generations old commercial music service. Alternately, it's referred to as elevator music, affectionately named for the typically, lush, instrumental music one endures during an elevator ride. There are psychological reasons for providing this music service to patrons of all kinds of businesses whether on an elevator, walking through a store, sitting in a doctor's office or calling your dentist on the phone and being lullabied to distract the caller from realizing how long they have been sitting on hold.

Often an establishment will have a choice of musical genre when contracting with a commercial music service provider. One might be listening to the lush strings of Yanni or the 101 Strings, the Classic rock songs and ballads from the 50's and 60's, smooooooth jazz, Beatlemania, a classic country collection and so on. My experience in the supermarket today was a bit jarring, yet, for me, particularly inspirational.

Sing Our Own Song

I was listening to the lyrics of a song composed and originally recorded by UB40, a 1986 song titled Sing Our Own Song. But, it was the main chorus lyric that was repeated over and over that got my attention. The line went, We will fight for the right to be free. At first, I thought I was listening to an American patriotic protest song that I'd never heard before. But, after a little research I discovered some interesting facts.

First, UB40 is a British rock/pop/reggae group founded in 1978 and not really coming on the scene until 1979 and about 1980 in the U.S. It is an ethnically diverse group of friends who were all born (apparently) and raised in Birmingham, England. That in itself was a reason that I wasn't familiar with the group or much of their music since, perhaps, like many people, I was no longer as interested in the newest generation of music. I heard it on the radio, but I didn't pay much attention to it. By 1980 I was 35 years old, married, a father and deeply involved in four businesses. My head was someplace other then the current pop music scene.

The reason I had not become familiar with this particular song is because it never reached any of the U.S. music "charts" that follow how popular any given piece of music is. Most countries have their own music charts, but if a piece of music doesn't hit the U.S. charts, few people will have heard it here. It's apparently been covered (recorded by) at least a few other artists, but none who I can honestly say I've followed. So, all that in mind, this was like a breath of fresh air to me. I wondered, as I walked through the supermarket taking care of my business, if any of the other customers or the store employees were listening to the lyrics.

In fact, the song was not written about the U.K. or the U.S. It was written about and for the fight for freedom of the nonwhite, South African population who were oppressed by segregation laws under Apartheid. Fortunately and finally Apartheid was officially renounced in 1990, though the full impact didn't take effect until 1994 when Nelson Mandela was the first black African to be elected in a free election as the president of the Republic of South Africa.

Non-partisan, Apolitical Freedom Lover

I've stated this several times. This blog is not and does not indulge itself in political rhetoric other then how it may impact the personal rights and personal freedoms of myself and, in some manner, you, the reader. The reason that song caught my attention in the supermarket today is that, and maybe it's just me and maybe it's just because I'm base camped in a rural, heartland area of the U.S., but I hear more and more people talking about freedom and personal freedom.

Freedom isn't just unique to the America. Freedom is something that is part of the human DNA. We don't have an edge on the freedom market. And, freedom isn't defined in any one specific way. We have a very unique form of freedom in the U.S. As I listened to that song, thinking at that time that it was written as a patriotic and inspirational anthem for the U.S., I thought about Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians, others in Africa, Asia, parts of Europe and the former Soviet Union block countries - and even Cuba and South America. Freedom is a very fragile commodity. I've used and, probably, you have, too, the overused adage that "Freedom isn't Free." Actually, it is free. Unfortunately, there are both powers of good and evil in this world that usurp freedom from the individual to who it belongs by birthright.

Our society and our world are unbelievably complex. There no longer is (and may never have been) a defined line dividing black and white. I often find myself siding with those I would normally not side with because of that gray area. Of course, in other instances, I side with the other side of the line. I dislike labels and titles. I was never particularly enamored with being the "president," "CEO" or most other designations of distinction and authority. I felt separated from everyone else. Likewise, I do not like being labeled a "conservative," "liberal," Republican or Democrat. In truth, when I take any of the quizzes that determine where one fits into the political landscape, I usually come out smack in the middle of the Libertarian territory. That's probably no surprise to you. But, in fact, I really don't want to carry that label, either. What I want to be known as is an "independent," free-thinking individual.

My philosophy and mantra with this blog is all about personal freedom and living free. I write about the things that are working for me and are important to me as one individual doing my best to maintain and live free in a world and, more specifically, a society that self-proclaims being a free society. Supposedly, because we have some form of democratic electoral process, this is a shining light of our freedom. Yet, in more and more ways, our very democratic systems are beginning to fail us more as individuals. Perhaps that's because we are becoming more and more dependent on a government structure that believes it can, under its own terms, do better and more for us as individuals than we can do for ourselves.

Personal Freedom, Personal Choices, Personal Responsibility

I have to question this idea when we have national disasters like Katrina, seven years ago and Super Storm Sandy a few weeks ago. Without questions, these are horrible disasters. But, this is also part of the nature of living on this planet. We can't legislate away these events. Neither we or the government have any control over the weather. I won't even touch on the volatile subject of "human created" climate change. If we go back to the historical accounts of the Bible, people were taught about the difference between building a house on a rock or on sand. People want to be free, great! They made a free choice to build their homes in areas very prone to violent natural events.

That was, as I said, a FREE choice. But, after the disaster, how responsible should those who built their homes on the rock be for those unfortunate people in the path of Sandy? These are rhetorical questions. I certainly believe we should reach out and help our friends and fellow countrymen. But, I've already read several articles by various scientific authorities suggesting that the damaged and demolished homes and businesses shouldn't be rebuilt in the same locations because it's going to happen again and again. But, they will. The same is true for the Gulf states, especially the New Orleans area. And, they have. We can say the same for people who build homes in areas that are prone and known to have severe forest and brush fires, mudslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.

I don't have any problem with anyone making a free choice to live in these places, but when someone makes a free choice for themselves, should they not also be accepting whatever the possible consequences of that choice are? That is really what personal freedom is all about. It's interesting to note that the largest population densities, not only in the U.S. but in countries on every continent, seem to be where many, if not most or the worst natural disasters occur, often repeatedly. I guess it goes without saying it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

Another topic dealing with freedom in the news of late is our involvement in the Middle East. The loss of four Americans in what is, variably, described as a cover-up, incompetence or political posturing during an important election cycle. This has slid down the chute to the question about "intelligence" and is there any? And then we look at the concept of privacy and any expectation of privacy. Personally, General Petraeus and General Allen and their dalliances are really of no interest to me. However, the invasion of our privacy is a big question.

I read an article this morning in the New York Times about this privacy issue. I found it interesting that some, supposed, authority on such matters stated that we mere mortals don't have to concern ourselves with the FBI doing warrant-less taps on our phones and tracking and reading our emails. Yet, according to other authorities, the National Security Agency (NSA), another "secret" intelligence organization, has software that listens or can listen to virtually every phone call and scan every email and text in the U.S. and going out of and coming into the U.S. Of course, they can't actually listen to or read every communication. But, the software is designed to recognize sensitive words or terms and raises a red flag that can trigger your phone or emails to be monitored. So, beware of what you say, even in jest, on the phone or in emails or texts.

This goes on and on. There are video cameras watching where you are driving, where you are shopping, what you're doing when you use an ATM and walking through a parking lot to mention only a few. You can be tracked by which cell phone towers your phone is pinging. GPS can pinpoint your location within a few feet. You can go on Google Earth and look at where you are from above or at street level. Without question, all of these technologies can be used for your convenience, safety and security and that's exactly how they are sold to you. It's the guy in the white hat convincing you of the immense personal value of all this. But, there is also a guy in a black hat and he also has a set of controls to all this technology and anytime he chooses, he can use if for whatever nefarious purposes he deems worthy.

Sure, we could get paranoid about all of this, but that doesn't change anything and just makes our lives more stressful. The best thing we can do is to make careful, researched choices about our personal freedom. Use the technology to our best advantage. Do your best to find ways to stay beneath the radar and off the grid as much as is possible and reasonable in your own determination. And, remember the words of the song, We will fight for the right to be free.

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