The New Freedom: Living with Hope, Skepticism and Irony
Perhaps, this is one of the important, distinguishing features of freedom in the European communities, as compared to the freedom experienced temporarily in many Mid-eastern countries. The recipients of temporary freedom in Egypt and other North African countries found little opportunity (or often little need) to communicate or travel beyond the borders of their own country. The barriers imposed by language and culture made it unlikely that these newly freed citizens had many friends in other countries. Most of their outreach was through the press and social media (reporting on the events of the uprising). Economic constraints also made international travel impractical for many of these citizens. Even when there has been movement to other countries (often by reluctant refugees), the movement has been restricted. The refugees often are caught in temporary camps that have become a long-term (perhaps permanent) reality for them. Whether we are considering the refuges escaping from Mideast repression or those (closer to home for most of us) who are caught in camps on the Southern United States border, there is very little freedom of movement. These displaced citizens are embedded in (and are often trying to escape) the temporary freedom afforded by a society in chaos.
The “revolution” in most countries have been insular and the interactions (both positive and negative) have often been directed inward toward fellow citizens. They are persecuted, bombed, extorted, and forced to flee. And there is little support waiting for them in the camps where they are forced to reside. Does sustained freedom always require an outside audience and support (both psychological and financial/political) from this audience? Is temporary freedom, arising from chaos, simply a new form of tyranny if no one is there to assist? Would the men, women and children living in Greek camps identify themselves as “free” if they can’t move further into other European countries? Would the Central American families caught in holding facilities at the United States border identify themselves as recipients of American support for “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?
Freedom of National Autonomy
Along with the more personal aspects of freedom, the men and women Berne Weiss and I interviewed during the early 1990s spoke about the collective sense of freedom in each country—or a new nationalistic spirit. Each country was now free to plot its own future course, to pick its own friends and enemies, to determine its own destiny, to make its own mistakes. The spirit of nationalism that accompanied the new freedom created a need for new bonds. In Freedom, Berne Weiss and I expressed our hope that these bonds would be based on trust and would replace the pervasive conditions of mistrust that were created when Soviet officials encouraged neighbors to spy and report on one another. Was our hope realistic?