Freedom is different for everyone.
To a black man it is being seen as person, not a colour
To a woman it is being seen as a person, not a means of reproduction
To a child it is being seen as a person, not someone who is always told no
To an Indigenous individual it is being seen as a person, not a drug and violence statistic
Every year, as part of the Passover Seder, we discuss slavery and talk about our gratitude for being free and every year I struggle with the concept. Because when it comes down to it are we actually really free? We are slaves to technology, to the economy, to peer pressure. The retort to that is that those are cultural forms of slavery, not physical. However, we enslave our bodies to strive for unattainable standards – mainstream standards of beauty and acceptance. We suffer from diseases that literally demand we withhold food from our bodies and starve ourselves. One may say those are physical forms of slavery but we still have the intellectual freedom to think and say what we want. But how many times do we hold back our thoughts and words for fear of what others may think – for fear we will be labeled and placed squarely in a box with no opening or exit?
I have always struggled with the concept of modern freedom because arguably we are not free at all. The illusion of freedom is more dangerous than slavery itself. A slave knows they have no rights, they lack freedom of being able to come and go as they please, to make choices for themselves as individuals. A slave may be chained to their owner, but they are under no illusions otherwise. They wake up and go to sleep knowing they are not their own, knowing their life and its future is in their owner’s hands.
The danger with modern enslavement is that we don’t realize our limitations and withholdings, nor do we recognize our captors. The socialist says we are enslaved by the economy, the economist says we are held captive by the market, the market analyst places the blame on political decision makers. Everyone has a finger pointed at everyone, but themselves.
In times of ancient slavery, a slave knew his master. He knew who he answered to and knew who he was beholden to. Our problem with modern slavery, is that we fail to realize we are our own masters. We are our own captors. We punish our bodies for its wrongdoings and push it beyond its limits We enslave our minds in negative and self deprecating thought. We are both the slave and the slave driver; caught in the constant battle of trying to please ourselves while constantly demanding more of ourselves. Enough is never enough.
Martin Luther King said, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” And this is exactly wherein our freedom lies. We have the freedom to demand; demand we be gentle with ourselves; demand we not harbour the past and its limiting thoughts; demand we reach our individual potential, not that dictated by someone else’s standards.
This year whether you celebrate Passover or welcome spring and shake off the shackles of winter, it’s time to rethink freedom and experience true liberation. Liberating ourselves from ourselves, from the shackles of our minds, from the thoughts that imprison us and cuff us to our pasts. Enjoy the taste of freedom, but more so the flavour of self liberation and taking charge of our present, future and mostly, ourselves.