Freedom is Just Another Word

One of the exercises I do in diversity training is to introduce a list of cultural variables and then have the participants choose and rank their top five. It’s interesting to hear them discuss the variables that are important to them and why. One of the variables is freedom. One participant said that she never thought much about freedom until 9-11. In a different workshop one group shared how that freedom was important to all of them, but that it had different meanings depending on the age and personal situation of the individual. As an example she said that the younger single members of the group defined freedom differently than their peers who were married with small children. It’s a matter of perspective.

During a trip to China in 2006 one of the tour guides continued to make reference to “when China was liberated in 1949…..” It was a perspective that I never considered. Several years ago, the Washington Post ran an article regarding the many faces of liberty in China 20 years after Tiananmen Square. The points of view of Chinese citizens ranging in age from 11 to 76 were explored. The 11-year-old boy wanted freedom from his parents telling him what to do. The 22-year-old college student felt free to reject her parent’s wishes regarding her course of study at the university. The 29 year-old salesman defined freedom as financial freedom, while the 35 year old migrant worker was “free physically” to leave the countryside to work in the city. The 70 year-old couple lived through the government under of Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Tse-tung and the Cultural Revolution. One of them is concerned that perhaps today there is too much freedom, especially for the young people, while the other feels that since Tiananmen Square, life has been good, there is progress and harmony is being promoted.

Freedom is just another word that had different meaning for different people. It can also have different meanings for the same people in different situations. It’s a matter of context and perspective.

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