When northern Mali was overrun with an insurgency in early 2013, the British Prime Minister (PM) referred on several occasions to “ungoverned spaces”. Last week, PM David Cameron reiterated the same regarding the Islamist insurgency in Iraq. He stated that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was planning to attack the UK. The “ungoverned spaces” where militants thrive must be shut down.
Let us discuss this thing called freedom. For it is the ungoverned spaces within the character of man that deny humanity true freedom. Freedom is a gift of God, lovingly bequeathed on his creation. But, as in all things involving ‘us’, we are the ones who prefer to enslave, master the other, deny basic rights and take away that ultimate freedom, which is essential to life: the gift of breath. ISIS is doing a bang up job. Their half-wit minions are steamrolling across the landscape with a vapid ideology, which tramples on the most basic rights of man.
Freedom is based on one ironclad premise — if I want freedom I must offer it to you in equal proportion. We agree that freedom has societal value. We cherish it collectively and individually. It is a commodity to be shared and not hoarded. Freedom is expansive and not restrictive. Restrictions only enter the equation when our personal freedom tramples upon the freedom of our neighbour. Because of the very nature of the convolution of this liberty, we need governance to maintain the very freedom we crave. Our hearts cry out for this gift but freedom without restraint has a name: it is called anarchy. We must put on the harness of governance to protect freedom for all. This harness can be anything from micro-governance to regional and federal oversight.
True freedom is restrained, thoughtful and kind. We can choose our course but we cannot dictate the consequences. I consider consequences within the realm of ‘God’s little surprises’. Within my Christian faith there is a bit of human hardness, smallish amount of a mean streak when promoting a doctrine of ‘sowing and reaping’. However, within the paradigm of God’s little surprises, we are free to make our choices, discover the consequences and, if we are smart, learn from our mistakes. Being free means that we have the ability to create, explore our options, and, yes, even take more than a few risks! This is life in the free zone. It is a much happier place than life within a ‘level IV’ doctrinal containment lab.
I love sharing about my children. They teach me about unique, frail humanity. When my boys were small, I imagined that I controlled them. In actuality, they came out of the womb as free moral agents. I had just not figured it out yet. I did not know that my primary responsibility was to protect them from the consequences of their actions and, in the process, put a modicum of common sense within their foolish little noggins. I should have figured it out when the eldest threw his first full-throated kicking fit. He was already a free moral agent, a miserable little red-faced and wet-diapered lad. He just did not have the locomotion mastered to crawl over the crib rails and down the street. Trust me — I had it completely figured out by the time he was 14.
So, we are born with freedom. Other men seek to enslave. Our job is to keep focus on the ball of freedom and the shackles off our own wrists. A primary task of governance is to maintain a level of societal health, which allows liberal freedoms that enhance maximum human potential. Perhaps one of the biggest quests for freedom is that for self-actualisation. For most of us, this quest includes ample room for God and ritualistic belief.
The Christian longs for freedom. I want to be free to attend the church of my choice, partake of a symbolic communion known as The Lord’s Supper, and be free to share my faith with those outside my camp. The Christian longs for the freedom to decorate a Christmas tree, take the kiddies on an Easter egg hunt and provide a bountiful Thanksgiving meal. Christians want to be able to pray in public with a quiet confidence that does not draw excessive attention. We want the freedom to run our food and clothing banks and medical missions under the banner of a man who we know as Saviour and Lord. His real name is Love.
The Jews long for freedom. They want the freedom to attend a local synagogue, engage in days of remembrance, celebrate their festivals and if they so choose, walk about in their hats and wear their phylacteries on their heads and arms. Jews want to wear their prayer shawls with the reading of the Torah and light the candles for Hanukkah.
The Muslim longs for freedom. You, more than most. You have tasted so little of it. Freedom may begin as a revolution but it only moves forward as political evolution. A Muslim wants the freedom to maintain the obligatory observances of the pillars of faith. Beyond this pavilion, your own freedom exists.
The Hindu and Sikh longs for freedom. This freedom includes attending their temple of choice, raising their daughters to dance and sing, and maintaining their own dietary restrictions.
The atheist longs for freedom. They must be granted the right to live within an intellectual garrison, which denies the very existence of their Creator and Lord. Their belief does not threaten my own. And, for that matter, who can truly threaten the Almighty?
ISIS will continue to ply their ideological enslavement within a theatre of operation, which supports both a hall of mirrors and a genre of macabre horror. As always, those of us who are sane will continue to embrace freedom. It is God’s logical choice. He wants us to find our stride in life and pursue our dreams, to make mistakes and to learn from them. Live with freedom. Those who seek to unnecessarily restrict it, commit fraud.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, while addressing the Royal United Services ...