This is part 3 of a three part mini-series of musings on control. Here are Fight the Battles You Were Made For, Control, Part 1 and The Wisdom to Know the Difference, Control, Part 2.
All this musing on control and power has left me with one sure conclusion: I value freedom! Of course, to the extent that it’s true that no one can control me, I have freedom, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t environments in which the costs of exerting your freedom are unjustly high.
There are all sorts of different kinds of freedom – there is the right to free speech, there are various kinds of political freedoms, there are physical freedoms, there are market freedoms, there are relational freedoms – in fact ‘freedom’ is actually a very hard concept to define, and not all outworking of what people call freedom are as beneficial for the people in question as they sound.
One of the things that has been interesting to me in musing on this is how I’ve experienced lack of freedom in vastly differing contexts. I grew up in a dictatorship, for starters. I vividly remember returning to Britain in my late teens and being genuinely scared by the way people would talk about the government, openly slating the Prime Minister. I remember saying to someone who shared my office, as a young 18 year old, “the walls have ears you know, you should be careful what you say.” To which he turned to me and asked, “where on earth have you come from?” Actually I really had come from a dictatorship, which is what he was imagining I suppose. On a visit back to my childhood home I was asked by a stranger on a plane what I thought of the sitting president and immediately clammed up, thinking it was a trap. I suppose all that prepared me well for the games of silence I’ve had to play in my travels around the world since. I’ve visited Cuba for instance, years ago, and that was certainly an interesting experience. We were warned before we went: “we think the first home you’re staying in is bugged so if you need to have certain conversations, do so on the roof.”
Living in Britain didn’t guarantee environments free from control though. You meet controlling people wherever you go, and some of those people get positions of leadership or authority. Some people who have authority hate that being challenged, and in normal every day life it’s an absolute nightmare trying to get past the various bureaucratic systems that put requirements on what we do with our time and how we do it. Even people who are not in leadership can use manipulation, deceit and threatening behaviour to try to control people or environments to their advantage, although it doesn’t usually end well for them.
Some people don’t really have much choice about whether they find themselves in such environments or not – people in slavery, people living under oppressive regimes. But one thing I have decided is that to the extent that I do have a choice about it, I really want to live, work, go to church and in general interact with freeing people. Sometimes, our work will take us to environments where we are not free to talk about certain things for security reasons or political reasons, but even in those environments we can find people who are collaborative, freeing and open-hearted. Those types of people, relationships and environments have become very, very important to me.
Image by Pixabay user Francesco Venier