Our Diminishing Freedoms.

Note- The following, modestly editted, (edits underlined and in Blue) from

Salon's Table Talk

a series of forums on wide ranging subjects).

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

(Federalist papers, no. 62)

(In Salon - Table Talk - Social Issues - Unkind Society .....)

Selene Ilios - 10:39am Oct 2, 1997 PST (#46 of 62)

I have lived in two countries, besides this one, and in many respects, both were more free for the individual (Greece and Ireland).

But I want to make something clear: I am not talking about the freedom to get up and proclaim that the president is a crook; or sell pornography; or travel from state to state freely.

I am talking about an insidious social movement, an inexorable pressure-- neither completely political nor strictly grassroots--which is fragmenting, and strangling, individual rights simultaneously (and almost invisibly). Some of this comes from the state, mostly with the purpose, under the subterfuge of safety or health, to generate revenue. The other, private organizations, liberal and conservative, lunatic and apolitical, exert their powerful influence within the folds of everyday society (MADD, for example; or the NAACP, or the AMA, or Greenpeace, or ....), and turn their numbers and support into PACs.

(Making Bad Law for Good Reason)

Their arguments and justifications for their own particular agendas make perfect sense. For the most part the leaders of these 'little currents' within the overall movement, are intelligent, articulate, and specialized. They are backed with impressive statistics and scientific data, and can easily present their case enthusiastically. I think most actually believe strongly in their presentations. They want to make life better. They want to save lives. They want to promote justice.

Fine motives. Yet, time and time again, the result is that they eat away at our individuality. This makes for an enervated and rigidly compromised society, in my view. And it makes us nasty and ugly to each other. I will give you one tiny, simple, example out of thousands.

In southern California, jay-walking is taken seriously. Sometime ago, after three or five or ten deaths in the city, the saviours decided that precious lives could be saved by outlawing it. Who is going to argue with that?

So, predictably, some lives were saved -extremely minimal in number, but there you are. And the costs involved for medical treatment of non-fatalities were reduced. Are we all happy? Do we pat ourselves on the head? Sure. We did a grand job and it was the right thing to do!

Except that, now, on any Sunday afternoon, in an empty downtown, you will notice that bunches of milling people stand on the corners, waiting, cow-eyed, for the little walking signal to allow them to cross the street. They stand there like herds in the rain; no cars coming; no buses; nothing. They don't even bother to look anymore. When the walk sign says go, they go. Automatons, robots; in the name of safety, we've trained ourselves like obedient little poodles. But what choice do we have--there is a fifty or seventy-five dollar ticket if the police catch us walking across an empty street (revenue collection and safety-first go hand in hand). Is this logic?

Someone from another planet would wonder.

Having said that:

In Greece, after a nice meal, and a half bottle of wine, I leave with it (here:--I'm sorry, sir, you can not take that bottle outside); I put it in my car to take it home (here: I'm sorry sir, you have violated the open container law); I approach a stop sign guarding an empty intersection, and I roll through it with a policeman standing there; we wave, (here: But officer, it's 2:00am and nothing was coming.--Doesn't matter, stop means complete halt; that'll be 145.00 fine, 2 points, and your insurance rates jacked up 600%);

Freedoms come in many forms, by the way: While living in Greece, the thought occured to me that all the ancient structures--temples, monuments, Byzantine chapels, Frankish/Turkish/Venetian/Genoese fortresses, etc, etc, could not exist in this country. It has stuck with me, sadly.

Oh, yea, land of the free, home of the brave. Not anymore. ........

I guess my point, Gaylord, was that in America you can't do anything without a permit, license, approval, official request, certificate, authorization, tag, card, I.D., document, registration . . . . I'm sure you can add a few more.

And I was talking about a more everyday type of freedom; In Athens, if one falls down the slippery marble of the propylaeum (step after step of slick marble leading up to the acropolis), and you happen to break a leg, somebody will take you to the hospital . . . yea, and get you fixed up. But you're probably gonna pay for it.

And just try filing a suit against whoever is responsible for the Parthenon (I don't even know). At any rate, they'd laugh their heads off; the idea being that, if you thought you couldn't get up the steps without hurting yourself, you shouldn't have gone; if you just innocently slipped, well, such is life, and what the hell do you think we are supposed to do about it? The steps are 2500 years old, for crying out loud!

In America, everybody and his brother would be sued, scandalized, fired or dismissed. A lot of money would be up for grabs. And the guy who slipped, called a victim here, would eventually make a huge amount of money.

This is freedom to make yourself a bundle, that's all. In the end, these kind of things lessen freedom for the rest of us, considerably. Of course, as you so clearly pointed out, we don't have Greek ruins. But the Greeks do, and they do not behave as we would if we did have them. They are, from a hundred little things, more free on a day to day basis, than we are.

(and from another poster)

And -- yes, excellent posts, Selene.

To your list of frightfully restrictive regulations, i would add:

-- Zoning laws, and their complement, Suburbia.

-- The myriad of regulations which cover opening a business, with all of which one must comply.

-- and the inability to just stand on the street and do what you feel like, without hurting someone.

And my perennial disfavorite -
the worst offender -
the ever unpopular -
Ladies and Gentlemen
I offer you ...... (drum roll)

Nationalistic Marine Fisheries Service.

(just couldn't resist, Sorry)

End of Diminishing Freedoms (Not really)

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