This is part of the ‘Big Picture’ series.
‘Absolute Freedom’ can only be achieved by a person who is absolutely alone. When a person has no others to interact with, they are free to do absolutely anything they wish – and they are absolutely responsible for the consequences of their actions.
What I mean by this is that if this person takes foolish or reckless actions – they are free to do so. But, nobody will help them, as there is nobody else there.
Humans are social creatures – we build communities. In order to get along, we agree to give up some of our freedoms willingly because we have made the judgment that it is in our best interest to do this. So far so good.
Now, we have to find the balance between what we are willing to give up and what we are not willing to give up. In other words, we have started a whole complex ’freedom/accomodation’ balancing act.
After all, even if we give too many of our rights up willingly, make too many accomodations (or accomodate too far), we will feel oppressed. (An example to illustrate this: a young man willingly gives up his career to move into a different area because he wishes to be with the woman he loves. Even though this decision was done willingly and happily, over time, he may regret the lost opportunities and begin to resent the woman he loves… It may not even be a conscious thing – but it could fester, eventually put a strain on the relationship.)
Obviously, this balance between one’s freedoms on the one hand and willingness to accomodate the community is not the same for every person… Which is exactly why we have to be able to talk about it – openly and without fear.
It is only through open and honest discourse that we can re-balance ‘freedoms’ versus ‘accomodations’. And it is only by voicing our concerns that we can realize that the current ‘balance’ is oppressive. Every society changes and continuously evolves – and as it does, this re-balancing will be necessary!
This cannot be accomplished without the freedom of each and every person to speak their mind, openly and without fear. Therefore, I think the most fundamental freedom – the one which is key in maintaining and re-balancing all the other ones, is the Freedom of Speech.