As humans, we have a great propensity to take things for granted. Many tend to place the appreciation for what really keeps them going on the backburner, giving way to the flood of external forces dividing our attention. This may be involuntary, but it’s a fact. So many seemingly have it all and yet aren’t happy. I’m pretty sure that many make the mistake of equating happiness with the amount of material goods they accumulate. Others believe they aren’t content because they haven’t been able to accumulate the goods they understand to be crucial for happiness. Today, with all the voices clamouring for attention, it’s practically impossible to know what’s what, and certain valued concepts have become so diluted that their true meaning has been mired in the quagmire.
Freedom is a concept that has been snarled in today’s traffic gridlock of opinions. Most of those trumpeting for freedom today don’t have any clue as to what it really means. Most of those we see and hear today speaking in the name of freedom live in rich societies and have never known the loss of their freedom and what it feels like. Obviously, the exception being those who have spent any time incarcerated, but that certainly isn’t the recommended way to come to understand the concept. Today there is a tendency to take simple words with simple meanings and distorting them to a point where the real meaning gets lost. Politicians are the prize winners in that category, although, these days, anyone with an agenda and access to social media has all the tools to do the same; and there is plenty of audience to pontificate to. I’ve never known what it’s like to lose my freedom, although I was born in Portugal in the 60’s and lived there until 1970. Youngsters don’t notice fascist regimes. We thankfully weren’t aware that certain conversations couldn’t be had and certain other protocols had to be followed. I didn’t know that the book I was learning from in school was laden with propaganda and that every song, movie or play had to be passed by the ministry in charge of censorship. The adults knew, but there was no recourse. You had to follow along, do what you were told, and if you complained you’d be called into the office. Some never came back out. But, in 1974, after a couple of failed attempts, the people got back their freedom. On April 25th, 1974, the Portuguese people took back their country from oppression and enforced ignorance, without spilling any blood. The only noise, for the most part, was the cheering population. That is the real freedom people need to maintain, the rest is all smoke and mirrors. Only those people, the ones who were repressed, and those that continue to be, to this day, know the real meaning of freedom. It’s a word no one should be allowed to distort, but it’s way too late. Everyone feels so entitled now, every little thing is an infringement on freedoms. Ask someone in the Ukraine, or Syria, Myanmar or the Sudan if they feel that we have it bad. It would be a stupid question. We’re all soft now, we won’t change the channel if the remote is too far from reach. We fight with each other. Snitch on the couple across the street because their grass is too tall, or that they planted wildflowers instead. A few years back, in Brampton, my buddy had firefighters knocking at his door. Why? The neighbour hated the fact that he was grilling sardines in the back yard! She ended up with the grilling, but that’s not the point. To understand real freedom, you must know first-hand what it’s like not to have it, but that isn’t feasible, so at least let’s begin by not throwing the word around, because that has consequences. Just look around, the more we bastardize the word, the less freedom we have to enjoy.
The Portuguese are not a model society, and much of that is due to all the time lost during the decades of oppression they suffered. All social and cultural development was held back and now it will take many more decades to catch up to much of the rest of Europe. All the people we lost to emigration because the country couldn’t sustain them left a gap that will also take many generations more to fill. But that’s fine, we live to fight on and make it all better. We’re a great people, a proud people, a courageous people. We adapt to any situation as well as anyone, and that is proven by our emigrants who make us proud all over the world. We are small, but strong, and many a pleasant surprise has emerged from this rectangle. Never count us out.
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