Monday, March 3, 2008

From the Mountaintops

Quick, what are the Four Freedoms as enumerated in the United Nations Charter, two of which are guaranteed to every man, woman and child in the United States of America and protected by the First Amendment? If you aren't aware of what they are, you would join a majority of Americans who take their fundamental freedoms for granted. The Four Freedoms were made famous by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he addressed the nation during his State of the Union speech in 1941, before we became embroiled in World War II. If truth be known, freedom is part of our divine heritage and cannot be given, only taken away. If taken from us, it creates a hole of desire that only freedom can fill. President Roosevelt obviously knew this when he eloquently proclaimed:
"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want--which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear--which translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world."
Eleanor Roosevelt took up the baton and included this language in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights when the time came to form that august institution following the war. Since then, the record of the United Nations has been spotty as far as human rights is concerned, but the ideal of freedom is the measuring stick against which every nation's activities have been measured. It is the belief of many that some day the ideal will become the real, and that will herald a time of true liberation.

For millenia, freedom has caught the imagination of many people and nations that have lived without it. The cry of freedom is particularly evocative at this time. As "prisoners" struggle to understand that a state of freedom is their birthright, pain is the result. That too is a birthright. One has to look no farther than Pakistan to see evidence of the populace struggling to find what freedom means to their culture, particularly after the murder of the former Prime Minister Benazeer Bhutto at year-end 2007.

One Pakistani group in particular caught my eye as they emerged from hiding following the election there a few weeks ago. On February 26, 2008 the front page of the WSJ highlighted the struggles of the eunuchs and transgender entertainers who cheered after the recent elections pushed out the Islamist oppressors who had cracked down on their age-old profession. Many might think that these men would not exist in an Muslim country--at least openly. But, indeed, they did.

The article explained that "in a [Pashtun] society that strictly segregates women and men, these transgender musicians perform--for male audiences--at weddings and other social occasions, swinging their hips in suggestive gyrations." They also had a popular theater all their own, sold music listened to by thousands of Pashtuns as well as videos of their performances. These guys were well-received, indeed, and filled a void left by the absence of women in a more secular Muslim culture.

This all changed in 2002 when the strict Islamists came to power in northern Pakistan. The celebrated theater was shuttered; the busy video and CD stores bombed. The entertainers feared for their lives, and instead of being praised for their artistic expression, they were reduced to poverty. Many hid in the ghettos and subsisted by cooking and cleaning.

Hope can now be heard in the voices of these liberated artists, who dream of re-opening their beloved theater. And even though they may still be targeted by extremists, fundamentally these men are now free. One of these newly-liberated souls, revealed this hope, as he squatted under a poster of Bhutto: "My dream is to dance at Nishtar Hall once again. And my bigger dream is that one day my dancing will be allowed on TV." Who knows, this may be the next reality show in Pakistan, and this talented artist may get his break. Only in a free society would this be possible.

The recent National Geographic reported on the people of Bhutan who have also been offered this chance of freedom through democracy. In this case, however, they are being forced by their King to do so and this tiny, poor Buddhist nation wants none of it. If asked, a majority would deny a desire for more freedom because their benevolent monarch always provided all they wanted or needed--even if in modest amounts.

But the visionary King is pushing forward, none-the-less, and has even demonstrated how to vote, literally. For the first time, roads are reaching villages that were once a day or two walk to the next village or town. A few cell-phones have been distributed, but many remain unused. One man excitedly explained to the rest of the village that as he painted in a nearby city, he saw a big box come out of the sky. It made him almost fall of the ladder. This hapless painter had never seen an airplane, and the villagers listened as if to a madman.

The lesson here is that freedom is relative at least as viewed from the vantage point of humanity. Only the Soul fully knows liberation. The core struggle we experience is an effort to gain that elusive state of being. Buddha's admonition to strive for detachment was his way of ringing the freedom bell. The Christ further elaborated on this point, but added the law of love to the mix.

It is now time for the next revelation on the evolving theme, and one for which humanity has been preparing for eons. Thus, current events look chaotic, but in reality are simply the physical demonstration of a deeper evolution to unimaginable heights of freedom. This might not be the place for those who fear the mountaintops, but those of us who do are in for quite a ride.

Of note: M. Huffman once again provided this lovely photo, this time from her travels out West. The Four Freedoms information was provided by Wikipedia, because I was not sure what they were either nor their history. Wikipedia is a great source, is it not, and illustrates so well the power of the collective mind to change the world.

Today's Weather Report: Icy, icy roads were the result of last evening's drizzly rain. From the 40's yesterday, it went down to 30 and that provided the scary terrain. This morning it was 9 degrees, but is now sunny and again in the 30's.

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