freedom is earned

Freedom Is Earned, Not Gained.

Such a pompous title, right? Yes, this one is about freedom: Do we have it, do we know we have it and do we know what responsibilities come with it?

You wouldn’t believe if I’d say the idea came to me while watching Gilmore Girls, so let’s pretend I was not.

Let’s say I was doing something else when I got the idea that we feel so entitled to things and we are not even aware of it.

Now, if I were to have watched Gilmore Girls, I would have been able to tell you that it’s a TV series with a mother and a daughter going through all sorts of drama, mainly because the mother refuses to live up to a certain social standard her parents try to impose on her, while the daughter elegantly brushes against the super-rich, without getting chipped in the process. And yet the daughter slides into the rich-kid role as naturally as she is pretty. Everybody still likes her afterward, she still is everybody’s darling, nothing crooked in the universe, no sign of disturbance. So, everybody seems to regard this subtle shift from humility to entitlement like some sort of given.

I know, this is just a movie, but it made me think. What if I am the same?

I don’t think it would be totally wrong if I would consider myself an exponent of my generation: Woken up to my political responsibilities, environmental and general awareness a little too late, but I am trying hard to stay on top of things now. Better late than never, right?

On the 6th and 7th of October, in a very convoluted political landscape, Romanians were asked to vote if they would want to modify the Constitution such that it will only recognise heterosexual marriages. Although the minimum attendance required for the referendum to pass was as low as 30%, only 20% of the eligible people voted. Nothing is changed from the constitutional side, except that Romania is now €43 mil poorer.

There has been a lot of talk in the last days about what this defeat meant.

A lot of people wanted to capitalise on it. Unfortunately, many of them, including former technocrat Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș, gave credit to the people of Romania, who apparently finally understood how wrong it would be to restrict marriage to partners of the opposite sexes. While that is definitely the case and, in my opinion, constitutes a human right violation, I strongly believe the outcome of this failed referendum rests on the profound ignorance and carelessness of my fellow Romanians.

Myself, like many of my friends, have not been born entirely free, but during Communism. However, I wasn’t really aware in 1989 when things took a turn for the better. Even if today there are still plenty of question marks about whose influence is better or bigger, Moscow or EU, I like to believe that Romania is a free country.

So, we do have freedom. But do we know we have it?

Honestly, I don’t think so. I realised this observing various people in different life situations. For some, certain beliefs/actions/perspectives are cemented in their being, and as such, choosing another way, going against the grain, is inconceivable. The apparent lack of perspective seems to me to be synonym with unawareness of freedom. You can be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, granted it’s not restricting or hurting somebody else’s wellbeing.

So, we have freedom, we mostly know we have it, but not always. What are our responsibilities?

If you are one of those who can’t do something because you are stuck in some sort of artificial social norm, then stop reading, this is not for you. But if you, at least once in our life, took the bull by the horns and lived, this is about you. You now know how it feels to stand for something you believe in and, against all odds, still make it to the other side. Congratulations!

That rush you feel, that bliss, that is freedom. And it is worth defending, standing up for. What does that mean? It means you have to take a stand, invest yourself, educate yourself, debate with friends, discuss civic matters with your family. Vote, when need it be, based on some facts you gathered.

If you don’t, if you are oblivious, you will be living other people’s versions of freedom. You might realise this too late and not like it, but you will not have the right to complain then.

The failure of the referendum in Romania stemmed in people’s ignorance. It is a rare coincidence this is a good thing. It is not a rule. The rule is freedom is earned not gained through a cosmic coincidence.