Saturday, March 12, 2005

Freedom: From, Of, or To? (Part Two)

The second half of Martin Kramer's analysis focuses on what we mean when we say that all men desire freedom. He contrasts the modern Western view of "freedom of" with the Arab-Muslim desire for "freedom from." By "freedom of," Kramer refers to our individual freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and so on. By "freedom from," he refers to a desire for freedom from oppression for the tribal or religious sect.

He is correct but there are several more things to be said.

As Kramer readily admits, our "freedom of" developed initially from "freedom from." After all, the ideological forebears of our Constitutional authors were English Puritans fleeing the oppression they received as a group. Upon coming to this country, of course, they promptly turned around and starting pushing around those who didn't agree with them. This is not a new problem and it is not insurrmountable.

I think the dichotomy of "freedom of" and "freedom from" is incorrect. The more proper dichotomy would be "freedom to" versus "freedom from." Man has two chief desires: (1) to dominate others; and (2) not to be dominated by others. These are two sides of the same coin: man wants to be God. It is the chief lesson of the Garden of Eden. It is woven throughout the history of the world.

The great development of the West was the realization that these inseparable desires could not both be satisfied. Freedom from outside restraint is the freedom to bully others. Unbounded freedom to please yourself is freedom to be dominated sooner or later.

This realization is the natural result of being forced to participate in government. It doesn't come immediately. It has taken us 500 years to get to our current state. By carefully guiding the Middle East into popular government, we can begin to give the people experience with government. I believe they are intelligent and will come to these same realizations on their own, given the chance.

But here Kramer might object: they cannot learn these things because they are hedged in by Islam. This is true. But Europe was restricted by a very similar ideology in the form of a bastardized Christianity. The Emperor Constantine decided to use Christianity as a political tool and made it the official state religion. The Church was flooded with corruption from all sides. Ultimately, the "spiritual kingdom" of the New Testament morphed into the temporal kingdom of the Papacy. The Christian belief in a coming Judgement Day was replaced by the Papal dictate that every day was Judgement Day and that fallible men sat on the judgement seat instead of God. Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages and the Divine Right of Kings became the justification for everything.

It took time, but this view was eventually dismantled when the Reformation tipped the balance of power away from Rome. Men as diverse as Samuel Rutherford and John Locke sparred with the likes of Charles II over where the authority of God truly rested.

A strong United States can play the same role of an unbalancing wildcard that the Reformers played in the 16th and 17th centuries. Strategically placed projections of military power, the free flow of information, and close contact with the people of the Middle East can change the dynamic and offer the people of that region with the opportunity to begin working their way toward a better balance between "freedom from" and "freedom to."