It’s a potent word; if you’re Malaysian you get all caught up in it for about a month every year. It’s Independence; when a nation stakes out its sovereignty and gains autonomy from outside control: you know, freedom. But freedom isn’t one of the many, many things we talk about every time August 31st rolls around – in fact, when we do mention freedom and our possession of it, we tend to be defensive about our grasp of it. But freedom is what we became independent for, right? We celebrate the event each year, but are we living in the consequence?
Voltaire said, “Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.” We received our freedom 54 years ago, but how much freedom did we get for ourselves? We have gained the freedom to choose from a bewildering array of smartphones and carrier data plans, and we use it to the point of abuse and excess; but we rarely exercise our freedom to communicate our opinions clearly and unimpeded. We are free to debate the merits of any one of a multitude of football teams, be they local or foreign, and so we do, neglecting to exercise the freedom to change the rules of the game. I can’t swim to save my life, but even I can safely say we as a people, a community, a scene, are ready for deeper waters than this.
You are free to fight for the things you want, and you are free to fight for the things you need, and you are also free to decide which is more important. I think being free is easier than not being free, and I kind of like keeping things easier for myself. But being free is not an event like gaining independence, it’s a process. You have to work at it, not just acknowledge its significance once a year. (You can’t just choose a representative of all that you stand and lie down for once every five years, either.) You have to be free while holding down a job, working out your taxes, and choosing between upgrading your sneakers and paying the water bill. It’s all good. You might not have everything you want, but you’re free to give it the old college try. But you have to try.
I should probably be thinking about this again come September 16th, but I won’t. I don’t think you will, either.
But hey. Feel free.
WordsManifest used to work for JUICE, CLIVE and several other titles under our parent company as our Photographer/Photo Editor/Contributing Writer. For more opinions and experiences from JUICE and our readers, click here.