I Am Not Free to…
The other day I read an excellent article on Entitlement and Patriotism. The author contrasted the entitlement of people complaining that the pandemic lockdown violated their freedom as patriotic Americans with the self-sacrifice of people in uniform that serve their country and defend its values.
In Canada, we may be very close to the U.S. geographically, but we are far less individualistic. This manifests in many ways, including our national pride in having public health care (we may complain about the system, but we’re all for the public aspect) versus the many Americans who seem to want the government having nothing to do with their health care, even if that means paying more.
As a Canadian, but also as an individual who believes that our society does best when we serve the greater good, it baffles me to see Americans protesting outside state legislatures, unmasked, undistanced, and packing an assault rifle. It seems hard to believe that people are so caught up in their own entitlement that they don’t care how many people are harmed as a result.
Being told what to do isn’t fun. However, living in a non-anarchic society, there are restrictions placed on individual freedoms to prevent infringing on the freedom and security of others. Here are a few things that I’m not free to do.
Pee on my neighbour’s lawn — this applies in general, regardless of whether or not my neighbour is likely to pick up his AK and come after me to shoot my (bare) ass
Walk down the street naked — my right not to wear clothes stops at my front door
Keep a lion on my balcony — it may be my home, but there’s a limit on the shit I can do there
Enter the grocery store brandishing a butcher knife — my freedom to carry the tools to prepare my meal doesn’t extend to the place where I purchase the ingredients
Drop hippopotamuses (hippopotomi?) off freeway overpasses — it might be hard to wrangle those hippopotamuses anyway, but my desire for a little fun has to take a backseat to drivers’ rights to not have hippopotamuses falling out of the sky and landing on their vehicle
Indulge those moments of desire to run over someone who’s been really quite awful — I can’t be the only one who has those moments, but sadly, my freedom to be pissed off doesn’t trump someone’s right to be alive
Find a fancy car, break into it somehow, and take pictures to post on Instagram — unfortunately, my personal freedom does not extend to the inside of someone else’s property.
Figure out who’s having a bbq, and walk in the front door, through the house, and into the backyard, and then grab a burger off the grill — presumably, the AK is in the house somewhere, so I’d have a minute or two to enjoy my right to go about my day unimpeded before someone is waving a gun at me
Do the hokey pokey in the middle of an intersection — sadly, I don’t have an inalienable right to hokey pokey wherever I choose
Drive in the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane with a guinea pig in the passenger seat — my right to have equal access to all public roads is shot down because it’s a guinea pig rather than a person sitting in the passenger seat (I still prefer the guinea pig)
Drive drunk — On a more serious note, people aren’t allowed to drive drunk, not because it’s a problem if they manage to kill themselves, but because it’s not okay for them to take out a bunch of innocent people while they’re at it. To me, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are very much like laws against driving drunk. People can do whatever they want to jeopardize themselves, but they don’t have the right to make other people pay the consequences.
We have the freedom to make choices that will serve the greater good. People have the right to hold entitled attitudes, but if that extends to entitled behaviour, then they’re peeing on my lawn.
Originally published at https://mentalhealthathome.org on May 28, 2020.