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Freedom Day 2014

b2ap3_thumbnail_bevrijdingsdag-logo.jpgOn May 5th Liberation day is celebrated in the Netherlands – after the night before people stood still to remember those that gave their lives in the fight for freedom. Freedom day is actually a better translation – as this day is to celebrate freedom. It is a great tradition – to remember and to celebrate, to have two days that put freedom into the centre – every year again.

 

This year this day is even more special for me. In November it will be 25 years ago that the Berlin Wall came done. This year it will be 25 years for me to live in a free country, to have the freedom to go where I want to go, to do what I want to do, to say what I want to say – to live my life the way I want to live it. Writing a blog like this would have been unimaginable in the country where I grew up. Not only that – even what you said had to be carefully weighted. Especially the surveillance system was perversity to the top. Nobody could really be trusted – you never knew who would leak things to the Stasi or what would unintentionally reach them. Actually – it was not forbidden to criticise the government. It was actually allowed to say what ever you wanted – officially. But you never knew what might be used against you at some point. And the system was unpredictable. One day you could do and say everything but the next day just a frown could bring you into trouble. A system of fear.

 

After the fall of the wall I thought that this will be gone forever in this part of the world. Yes, of course there are still too many countries with practices like that. When visiting China I could easily identify the signs I still know from back then. But that was something for the dictatorships, not for Western democracies.

 

25 years later some discussions show that the fight for the freedom of speech is also needed even if that principled is solidly anchored in the constitution. People tend to forget the dangers when they have grown up in freedom and never experienced the other side – and change is often gradual and therefore not always visible right away.

Today there a two developments that can be concerning at some point if we do not act one those. The first is surveillance. Nowadays security is used as an excuse for an extent of surveillance the Stasi would be jealous of. Don’t get me wrong – I agree that surveillance can be helpful sometimes. But what is concerning is the total of democratic control and openness around it. A democracy has different rules than an autocracy – and this can mean sometimes that there is a price to it. Yes, probably the intentions are good, but history has shown what can happen. It is a question of time it gets abused. We have seen often enough how easy it is to steal it.

The second trend is the lowered tolerance. We tend to forget that freedom does not mean that I can behave whatever way I want. Freedom is limited – freedom ends when it starts to limit the freedom of the other. So – if someone e.g. thinks that being gay is wrong and against nature or religious people are complete morons, he is free to do so. But his freedom ends when he starts to actually limit the freedom of people being gay or religious (or both).

 

Let’s celebrate our freedom today – and let’s also not forget that freedom can not be taken granted. It is something we have to cherish and to value and it is something worth fighting for!

 

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