Freedom or Licence? image removed on request

We hear a lot about freedoms at the moment, particularly in the area of masks. We hear people protesting that it’s an infringement on their rights, their freedom to do as they choose. I remember the same arguments being advanced over seat belts; I dislike wearing a seat belt and didn’t wear one until I was made to but that doesn’t make it sensible. I equally remember a similar debate over no-smoking areas, people complaining that it infringed on their rights and freedoms.

Both these examples are analogous to the wearing of masks, in that they are issues of safety. Wearing a seat belt generally protects only the wearer, but has a knock-on effect in terms of hospital use etc: having smoke-free areas protects everyone not only from lung diseases but also from the risk of fire.

I don’t like wearing a mask either. It can make you feel as if you’re gagged or silenced, though it’s a totally psychological reaction as you can speak perfectly well wearing one. But it makes me wonder whether there’s a correlation between mask refuseniks and those who feel disenfranchised, like people who voted for Brexit. I wonder…

Whatever the reason, refusal to wear a mask makes no sense. It is true that scientists differ on the benefits but even if the benefits are small, it’s still better to wear a mask than not. Like smoking it protects others besides the wearer.

I simply cannot understand the kind of stroppiness that insists on going to a beach when it’s patently unsafe, or attending a rave, or going to the pub. I totally get why BLM protesters wanted to march and pull down statues and in many ways it was important that they did; these actions cannot be compared to the stubborn seeking of pleasure that we see in beachgoers or ravers. But it was probably not sensible all the same. Then again, if it’d been me, can I put my hand on my heart and say I wouldn’t have done the same?

Probably not.

Above the gates to Nelson Mandela park in Leicester sits the quotation pictured above. Every time I went there I’d think about it. I’d also think about the sentence at the end of this speech: ‘Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.’

I guess he meant that in freeing others we free ourselves – or perhaps vice versa. The oppressor is not free, any more than the slave; they are both bound upon the same wheel. In fact the slave could be considered as more free since he or she knows they are enslaved; the slave owner does not. So I think Mandela’s right – and this much I know: freedom is not doing whatever the hell you want, regardless of other people. That is licence, not freedom.

So stop it.

Not you, dear reader. I know you would never be so foolish.

Stay safe out there and have a good week.

Kirk out