Freedom and society
May 07, 2014
On May 4, it is memorial day in the Netherlands: all Dutch people are remembering all the (death) victims during war and other situations, starting with WO II. On May 05, on liberty day, we celebrate our freedom. Freedom, as Amartya Sen argues, is one of the most basic rights of a human being. It adds to one's dignity, self-esteem, empowerment, and opportunities to grow and sustain peacefully (personally, as well as on societal and economic levels). It is the most basic right one must have as a human being, but also nature has the intrinsic right to be respected, to be seen as equal, and to be free (e.g. animals imprisoned). However, in many countries, not only developing ones, one often has to fight for their freedom and equality. So therefore, here a personal story on my view and relationship with freedom. Note: as far as the title of this blog concerned, I once did a very interesting course on Power and Society in Knoxville, Tennessee, (USA), which was about the radical prison, the black, and environmental justice movements. We had to read Foucault and Marx, and that course and professor have inspired ever me since.
Anyways, here the personal story: in March 2005, I was waiting for the bus from Xining (China) to Lhasa (Tibet). I started to look back at my trip: I was 19 years young, but had seen quite a lot during that seven months endeavor through Asia, including the Tsunami in Krabi (Thailand) and Maoist strikes in Nepal. In that Chinese remote area, I was the only (female) western traveller around. Hardly anyone spoke English, and I was also vegetarian, which made things even more complicated, so that I ended up in the kitchens of the restaurants pointing to what I wanted to eat. My Chinese went as far as 'Ni hao' or 歡迎 (welcome), 'Shei Shei' or 謝謝 (thank you), and 'mi fahn' or 飯 (rice).
Tibet and Nepal were the countries I wanted to go most for already seven years (at age 12 I decided to go there after high school). It attracted me due to the Buddhist culture, the mountains, and the people. And all my expectations were met: friendly people, buddhist lessons and culture, and off course the Himalaya. As far as the later is concerned, I did the Everest trek in February – March 2005. I went up to the Everest base camp and the lakes on the other side of that mountain range without a guide or sherpa, but I met some people along the trek which made the trip easier.
Then, I went to Tibet, but the problem with Tibet was that, as a foreigner, you cannot travel alone. So I had to go with a group from Kathmandu to Lhasa, which took three days by jeep. Lhasa was impressive, inspiring, but sometimes also sad because of the Tibetan – Chinese situation. After, I went to the birthplace of the Dalai Lama, around Xining (China), which was a lonely time, being in remote areas and hardly anybody speaking a language I knew. I remember taking a mini-van in the middle of nowhere, sitting there with eight men, including two Tibetan monks. They dropped me off at a crossroad with nothing to see or to do, but with the two monks and one chinese man. What do you do as a young woman? I took my space and waited a couple of meters away from them on the next bus. Then I went back to Xining and took that bus to Lhasa/Tibet. It was a 36 hours bus trip, with heavy snow storms and broken trucks alongside the road with the bodies decaying inside while vultures were trying to eat them. One time, our wheel broke down and I went outside the bus, in the middle of the night, in -40 degrees Celsius! Luckily, the bus had beds inside them with really warm blankets. They comforted me and a very nice Tibetan woman with a newborn playing with me, made the trip somewhat more bearable. But what the trip made quite funny as well, were the many cheesy video clips with western music. One of those songs was from 2 Unlimited 'No, No, that's no limit'. That made me realize how valuable freedom is and how lucky I was, being able to travel through countries which are in a struggle to survive, or where certain groups are struggling, while I would end up safely at home in The Netherlands.
So what's the link with that bus trip and May 5, 2014? Well, 2Unlimited was performing in The Hague! The last time for them was in the 90's! So that made me think about how one can not only feel unfree when living in a war zone, but also when one has to deal with hardship, poverty, depression, and more. It is the freedom you are able, and let yourself, to feel, which is one of the most valuable aspects in life. If one feels real freedom, one is happy. Indeed, when feeling free, therefore, feeling alive and happy, then there are no limits! Nothing can beat that! And you will radiate that positive energy to everyone around you.
I feel happiness, positive energy, and freedom because I'm doing all the things I get positive energy from. It gives me a good feeling and a lot of energy being able to inspire, to create, and to have impact on other people's lives. And also, to do good for nature, in the name of current and future generations. So break free , because freedom is something to really fight for, may it be through demonstrations, lobby, politics, entrepreneurship, or just within your own close circle. I do it through entrepreneurship (LES) and politics (ikkiesvooreerlijk.eu). What's your way?