What comes first – responsible behaviours by each individual within the social group, or an individual’s freedom to choose to do or say anything?
What is most fundamental to the longevity of a social group – individual freedom to choose or the group’s ability to establish regulatory parameters for behaviour?
Does a social group have to accommodate itself to the wishes of every individual, or does an individual have to accommodate itself to continue to exist within the group’s standards?
A recent slogan, used as a label and an excuse in Canada and the United States is “FREEDOM!” It is being used by some as the “purpose of one’s existence” and the “excuse for one’s behaviours”. Anything that’s done in ‘the name of freedom’ is good. Anything that is against one’s immediate preferences or convenience is accused as an attempt to take away one’s freedom. How did the whims of the individual become paramount to the longevity of the group?
History is a useful benchmark
Canada started out differently than the United States, and that difference used to make us a different society. The United States came into being after a violent, revolutionary war against Great Britain. Canada came into being after peaceful negotiation and compromise and has maintained long connections with Great Britain.
Americans tend to resolve differences with violence, and the threat and use of weapons – ‘the wild west myth’. Canadians tend to resolve differences by verbally arguing with each other, carrying protest placards and then going for a beer.
Canadians recognized that individuals had ‘opportunities’ based on a willingness to accept the decisions of the majority until the next election, to share a “fair” amount of what they had to provide a reasonable level of sustainability for those who had not. Quite sociable!
Americans tended to share as little as they could get away with based on an assumption that everyone had an equal opportunity to get rich and if they didn’t it was their own fault.
Canadians tended to pay taxes based on a percentage of one’s income, and the more one brought in, the higher the rate of taxation and a higher rate was useful as it helped pay for things like universal health care.
Americans tended to pay as little as they could and believed that private health care was best because you could buy what you could afford (or not) and then a profit could be had by private investors.
Canadians tended to really believe that each citizen had a ‘responsibility’ to the whole, before any individual ‘freedom’. Individual ‘freedoms from’ or ‘freedoms to’ were the result of responsible behaviours. Without responsible behaviour by each individual, there was no predictable ‘freedom’ for individuals or the ‘group’. Those who did not conduct themselves responsibly were identified as socially unacceptable and subject to consequences.
- You can drive (freedom to) if you don’t drink (responsibility).
- Drive 30 km over the speed limit (irresponsible), you’ll lose your car and license (consequence).
Canada is a place of immigrants. How do we treat the first immigrants (from 17,000 years ago) and the most recent immigrants to this place? Is Canada a place for some, or for all who are here now?
The Politics of Freedom – a clickable link
“The misguided ‘Freedom Convoy’ has thrown Canada under the bus…” [KW Record]