Individuals often speak of freedom as their right to make their own decisions and often when we speak to adolescents and young adults that can be translated into “Doing what they want.” Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying:
Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry their own weight, this is a frightening prospect.
For everyone there are numerous opportunities for us to assert our individual freedom. Individuals may say they have the right to say what they want or do what they want in disregard of impact on others in society. The high responsibility comes to each of us in when we make our decisions to asset our freedoms, including freedom of speech it is with a thought of the greater good and recognition of our part in our family, community, country and global community. It is up to each of us to create a society that provides high expectations for our children, politicians, fellow citizens and most importantly ourselves for a freedom that takes into account our right to that freedom but also recognizes our responsibility as part of a community.
I was at a meeting in regards to some community issues and perhaps one of the saddest statements I heard as we talked of asserting our voices for the greater good of our community to our local politicians a voice from an elderly lady stated “When you all get as old as me, you will realize those people (politicians) won’t listen and we can’t do anything about it.” We at times live in a society that appears apathetic where we often find it difficult to see the importance of our one voice or how our small actions can make a difference. Helen Keller is quoted as saying:
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
There continues to be a lot of talk from all sides in regards to Miley Cyrus and her new image and her killing of Hannah Montana. She was even on ‘Ellen’ on Friday justifying her current career choices, her freedom to do as she wants. It is interesting how we as a society equate sex with power and of course there is the expression sex sells. We have individuals who proclaim that we have individual license to expression, free speech and therefore anyone who argues with any form of expression is against individual rights and individual freedoms.
Now this is not a blog about Miley Cyrus but more a reflection on freedoms and responsibilities and how you cannot have a truly great society without recognizing both of those essential components to a meaningful life.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
In my job as a vice-principal I have the great opportunity to learn from the wisdom of our youth. I was walking behind three young girls while I was on outside supervision. These three young girls were talking about Miley Cyrus. I walked and listened. The one young girl talked about how her mother sat with her and they watched the video ‘Wrecking Ball’ together. They both really liked the lyrics and the song but could not understand why she had to represent the song in a video the way she did. On side note, I was appreciative of this mother who chose to take this opportunity to teach her child about choice and what it was to be respectful of self. The young girl told her friends that her mother told her she couldn’t watch the video again (they watched it together). She then told her friends she was upset how Miley is representing woman. Now the girl was only eleven so she may be repeating the words of her mom but the other two girls agreed. They said they were not going to watch the video.
I decided to join their conversation and asked the girls if they were talking about Miley Cyrus. They said they were and I told them I thought she has a great voice. In our school we have basically three overarching beliefs about respect for self, others and property. I asked them to think of the video in those terms. One girl said she liked Hannah Montana it was someone who was nice to people and didn’t understand why she wanted to kill this nice person who actually made her wealthy. The other girl said when she does those things like using her body to sell her music it is like she doesn’t think her singing is good enough to sell her songs. The other girls said when my mom and I talked about it was more that we don’t think woman; girls should share that with everyone. It wasn’t respecting your self. I thanked the three girls and continued supervising our amazing students. In essence these girls were talking about Miley’s responsibility as a citizen in our society.
Every adult has a responsibility to be the change they want to see in the world; to take freedom and responsibility seriously. If we want a society where we don’t view woman as sex objects we have to quit modeling to our children that is the way to be successful. If we want our children to be honest and respectful we must also model those behaviours. Growing up my parents spent the time and energy to teach me how to be a kind and generous person. Like everyone I am human and have not always met those expectations. In the end it is taking responsiblity for one’s mistakes, learning from them and that is where growth occurs.
In my life as an educator, I have an enormous responsibility to model respect for self, others and property. My individual rights of expression need to be taken into the context of my social responsibilities to the students in my school and the community I live in. Those that are in business, whether it be in entertainment, sports or the creation of products need also to be cognizant of their responsibilities as global citizens. It is difficult at times to understand how what we do affects and influences the children in our society.
There are lots of things each of us could do to make money but fortunately most of us take our responsibility of teaching our children to be respectful of themselves, others and property seriously.
In life, all actions have consequences for ourselves and others. When we discover even the smallest action has this effect, one becomes thoughtful of what we do.
James W Hoddinott, When Eagles Dare to Fly
- What Does Freedom Look Like? (jodycoopermusic.wordpress.com)
Prob sweeping statement but in the west too much emphasis on the individual and freedom and in the far east say HK where I was born too much focus on responsibility especially to the family and that includes the extended.
I have always lived with this clash of cultures and values and have yet to find the right balance to be comfortable in my own skin.
I married a Westerner and I kinda wished he had thought more about responsibility during our marriage and when he decided to throw in the towel. But no it is his perogative to pursue his happiness. His words not mine and then repeated by our teenager which hurt deeply. Undoubtedly true he is entitled to be happy but the tsunami of hurt and pain left in its wake.