Every person is entitled to their own choice to one of two needs: safety or freedom. An anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader, Nelson Mandela, once said in a speech in 1962 that, “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” Throughout the course of history, there have been many instances in which people demonstrate that they have a preference for their personal safety, as opposed to their individual freedom. Although the issue of public safety as recently become a growing concern in contemporary society, most people value their freedom more than their safety because it allows them to openly express their ideas without any harsh consequences and protects them from unjust methods of government. The idea that much of society gives preference to freedom rather than safety is made clear through the notion that freedom allows them to maintain their rights and liberties.
For example, when former United States President John F. Kennedy gave his inaugural address in Washington D.C. on January 20, 1961, he stated, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Here, Kennedy is relaying the information that America as a whole is willing to do anything it takes and cross any line in order to protect their inalienable rights. History has also shown that when these said rights are jeopardized, serious opposition begins to arise. For example, in response to the terrorist attacks which took place on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the USA Patriot Act with the intent to allow federal officials greater authority in tracking and intercepting communications, both for purposes of law enforcement and foreign intelligence gathering.
However, this enactment drew heavy opposition as there was a widespread belief that it violated the American citizens’ privacy, along with the fact that it was unconstitutional in that it went against several of the Amendments. Many protests occurred condemning the act, including an online protest where thousands of websites blocked Congress from viewing their webpages. Overall, most of contemporary society favors freedom rather than security as it lets them exercise their basic rights, allowing them to pursue a lifestyle that will provide them with happiness. The fact that society gives preference to freedom instead of safety is evident through the conviction that it shields them from tyrannical governments.
For example, in the book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, written by author Carl Sagan, he includes a quote from US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson where he states, “It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.” In this quote, Jackson is conveying the message that if a government by any standards becomes unjust, then it is the duty of the people to fight for their freedom and protest against that government. Another example can be seen with the Dandi Salt March, led by Indian activist Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi’s journey to the coastal town of Dandi – strenuous and arduous, well-intentioned and peaceful, illegal and punishable – served as a protest to the unjust and tyrannical British Raj by collecting their own salt. More than 60,000 of the members who were involved in the march, including Gandhi, were imprisoned for participating.
However, this incarceration led the world to sympathize for the Indians, rather than the British. This dramatic rise in global British opposition sparked the movement for Indian independence, which was eventually achieved on August 15, 1947. In summary, the common man has a tendency to value his freedom, as opposed to his personal security, because it safeguards them from discriminatory forms of government. Although some people might respond that safety is valued more in society than freedom, they seem to miss the importance of sacrificing the momentary comforts of safety for the long-term protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those who prefer safety over freedom believe that safety is more essential to life than freedom. This seems to make sense because few people in contemporary society truly strive to completely reinstate a government that will allow them to maintain their freedom. In fact, this scenario is evident in the country of North Korea.
North Korea’s government, currently ruled under President Kim Jong-un, is one of the most repressive in the world. For example, all domestic media sources are controlled by the state, freedom of religion is nonexistent, there is no academic independence, and the people cannot express their views on political issues or other controversial topics without being monitored and facing severe repercussions. Although, North Korea’s citizens constantly have their rights infringed upon, there is little opposition to the government as it will lead to grave consequences. Unjust is the government; fearful, the people; repressed, the nation. This illustrates how one might think that safety is more important to individuals than freedom.
However, contemporary society seems to demonstrate the idea that freedom is more valuable to them rather than safety. For example, in the case of prisoners, they are locked away from the dangers of the outside world and guarder at all times. They are also given food and clothing, so they are not even required to fend for themselves. However, people pay excessive amounts of money just to avoid going there or get released from it. This establishes that people are willing to do whatever it takes to attain fruits of freedom. Therefore, most of society gives their preference to their freedoms rather than their personal security. Many people choose freedom over safety as it allows them to express their personal morals and live under laws that protect their individual liberties.