by Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
When we see old things in new ways

The fact that you're reading this suggests that you must really have been looking for something to do. Let's face it, FREEDOM is not the catchiest of titles. Everybody knows what freedom is and that it's worth a fight to the death. Wars are typically fought for Room, Resources and Religion (the three R's), but the single word Freedom is an incredibly handy portmanteau for all of the above. When Mel Gibson dies at the conclusion of Brave Heart, he yells that one word and leaves not a dry eye in the house. I'll bet half the organizational mottoes in the world include at least a passing nod to Freedom. But, like most overly used platitudes, its exact operational definition is rather difficult to pin down.

The major problem people have with the word Freedom is that they use it in an absolute sense. In fact, all freedoms (with an "s") are relative. This is an idea in direct opposition to those who will tell you that one either has it or not - use the plural form and you diminish the concept. Yea, but use the plural form and suddenly it makes a whole lot more sense. Think of it in terms of Little Freedoms and Big Freedoms, and things really begin falling into place.

As soon as an individual joins a group he gives up a number of littler freedoms so as to enjoy the benefit of bigger freedoms. Agreeing to speak the same language is an example. One gives up one's personal preferences in spelling so as to access the fruits of a common tongue. I like BIZNES, but to avoid somebody else using BEESNESS, I go along with the crowd and write BUSINESS - even though it looks as though it should be pronounced BUS-EYE-NEECE.

Similarly, two plus two equals four despite some politically correct souls allowing as how little Desiree coming up with five might also be valid given the new Strength Through Diversity hoop-la. I just hope I never have to rely on such an individual to give me change for a ten. And too, I voluntarily give up my freedom to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater so that I may maintain my freedom to write this column.

So far this seems like pretty simple stuff. However, it's simple only because Freedom has been shown to be a relative term after all. Now it starts to get tricky. How do you decide whether something is a little or a big freedom - whether it's time to voluntarily give it up, or time to fight to the death?

I should say here that I'm indebted to Kort Patterson ( of INTERTEL, the super high IQ society, for an article he wrote in a recent Port Of Call newsletter. It was all about Freedom and - Yes - I was looking for something to do. Reading his piece, however, turned out to be time very well spent indeed. Kort spoke of the media's need to trivialize the concept of Freedom so as to better fit a national attention span geared to music videos and ten-second sound bytes. Profound freedoms (unlike superficial freedoms) "aren't easy to project through the big screen's pin-hole camera world view." As a result, the distinction between "a voluntary concession of superficial freedoms and an authoritarian infringement on profound freedoms has become blurred." Let's take an example.

The Lifestyles Organization ( held its most recent annual Couples' Convention in Las Vegas. It regularly draws thousands of attendees from all over the country and dozens of foreign nations. Over the years, it has become traditional for many of the women to attend the concluding event (an Erotic Masquerade Ball) topless. This is a closed to the public, members only, banquet and dance.

Now you have to understand that bare breasts are hardly a novelty in Sin City. Along with three-story billboards for topless shows, several of the resorts openly advertise their European Style pools. Despite all that, an assistant DA decided to ban nipples at the Ball. Since it would have been difficult to legally enforce this ruling, it was made clear that half a dozen inspectors would find half a dozen violations in the hotel's gambling section (the only real reason for the hotel being there) if so much as a single areola went uncovered.

Now, while I can certainly understand why women would voluntarily concede a little freedom and not go running down the Strip stripped, I can only see the authoritarian infringement of their right to pursue happiness in private as a gross violation of a much bigger freedom.

Look At It This Way

Not all freedoms really matter, and it is for the greater good that, as members of a civilized society, we voluntarily restrict some to retain others. But human beings are imperfect creatures, and just as 20% do 80% of the work in any office, 20% do 80% of the mischief in any city.

Allowing panhandlers the freedom to set up shop at the nearest street corner, and to use the public park as a public privy, merely encourages a public nuisance - freedom without responsibility. Singapore has no such problem. The subways are spotless and the streets are safe. You will, however, be summarily executed for having a gram of heroin under your bed. Now I ask is it really so hard to see the difference between a bit of judicious restraint and a herd of Storm Troopers at your door? Why not use the following as a simple guide: What the gods say and what the politicians think is but a passing fad.

Unless, and until, it can be clearly shown that the behavior of a few interferes with the pursuit of happiness by the many - FREEEEDOM!

Dr. Mason is a psychologist, talk radio host, and syndicated writer. He has appeared as a centerfold in Playgirl magazine, kept Joan Rivers supplied with material, and was named "Citizen Sane for the year 2000" by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal (CSICOP).

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