Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Four Freedoms are spreading

The four freedoms stem from 2000 years of spiritual evolution. They are engraved in stone at the Franklin D Roosevelt memorial in Washington DC:

1. Freedom of speech and expression: essential for thought and creativity, enabling problems to be solved in all walks of life.

2. Freedom of worship: public and private worship to remind us to be humble before our Creator and to serve God through the serving of people.

3. Freedom from want: nobody should want for food or drink or shelter or medical help or education or a means of earning a living.

4. Freedom from fear: no person or element of society can be permitted to kill or threaten or terrorise or rob or cheat or defraud others.

 These freedoms are under attack from within my own country (UK) by religious and atheist fundamentalists and, ironically, even by a vocal minority of human rights activists who interpret ‘freedom from want’ in such an absurd way that the very principal is devalued (e.g. freedom from being made to feel uncomfortable by people who believe in God by banning public worship). The freedoms need to be guarded as precious gifts. Even criminals recognise their importance. Any society without them cannot, in the long term, prosper. These are what democracy is founded on. Do I think our democracy is perfect? No. Any society which considers itself perfect is deluded and dangerous. The same applies to individuals. The values we aspire to are ideals but people, unfortunately, are not ideal.  Yet aspiring to those ideals is what drives society forward.

Suffering, deprivation, violence, tyranny, widespread corruption and lack of access to education could be reduced drastically by spreading these freedoms to countries which currently do not have them, i.e. countries outside the Western world which in less politically correct times was known as Christendom.  Please note: I am not saying these dark aspects of life don’t occur in the West, or that parliamentary democracy is the whole guarantor of freedom,  but infringing forces are more widely recognised and fought against.

 Fortunately, this diffusion of the Four Freedoms is, I maintain, already happening by osmosis in a natural way:

1. State owned enterprises (SOEs)

SOEs have a major global presence. The Chinese companies  Sinopec, China National Petroleum Corporation and State Grid, have a combined annual revenue of $0.739 trillion, which is slightly more than the combined total for Royal Dutch Shell ($0.378 tn) and Exxon Mobil ($0.355 tn); and China's international trade has been doubling in volume every 3 years. The SOEs operate largely abroad and the tens of thousands of employees involved are in frequent contact with the west, often actively copying or absorbing the culture and ideas which have arisen over the 400 years of the Enlightenment.  Moreover, influential members of the Communist Party work for the SOEs and this will lead to cultural infusion at the highest levels.

2. Western companies in developing countries

Complementing the SOEs is the growing number of western companies with a large presence in China and other countries. They bring with them western values and ways of doing things which have allowed Europe, the UK and North America to grow rapidly. The fusion of western and eastern ideas or business cultures will no doubt lead to totally new approaches to management and doing business in both the developing and the developed world but more important could be the infusion of the Four Freedoms into the latter.

3. Overseas students

Any major university or polytechnic in the USA, Europe or UK will tell you that foreign students from the developing nations form a large proportion of their intake. This is especially apparent in science and engineering. Science and technology students not only learn the power of peer-reviewed academic research and freedom to question authority, which arose out of Protestantism, but also encounter western culture in general. As outsiders they can see what is good and bad about our society, which often we, being immersed in it, cannot. They can teach us the importance of diligence and resolution and show how powerful is the combination of these with creative thought, but above all they interact with their relatives, friends and contacts, both domestic and in their universities at home, imparting to them what is good about the democratic way of life (and criticising the negative aspects, hopefully).


4. Migrating workforces and tourism

The general widespread ebb and flow of workers and their families, and of tourists, between the developing and developed world could again benefit both. Above all, any family which has experienced the liberating nature of life in a society with the Four Freedoms is bound to want it in its home country. Institutions such as the UK’s National Health Service, e.g., must make quite an impression. The bottom-up pressure on the leaders of such countries to reform their societies to enable the Four Freedoms can only keep growing.

5. Protestant Communities in China

In another posting I refer to the vigorously growing Protestant business community south of Shanghai. This has a minimum of corruption and is tolerated by the Communist Party for pragmatic reasons. E.g. it shows how elderly people can be cared for in residential institutions as lifespan increase, how corruption is reduced by spiritual beliefs and how the encouragement of morally guided enterprise can lead to growth and prosperity. See also an article in the Economist.

6. Internet

Despite the best efforts of the oligarchic regimes the internet is allowing increasing contact between their citizens and those in the developing world. Again, once people get a taste of the four freedoms and what they can lead to there is no stopping them. In the case of the Arab Spring it is unfortunate that the young people desiring a society based on them are in danger of being mired in conflict with those who also want to topple a regime but to whom freedom is anathema. This conflict could cause misery and death to many but in the end freedom will prevail – it always does because freedom favours creativity, ingenuity and problem solving. In other parts of the world (China, North Korea, Russia etc.) the transition to a free society could be largley peaceful, because there do not appear to be determined minorities spiritually dedicated to quashing it.

These five modes of cultural dissemination mean that a rapidly growing number of people in developing countries are getting a taste for the mental liberation that the incorporation of the Four Freedoms into legislation brings. With it should come a better quality of life for their citizens and a capacity to deal with problems like poverty, malnourishment, starvation, violence, disease, and lack of education as well as the ability to generate wealth without corruption or fraud and to distribute it justly.

 Once freed each society would go its own way but each needs to be on guard against those who seek to destroy it. Germany was a secular democracy that fell prey to evil and became a rampant, fascist, racist paganist power in the 1930s that at one time appeared to be threatening both the free world and Stalinist Russia. But the Four Freedoms (and as a Christian I would say the power of our Lord Jesus Christ) won in the end.

See also The Appollo astronauts and Madalyn O'Hair

Author, 2077 AD.