Leonard Pray III
1st Hour AP Language
October 24, 2018
Freedom, the Unknown Habit
What contemporary society calls routine and leisure, can also be defined by choosing liberty before security; in other words, choosing freedom over safety. An American essayist and social critic, H.L. Mencken, wrote “The average man does not want to e free, he simply wants to be safe.” So, how accurate is Mencken’s claim? Though evidence exists in order to support both sides, a significant amount can prove his thesis wrong in the terms of contemporary society. In reality, many people depend on the freedoms given to them and those without these freedoms crave them.
With few exceptions, much of contemporary society exercises their rights, which are also considered freedoms. The general population, especially those of higher and middle class, depends on one freedom on a daily basis. The freedom to drive an automobile is one that many would be hurt gravely without. In addition, a high percentage of contemporary society consumes alcohol. A lesser percentage, though still extremely high, smoke as well. Once an individual becomes a certain age, they can do at least one if not all of these things. To build on this, don’t these same individuals risk the chance of a fatal or injurious car crash? Don’t these individuals risk the possibility of mouth, lung, throat, or liver cancer? As well as the brain damage that presents itself with long term users. With a vast majority of people aware of all these possible outcomes, these individuals take the risks, and do as they please with their freedom. Ironically, a commercial currently cycling the television depicts this scenario to an extent. The commercial presents a girl, sitting on a bench, reading a contract stating that she understands all of the dangers of the product. Even though the dangers and risks are immense and plentiful, she continues to use it. Every user of these products does the same thing when they turn over the ignition, light up, or crack a cold one.
Truly, few can counter the claim of without freedom, safety has little meaning. A perfect example includes inmates. Most inmates in a containment facility would support the statement that they would much rather be on the “outside”. Although some may prefer to stay in prison because of the possible dangers that await them once they are out. As well as the fact that some of them have more in prison than they did outside of prison. For example, in prison, inmates are presented with beds, clothing, food, shelter, and protection provided by the guards. But these people are few because they are subject to loss of freedoms. To illustrate, think of a prisoner as the child in a household, the youngest to be exact. The warden plays the role of parental unit, whereas the guards play the big siblings. As in any household, the parental figure makes and enforces the rules. They also have the power to limit what you can and cannot have. In addition, the older siblings do the enforcing when the parental figure can’t or isn’t “home”. They may also allow more freedoms without the parental figure knowing, just as a brother or sister may sneak an extra desert to his or her younger sibling. The overall point is that inmates aren’t treated as though they have the freedoms of non-felons. And when the freedoms are taken away, life isn’t the same.
On another note, to dispute the claim that, if for some unspeakable reason, the government decided to rewrite the bill of rights and or constitution in favor of the white man, after years of minorities fighting back and claiming their freedom, that these minorities would wreak havoc on the U.S., presents a very difficult task. The Detroit Race Riots and Civil Rights Movement would be meager to the outcome of this scenario. Putting freedom or liberty before ones security and safety has been, and currently is, the way things change for the better. If a group of people has a cause that is morally right but not in the eyes of the government, then they have the ability to change that; though, they may have to use violent protest, another example of freedom over safety. Martin Luther, although not using violent protest, used this tactic to change how the U.S. viewed the black community. Malcolm X used the violent protest method for the same reasons. Their followers were beaten and jailed and discriminated heavily, but they stuck to their morals, put safety aside and did not back down. So just as the civil rights group did yeas ago, if contemporary society stuck up for a common cause that was morally just, and if they willingly put their safety on the line for their freedom, they will make a difference.
Finally, on some occasions, society giving up some freedom can result in more safety in the long run. In simpler terms, the freedoms that some preserve, can end up creating more safety than danger. For example, the current protests on gun control. These protests exemplify a liberal mass of people that feel that the government does not restrict firearms enough. But, the resistance of the government and the conservative party has kept the current laws in place without change. Think about this, why hasn’t the U.S. been attacked on the wide scale that Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and France were? The answer is simply this, the United States has guns. So, when an invading country attempts to do their bidding, they not only face the military, they face many proud gun owners. Though America spends more on the military than any other country in the world and decreasing gun use and ownership in the general population could increase safety for schools and fellow man, the United States would risk more safety by giving up guns than preserving them.
The fact is, a majority of contemporary society, especially American as outlined frequently in this essay, would much rather preserve their freedoms and liberties than preserve their safeties and security. If one is faced with the choice at least. Truth be told, society could improve immensely if every individual in the world would only stand up for the morally just. But overall, with evidence leaning towards freedom more so than safety, it seems as if Mencken’s claim is too bold and ill informed.