Liberty, freedom, Independence
"What light is to the
eyes - what air is to the lungs - what love is to heart, liberty is to
the soul of man"
~ Robert Green
Ingersoll: American political leader and orator, noted for his broad
range of culture. He was prominent during the Golden Age of Free
Liberty is the state of being exempt from the domination of others or
from restricting circumstances; a special exemption; franchise;
privilege. It is also the power of voluntary choice; freedom from
necessity. It can also mean unusual or undue freedom or familiarity.
When referring to a country, it is possession and exercise of the
right of self-government. Synonyms such as autonomy, emancipation,
freedom, immunity, independence, leave, licence, release, sovereignty,
etc., all may apply to liberty. However, there are subtle differences in
the use of these words. In general terms, it may be said that freedom is
absolute, liberty relative; freedom is the absence of restraint, liberty
is the removal or avoidance of restraint.
Even though the two words are constantly interchanged: as in, the
slave is set at liberty, or gains his freedom; liberty keeps strictly to
the thought of being clear from restraint or compulsion; freedom takes a
wider range, applying to other oppressive influences.
For instance, we speak of freedom from annoyance or intrusion and do
not use liberty instead. Similarly, when the context applies to States
or Nations, we use independence.
Thus, we say Independence Day, and not freedom or liberty day.
Most independent Nations and States have a Constitution. The
Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the
people, but is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.
Our constitution asserts all power is inherent in the people; that they
may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at
all times at liberty and that they are entitled to freedom of person,
freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press. Yet,
such liberty is not at no cost, for liberty means responsibility.
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, but
within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. People do
not realise that freedom has a price, that of responsibility and
As a people, if we wish to be free; mean to preserve inviolate, those
inestimable privileges which we contend; mean not basely, to abandon the
noble qualities ingrained in us as a people; and which we have pledged
ourselves never to abandon; we must, united, fight everything that is:
bad, base, corrupt, depraved, and malicious; in short, evil.
That is responsibility inherent in a people, free and libertarian.
If not, should we shirk such care, such duty; without doubt, we will
all become apathetic: and what difference will it make then, to those
lacking inertia, whether such apathy, such deadness, is fashioned under
the name of totalitarianism, or in the holy name of liberty or
democracy? I quote from Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin
Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little
temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Sri Lankan society
almost lost its liberty to terrorism.
Posterity will never know how much it costs the present generation to
preserve our freedom, the liberty of all Sri Lankan peoples. Hence, I
hope we will make good use of our liberty, gained through untold
sacrifices.If not, terror and imperiousness shall reign in place of
It should be remembered that liberty is not something that anybody
can be given. Freedom and liberty are things people take, and people are
as free as they want to be.
All kind of nonsensical demands are made in the name of freedom and
liberty. For instance, people demand freedom of speech; but they use not
the freedom of thought that is undeniably theirs to use at all times,
As Sri Lankans, we are free born and free bred as any other in any
other part of the world.
We have all the freedom that free men have in any other comparative
democracy. We need not acknowledge any man as our superior, except for
his own worth; or as our inferior, except for his own demerit. We give
to every other human being, every right that we claim for ourselves. We
do not treat life so dear or peace so sweet, that we have to purchase it
at the price of chains and slavery.
Our heritage being thus; however, as Sri Lankans and as a people, we
exhibit not the dignity of a people who are possessed of liberty,
freedom, and independence. Why is it so?
A people weak and timid cannot be, entrusted the care of liberty; for
the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood
of patriots and tyrants. We in Sri Lanka, in recent history, have had
neither patriots nor tyrants - only aspirants to both.
Pretenders do not inspire a people, neither their blood. When people
value privileges above principles, they soon lose both, and along with
it their pride. A people bereft of honour, cannot exhibit dignity; and
without dignity, few men will have virtue enough to withstand the
Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you, is an age-old adage.
Thus, meek and weak people become fodder for despots whose tyrannies are
always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes.Hence, it is time
we braced up, and demonstrated a sense of pride in the liberty we
possess, lest we forfeit it and become a people good at only making
excuses for all that is wanting. Such people are seldom good for
anything else except at criticising, condemning, complaining: most fools
do so anyway.
The problem, as I see it, is that our liberty came to us too easily,
and that which we obtain too easily, we esteem lightly.
That which is not prized and treasured will be, forfeited. As much as
a country cannot subsist well without liberty, people cannot without
virtue; and it is only the virtuous, safeguard liberty.
The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history:
the virtuous will place his trust in fellow man whilst the evil will
exploit him. "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act
responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws," said
Plato, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and
founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher
learning in the Western world.
Irrespective of good or bad, the best way to safeguard liberty is to
educate the people.
Liberty cannot be preserved without, a general knowledge among the
people.Like John F. Kennedy, let us proudly say: "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."
See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking; keep laughing.
Life is mostly about these two activities.
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