It’s a while ago that I have written about freedom, and how to free your mind from beliefs and values that are not yours but were projected to you, from parents, families, society, and culture. Today, let’s talk about the foundation of freedom (as I see it), and what the limits of freedom are.
The foundation of freedom is connectedness
My thoughts here are not based on any religion or non-religion, or any political view. My thoughts have a simple foundation. And this foundation is that we are all connected to each other, that we are part of Earth and Earth is in us. And the same is true on the level of the universe. Some people feel this deep connectedness in meditation, others simply get it be experiencing it in nature, or with animals, or being with a group of conscious people. Connectedness is neither spiritual nor religious. It’s science that can be learned (facts) and experienced as mentioned above. I’m not a scientist but fascinated by science. And I’m happy to learn from science to connect the dots to spirituality. It’s amazing how often both worlds come to the same conclusion. And connectedness is one of these areas. Let’s learn again from Neill de Grasse Tyson’s ability to explain connectedness with simple words:
“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
Humans are not the most important species on Earth.
There are no species that are more important than others. In my humble opinion, this thinking that humans are more important than all others is one of the root causes that led to the belief that humans can “rule” the world while ignoring the principles how planet Earth functions. As there is no second planet around the corner, we have to care for the Earth and to live by her rules. And that can only work in a peaceful way if we understand that our personal freedom has limits.
Discussing freedom on the foundation of connectedness is a much broader concept than just focusing on human beings. Look around us: the tremendous amount of ecological devastation, pollution and violence against other beings and nature could easily lead to the conclusion that humans are actually the biggest virus on Earth, but far away from being the (ethically) “leading” species. What we see is clearly not based on a broad concept of connectedness. Instead, it’s more based on the idea, that humans would be more important than anything else on Earth. In my own, humble opinion, that’s exactly why humanity is where it is, why planet Earth is treated so badly. And as we are Earth (connectedness!), we harm ourselves the same way). Additionally, so many animals have to suffer their entire lives. The driving force behind this behaviour is what only humans seem to have: greed. Would any animal ever do things because they are driven by greed? No. And greed is most of the time justified by personal “freedom.” Well-known phrases are “I can do whatever I want” or “it’s my personal choice.” “What I eat is my own choice” is just another variation. What do all these statements have in common? They ignore the principle of connectedness. Completely. And they ignore even more: compassion.
Understanding connectedness is based on understanding compassion. And understanding compassion requires an educated heart. Only then, the real meaning of freedom and its limits can be determined.
For me, it’s no surprise that people think as they think; if they don’t educate their heart and their soul on their own. The educational systems in most western countries from preschool to university are based on teaching the mind with facts and figures, left-brained only. Children learn facts about the Earth, but not that they are Earth and not how to love Earth. Children learn what’s legal, but not what’s legitimate. Children’s hearts are not educated, and therefore, compassion is still way too rare. Schools where children’s hearts are educated in the same way, where kids learn how to garden, how to grow their food, and how to prepare it, far away from so-called “food” companies, are more than a rare exception.
Freedom is based on connectedness and has its limits – whenever another being is harmed without need, reason and right, you have reached the limit!
Let’s first look at humans to define a foundation. If your life is threatened by another person, there is a reason to defend your life. That’s covered in many constitutions as an exception. Because in general, it’s not allowed to kill someone else just because you have the ability to do so. This is an approach that’s widely accepted. And in most so-called “free” societies, it’s also not allowed to limit someone else’s freedom, by robbery, kidnapping or rape, just to name a few examples. I don’t want to get into a legal discussion. I want to get to an ethical discussion following the approach that freedom is based on connectedness. And these are examples where the legal and the ethical dimension are often the same.
Another area is much more confusing, and not based on connectedness, nor on compassion. And that’s when it comes to animals. What humans do with animals, just because they call a few of them “farmed animals” and others “pets” is, for me, a very special left-brained act of judgement. It’s actually a very cynical judgement without any compassion, based on the assumption that humans have the need, the reasons and the rights to do so. Humans made a classification that allowed them to treat the one category (farmed animals) in a horrible way while others have to satisfy people’s ambitions (horses) or are “pets.” Each term is cruel, because, from an ethical perspective, there are no farmed animals or circus animals, or pets, etc. There are only animals, and they are not born to be reduced to any of these human-made categories, that have only one purpose: to justify different legal views.
In reality, it simply means that you can abuse a pig or a cow or a sheep almost as horrible as you want it. It’s in most countries legal. Because it’s a farmed animal. But if you would do the same cruelty (examples are to cut tails, or to neuter animals without anesthesia, to beat and abuse animals, and to keep them in cages in which they cannot even turn around their entire lives, or to take away their babies after birth) to a dog or a cat, you could be imprisoned. Just because these animals belong to the category of “pets.”
While these animal abusing practices are legal in many countries for farmed animals, is it legitimate? Is it ethically correct to be able to harm a “farmed animal” while “petting” others? Look back at the concept of connectedness. You can answer the question for yourself. It is not. These living beings are all sentient living beings, they want to live, they want to avoid pain, and they do suffer. Their entire lives.
There is no reason, no need and no ethical right to mistreat any other living being
While there is a broad agreement on this principle when it comes to humans, it’s still very different when it comes to animals. Why is it ethically not correct, in my opinion? First of all, we don’t have a need. As nobody has the freedom to abuse a dog or a cat, nobody should be legally allowed to abuse other animals, or kill animals just for fun (e.g. trophy hunting). When it comes to “farmed animals”: we don’t need animal-based protein to survive. Instead, it’s damaging our health, and responsible for lots of so-called “civilization diseases”, as you can learn in Forks over Knives. If there is no need, why should there be a reason? If you can live a happy and healthy life without harming an animal, why wouldn’t you? Ah, I hear you: “I like meat”, and “I couldn’t give up on cheese”, and “it’s my personal choice.” As we already said here, when you harm another living being for no reason, we are at the limits of freedom. How can you justify killing an animal (or asking others to do so), if there is no need and no real reason? And if there is no need and no reason, where should a moral right to treat “farmed animals” so badly come from? For me, taste is not a justifiable reason and has nothing to do with freedom. If I leave other living beings out of the equation to justify “my” freedom, then I have clearly crossed the limits of freedom.
Don’t forget Planet Earth
Furthermore, there are lots of environmental dimensions to be considered when it comes to freedom. What you can always check for yourself, is your environmental footprint, and how to improve it. Then, there are broader aspects to be considered that depend directly on our decisions because we are all connected to each other and the Earth.
Following people’s appetite for meat (other examples are exploiting Earth for more and more oil versus focusing on renewable energy), we run directly in an environmental disaster. The impact of animal agriculture is by far the biggest trigger for climate change, but it is the elephant in the room, because of an unbelievably strong lobby. Or why do you think animal agriculture was not even on the agenda of the Paris Climate Summit last December?
If you don’t believe me, please educate yourself here or watch Cowspiracy directly: facts nobody can ignore. The consumption of land and water and the impact on greenhouse gases is simply not doable any longer. Feeding 70 billion farmed animals with food that could be consumed by humans directly, simply shows that this is the most inefficient way to feed people.
And here we are again. Freedom has to be based on connectedness, and that’s not a belief, it’s a scientific fact. We are all Earth, and Earth is in us. How can we possibly treat planet Earth as badly as we do? For me, it comes back to the lack of compassion and not knowing or ignoring the principles of connectedness.
I don’t claim to be right, nor do I claim to have all the answers. Instead, I’d love to have your thoughts on this topic. As I said earlier, these are my thoughts, and I have derived my thoughts from facts. Please feel free to chime in, to share your thoughts and to evolve the discussion about freedom. There are many more aspects to be discussed. This is just a starting point.
- Question your actions and decisions regarding connectedness and compassion
- Educate yourself about the impact of your actions and decisions on other living beings and on planet Earth
- Ask yourself what’s ethically correct, not what’s legally allowed.
- Let your heart make your next decisions, not your brain.