speech written on 10-02-2024

Are we free?

Ladies and gentlemen, Today, I stand before you to contemplate a question that has haunted the human conscience for centuries: Are we truly free? We often pride ourselves on the notion that we live in societies that value liberty, justice, and personal freedoms, yet it is crucial to reflect upon the various dimensions of freedom and critically evaluate whether we have achieved true liberation. To answer this question, we must first understand that freedom is a multifaceted and complex concept. It encompasses not only political and constitutional liberties but also social, economic, and intellectual liberties. While superficially we might have the appearance of a free existence, it is essential to dig deeper and examine the constraints and limitations that might hinder our true emancipation. Starting with the political realm, many of us live in democracies where we can express our opinions, elect our representatives, and have the illusion that our voices matter. However, we must acknowledge the influence of powerful elites, lobbying groups, and economic disparities that often skew these democratic processes. The financial muscle required to run for office or to be heard in policy-making circles often leaves those without wealth at a significant disadvantage. So, can we genuinely claim to be free when our political system is tainted with unequal influence? Moving beyond the political sphere, we encounter the social aspects of freedom. Discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or social class continues to persist in our communities, depriving millions of people of their inherent rights. Women are still fighting for gender equality, minorities confront racial profiling, and individuals belonging to certain faiths face prejudice and intolerance. These constraints on social liberties highlight that true freedom is not yet achieved in society. Additionally, we cannot ignore the interplay of economic power and freedom. Economic inequalities have widened, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow at an alarming rate. While some enjoy the luxuries of life, millions struggle to provide the basics for their families. Economic empowerment is indeed a prerequisite for true freedom, as financial dependency shackles individuals and compromises their liberty to pursue their dreams and aspirations. Moreover, intellectual freedom is of utmost importance. The unrestricted pursuit and exchange of knowledge enable us to develop our thoughts, challenge the status quo, and contribute to the progress of society. However, censorship, censorship in the name of security or political correctness, curtails our intellectual liberation. When opinions are silenced, creativity stagnates, and true freedom of thought is compromised. In light of all these observations, can we confidently declare that we are free? The truth is that freedom is an aspiration, a journey on which we must relentlessly embark. It is our collective responsibility to strive towards societies that respect and safeguard the rights and dignity of every individual. It is only when we tear down the walls that restrict us, challenge the systemic inequalities, and champion inclusivity that we can inch closer to the realization of true freedom. As I conclude, let us not despair but be inspired to be the agents of change. Let us educate ourselves, engage in robust debates, and be active participants in shaping a more just and free world. The realization of true freedom may seem elusive, but together, we can dismantle the barriers, break free from the chains that hold us back, and create societies where liberty is not defined by superficial appearances but by the equal access and opportunity for all. Thank you.

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