The politics of freedom, and the justice of freedom, are amazingly convoluted.
My parents were refugees from Hungary, who arrived here in Australia in 1949 with nothing other than one suitcase each. No money. No friends. No relatives, other than one sister and brother-in-law, and one mother, journeying with them. They could not speak English, and were speed learning on the three weeks they spent travelling here by ship. Be assured: it was not a luxury cruise liner!
Why did they leave the place of their birth, and the country that they loved? Freedom! They wanted to be free, and in 1947 Communist Russia had so infiltrated Hungary after World War II that they fled first to Austria, and two years later to Melbourne. Russia’s effective takeover of Hungary was driven by politics and was contrary to any reasonable justice principles.
This lesson in freedom has guided my life ever since. In personal development programs I have attended (all of which have helped the ongoing development of my ‘self-awareness’) I clearly identified and consciously realised that I would give my life for freedom.
For what causes would you be willing to give your life? This is a profound question, and I encourage you to discover your unique answer or answers to it.
Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in 1776, “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” ‘Liberty’ is simply another word for freedom.
One way that I think about it is that ‘freedom’ is what makes us human: in some ways animals don’t have freedom. They are guided by, and forced to act in accordance with their instincts. We often say, enviously, “I want to be free as a bird”, but birds are not free from their behaviours. The behaviour of almost all animals has not changed for many thousands of years, whereas human behaviour and progress and accomplishment have been remarkable. This progress is due to freedom. Humans have the freedom to think differently, and thereby act differently.
In October, 2016, all around the world Hungarians and Hungarian-linked people were commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution against Communist Russia that erupted, synchronistically for our family, on my mother’s birthday, 23 October, 1956. This was indeed a fight for freedom by a minnow nation against the might of Russia. It was a fight for justice, that Hungarians should not be controlled or enslaved by or stolen from by Russia.
Great courage was shown by many young Hungarian students to speak up against totalitarianism, knowing that any disobedience would lead to unjust jailing and, often, unjust convictions and severe punishment. On 30 October, Russia announced that it was withdrawing its tanks and troops from Hungary, but on 4 November she re-attacked with increased reinforcements and brutally struck down the celebrating nation, and took away the promise of freedom and the promise of justice.
Just two weeks later, the Melbourne Olympics commenced, and during those Olympics the Hungarian water polo team played a famous, brutal, ‘blood-in-the-water’ winning game against the Russian team. Hungary won the gold medal. Melbournians of all cultures and origins passionately supported the Hungarians in this match, and I have met a number of people who were there at the time, who truly understood the import of Hungary’s win.
Many thousands of Hungarians illegally fled Hungary as refugees in the months that followed. If anyone was caught at the borders, which were patrolled by Russian troops, they would be shot if they resisted arrest, or jailed for lengthy periods. Some 30,000 found their way to Australia. Here, they have found freedom, and justice, while mourning the loss of lives in their homeland, the loss of their family and friends’ networks, and the loss of living in the Hungarian land and culture that they loved. But they got on with the job, and have made a big contribution to the Australia that we now all experience.
Being free, having freedom, starts with your awareness of what freedom means to you. Many people in Australia, from my observations, simply assume that freedom is theirs, but Ronald Reagan warned us in the 1980s, while he was President of the USA, that ‘every generation has to fight for its freedom’. I have deep concerns that few people are willing to do this.
Once you have awareness of freedom, then you can control and guard your thoughts, which then leads to behaviour related to the fight for freedom. You have to access your courage to think your own thoughts, in a world that is pressuring you to conform.
The opposite of courage, in my view, is conformity!
The late Buckminster Fuller, an American genius who died in 1983 at the age of 87, after having been awarded 47 Honorary Doctorates (and yet some people have not even heard his name before, let alone how amazing he was!), said this:
“… I am convinced that human continuance on the planet now depends entirely upon:
- The intuitive wisdom of each and every individual
- The individual’s comprehensive informedness…
(5) The individual’s never joining action with others, as motivated only by crowd-engendered emotionalism, or by a sense of the crowd’s power to overwhelm, or in fear of holding to the course indicated by one’s own intellectual convictions” (from Critical Path, 1983).
So, do you make your decisions based on your own thinking, and guided by your values, or do you let ‘the mob’ pressure you?
The fight for freedom in Australia, I suggest, now includes:
- The fight to stop politicians passing more and more laws that restrict our behaviours, in the name of ‘safety’. Politicians will play politics: most of them will do whatever it takes to be elected, so they can stay on the gravy train of living off taxes paid by you.
- The fight to stop politicians responding to the vocal minority who want to censor free speech, in the name of their particular cause.
- The fight for free speech and avoiding the trend to political correctness. For example, contemplate the operations of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
- The fight for freedom of choice in your health solutions, and particularly to the extent to which you want to vaccinate your children.
- The fight for freedom to express your views without being labelled, criticised, ostracised and bullied because you don’t agree with another’s views. For example contemplate the same-sex marriage debate.
- The fight to educate yourself and your children in the ways that you consider useful, rather than the views of Government Education Departments. Almost every person I speak to has a different definition of ‘a good education’. Which one is the right one??
So, are you going to be courageous, like my parents, or a conformist?
My parents were driven by the natural human desire for freedom and justice, for which they were willing to take great risks and exhibit great courage. What are you willing to fight for? Where can you be courageous? What passions do you have that will fuel your ongoing success, and your unique definition of a worthwhile life?
Charles Kovess LL.B. (Hons), LL.M., CSP, MAICD
After 20 years of high level legal and business experience, Charles Kovess turned his back on the law in 1993 to share success strategies as a professional speaker, educator, facilitator and coach. Charles is known as Australasia’s Passion Provocateur and is a world expert and thought leader on the power and value of passion! He has authored ‘Passionate People Produce’ (published by Hay House), and ‘Passionate Performance’, and is the co-author of ‘The 7 Heavenly Virtues of Leadership’.
He is the Founder of Kovess International, President of the Australia-Hungary Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Trustee of the Global Energy Network Institute, Past National President of the National Speakers’ Association of Australia, Past President of the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club, and a Certified Speaking Professional.
Charles is also passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation and sport! He is currently competing in his 32nd consecutive year in triathlons; he was an international water polo referee, played A Grade Amateur Football, and has completed nine marathons. He is the father of five children, aged from 35 years down to 6 years. www.kovess.com
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