Why do human beings long and lust for freedom? Is it because we are born bound in chains that hold a strong grip over us? I think not.
The word free is rooted in the Old English word frēo which comes from an Indo-European root which means ‘to love’–a word which also happens to be related to the word friend.
Are we, as humans, simply longing to befriend others?
Mankind is a social animal that needs a clan, a tribe and a society in which to survive and thrive. None of us could survive for very long as individual island entities. Imagine if we woke up one morning and had to individually grow our own food, make our own clothes and start our own schools. We would go absolutely insane or die due to over-exhaustion.
One of the most powerful forces which drives both individual and social development is the promise of freedom–whether as an aspiration, a principle, a fundamental right or even a goal. Perhaps, our innermost longing is not for wealth, success or even glamorous accolades.
Perhaps all we are looking for is a friend.
It may seem like a simple answer, given how complex our ever-changing world is. On the surface, it may even seem that we are all born into a wide range of circumstances that seem governed by chance and luck. But still, we all believe, or long to believe, that men and women are born free and equal and have the ability and potential to create friendships with one another–regardless of race, gender or social standing.
The irony is that for a vast majority of our history, lands were under the rule of a particular sovereign who sought to expand its existing hold on the world in his own image. Conquest was also recognised as a viable means of acquiring territories. We did not choose to create friendships. We instead chose to create a world of alliances and enemies; perpetuating and instilling a milieu of fear towards one’s fellow man.
Recent studies of 19th and 20th century colonial empires have emphasised that empire-builders—explorers, missionaries, and scientists, as well as political and military leaders—strove to carve out distinctions between “we/they,” “self/other” between colonising and colonised populations. From this perspective, creating and maintaining imagined differences was not natural and took a carefully-crafted strategy that was put to work.
Colonial states exerted great effort to segregate space, provide their emissaries with a home away from home, prevent colonial agents from “going native,” in addition to regulating marriage and sexual relations between different segments of the population.
Post WWII, however, title to territory can change only by peaceful means, even if its exact boundaries are undetermined; as is the case with some states today who have border disputes with their peers. In contrast to the world of international affairs, where things have a way of falling into an unofficial hierarchy, the virtual world is often cited as the only arena where equality and egalitarianism is not only possible–but will one day exist.
No matter how all-encompassing the virtual world may be in creating friendships, it does not–at present–feature at all on the map of international relations. We should, however, be cautious in dismissing the possibility that an entirely virtual and remote state might appear in the near future.
What would be the unifying regulatory body if such a state were to appear out of thin air?
What would the world look like if we were all friends?
Perhaps, then, we would finally be free.