What Cost Freedom?

I am reminded that as a young fellow I loved Crosby Still Nash and Young.  On their early live album – “Four Way Street” – one of the tracks is a short 2 minutes entitled “Find the Cost of Freedom”; connect with the lyrics here.  And watch them perform it (longer and very beautiful version) here.

At that time I was first hearing that song, the Vietnam war was raging and people my age were being drafted and going off to fight far from home and increasingly without purpose.  But it was a time of confusion not clarity.

Still what was clear then was that “freedom” was something that we valued dearly here in the USA.  It was part of our founding DNA and something upon which we had never wavered.

But today, I am not so sure.  For example what level of privacy and true secrecy is good or bad going forward.  In the past, we believed that an individual had a constitutional right to privacy that was very extensive and pretty absolute.  If you were writing a journal in your home, it was yours and its contents protected under privacy laws.
But increasingly, we find ourselves facing more complex issues of freedom and privacy.  Today if you keep that same journal but use software and keeps the journal in Google Drive do those same laws protect the privacy of that journal?
Let’s take a couple of extreme cases.  As recently as 200 years ago the level of powerful weapons in the world were not very effective guns (“don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes” was really an admonition not to shoot until you could have a chance of hitting the target; guns at that time were not accurate at all.) and some cannons that could shoot limitedly effective shells (cannon balls).  So the devastation of a powerful figure in a single moment had a range of a less than 1 mile and the damage to human life was limited to probably 100 meters or less.
In the last 100 years we have reached the point in technology where damage from weapons of mass destruction can be launched to any point globally from the most distant point and where the devastation unleashed from a single such weapon can be the killing of tens of millions of people.
What if we look another 100 years and calculate that such changes in destructive capability continue to grow at the current rate?  Is this absurd?  Not really – the game changing weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan was the USA drone fleet.  Today you can purchase capable drones that can use GPS to fly nearly 50 miles and land to within 25 feed for less than a few thousand dollars.  They can carry a reasonable payload and once launched with a program they cannot be stopped unless shot down.  A young person who does not even have a drivers license can buy one for about the cost of 2 video game systems.
They are available and so are nasty things to put inside them.
So then the question naturally arises – is Earth and its inhabitants a collection of individuals who deserve perfect privacy and personal freedom?
or …
is Earth and its inhabitants more like a single human body where all must agree to work together at some level for the survival of the whole?
Carried to the ultimate extreme of a single weapon of massive power created by single individual at next to nothing cost using only simple tools … do we believe that deserves privacy or freedom?  When is the protection of the collective worth more than the freedom of a single individual?  And how do we agree to balance freedom/privacy on the one hand and global safety/security on the other.
We have been asking that question in Guantanamo, inside the NSA and outside recently in the revelations by Edward Snowden.  Many Americans believe very strongly in their “Right to bear arms” and yet this results in approximately 15,000 deaths per year, most of which would be prevented with gun laws like exist in most of the rest of the whole world.
Today things are so different from the past when the biggest WMD was a sword and armor and people barely knew geometry and algebra and pre-newtonian physics.
interesting speculation.
How will we today “Find the Cost of Freedom?”

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads

  1. Uwe says:

    Good point Frank, in many of your postings I left my nickel as a comment, today I just must admit that I have no answer at all … we have unpreceded challenges to face, god help us to solve them.

    Best, Uwe

  2. Audrey Banfield says:

    Technology is growing so rapidly since the 1950’s that it makes my head swim to consider the safety of the entire universe at this point in time! If I should really know and understand ALL of the technological advancements of this day today, I’m sure My pillow would not seen quite so restful tonight! Audrey Banfield

  3. Greg Bohannon says:

    Based on the sentiment of this post I would be interested in your opinion on the current Apple/FBI drama.

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