Discussing Freedom

It is a privilege to address such a group of educated and aspiring young women; young women who are on the brink of engaging with the real world of the future; young women who are free to do so; free to think, free to express those thoughts, free to dream of great possibilities.

Freedom, ladies, created when the human seeks it as a necessity of life, like a snowflake, created from water, the necessary source to life. The human eye is fooled by the simplicity of snow, freedom, a simple ideology, almost a media clich� – ‘think outside the square’. But ladies, have you ever really seen a snowflake? Under a microscope it is possible for the human eye to witness the intricacy of a snowflake, which mirrors the complexity of freedom. Do you remember hearing as a child that ‘no two snowflakes are alike’? Freedom also transforms in this way, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Freedom is the keynote struck by many celebrated, even notorious orators. Who champions freedom? So often it is the outsider, the oppressed but valiant minority, the woman, the philosopher, the writer, the indigenous leader, the liberated Soviet politician, voices speaking in a wilderness of indifference, if not outright hostility.

You may ask, why did the philosopher sacrifice his life? Why did the anarchist spend two years out of public life and why did the civil rights leader dream such great dreams? Why, you ask? – to defend our freedom.

Today, because of the philosophers, you have what is called ‘academic freedom’. Because of the work of some anarchists you have freedom of speech and _expression. Because of the civil rights leader, you have the freedom to dream.

But ladies I have a nightmare.

I have a nightmare that my children may not go to university unless I pay $100 000 for a degree.

I have a nightmare that my children might not be eligible for humane, compassionate and effective medical treatment.

I have a nightmare today.

I have a nightmare that my children may never breathe fresh air, may never behold a blue sea, may never know the freedom to travel a welcoming and secure world or to sit in the Kruger National Park where giraffes have right of way.

Ladies, we must struggle against this nightmare. How? You may ask. Sitting in this classroom gives you the responsibility. Because, the greatest defender of freedom is not war. It is not victory. It is knowledge.

So we are educated. Does that make us philosophers, anarchists and civil rights leaders? No. We are on a materialistic roller coaster. A never-ending ride. The individual is strapped in their seat, not free to step off because if they do step off their ride is over. Today the individual is not judged by the ‘content of their character’ but by the ‘content of their wallet’. Even as freedom in Australia is slipping away, the global loss of spiritual belief is propelled by this obscene, this all-consuming materialism. The replacement of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity with consumer goods and ambitions marks not only the final days of religion in the Western world but perhaps the end of faith, hope and love altogether.

In today’s world there is noise on the streets. But it is a sweet, sweet sound. People gather together and cry in the name of peace. There is unrest and civil disobedience among the populations, against a war that the American Senate justifies as a war ‘to defend freedom’ that the President of the ‘land of the free’ propagates as a war between ‘freedom and fear’. Iraq and questions of freedom and political morality are passionately debated. You may, or may not, believe that protest during a time of war is unpatriotic. You may, or may not agree with the anarchist but as the great American philosopher Noam Chomsky said ‘If we don’t believe in freedom of _expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

We would not dare to step of our roller coaster, at present the HSC roller coaster. I would not dare to suggest you do so. But if we enter the real world blinded by the drive for success then we would have failed in our responsibility. Voltaire, one of the greatest among French writers and philosophers said, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.” This is our responsibility. Our responsibility, as educated young women to defend freedom; to defend the freedom to speak; to defend the freedom to think; defend the freedom to choose, defend the freedom to resist. That they, the philosopher, the civil rights leader shall not have died in vain.