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America's strange notion of "freedom" America's strange notion of "freedom"
by Joseph Gatt
2020-08-22 10:29:04
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I would say the notion of freedom in the US is “strange.” Because the United States is about freedom of speech and freedom of worship and belief. But not freedom of action.

Most countries however restrict freedom of speech and freedom of belief and worship, yet, tolerate a lot of excesses when it comes to freedom of action.

What do I mean?

amefr001_400Freedom of speech

In the United States, by law, you are allowed to say almost anything you want.

So the United States is about listening to people exercise their freedom of speech and debating, contradicting, agreeing or disagreeing if necessary.

This notion of freedom of speech is strange in most countries. Many countries restrict freedom of speech at the workplace, in the public sphere, and in the privacy of your own home.

That is, in Europe, Asia, Africa or elsewhere, you can't tell your boss “I'm exhausted” and it is considered rude to ask your boss to “need to take a day off.”

In many countries you're not allowed to tell your mother you dislike what she just fed you, and you're not allowed to speak your mind when your brother, sister or guest is acting weirdly.

In the US, you can usually tell your colleagues, boss or family members pretty much anything that's on your mind. You could get contradicted, your ideas could be debated, but your thoughts will represent yourself and no one else.

Freedom of belief and worship

Again, in many countries, you're not really allowed to think, believe or worship any way you want.

In most countries, people tell you what to think, and there tends to be restrictions on what you are allowed to think or not to think.

In most countries, some opinions can be legal crimes. If those opinions are not legal crimes, they can lead to excommunication, to getting fired from a job, or to problems with society at large.

In the United States however, opinions are mostly a free game and one can not be punished for their opinion.

Restrictions on freedom of expression, worship, belief in the United States

Racism is one example of opinion that tends not to be tolerated in the US.

Sex is another topic you have to be careful with in the United States.

And, in the United States, you could lose your job, and your friends, if you tell too many stories that are not true, or if you mislead people with your stories.

Also, you could get in trouble for “foul language” or if you swear too much.

Other than that, if your boss is getting on your nerves in the US, and that you lecture your boss, you tend to get away with it.

Freedom of action

Now having spent most of my life outside the United States, I find freedom of action to be rather restricted in the United States. What I mean by that is in the US you have to be careful how you behave in public and how you treat other people, when in most countries you tend not to pay too much attention to that.  

Bullying, harassment, sexual harassment is one example of behavior that is widely tolerated outside the United States, and where the police and judges tend not to want to waste their time with.

Violence is another example of tolerated action that tends not to be tolerated in the US.

Although most countries have laws governing business and taxes and money flow, most countries apply those laws in rather lax fashion, and you can play around with your money as you wish. And in most countries, you can do what you want with your business.

Security is another example of freedom of action that exists in most countries but not in the US. In most countries, violating security measures tends not to be punished, or to be punished with slaps on the wrist.


In many countries, you COULD go to jail for saying the wrong things or having the wrong opinions or worshiping the wrong God or prophet or religious figure.

But in the US, the instances where someone ends up in jail for comments or opinions are very, very rare. And they usually involve making some terrorist threat of some sort, or some violent words that could lead to violent action of some sort.

But, in many countries, you have the kind of freedom of action that you may not have in the United States.

Sasha Baron Cohen's “Borat” is a character who lives in a world that is “an imaginary Kazakhstan” where “Kazakhs” benefit from a large degree of freedom of action (rape, incest, torture, murder, discrimination, prostitution, slavery, freedom of business, basically total freedom of action).

To sum up, when I'm not in the US (or Israel) and I'm in the Middle East or Asia or Europe or something, I'm always shocked when people tell me “don't say that” or “hush!” or “how dare you say that you don't listen to Elvis and don't think Elvis is the greatest musician ever.” 

When I'm inside the US or Israel, I'm shocked (reverse culture shock) when people keep telling me “don't do this” or “don't do that!”

On the other hand, when I'm outside the US or Israel, I tend to be shocked at how my guests at home behave as they please, with no restriction of action whatsoever (yelling on the phone, throwing garbage on the floor, smoking spiffs without my authorization, bringing prostitutes home without my authorization).

But, when these guys outside the US or Israel behave as they please at my home, they get angry, or mad, at some of my comments, including comments like “I write webzine articles for a living” where they go like “are you implying that I have no education? How dare you discuss stuff that's none of my business.”

Now there are exceptions to these rules, and there are restrictions on freedom of action around the world. Point I'm trying to make is a lot of countries tolerate a wide range of actions that the United States punishes by law. And that's one of the reasons a lot of American businesses move to China, where they are willing to give up freedom of speech and thought in exchange for more flexible business practices.

What about Europe and freedom of action? You could get arrested for strange behavior in Europe, but a lot of times, as the Europeans like to say, if you haven't killed anyone or drugged anyone, you're usually free to go. 

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