Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Pains of Liberties

The quintessential object of the orator of liberty of enjoyment is to make the listener feel that his home is threatened; the quintessential object of the other is to make him feel that his rights are oppressed. With the first, he is called to a duty of defense and protection; called as a citizen, a father, an inheritor of a tradition worth preserving. With the second, he is called to an adventure of progress or advancement; and called as an individual, or called as a member of a collective abstraction, i.e., the People. In a crisis the former aims at reformation, restoration, repair; the latter, revolution.
-Paul Cella, The Two Freedoms

Maybe I am a killjoy, but Paul Cella's "liberty of enjoyment" sounds too hedonistic to me. As he frames it, the pleasures of liberty are tempered and restrained by community and duty, which is certainly not hedonism. Perhaps I am merely sick of pleasure and all things redolent of it.

Yet it is no great observation to say that liberty hurts. Perhaps the small and good liberties of life do not hurt as much as the power-obsessed capitalized Liberty of the ideologue, but they often rest uneasy on the shoulders of men. Freedom pains those enslaved, like even a small virtue pains the habitually vicious; but freedom also pains the free. There is a hint of this grief in Cella's line about the orator making a man feel his home is threatened. (Must all orators be petty tyrants reliant on threats?)

Preserving one's self self-rule is laborious. Eternal vigilance, and all that. Chesterton compares the work inherent in this conservatism to a post in need of regular whitewashing. There seem to be pleasures even in a life of slavery, where one's needs are met by someone else in exchange for avoiding free labors. Acknowledging and debunking that perverse enjoyment must be a part of any discussion of liberty.

1 comment:

Paul Cella said...

It is not about action or force, but rather appreciation. Its spring is gratitude and its provocation the threat of change or deprivation. The man aware of this liberty will be more aware of his obligations than his rights; and he will feel, deep in his bones, the honor and joy it is to fulfill obligations honorably. He will not hesitate to embrace sacrifice.

I find it hard to square your point with these lines, from the first paragraph of my piece; however, you have convinced me that "freedom of appreciation" or "liberty of gratitude" might be a better phrase for what I am getting at.

In short, I agree that enjoyment may be a dangerous word.