Chapter 3.b

March 16, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

THE VALUE OF FREEDOM

Each time we plan an action, either it is something as trivial as to take a walk or a challenging thing as to open a trade, we need the necessary precondition of having the freedom to take such action; it would not make sense to make projects without the freedom to achieve them.
Even the protection of our values presupposes the capacity to protect freedom; freedom is then an essential virtually ubiquitous value to our existence, which importance is only second to life itself.

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3.b.1 – What does freedom mean?

March 17, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

tuffatore

What does freedom mean?

The word freedom basically means having the capacity and possibility of acting without hindrance, restrictions and limitations. In this definition of freedom we see two basic aspects: the chance to do something and the possibility that something prevents it; according to the different cases, one or the other perspective is highlighted: talking about freedom of action without reference to possible obstacles, or talking about freedom from something, stressing the dangers that may threaten it. Therefore an increase in our ability to act always involves an increase in our freedom and vice versa; similarly the overcoming or the emergence of any obstacle or limit implies respectively an increase or decrease of freedom.
According to the cases, the word freedom takes many different shades of meaning; especially important is the law or legal freedom, which we have when Law acknowledges our faculty to act, expressly authorizes our behavior or at least doesn’t forbids it, as is the case of freedom of thought, of the press, expression, movement, religion etc…
To the previous one, it often opposes the actual freedom, that is when our action is practically possible and has no consequences that would discouraged us, not even if prohibited by law, either because the penalty is small or because it is certain (or almost) not to be discovered.
By combining these two types of freedom, we can obtain a number of cases to be kept in mind:
– when the freedom of law makes legal the actual freedom, there is a real freedom that is practically feasible (freedom to pursue a commercial enterprise in a economic – legal favorable context; freedom of working as an employee to ensure a dignified life)
– when the freedoms of law does not correspond to the actual freedom, due to large obstacles to overcome, making our action non convenient, there is an apparent freedom; this appearance, just led by its legality, can bring to self damaging behavior (freedom to pursue a commercial enterprise in a tangle of red tape and administrative burden, of heavy taxation and social security expenses, of difficulty to access to credit, lack of skilled workers and decrease in consumption; freedom to carry out an activity in employment endangering the personal safety, carrying out alienating tasks and suffering harassment of various kinds);
when we have only the freedom of law in the absence of any actual freedom, because our action is totally impractical (or will become so in short time), there is a false freedom (freedom to pursue a commercial activity with the license of authorization, competition from illegal operators, extortion from criminal organizations, funding at usury rates, advance taxes on hypothetical income and contributions due also in case of negative income; freedom to perform an activity as employee whose remuneration does not allow to have a house and to support ourselves, in short that does not allow to be independent).

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3.b.2 – What freedom do we really need?

March 18, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

ostacolo

 What freedom do we really need?

Being free to do what doesn’t interest us or what we do not want to dois not a great luck, it would be a freedom without value; the value of freedom depends then on what it allows us to do, the importance of the activities that allows us to perform. According to this criteria, it is sufficient to ask ourselves what are the most important activities, to get the answers we seek.
Our animal nature imposes some needs to be met; in particular the freedom to move is deeply rooted in our nature, it is a physical and psychological necessity we can’t do without; prison has always been used as a punishment for criminals, people often tough and accustomed to everything, but to be locked up for long is hard to bear even for them. Then if we prevent someone from meeting his even more fundamental needs like eating, drinking, sleeping and getting warm, we enter the field of torture.
Our innate sociability leads us also to have contacts with our fellow creatures; it is an important psychological need and should therefore not be surprising that the insulation is one of the most common punishments additional to imprisonment, or one of the sacrifices that the religious people like hermits impose themselves, further to fasting and to sexual abstinence, to test and exercise their strength of will.
Closely related to the above basic needs are those economic and social in general; to have a home, maintain a family, then to have a job, to educate the children (and thus have some time for them), to have at least the hope of being able to climb a rung of the social hierarchy to which we belong, which mean career prospects and social prestige. To have the freedom to meet at least these requirements means having the opportunity to live in dignity and feeling rightly realized.
It’s easy, however, to read on any history book that, at different times, all the freedom associated with these demands were denied: sometimes after the imposition of various forms of slavery by one population to another, sometimes because of very strong cultural traditions also related to family, such as sexism and consequent enslavement of women.
If we want to study how to better protect the value of freedom, it is from here that we should start: what are the fundamental types of freedoms and what are the dangers that today can threaten it.

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3.b.3 – Respect for others is at odds with our freedom?

March 19, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

rispetto

Respect for others is at odds with our freedom?

Within the crowded human society, the rules and customs related to cohabitation are seen as limits to individual freedom; we say that our freedom ends where that of others begins and in this ancient saying there are two profound truths: the first is that the respect of the others needs imposes limits on our actions, and the other is that the rules of social life, morality, tend to be overwhelming.
But let’s accurately consider whether the community has only negative aspects compared to our individual freedoms: we know that the group is one of our main strategies for survival, our core activities such as eating, wearing cloths and working, have always been carried out through direct or indirect collaboration of our kin; thanks to the community now we can also have homes with running water, toilets and electricity, we can communicate through telephones and computers, we can move with trains and airplanes, etc… How many things we could not do living alone? How much our freedom of action would diminish? Therefore, if on the one hand the society imposes us to inhibit a number of anti-social behaviors, on the other allows us to do a huge number of things, important or otherwise impossible and the balance is clearly positive. Respecting others also means respecting their sphere of freedom and then, in conditions of reciprocity, requires preserving ours as well.
It is therefore not correct to see respect for one’s neighbor as a limit to our freedom because, although it is true that it places limits, it also allows us to overcome many others, being one of the most important values related to the community; without it, living together would be impossible and we’d lose all those freedoms that society allows us. The respect therefore, besides being a social value and as such linked to the value of life, can also be seen as a support to the value of freedom.
It is important to stress that it makes sense to fix some limits in the name of respect of others only in cases where our action involves inconvenience, annoyance or harm to others; one thing is to suppress freedom of action, another is to limit it in special cases and with a good reason.
It must be admitted however that only a part of the rules of social life aim to the respect of people, many pursue other purposes and may become a difficult weight to bear; respect for others should therefore not be confused with respect to authority; obey the orders of a office manager certainly does not help to protect our sphere of freedom even in cases where it is right to do so. The original meaning of respect is to have regard, to take into consideration; respecting the others implies then to have respect for them, taking into account their needs; comply with an order or a law certainly means to keep them in mind, but in essence means to obey and nothing else. Clearly this second form of respect can be used also to support some impositions that go against freedom. There is therefore a substantial difference between respecting the rules and having respect for others, and this leads us to review in depth the value of law.

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3.b.4 – Is legality a value?

March 20, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

legalità

Is legality a value?

For legality we mean the compliance with the laws and the laws are an expression of authority, but are also norms having the function to regulate civil life, an institutional form of the rules of coexistence. When the laws perform this function, they represent a support rather than a limit to freedom: they allow coexistence and, with it, ensure a freedom of action otherwise impossible; they require mutual respect starting with respect for  everybody’s freedom.
Unfortunately, the laws do not always have this function; history documents us on how many of them are born to support an authoritarian regime and protect the interests of a ruling class, this is why to law are often associated the concepts of harassment, oppression and injustice. There is no doubt that laws can have a negative role, but at the same time one cannot deny that they also perform positive functions: is then possible to distinguish good laws from bad ones? Often we can, and it seems quite easy, because we have just to see if they are consistent with our values: life, family, community, welfare and, of course, freedom and mutual respect. In fact, this ability of judgment assumes that we have clearly understood the concepts of those values and that we have a degree of culture and a chance to get information in order to well interpret the real purpose that the law has, sometimes disguised by propaganda just behind the ostentatious protection of the above mentioned values; it is therefore a task at times decidedly difficult, although necessary, to defend our freedom.
Everyone knows that the goodness of the laws depends on who makes them, and in general the value of law depends on the type of political regime, the current form of government; the values that reflect the laws are those of the political class in power. It is good then to know in whose hands political power actually is, to understand on what values the government from which we depend is actually based and analyze the possible alternatives.
Legality is therefore a present value, but only insofar as it actually supports the community and protects our freedoms, to the extent that it prevents riots, bullying and injustice which, it is good to notice, in the long term lead to authoritarian regimes encouraging the emergence of hard and tough laws to restore order.
In other words, to respect the authorities of our society is right and it is a duty, as long as these authorities deserve it and this is precisely how they respect our values, starting by our freedom.

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3.b.5 – What is opposed to freedom of thought?

March 21, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

gabbia

 What is opposed to freedom of thought?

History teaches us that the main forms of oppression and enslavement have been originated from authoritarian political regimes (from the empires of antiquity to the latest Nazi and Communist dictatorships) or from despotic cultural traditions as the machismo and racism; experience shows us that cultural evolution may take an illiberal and tyrannical direction and that is undoubtedly one of the strategies of survival of complex human societies with the aim of protecting its stability.
Sexism and racism, fascism and communism, imperialism and absolutism are all products of cultural evolution; then again appears the need to be able to control and direct it, so that this evolution is not contrary to our interests, but today as in the past it is almost entirely abandoned to itself.
Directing the development means using it for a steady progress of the human being, for solving the problems that afflict us without producing others; adaptation is the engine of evolution and, as we have seen, it is made possible by the variety of Individual characteristics: the greater is the number of alternatives, the greater the probability that there is at least one which is beneficial in the new situation. In the case of cultural adaptation, our wealth is in the abundance of alternative ideas, and in the freedom to use and experiment them; in this context, uniformity is therefore a serious defect.
However, we can’t deny the fact that the trend to uniformity is part of human nature and then, if it has been favored by natural selection, it must also have a positive role. In the history of human societies there are always two opposing attitudes: on the one hand, the preservation of ancient cultural traditions and the uniformity to them, on the other the search for innovation and change. From a biological point of view, both attitudes have their advantages: the protection of cultural heritage is an attitude similar to the protection of genetic heritage from genetic diseases, which is necessary to preserve from mutations, which are often harmful, the results so painstakingly achieved by natural selection; mutations, however, cannot be entirely eliminated because without them further adjustments are not possible and the species would sooner or later be doomed to extinction; the search of innovation just responds to this second need. We are facing two diametrically opposed needs and, since for meeting one we must take something off to another, it is formed in our society a sort of arm wrestling between tradition and innovation in which no one ever prevails completely over the other, so that it is reached a very unstable  point of equilibrium that can be near one of the two possible extreme positions: perfect fidelity to tradition and rejection of all traditions; just as in the case of genes, none of the two is compatible with the survival of society.
The human community was represented by the tribal model for many tens of thousands of years, a culturally far more stable environment than the current one, in which a lower capacity of adaptation was required. In this situation it was advantageous for the group that the balance between tradition and innovation was pretty close the total fidelity to tradition, while was little respectful to individual freedom. This explains the natural inclination to make the cultural traditions sacred and unquestionable and the fact that the ancient culture based on family clan was very hard, tough and restrictive of personal freedom: not only there were many restrictions, but also many obligations governed by complex rituals.
We also know that our mind refuses to review its schemes unless it is forced by severe need based on the principle that we called mental economy; this form of natural obscurantism, if applied to culturally inherited patterns, is apt to serve the cause of traditionalism, and it is plausible that this advantage has strengthened its selection even by a genetic point of view during the evolution of our species that, it should be remembered, has developed for tens of thousands of years in a tribal environment.
We can conclude that human nature and culture developed natural defenses against the changes that are:
– attachment to tradition in adulthood that may become a real fear against novelties
– obscurantism, or the denial of evident truth, to preserve the old mental patterns
– dogmatism, that is to make indisputable some beliefs considered particularly important
– intolerance, which is the hostility towards those who do not respect the rule of uniformity to the traditions of the group
– the production of stringent laws in support of natural intolerance of society.
The tribal world is now disappeared and what used to be oppressive and unfair for the individual, but beneficial to the community, now only brings problems at all levels; as the rapid changes in the world today require greater adaptability, the balance between tradition and innovation must be significantly moved towards innovation. That change is already under way, in our culture have indeed appeared new values such as tolerance, pluralism (as respect and promotion of a plurality of ideas), and the freedom of thought and opinion, which not only allow citizens to have greater freedom of action, but encourage greater variety and dissemination of new ideas, which is the basis for innovation.
Finally, we reiterate that the process of innovation, if left to itself, leads to cultural evolution, not to progress, but the trend can be either positive or negative. Innovation and progress are different things: new technologies in the field of communications allow, for instance, a greater exchange and sharing of information with a multiplication of knowledge, but an indiscriminate bombing of unnecessary information, commercial, excessive, incorrect, partial, distorted, etc., creates social tensions and illnesses.
The same innovation can be either good or bad depending on its good or bad inserting in society: it is up to us to make the right choices to build our future with awareness, reminding that innovation is a necessary prerequisite, but not enough to progress.

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3.b.6 – Dogmas are useful?

March 22, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Dogmas are useful?

Having freedom of thought and opinion normally does not mean to suffer penalties because of one’s ideas, either by the authorities or by fellows;  however, we have already seen, that these are not the only obstacles that we have to overcome: there are other, less obvious and more insidious, linked to our nature and our cultural tradition; so we must not only defend ourselves from the other human beings, but also from our education, partly dogmatic, and from our own instincts, both created for an environment that no longer exists.
Our fellow men, as bullying they could be, are unable to read our mind and if we keep secret our views, they cannot prevent us from thinking; many cultural traditions, not only religious, are able to educate since we are children not to think, to reject any logical alternative ideas, to see every innovator as subversive; they can do this by leveraging on our natural inclinations towards obscurantism and intolerance. These cultural forms are the natural enemies of our freedom in every sense and are those who act more in depth, directly on our ability to think. It is needed a cultural adjustment that protects us from these phenomena, through the rejection of any dogma or indisputable truth; an authentic truth can be called into question as much as we want, but in the end will always result to be true; then only what is false has the need to be protected as a dogma. We could be afraid that the rejection of dogmas can lead to a lack of absolutes certainties and to a sense of loss and insecurity, but experience tells us that this not actually happens, the absolute certainties are those on which there is no doubt, not the undisputed ones (in the sense that it is forbidden to discuss about them) and then the dogmas are not needed to provide security but to protect a tradition; it is to be reminded that when something in which we strongly believed falls, in short time our minds replace it with another, according to its nature; it is a psychological need that is easily met and therefore there are no dangers for our psyche, but only for our antiquate ideas.
While admitting that, at the time of tribal life, to make immoral the fact of discussing certain beliefs served to strengthen the stability of a culture in a world also stable, we must be aware that today times have changed and that this way of doing is not only unnecessary but highly damaging.

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3.b.7 – What binds freedom of expression to freedom of opinion?

March 23, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

What binds freedom of expression to freedom of opinion?

The traditionalist culture, intolerant and illiberal, naturally produces restrictive and punitive behaviors that develop the fear of being discriminated or to suffer reprisals because of our views; this is a great limit for both freedom of thought and of expression.
We all know well that to express our views to friends and acquaintances is a natural thing, to the point that if we wanted to keep them hidden, it would be very difficult. We can say that to reveal our ideas is yet another psychological need, almost obvious in social and cultural animals which we are, but there’s more: even if we do not openly declare our thoughts, it transpires from our daily behavior, from facial expressions and small involuntary gestures, all signs that our fellow men can very easily interpret and then judge us accordingly.
Our trend to communication exposes us to reprisals dictated by intolerance and this makes difficult to separate the freedom of thought to that of expression; indeed it is obvious that if someone suffers discrimination or punishment for his views it is because in some ways has expressed them, perhaps inadvertently; conversely if someone wants to stifle freedom of expression is because he wants to prevent certain ideas to spread. Therefore, for a genuine freedom of opinion, freedom of expression is also needed and in fact in the legal field are protected together as if they were one thing only.  
But we should not think that freedom of expression must be protected only to protect the freedom of opinion: to communicate is a deep human need, our ability to socialize depends on that of talking; therefore, to be free of speaking is very important also when the matter of discussion are not political, religious, philosophical opinions or other topics often subject to censorship.
For completeness, we must remember that freedom of expression is not sufficient alone to protect freedom of opinion, which may be attacked by an obscurantist and intolerant education or from modern forms of mental plagiarism irrespective of freedom of expression.

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3.b.8 – Religion is a threat or a good to be protected?

March 24, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Religion is a threat or a good to be protected?

From what has been afore said, we might think that religions are a constant danger for freedom because by their nature are traditionalists, carriers of authoritarian and dogmatic doctrines, hostile to any form of freedom, starting from freedom of professing religions different from the official one, and able to take away the capacity to freely think since we are children; we might therefore believe that religions should be eliminated in the name of freedom and progress.
Let us deeply consider what is the true nature of religions: are they truly traditionalists? This is perhaps their main feature because they are a tool to pass the cornerstones of a people culture to the following generations, in particular the values, the behavior, rituals and philosophy (considered as a collective mental map). Are religions by nature carriers of authoritarian and dogmatic doctrines? Only if they have to transmit a culture as authoritarian and dogmatic, like that of Europe derived from that of the Roman Empire and of barbarian peoples. The comparison with other cultures can help us to understand this concept: in Asia, for example, it is possible for an individual to be both Buddhist and Taoist, following two different religions at the same time, something unthinkable in the west also for the laics; yet we still talk of religions, their rituals and the devout attitude of their followers leave no doubts. Many of the features normally assigned to all religions are actually only peculiar of our particular religion and of our culture;  if we came from centuries of tolerance, freedom and culturen also our religious doctrine would have these features.
As we have said, in every culture there is both a traditionalist and an innovative side and generally the first one is dominant; the same goes for religions which, having the task of preserving traditions, leave even less room for innovation; but it has been observed that they also evolve along with the cultural heritage that hands down them.
All religious faiths have two basic components, a very intimate, called personal belief or path of faith, and a collective one formed by the official doctrine, from the system of collective beliefs and traditions in general; the second part is clearly entrusted to tradition, but to the first is given a minimum of interpretation and adaptation to the context in which we live; it is known that each person tends to adjust the religious precepts in his own way. When new values are inserted in personal belief and spread in the population, they end up being accepted by the official doctrine even though this can be contradictory with the earlier values; sometimes this process can take centuries, but sometimes just one generation, depends by the innovation drive existing in this population.
We can therefore say that religions do not produce intolerance, violence and obscurantism but transmit them, like every other cultural characteristics, either positive or negative. To eliminate religions is not necessary; once inserted into the individual belief the new values of tolerance, pluralism, freedom, adaptation, innovation etc.. these values, spreading, will sooner or later enter in the collective tradition and then in the religious doctrine. In our rapidly changing world, even religions for surviving must move their point of equilibrium as much towards innovation as possible and this means giving more room to personal belief, which is already happening in the West, even going against the opinion of religious leaders; these are in fact diminishing their influence on the population which is developing a new religious tradition. If therefore the ancient European religions fail to keep pace with time, they will disappear and be replaced by new forms of worship.
We have explained why there is no need to try to eliminate religions, but we can also say that it is absurd to try: for centuries in Europe religion has condemned sexual pleasure and has tried to repress human sexuality in all ways, as if it was a bad habit, a fashion to erase, but without success: why? Because it is impossible, is decidedly against nature, sexuality is deeply rooted in our biological nature, cannot be separated by humans, is like fighting against windmills, you cannot win this battle.
Paradoxically, the same goes for religions; man is religious by nature, is a cultural animal that has to transmit his system of beliefs, and the instrument nature gave him to do so is the religion. Religions can be changed, replaced, but not eliminated: some during the big innovative push had at the beginning of the industrial age, have tried to do it, but soon they themselves have begun to take religious attitudes towards their system of beliefs, especially in political and philosophical matters.
A man without religion thus will spontaneously produces another one, tailored for him, and try to spread it: it is clearly a psychological exigency deeply rooted in our nature, which explains why after centuries of rationalism, atheism, secular and scientific culture, not only the old religions have not disappeared, but new ones appeared, with considerable success.
Like cultural evolution, religions may in time take a positive or negative direction, it is up to us to guide them entering in them our new values and forgetting the old oppressive attitudes, the rest will come by itself.
We must therefore live with religions, and in the increasingly globalized world we must learn to do so with those of others; in this new context, freedom of religion assumes a new significance: in the past, it was not possible to choose which faith joining and this was one of the most obvious offenses to freedom of thought; considering that a freedom of thought implies the freedom of belief, freedom of religion is a natural consequence of the freedom of thought and freedom of expression which, as we know, cannot be separated; accordingly, freedom of religion also includes freely professing our own faith.
It is important now to note that freedom of expression can not imply freedom of outrage and this because every freedom of action must always remain within the limits of mutual respect; consistently the practice of religion must remain free within limits set by law, it cannot justify illegal actions made by invoking the freedom of worship, and the repression of that action is not religious discrimination.
In today’s world, where people with different faiths and once distant now live side by side, freedom of religion has also become a necessity for cohabitation and offers new opportunities to choose between new ideas, new models of behavior, new values and traditions, therefore greater freedom in general and new prospects for progress.
We can then conclude by saying that today religious freedom is a very important value and that the religions of the future, if enriched with the above mentioned values, may be an instrument in the service of tolerance, freedom and progress, but once again, this will only depend on us.

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3.b.9 – The ability to think freely is still in danger in the modern world?

March 25, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

The ability to think freely is still in danger in the modern world?

In the industrialized world the Liberal thought reported big victories on ancient traditions, but also big losses with the emergence of the great dictatorships of the twentieth century; the legal protection of freedom of thought, however, is now established with intensity and geographical spread never seen before, and this leads us to believe that there are more specific obstacles to that freedom. But we have seen how the legal freedom, if not accompanied by an effective capacity, is only a false freedom; we also examined how the freedom of thinking, as intellectual ability, can be severely limited by the cultural context in which we live and obscurantist traditions, either ancient and recent, religious and political, are not yet completely disappeared and new ones may develop; we have found that obscurantism is a cultural product of natural human inclinations, it grafts on the innate defense mechanisms and it can always spread again with new shapes, especially if there are situations of social instability that stimulate these mechanisms.
There are also new and insidious dangers lurking: the progress of psychology, spurred by trade and commercial needs, has produced highly effective techniques of persuasion, so that they could be real instruments for the control and manipulation of the mind.
From decades psychology is used with success both in forms of commercial advertising and in political propaganda, but new techniques are much more dangerous and the success of the sadly known pyramid or multilevel sales companies leaves no doubt on this point.
These psychological gimmicks are tools designed to affect our choices, they allow, wisely dosing truth and falsehood, to drive the thinking through dialogue or images, exploiting our natural attitude to identify ourselves in a story, to follow an argument that is presented to us and remaining influences by it; all this is done voluntarily by our unconscious and is therefore impossible, for us, to notice what is happening. To give an idea of the power of these new tools, we can list two characteristics they have:
– even the few people who, at a later time, understand by themselves to have been manipulated, in similar situations are again the victims of these new scams to which is very difficult to resist, being based on instinctive reactions
– often the direct manipulator, the one with whom we are talking, is unaware of what is actually doing, and he was the first to undergo a training course based on these techniques, was convinced that was doing good to the customers and then acts with perfect naturalness, unknowingly applying the techniques of manipulation as if he was under hypnosis. It is obvious that we cannot say we are free, if our choices are not. We do not know the next frontier of human persuasion, but we know that huge amounts of money are invested to develop increasingly effective techniques, with which affecting our behavior making us  become more and  more like perfect puppets.
It is important to note that these techniques of mental plagiarism, unlike traditional social conditioning, are not based on long periods of education directed to children, do not exploit sentiments of obscurantism or intolerance and are not a simple product of blind cultural evolution; they are the result of fully aware scientific studies, they are like sophisticated weapons available to anyone able to use them.
The development of adequate defenses from these weapons is a problem of immediate urgency, to be addressed obviously starting by a thorough study since the ordinary citizen is completely helpless.
The right and freedom of thought are the basis of freedom of action that is essential to develop and to appreciate life, they should be strenuously defended, but to do so we must be aware that today, because of the influence of media and of modern psychological weapons, are more threatened than ever, despite all victories on their old enemies.
Furthermore in the modern world, the freedom of thought in all its forms is even more precious than in the past because it is the necessary prerequisite to the cultural adaptation of which there is such need.

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3.b.10 – It is true that unity is strength?

March 26, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

 It is true that unity is strength?

Among the basic needs of man there is the need to socialize, to form a group, for our both material and psychological prosperity; it follows that among the most important forms of freedom, there is that of association, meant as the ability to form subgroups within the society. This is a freedom really feared by the political authorities, since unites the dominated population that can organize and plan a rebellion; it is not by chance that an old saying “divide and govern” is a principle well known and applied in all eras; as a final confirmation we can remember that once it was forbidden to form or join to trade unions of workers or to certain political parties.
At this point it is appropriate to highlight a feature of the free association: it was created to meet the needs of its members, then they expect some benefits from it; the group is a strategy to live better, if this interest fails, it would be better to dissolve it. A logical consequence of this principle is that everyone should receive the benefits of joining the group; if someone belongs to a community, but is damaged by it without drawing any benefit, he should not be called a member of the community, but its victim. Everyone must therefore have the right to form or choose the group that best brings convenience and it is very important to have the opportunity to leave if staying longer is no more convenient; to prevent that the group becomes a prison and to avoid abuses, it is therefore necessary to include to freedom of association also the freedom to dissociation.
The association uses the principle that unity is strength, which opens new possibilities of action and therefore of freedom: in particular we should remember the trade associations for the protection of workers and consumers, which allow to produce well-being and protect people, producing jobs, making them more livable and protecting families and their savings from deceiving products and services.
The core activities such as eating, drinking, protecting ourselves from bad weather and from diseases, are not individually conducted but are possible thanks to the cooperation of a large number of people and the same can be said regarding the protection of certain fundamental values, like family and work; the association then certainly is a value tied to that of life but, allowing to carry out activities otherwise impossible and facilitating many others, is closely tied to the value of freedom as well; it is worth recalling that to defend our own rights and thus our freedom, being this latter too an activity often collectively carried out, requires a degree of association.

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3.b.11 – Can we talk about freedom of education?

March 27, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Can we talk about freedom of education?

Culture, of course, is a fundamental resource of human beings, also considering a single individual. One of the key parts of our culture is the one given by the schools and it is commonly called education; being able to access to schools, high schools, universities and to all possible sources education is indeed a very important freedom, which was considered only an impossible dream until a few decades ago. Freedom of access to education alone, anyway, is not enough; it is made fruitless in case of inefficient schools, which do not prepare well our children or even provide them a poor education; even worse if they are not able to protect them from forms of bullying and by contact with various types of drugs; a first enemy of freedom of education is given by the poor quality of schools.
A second danger comes from the closed number classes in public universities, born precisely to ensure to everyone the possibility of a higher education; without doubts, over time the population of students has increased to excess, but limiting the access can be regarded as an acceptable solution? If patients would increase, would we build new hospitals or make hospitals with limited access number? Why can we build new hospitals, but no new universities? Also add that these Universities are not free and that the increase of the fees is another obstacle to access.
For example in Italy we have today undoubtedly an access to education much higher than a hundred years ago, but compared to 25 years ago there clearly has been a step back, both for a reduction in quality of the service and for an increase in costs and for the introduction of limited admission. Freedom of access to culture is a good to be protected because it is going through an objectively very difficult period that can cause severe damage. The limitation of education is not only a foreclosure for the individual, but represents a serious threat to the community that cannot fully exploit its human resources; today, in full adaptive emergency, we cannot afford such a waste.

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3.b.12 – What binds democracy to freedom?

March 28, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

What binds democracy to freedom?

When democracy was introduced for the first time in Greece in the sixth century BC, it was clearly intended to remove political power to the ruling class at the time. A similar situation occurred in France at the time of the Great Revolution, where there was a ruling class of wealthy landowners (aristocrats) and an emerging new class (the industrials) increasingly intolerant of the aristocratic domination. In English colonies in America, in the same period, the transition to democracy was simultaneous to the access to the independence from a central government, still of aristocratic, despotic and distant type; several times in history therefore democracy was proposed as a form of alternative government to that of a ruling class, felt as too oppressive. The dominated class, or the people, being generally formed by the vast majority of the population, gets free from the yoke of its rulers and then decides to govern itself; the word democracy in ancient Greek had the meaning of government of the people (demos = people, cratos = strength, power, government). In principle the concept is very simple: no more masters, and then no authority above the people, who will then have to find some form of self-government; then democracy has two fundamental characteristics:
– people become the highest authority
– the government depends on the will of the people.
Consequently, the forms of non democratic government does provide that the people is ruled by someone else, i.e. that people is subordinate to it, subject to other authorities, in other words is not free. Democracy is therefore essential to have a People free from higher authorities, including the public institutions that are themselves subject to the People authority (self government).
A free people does not guarantee that every individual is politically free, even a democratic government can establish unjust and discriminatory restrictions, especially against ethnic, linguistic, religious, etc.. minorities, but the individual can not truly say that he is free if the people he belongs to are not; democracy is a prerequisite, although not sufficient, even for freedom of individual citizens.
Although the principle of popular sovereignty may seem simple, banal, his achievement appears certainly much more difficult: the tribal societies in which the human being has evolved, as far as we know, were not of democratic type; although there wasn’t a ruling class, its role was played by the chief of the village and by tradition, especially religious, which governed the daily conduct of each member; the population was not self-managed, but followed the teachings received from ancestors and the directives of the chief, which was accepted with a certain passiveness, but that were generally valid, being the fruit of a slow evolution of a cultural experience in a fairly stable environment. It follows that the nature of the human being is not naturally democratic, this is a new cultural adaptation that, however, was only partially diffused among the population, encountering much resistance.
The populations of Western countries descended indeed from the serf of the Middle Ages, in turn descendants of slaves of the Roman Empire: their cultural tradition is even less democratic than the tribal and after millennia of servitude is difficult to incorporate into the mindset concepts such as the people sovereignty and the self government; this explains why it is so difficult to accept and profitably use a democratic culture; what is then the use of the legitimacy of the authority of people, if the people can’t use it for ignorance or lack of education? We saw that a legal freedom deprived of the actual freedom, is indeed an illusory freedom; similarly a legal authority that cannot be exercised by the people is an apparent authority of the people, that is an apparent democracy.

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3.b.13 – How to recognize the true democracy?

March 29, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

How to recognize the true democracy?

 The first thing to consider, as we have already noted, is whether the population actually holds the ultimate authority (the sovereignty); this means two things:
– no authority can impose its will to population
– the people authority should be allowed to impose to any other one.
The citizens therefore must have the tools easy to use for collectively refusing any law or government which is not welcomed; at the same time they must also be able to easily express and enforce their will.
In democracy is therefore required not only an individual freedom of expression, but also a collective freedom, such as may be the referendum or the liberal elections, but this freedom, to be effective, must not have major obstacles in practice. The popular will, once expressed, should enjoy such an authority that no other political entity could escape to it, it should in fact take precedence over any other provision or command.
If we consider the case of an absolute monarchy, the highest authority is the King, he can impose his will on anyone in his kingdom and nobody can give him orders; people can make requests, not directly but through the intermediaries, perhaps some aristocratic protectors; a wise king can meet the demands of his people, but in principle is not required to meet them. The only way to guard against a despotic and evil king is the violent insurgency, but it is a desperate choice as the King always has an organized, trained and well armed army while people live always in complete disorganization, having lost since the times of slavery their social structure and organization. The King rightly fears a coup d’etat from rebel aristocrats rather than a spontaneous uprising of the People.
Let’s imagine now a powerful King, a ruler who has obtained from some divinities some magic powers so strong that he does not fear any insurrection or coup, he may remove any whim and no crime is prohibited, however, in exchange for such power a strange ritual was imposed: every two years, the people will freely vote whether to keep the King on its throne or depose him, waiting for the deities to choose another one. This powerful King would even be a real monarch? If the citizenship can legally exile him, it is clear that the highest authority is now people and not the king, so not to risk losing his royal seat he must do his best not to become an enemy of all the inhabitants of his kingdom, trying to pander to each of their requests.
The power of this King would not be absolute, but really limited, common people could still suffer heavy impositions in theory, but only for a maximum period of two years after which, chasing the King, they would be released by it; so even with some difficulty, the class which was dominated would be able to make the other classes respect it, being able to exercise an effective authority superior to all others: what we described, can never be called monarchy, but it would be a real democracy, as strange and unrealistic it could be, and the King should be called President, Governor or something similar.
Let us note that the King is not chosen by the people, but he is only deposed by them if his behavior is unacceptable, his successor is in fact selected, with an unknown criterion, by the gods. The right to depose the highest authority of government is therefore sufficient to ensure genuine democracy? Remaining in the system that we imagined, it can be seen how little is needed to make it unusable: if the gods always choose the new King and only among the nobility, here’s the aristocracy to become a new political class unmovable by the government, there would be no actual political replacement and the popular opinion would be lost. The same would happen if the gods always choose a doctor or a taxi driver because a new ruling class would immediately form; the criterion of choice is therefore very important and cannot privilege a minority without jeopardizing democracy; particularly if there are elections with lists of candidates selected by any entity other than the people, freedom of choice in voting is compromised, in fact people are obliged to vote someone who was chosen by someone else and it’s easy to imagine to whom the commitment and reverence of the elected will address.
In reality, then, the freedom to vote is conditioned in other ways: with the violence, by propaganda, by deception, with appropriate campaigns of misinformation is easy to prevent citizens from voting in order to protect their interests; the freedom to vote is therfore closely linked to freedom of the press and spreading of information, without them, ordinary people can’t give an independent opinion and less than ever can express it in a collective manner.

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3.b.14 – Democracy is a current value?

March 30, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

Democracy is a current value?

In today world, even in the absence of the above problems, the population in its complex would not be able to exercise its democratic authority due to the mere fact that has not been trained to do so. As we have already previously said, our mentality is still very similar to that of subjects, most of us did not vote to support a government program or to get a political replacement, but to promote the irremovable protectors as the nobles in the past, and it is therefore accepted with incredible passiveness that our elected (upon trust) do not maintain their promises and fool us shamelessly.
This serious phenomenon, which we can define the syndrome of serfdom, highlights that the first enemy of democracy is the lack of democratic culture; in current conditions, democracy is impractical in most Western countries and this is confirmed by the fact, already highlighted in the previous chapter, that governments of modern industrialized countries maintain a conduct very similar to that of ancient monarchies, in effect treating their citizens as subjects to be exploited, although with less violence and a lot of misinformation applied with method.
Democracy, as we said, is a prerequisite for freedom of the population as a whole and also for that of individuals; it, is therefore essential for the welfare and progress of humanity, but that democracies we know are only apparent, are poorly managed attempts, effective democracy does not exist yet and therefore cannot be protected in the present, but only built for the future; even more than the homeland must be considered a fundamental value to achieve in the years to come.

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3.b.15 – False freedoms are a serious danger?

March 31, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

False freedoms are a serious danger?

We have seen how the behavior of each of us follows the map mental we have, as this is based on the benchmarks represented by human values, and how the lack of clarity, even in terminology, on these concepts leads to a psychological pollution that leads us to act against our interests. With reference to the value of freedom, we found that it can be fully protected only in the presence of a true democracy, but we also understand that the current democracies are only apparent, because there are not the two assumptions that ensure full sovereignty of people. If we do not reach this awareness, how can we progress? How can we search for a democratic system if we are convinced to have already obtained it? Here is the serious problem of false freedoms, i.e. those situations where constraints in which we find ourselves are not immediately clear.
The false freedoms are certainly fuelled by the improper use of words: if we define democracy a system that is not democratic , it would be difficult to try to understand what is the true meaning of that term and therefore we would not ever try to pursue a true democracy. Sure to be in a democratic system, when inevitably severe social problems spread, we try to apply corrections to the system as may be the electoral majority model, the Election threshold, etc.. but in this way, even if we obtained results in the short period, we would not eliminate the social tensions in a stable way and the same would even tend to recur in ever more pronounced manner. To be aware of not being free is the first prerequisite to try to free ourselves, but this is not enough, because immediately after we must identify the real cause that limits our freedom and the right alternative; if people feel oppressed by the political system and remain convinced that it is a democratic system, with the exasperation of social tensions they will get to hate democracy rather than pursue and protect it as one of their primary resource. In a state of such hardship, people will tend to remove the real cause of their problems, i.e. the present political system, but confusing this with democracy, could open the doors to the return of authoritarian and tyrannical systems which by definition are the denial of freedom.
Still talking of democratic freedoms, we have already said how a false fundamental freedom is the freedom to vote without the freedom to choose the candidates; the borderline is when there is only a candidate, but this is a case where at least falsehood of freedom is more than obvious; what would change if the candidates are a thousand, but anyway all imposed? Virtually nothing except the fact that it is much more difficult to realize of being in a condition of false freedom; a second false freedom consists in the freedom to vote a plurality of candidates tied to a few groups or few people, i.e. freedom of voting a false plurality, a third false freedom is the freedom to vote by choosing among candidates of which are not known neither the capacity, nor the programs without having the possibility to verify their work.
Furthermore a free vote in a democracy requires a free information; on this side, a false freedom consists in having access to a plurality of sources of information which are carriers of censored, incomplete or, thing to be stressed, absolutely useless information, but suitable to distract people from real problems; a second false freedom is when the plurality of information is only apparent as all the major sources are attributable to the same group of interest or, in extreme cases, even to the same person.
One cannot conceive a democracy that does not ensure to its citizens the freedom to work, but if an honest job, either as employee or self-employed, cannot ensure a home and to be self-sufficient, there will be yet another false freedom.
Even the freedom to protect health can degenerate into a false freedom; health should be safeguarded especially at a preventive level and to do so we must have the right knowledge, keep the correct behavior and enjoy those of others: an imbalanced diet can cause heart disease, and thus be even lethal, to follow the correct food principles would be preferable, but if one is forced to eat foods chemically processed, although moderately, with toxic substances (in order to improve the color, flavor, preservation), it is clear that it frustrates all individual efforts.
Thus there is the need for an adequate legal system to create the rules to protect the freedom to live well and live with dignity, further to an efficient judiciary system that ensures the compliance to these rules, but both of them depend on the political system there is in the country we are, and in a condition of false democracy, also the freedom of seeing our rights protected easily becomes a false freedom.
All these considerations must not demoralize us: they should rather serve as a stimulus to begin to recognize and counteract the false freedom; to this end an ancient value, but increasingly current, becomes fundamental: the value of knowledge.

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