How the unrighteous whittle away at freedom

There is a great whittling going on.  It is a pastime as old as mankind.  It is not the sort practiced by retired codgers sitting on front porches with pocket knives carving wooden artifacts for their grandchildren.  The great whittling is the relentless shaving away of mankind's free agency. 

As I watch the TV series 1883 unfold, I am impressed how deep our need for freedom truly is and how the world seems to go out of its way to ankle our best efforts to live our lives on our own terms.  Actor Sam Elliot, as the world-worn wagon master, seemed perplexed as the German pioneer, with wretched humility, described that where they came from, there were laws against swimming, of all things.  It is true that in Germany, people were whipped, put in the stocks, and fined for swimming, as was also the case in parts of England.

People in medieval Europe and into the Enlightenment generally did not swim.  They did not know how.  Swimming was not a leisure art or a bathing practice.  Overall, getting in water over one's head was considered too dangerous.

It is roughly estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 drowned annually in Britain.  It is always a general tendency for those in authority to want to protect people from themselves.  How else to explain the age-old refrain of "there ought to be law against that"? 

To revisit 1883, Faith Hill playing a pioneer mother rehearses life lessons on the subject of freedom as she and her daughter swim and bathe (freely) in the river.  One is that freedom isn't free.  It comes with "fangs."  Two, as the world packs more and more people together, inevitably, more rules and more laws will follow.  Ponder how COVID-19 mandates stand uniquely illustrative of those two principles.

A recent Economist/YouGov poll found that half of the country does not support the concept that businesses should be allowed to mandate that their customers be vaccinated.  Thirty-eight percent thought businesses should be able to mandate customers being vaccinated.  Twelve percent were unsure. That is thirty-eight percent who are comfortable with businesses curtailing customer free agency. That is the thirty-eight percent that make up the there-ought-to-be-a-law-against-that crowd.  It is easy to point out that businesses are private entities, but the notion of them assuming a quasi-government role as bureaucratic health surrogates is just the sort of camel nose government relishes getting under the private tent. 

As of today, even government can't mandate vaccinations.  The Hill reported that a federal judge in Texas blocked Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.  Judge Jeffery Brown answered the question — "Whether the President can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment."  Hats off to Judge Brown for halting that particular whittling of our free agency.

In the spirit of 1883, a friend introduced me to a quote by the 19th-century religious leader Joseph Smith, who astutely observed, "We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion."  I immediately noted that this is where freedom comes with fangs. 

Spruce Fontaine is an artist and retired college art instructor.

Image: Clem Onojeghuo via StockSnap.

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