Freedom Challenged

camus

I recently gave a talk on human trafficking and the concept of freedom in the modern age. The following is a truncated version of that talk:

The French philosopher, Albert Camus, once wrote, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

That is an epic statement. How many of us truly know what that statement means?

You cannot truly understand the freedom you have unless you have been tested or are willing to test yourself. And to test yourself is an experiment in picking worthwhile and meaningful fights. To disrupt. To do and build things that disrupt for the greater good. To be unafraid to test the very fabric of being and sometimes taking a stand against the status quo and saying, “No”, no matter the consequences. Sometimes you will stand alone in this, but hopefully others stand with you. And, yes. Sometimes this means looking yourself in the mirror and issuing a direct challenge to yourself. It’s not easy to do. Most shy away.

However, what I just described is, in fact, a luxury. To have the choice to challenge and test oneself is a luxury.

For those who are mired in modern day slavery through human trafficking, to fight for their very right to exist is not a luxury. Everyday, every aspect of their existence is constantly under siege by the ones who seek to exploit and enslave them. They wake every morning knowing that they face incredible suffering as a slave worker or sexual slave to the most despicable of people. They know that at any moment their bodies and minds will be pushed beyond the point of exhaustion. To the point of their spirits, minds, and bodies breaking. If any one of them were to give out on any given day and pass on from this mortal coil, there will be zero fanfare or acknowledgement that they ever existed. That they mattered. They will most likely be dumped into a ditch in some nondescript, lonely place and another will take their place. For those lucky enough to make it through each day and crawl exhausted into bed, they go to sleep knowing that only the same cycle of pain waits for them in the morning.

To give you a better idea of what this looks like. Imagine you are an 8 year old child. You have your entire future ahead of you. You don’t live in lavish luxury, but that doesn’t matter to you. You just want to play, go to school, do the things that kids do, and be loved by your family. One day a stranger shows up in a van and asks to speak with your father and mother. It is a very serious meeting and your parents look frightened. At the end of the meeting, the stranger hands over a stack of cash to your parents. He then approaches you, takes you firmly by the hand, and leads you away. You pass by your parents who say to you this stranger is now your family. They may be in tears or they may be ambivalent. You don’t know what is happening, but you do know one thing. This stranger is not your family.

From the moment the stranger takes you into his car, you are threatened with physical violence if you don’t behave and do what he says. He states that you are now his property and that you will do whatever it is he tells you to do. You may kick and scream or you may sit in frightened silence. Either way, you know your life is about to turn upside down. You are being trafficked into slavery.

You may end up in some strange land mining in dangerous conditions for the silicon minerals that make up our technological gadgets or you may end up slaving away in cocoa fields picking beans for the morning coffee that we drink or you may end up in a sweat shop somewhere sewing the fancy garments that we wear. You will never enjoy the things you help make. You will be told that you must work to pay off your master’s debt. He paid for you, so you must pay him back. You will earn only 10 to 25 cents per day and never see any of it for yourself or even be able to grasp that you will never actually be able to pay off your debt to your master. You will toil away with the hope that you will one day be freed if you work hard enough, that it is possible. It is not.

If you don’t end up a slave laborer somewhere, then you face a life of sexual servitude. You will be forced to have sex with total strangers. Sometimes as much as 30 times a day whether you are a boy or a girl. Your innocence completely lost to the ravages of human decrepitude.

This is your new life and you will most likely die between the ages of 15 – 18.

What I just described is the stark reality of children who are sold into slavery by families living in impoverished regions. Many are sold willingly by their families or outright abducted. Adults are equally at risk. When a person is faced with few economic choices they may find themselves coerced into slavery situations or they may become low level traffickers themselves out of desperation. And don’t think for one second that this is just a foreign issue. It is globally systemic and has reached the soil of every nation. These people fight for their very right to exist. And if they make it out the other side, they are the ones who’s very existence is an act of rebellion. They have been tested and survived.

Here in America, we enjoy many freedoms that we take for granted: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of choice, among others. What we do with these freedoms will continually define us and determine if we truly become a free peoples. Do we overly concern ourselves with obtaining these personal freedoms at the expense of others? Do we end up using these freedoms that we take for granted to oppress others? Or do we insure that those around us are able to enjoy the same freedoms?

My personal conclusion is that the only true freedom is the ability to free others. By doing so, you confront your very own concepts of freedom and fight for the rights of everyone to exist freely. This fight will test your resolve in an unfree world.

There are many among you who consider yourselves peaceful healers and that is a wonderful thing. You facilitate the healing processes of the body and the mind. The concept of fighting is often times antithetical to your thinking. However, I ask, in an ironic way, to stop fighting that notion. Our bodies and minds are constantly under attack, be it by mental, spiritual, and social pressures or pathogens of the body. When we heal, we are fighting back. As healers, you facilitate this process of the body’s and mind’s ability to fight back. And in order to heal the world, you must become a fighter in your own respect. You must become the antibodies that society needs.

Do not just be concerned with healing what you see or feel before you. You must dig deeper into societies woes and demand healing justice for those who are invisible and do not have a voice. You must become healing warriors and fight for the right of all to exist freely. True healing is a journey in struggle. It is a test.

Of course, you are free to believe you don’t owe anyone anything. And that no one owes you anything. However, if we are to talk about creating a better and free world, a more compassionate and progressive world, then you and I owe everyone everything.

I don’t believe this sound unreasonable. Let us not save the world or change the world, but free the world. I ask that you all rise up to face this challenge for we are not yet all free. In this grand experiment in freedom, we must finish what we have begun.

Always fight on. Never settle. Live so that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

“Damned is the man who abandons himself.”
These words show that the worse the situation is,
never should a man consider it lost. – The Conditioned

– Rebel Rabbit

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