What does freedom mean? It may seem presumptuous to answer the question in 3000 characters including spaces. On the other hand, the word is often used in political speeches and commentaries as if it were clear what it meant.
It is not so. In 1941, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt identified four fundamental freedoms that every state should guarantee: freedom of speech and worship, freedom from want and from fear. Many people who talk about freedom may find one or more of these four freedoms problematic.
Freedom of speech in Germany comes with all sorts of ifs and buts. Hate speech, insults, unfair competition, disclosure of company and state secrets, glorification of the Nazi regime and denial of the Holocaust, for example, are prohibited.
Freedom of religious practice for Muslims is not a matter of course in Germany. The Scientology sect is simply deprived of its status as a religion so that it can be prosecuted by the state.
Some libertarians find it rather problematic that the state has to protect people from hardship. And freedom from fear — fear of terror or crime, for example — can be used to justify intrusive government surveillance.
In Germany, freedom meant for a long time – think of the wars of liberation against Napoleon – the freedom of the nation, which after the victory against the French also included the freedom to indulge one’s anti-Semitic tendencies and to do everything to ensure the equal rights of the Jews decreed by the Corsican to undo.
Anyone who insists on national freedom from the “Brussels dictate” in the European Union today usually has some restriction of freedom for groups in their own population in mind: gays, lesbians and other “queers”, for example.
The freedom not to be vaccinated and not to wear a mask in a pandemic entails the bondage of the most vulnerable members of society. In the situation of a national emergency, the Ukrainian government suspended the freedom of travel for able-bodied young men. Rightly so.
The idea that the I always takes precedence over the We, even if it is ennobled by references to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his Russian-American adept Ayn Rand, is ultimately the freedom of the stronger not to have to consider the weaker . That is selfishness, not freedom.
Martin Luther, on the other hand, knew: “A Christian is a free lord over all things and subject to no one. A Christian man is a ministering servant of all things and subject to everyone.”
And not just a Christian: “Only act according to that maxim through which you can also want it to become a general law.” That is the categorical imperative of the enlightener Immanuel Kant. So always act in the sense of the we, even if no law tells you forces to.
It was presumptuous to answer the question in 3000 characters. But one thing is certain: Ukraine is fighting for the most important freedom: the right to argue about what freedom is.