Americans value freedom the most. Freedom is for most Americans what the English language is for the majority of Pakistanis. The only difference between this comparison is the degree of clarity. In the former’s case, it is a clear and publically known relationship. However, in the latter’s case, it is complicated. Having been to a formerly colonized society, I had a different view to offer to every reality I encountered in the United States. Although if the United States were a colony of the times’ greatest monster, Britain, the only difference is that of attitude towards the former masters.
How do we treat our former masters generally depends on how did we get free of our chains? The Americans earned their freedom and laid down the foundation of a new country. We, on the other hand, have been told to fight against the Hindu majority, not the arrogant English. This is one of the most important factors why could Pakistan not decolonize itself in many respects. America’s historical experience was different which led to the making of a different society. A society where freedom is at the heart of cultural discourse.
Read more: Being a Pakistani American
Exploring different aspects of freedom
I conceptualize the American idea of freedom differently by focusing on its non-political aspects. In other words, I do not intend to focus on individualism, capitalism, or democracy. These are the subjects to be discussed at length in a different piece. This piece is dedicated to explore and appreciate a different aspect of freedom.
First, in the US, you have the freedom to dress up as you want to. It may sound very simple to my American friends but many in the developing countries will feel what truly this sentence reflects. You can wear any shirt, trousers, shorts, slippers, and sandals. You can go to the classes, offices and markets. Nobody will respect/disrespect you because of your dress. If you are a student, you do not have to worry about your dress or shoes, but certainly about what you have to prepare for the next class (readings).
If you are a professor, you are not concerned about what you or your students are wearing. You focus on the quality of their response papers, class discussions and respond to the assigned readings.
I’ve been in Pakistan throughout my life. I’ve studied at Pakistan’s most prestigious public sector university and taught at one of the best private sector universities. As a student, I had seen extremely “overdressed” professors in my classes. As a lecturer, I was mostly “overdressed”. It may be important to clarify that I do not want to restrict anyone’s right to wear what he/she wants to rather my point is to question societal standards which demand us to “properly dress up”.
Second, in the US, you’re free to make mistakes. Read it again. Freedom to make mistakes! In Pakistan, there is no freedom to make even a single mistake. Let me simplify it. A) Speak incorrect English, make several mistakes, and nobody will mock you. B) Use credit cards inaccurately in the market, drop your phone, or fall over in public, nobody will be laughing around. C) Go to the beach, fat or not, nobody will make fun. These are the kind of freedoms you love the most in the United States.
Mistakes: an important part of learning
Mistakes are important to be made. If a person does not make mistakes he is not doing anything new. Similarly, if a society does not make mistakes it is stagnant (dead in other words). Our mistakes are the constant reminders of our evolution and growth. They are for personal and collective evolution what oxygen is for us. Whenever I travel through public transport or go to any market, I am reminded of John Stuart Mill who famously said: “A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes— will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished”
For a moment, feel if you are free to make mistakes. Would you not have changed at least your own life if you were entitled to the right to make mistakes? Think again.
Third, you can speak to the professors and talk about anything you want to (of course, anything strictly means in academic terms). The freedom to speak your mind out is a privilege and most American students enjoy it. Imagine, you speak about national security, religion, Zionism, the Jewish lobby, white supremacists, Islamists and the American ruling elite without any fear. Imagine, you’re presenting a case for communism or liberal Islam. Imagine, you’re saying you are just a theoretical nihilist. Imagine, you are speaking out whatever you wanted to against the American ruling elite. Imagine, nobody is interrupting, judging, or bullying you Imagine, people giving you feedback on your ideas in a highly compassionate and polite manner.
Freedom is important for the evolution of societies. Americans understand it and religiously value it. I wish we become a society where everyone has the right to make mistakes and celebrate life. This is a dream. A dream of a world where dress, language and silence are not necessary prerequisites for a person to earn respect. Let’s dream a big as children do. The bigger you dream, the happier you live. Children are always happy except when their dreams are challenged.
Farah Adeed is studying political science at San Diego State University, California, USA. He previously worked as Asst Editor at GVS. He can be followed @farah_adeed on Twitter. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.