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Author Topic: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'  (Read 490 times)

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Offline NileGoddessTopic starter

'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« on: September 23, 2014, 06:52:45 PM »
I had an encounter in a debate, and I'd be curious to get other people's input.

Perhaps you've heard of the Alaskan reporter quitting on live TV in regards to the situation with marijuana legalization. I put in my two cents to the debate: I thought it was childish, unprofessional, and didn't paint the cause of legalizing marijuana in a positive light. One person claimed how brilliant it was because it drew attention across the country to the legalization movement in Alaska. I pointedly remarked that it didn't affect me because I don't live in that state, nor would it because I don't participate in the legalization of marijuana because I don't use it.

Immediately, I was descended upon as being wrong: that I needed to partake in the cause. I had to be either for it, or else I was against it.

Now, I disagree with this. If in the USA we are given the freedom to choose, then we are also given the freedom to not choose. As I said, I've never used marijuana, and I doubt I ever will. I've known too many friends who got busted, fined, or suspended because it's illegal where I live to even have a remote interest in it, and the idea of getting high never appealed to me. I barely even touch alcohol. If it was legalized tomorrow, I'd never touch it, and if it were still illegal tomorrow, I still wouldn't touch it. Will I complain if it gets legalized? No. Will I complain if it doesn't get legalized? No. I'm not going to get involved in a cause I know nothing about simply because someone tells me to. I wouldn't fight in a war like that.

I've encountered this before with other people. They seem to mistake freedom as obligation. Back where I used to live, there was an election. I can't even remember what the office was, but it was smaller than governor. Something local in the city. I had zero idea there was an election, and knew even less about the candidates, their policies, and what they were running for. So a conversation with a family member went:

"The elections coming up. You need to vote."

"Oh, I'm not going to vote. I have no idea who's even running."

"...But...you need to vote. It's the right thing to do."

"No, sorry, I'm not going to just go randomly vote for someone I know nothing about or why I'm doing it."

Again, my right to vote is not your right to tell me that I need to vote. If my inaction leads to a worsening of my life, I will be the one to complain about myself, not about who I did or did not vote for.

So I'm curious what other people's thoughts are.

Offline consortium11

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2014, 08:18:45 PM »
It strike me as an interesting and somewhat reversed take on "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

That tends to come up in the context of freedom of speech. Most of us accept and agree with freedom of speech, albeit possibly to somewhat differing levels when it comes to hate speech and the like. But I imagine even those with pretty restrictive views when it comes to what speech is legal would accept that there are some things that people are completely legally allowed to say but that are mean, insulting, demeaning and do no-one any credit. The sort of thing someone can say but they probably shouldn't.

Or, a more light hearted example... just because I have three whole chocolate cakes in the house doesn't mean I should gorge myself on all of them in one 30 minute long sitting.



On the more specific situation it's used in here, I guess there is some logical truth in arguing that if one person wants change and you don't support them then you're somewhat acting against it, even without directly doing so. But "you're with us or against us" is the language of fanatics and mad men (or women) and as such such be avoided (as should those who use it). Moreover, if one genuinely doesn't care either way on an issue, then why is using their freedom to support the cause any more viable then using their freedom to oppose it?

But let's pretend for a moment that because I'm free to support something I also have an obligation to support it, regardless of my personal views.

Does that mean I have to support anyone with a cause and any cause? Neo-Nazi's, religious fanatics, Justin Beiber fans (one is less serious than the others)? After all, if my personal opinion doesn't matter and I have to support a cause, then how can I pick and choose?

Even a more nuanced view has issues. Let's say I do get to pick which causes to support but I have to make a support/oppose decision on every cause... so I wouldn't have to support the Neo-Nazi's but I do have to actively oppose them. But there are a lot of causes out there and only so many hours in the day. Orphans in Africa. Orphans in Asia. Orphans in South America. Non-Orphans in Africa. Environmental issues. Equality (be it gender based, sexuality based, income based, religion based etc etc) issues. How do I pick which ones to support? How do I fulfill this multitude of obligations I have to handle?

It's a mess.

It seems to me the reality is this. We all have causes we care about... some have more than others and some care more about them then others. Some will be motivated to put a huge effort into supporting a cause, others to do a bit of work, others yet to simply nod, smile and buy a wristband. And that's fine. It's not an obligation. People can of course try to convince one of why one should care about a cause and put more time/effort/money into supporting it... but that's a case of convincing someone to support a cause, not forcing them into doing so.

The voting example is somewhat difficult for me as I think people should vote, even in local elections. But I think people should educate themselves and then vote. One of the tragedies of modern Western democracy is that far too often while people may get themselves to a polling station, they vote on the basis of either party lines or on very limited information... and the effect is heightened in local elections where, as you say, people frequently don't even really realise they're going on and certainly don't know the names, histories or policies of those standing. I think people should vote... but I think people should vote while having some grasp of what they're voting for or against.

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2014, 08:22:37 PM »
It's up to you to decide whether or not to vote but if you have a voice and don't use it no one will hear you and you have no right to complain.  Look at it this way.  If only 25% of the elegible citizens register and vote then one person out of four will be telling you how to live.  This is why repressive governments won't let people vote.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2014, 08:28:06 PM »
The problem is that not making a choice, is making a choice.  If you are not voting, then you have cast your vote in a sense.  Your vote will not go for or against either candidate.  I know on a large scale that seem negligible, but a potential vote one way or the other not being cast does have an effect.

Offline Zakharra

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2014, 08:33:00 PM »
  I think you're right. Too many people, especially activists, seem to think that you must be involved in something and that if you're  not, you're obviously against it. They think you're obliged to support their pet cause. They don't seem to realize that freedom to do what you want, includes whether or not you want to support causes. It's your choice, not theirs. Many people are apathetic or just don't feel involved enough in the cause to want to bother to supporting it. They might have more important problems or different interests, such as working and living their lives.

 There are some things that I think people (citizens) should be involved in, like voting, it's a duty as a citizen of the US, but I will not require them to actually vote. But at the same time, if someone who can vote, doesn't, then I think they have lost the right to bitch and complain when policies they dislike are enacted.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2014, 09:22:31 PM »
If it was legalized tomorrow, I'd never touch it, and if it were still illegal tomorrow, I still wouldn't touch it. Will I complain if it gets legalized? No. Will I complain if it doesn't get legalized? No. I'm not going to get involved in a cause I know nothing about simply because someone tells me to. I wouldn't fight in a war like that.

That's each person's prerogative as to whether or not they want to smoke weed (even if it was legal in your area).  I also don't smoke weed and rarely ever drink. 

But willfully being negligent about the whole debate over marijuana legalization is a choice you are making, that has nothing to do with marijuana use.  For example, I don't have any kids, but I still read up on what is going on in my local school district, and what the deal is with our local school taxes.  I also don't own a house, but I still vote on property tax issues in my area because I choose to read up on these issues.

Regardless of your views on this matter, and regardless of whether or not you choose to vote, I encourage you to educate yourself about the issues/facts relating to this topic.

I find it a little concerning that you are using the reason of having "no idea who's even running" to not vote in local elections, rather than using this as an opportunity to perhaps learn more about what is going on in your local city.   If you genuinely want to vote, but are not aware of the candiates, just Google the election, and usually you'll get factsheets which give a quick overview of their positions.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 09:27:39 PM by Valthazar »

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2014, 09:52:16 PM »
I find it a little concerning that you are using the reason of having "no idea who's even running" to not vote in local elections, rather than using this as an opportunity to perhaps learn more about what is going on in your local city.   If you genuinely want to vote, but are not aware of the candiates, just Google the election, and usually you'll get factsheets which give a quick overview of their positions.

This.  It may be that one of the candidates is passionately for or against something that will affect you directly, and by not casting a vote, you lose the opportunity to help put that person on whichever side of the 'incumbent' classification that is appropriate.  At the very least, you should find out what is being voted on and if there is something that affects you or that you feel passionately about.  Most ballots that I've seen allow you to check 'no preference' or otherwise not make a selection for a particular issue/candidate.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2014, 10:04:13 PM »
It doesn't matter what is on the ballot as long as you can write in a vote.  I would rather do that than blow off the privilege of using my voice.  But above and beyond I work with candidates and others to get important issues and good candidates on the ballot because I care about having a choice and a voice.

Offline Shjade

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2014, 10:20:16 PM »
It's up to you to decide whether or not to vote but if you have a voice and don't use it no one will hear you and you have no right to complain.
No.

If you choose not to vote in an election, that in no way removes your right to speak about that election or its results, nor should it. If it did, no one who participated in the election would have the right to complain about it either, since, unless the election was won by a single vote, no individual involved in the election can be considered directly responsible for its outcome. Not voting in an election, as Pumpkin Seeds points out, is a form of participation, even if it is essentially voting to abstain. Moreover, would you make the same argument to people who voted for the winner of an election if/when that candidate proceeded to do things their voters disagreed with? "You voted for him, you don't have a right to complain?" Explain to me the intricacies of this revocation of rights; show me in the Constitution where these rights are removed due to the specifics of one's involvement of lack thereof in the machinations of election.

Gotta say, when people get all holier than thou about how I don't get to have a say in something because I chose not to vote on it...it inspires me to rudeness.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2014, 10:39:27 PM »
The way I see it your vote is your voice.  A few years ago I listened to a group of parents pitching a fit and falling in it because some of the tax benefits for their school were cut off because the referendum was on the ballot and none of these parents went to the polls on election day.  The people who did go voted the benefits down by a narrow margin because they were tired of taxes going up and their money paying for things they felt parent should pay for.

Neither side was right in their stance in my opinion but we ended up with hungry children that other people tried to feed through fundraisers and donations.  . 

When something is on the ballot that you don't want the best way to get rid of it is to vote against it.  It's the loudest voice you have.  A concerted effort to vote down a referendum is so much better than shrugging and walking away and then getting upset because you ended up with something you didn't want.

I know there are people who don't want to vote, refuse to vote and think voting is stupid or a waste of time.  That is their prerogative.  For myself alone I see voting as a right, a privilege and a responsibility but I also see taking part in the whole election process as part of voting.  I ran for many things in my time and never got elected.  I watched elections in school become popularity contests.  I've seen candidates with over-sized treasuries get elected over others who ran shoestring campaigns.  But I've seen the opposite, too.  I've seen voting work and not work but I'd rather believe in the process than stay silent and be ignored.  Because I've worked within the system I can guarantee you that those who don't vote are more often than not ignored.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2014, 10:39:43 PM »
Gotta say, when people get all holier than thou about how I don't get to have a say in something because I chose not to vote on it...it inspires me to rudeness.

I work in the the education field, and people with kids always seem to complain about things in education.  Here's a great example:

Cobb County School District Board of Education elections
(This is for Post 4)

People in this county have lot of complaints about size of classes, quality of education, curriculum, or sometimes it’s even the crumbling school building.  There are more than 50,000 registered voters in the district, yet 12 percent bothered to vote.   Apparently 68 percent of voters were over age 55.  So basically, the majority of those that voted don’t have kids in Cobb County schools.  Although folks without kids at home have legitimate concerns and priorities, those concerns and priorities generally differ a lot from those of parents with school-age children.

As it says in the article, many parents with kids love to complain about their schools, but they don't vote (thus not doing anything about it).
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 10:42:42 PM by Valthazar »

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2014, 10:59:34 PM »
Well, I normally vote at general elections but there have been a few times when I’ve felt – after considered thought, watching debates and looking into the plans and platforms of the various parties - that there were no viable alternatives, no one I wanted to support, could support, and then I’ve declined to vote, or left a blank ballot.

But I think voting is perhaps not the one real issue here. I’d agree with the OP that one has a right to say “I don’t think this fight you’re raising banners around is important, it misses the point and I don’t wish to be a part of it – but that doesn’t give you the right to claim that I/we are Anti-so-and-so, just because we didn’t join the struggle”. For example, the right to be able to buy unlimited quantities of liquor or red wine (or dangerous fireworks) at the local grocery store isn’t an important issue of freedom. There will be people who claim it is (where I live the sale of wine, strong beer and other alcohol-heavy beverages have long been a state monopoly, and it’s generally functioned fairly well, but of course it’s also controversial, and a nice question to keep milking for some populist parties) but in my opinion public health issues outweigh the “right” to unlimited, free sale (by any and every kind of salesman) of all kinds of liquor and wine. That doesn’t make me an “enemy of free enterprise” or a health nazi.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 11:46:51 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline NileGoddessTopic starter

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2014, 11:33:30 PM »
It doesn't matter what is on the ballot as long as you can write in a vote.  I would rather do that than blow off the privilege of using my voice.  But above and beyond I work with candidates and others to get important issues and good candidates on the ballot because I care about having a choice and a voice.

I'll have to disagree with this as well, because this is exactly how it was phrased to me by the family member telling me to vote blindly.

Voting randomly, or blindly, without knowing anything, is equivalent to walking in on an argument or situation you have no context of, then giving advice. I'm not going to go and put in my vote for someone if I know nothing about what they stand for, as I was told I needed to do.  It doesn't make anything better, and it doesn't make you a better citizen to flaunt around that you voted. Between saying nothing and saying gibberish, I'll stick with nothing.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2014, 11:37:55 PM »
Voting randomly, or blindly, without knowing anything, is equivalent to walking in on an argument or situation you have no context of, then giving advice. I'm not going to go and put in my vote for someone if I know nothing about what they stand for, as I was told I needed to do.  It doesn't make anything better, and it doesn't make you a better citizen to flaunt around that you voted. Between saying nothing and saying gibberish, I'll stick with nothing.

Voting randomly doesn't achieve much, that's true.  But have you considered learning more about the candidates?

Offline Shjade

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2014, 12:49:28 AM »
So what I'm hearing is that you both recognize everyone has a right to voice their opinions regardless of whether or not they voted on a topic.

Glad we got that straightened out.

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2014, 03:15:04 AM »
I... don't see where the marijuana activists were making anything an obligation. All I see is that they will draw conclusions about your priorities based on your behaviour. If you don't think marijuana legalization is important enough to do literally anything for, then your vote is for the status quo. You're perfectly free to make your decisions as you will, and others are free to respond to that as they will.

On a broader note: Talk of "with us or against us" has a bad reputation - I have a bit of a kneejerk aversion to it myself. It also happens to be true in a lot of cases, particularly issues of social reform. Most social issues are handled, essentially, by getting so many people to stand up and voice the need for change that it becomes impossible to ignore or brush off as an outspoken minority. Until that tipping point is reached, the champions of the powerful and of the status quo will point to those who stay silent or try to stay "above" it all, and use them to say "These people don't think there's a problem. Stop complaining." If you're part of that group, you are a tool that people will use to try to shut down any attempt to address these issues. This doesn't mean that you have to be on the front lines of every battle for every cause - or even just the ones you agree with! What it does mean is that you need to think about where you actually stand, and make some effort to make sure this is reflected in your actions in some way.

Offline Caehlim

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2014, 03:32:44 AM »
One thing I'm curious about.

I've known too many friends who got busted, fined, or suspended because it's illegal where I live to even have a remote interest in it, and the idea of getting high never appealed to me.

Okay, so you have this issue that is negatively affecting your friends and you're saying as well that it has influenced your behaviour (albeit it in a way you would have probably gone anyway). How is this issue not your business?

I have a lot of respect for people saying "I don't know enough and require more time or information to make a decision".
I also have a lot sympathy for people who say "I don't care about this issue, because I have a lot of things in my life and I just can't spare the emotional energy on everything".

But it sounds like this is something that's actually impacted you, so I'm surprised to see that you have an attitude of "doesn't affect me" about it. You're perfectly free to feel that way, I just don't get it.

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Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2014, 05:17:06 AM »
      First, if you say you can't be interested in doing something because it's currently illegal, then it seems like you're foreclosing supporting any option (for everyone else as well as yourself) that is presently limited by the law.  Or maybe, just by what police actually do in the way of patrolling and enforcing various things.  Which is not always even the same as finding things that are presently illegal.  It's definitely not always the same as procedurally looking for and finding what they say they are, in many cases.  You get the house that was raided seeking a Twitter account holder's computer, and someone else goes to jail for umm, yeah marijuana possession as it turned out.  But that's just one example.

       I have no real interest in smoking marijuana or taking most drugs, myself.  But I can understand how people may say, if you insist you must have no interest in this issue, it speaks to how you are likely to deal with a range of other issues which each could be interpreted as a test of your overall philosophy of society and personal freedom.  And there's likely to be overlap in that community, where at least some people care about more than the specific question as phrased on the ballot.  They aren't  all only concerned about marijuana -- I imagine some of them are guessing what else may or may not be accepted later. 

       We often see politicians and media saying when there is a proposed policy change or vote on something:  'Oh, just look at how the vote turned out on this other issue.  We know what's going to happen with this one, because that is what happened with that one.'  Sometimes it's obviously crude reasoning, but it's easier for them to do this when people (both the proponents and those who stay away) don't talk about issues in terms of broader principles or in comparison to other questions that we might foresee also coming down the road.

       Granted there are some other factors...  Sometimes proposals are overly vague or technical, or people may imagine that other factors will make the outcome rather irrelevant by the time everything is implemented.  Perhaps it's not reasonable to vote on everything for various practical reasons, as well.  And there's limited time in life so one can't always discuss everything or learn about every question that comes along.  Maybe there's room for a sort of bouncing around, "And why exactly is this one so important to you just now?"  Or, "Can you tell me another situation where this is likely to be used as a precedent?"

       As for the arguments that everyone should vote or shut up forever more:  In addition to all the unforeseen developments that tend to come up in implementation and facts on the ground either soon or long after the formal vote...  I believe quite a few municipalities are notorious for scheduling votes during hours when many people typically can't get out of work without repercussions (formal or informal). 

Offline Polymorph

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2014, 11:38:03 AM »
I had heard that some countries had mandatory voting, so I had a quick look on the net to check the facts.

10 countries presently have mandatory voting laws and enforce them. Australia for instance has this. Failure to register your vote is punished by a $26 dollar fine. Though I assume this is counted as a civil offense rather than a criminal one.

12 further countries have mandatory voting, but the law is not enforced. Belgium for instance has not issued fines for failing to vote for more than 10 years.

In the UK, though voting for general elections has a fairly high turnout, council elections, European elections and others have a far lower turnout. The turnout for directly elected mayors and PCC's in some cases getting so low that the elections are getting farcical.

Voter apathy in western democratic countries does seem to be rising. Possibly due to the fact that in a lot of democracies there is generally a two horse race between centre left and centre right and despite the mud they continually sling at one another the difference once they are in power between the two choices is minimal.

Is mandatory voting the way to go to reverse the trend of falling turnout, or would disgruntled voters resent being forced and use the opportunity to cast protest votes for extreme or downright silly alternatives?

Offline Caehlim

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #19 on: September 24, 2014, 02:37:35 PM »
Failure to register your vote is punished by a $26 dollar fine. Though I assume this is counted as a civil offense rather than a criminal one.

Yeah, you can get into a bit of trouble if you don't pay the fine eventually but otherwise it's just a small slap on the wrist fine. You can also get out of it if you can manage an excuse and they don't make it terribly difficult to do so. You also only have to collect the papers and drop them into the ballot box, there's no obligation to write anything on them or to make the vote in any way legitimate.

Is mandatory voting the way to go to reverse the trend of falling turnout, or would disgruntled voters resent being forced and use the opportunity to cast protest votes for extreme or downright silly alternatives?

According to some friends telling me how they voted: Election before last, there were at least two write-in votes for me to be elected. Does that answer your question? :P

Although most people still do vote fairly seriously over here (I do for a start), but... yeah, not everyone appreciates being forced to do so.

Offline ImaginedScenes

Re: 'Freedom' does not mean 'obligation'
« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2014, 03:22:21 PM »
I agree with what the OP is saying and what (I skimmed) most people seem to be saying. Seems you're saying different things though.

The OP is saying she's frustrated with people trying to pressure others into things, or shaming others for not doing things. I agree that's "freedom to choose" is also "freedom not to choose". You have the right to tell me you think I should support this cause or this twitter hashtag thing, but you don't have the right to burden me until I do it. Wil Wheaton's Rule. Don't be a dick.

There's a YouTube channel I watch where they did the ALS thing and explained what it all is, but also said that because they don't know the charity and because they give to a local animal shelter (the only non-kill shelter in their area) they weren't donating $100. People were mean to them jsut because they didn't "support the cause". Bollocks, that is.


What people are saying about the value of being informed is also good life advice. Yeah, there might be a change you don't want if you don't vote. Back to the OP's point, you shouldn't be a dick if someone isn't informed or doesn't get informed. They don't owe you knowing about whatever you want them to if they aren't asking you for something related to it. No matter how important you think it is.

The key meaning of the OP seems to be "appeal but don't be mean or pestering".

Like roleplay. If you have many posts with ideas, characters, and other things it's fine to ask people to read them, but you shouldn't be mean to people if they haven't read everything. Even if you feel like it's all very important. I write a lot for my ideas. I make towns, characters we won't play, images, and more. But I don't get upset if people don't know it all. I only get miffed when they don't read my ad through before they message me. That's different because they're asking me to do something but aren't finding out what I asked for.