Breaking Free: Can you Fight the Powers?
The word “freedom” is one of those words that speaks of something we all want, though we are not too sure what it actually is. We all go in search of it, though we take different paths.
Some go through religion, some have thrown off religion and kept spirituality, others have stopped believing in God altogether, and others still do whatever brings pleasure to them in any given moment. When these different people meet, they stare at each other in amazement. “They’ve got it wrong”, we say. We are all biased to our own decisions. But, allow me to share with you my own notion of freedom.
Immediately, I am reminded of a scene in “Braveheart”. William, the hero, was about to be tortured for fighting for the freedom of his people; his executors called it treason. William, like all of us do at some point in our lives, had grown tired of being oppressed by the things around him. “Bun down Babylon” would have been his battle cry had he lived in the Caribbean. The scene is interesting to me for various reasons. He is atop a stage about to be hanged. There are at least four different ‘powers’ that I can see at work.
1. The System
“Declare yourself the king’s loyal subject, and beg his mercy, and you shall have it. Rope!”
This power I will call ‘the system’. When you grow enough testicular or chesticular fortitude to break free from ‘the system’, you are given great opposition. At first, there is this feeling that wells up in you. It’s ineffable really. It is a good feeling to know that you have made a decision on your own. It is good and scary that any consequences of that decision will be solely your responsibility. But as time progresses, the pressure of living outside the norm rubs you the wrong way, benignly beckoning your return. “Come back to me, my love,” it whispers. It is at this point that our mettle is truly tested. Will you go on and suffer the fate of being free?
2. The Masses
The crowd begins to jeer because apparently seeing a grown man strung up by his neck satisfies some aesthetic need. William braves the first round of torture like a Jedi Knight. It is almost as if the crowd were saying, “See! I told you so! You should have kept your mouth shut like the rest of us. Now watch yuh!”
Interestingly, the masses do not hate you. The masses are always ambivalent, easily swayed by the breeze of popular opinion. They see you, the one breaking free, both as a sign of hope and a sign of stupidity. Hope because you are doing that thing that everyone wants to do – break free. Stupidity because there you are struggling with your freedom. So in your suffering, they urge you to say ‘mercy’ and come grovelling to ‘the system’.
They tell you, “Don’t be ashamed boy. Just come back. I have a lil wuk. I will link you with”.
If by now you haven’t given up, they stare at you in bewilderment. “What he really feel he doing?”
William’s friends who helped him in his fight for freedom stand silently in the crowd. They feel somewhat responsible for his plight. Those are the guys and gals that encouraged you in the beginning; they too urge him to cry mercy. No good friend likes to see his or her friends suffer. Now you have second thoughts. ‘The system’ is whispering, the masses are shouting, and friends are moved with pity.
“Maybe I should really give up yes. Meh mudda house looking real good right about now.” Few people make it to this point, and less go beyond it. The few that go beyond it have the privilege of having a fourth power in their midst.
As William lies on his back, arms outstretched, hair falling about his face, his sky-blue eyes survey the crowd. He begins to hallucinate. His dead wife is walking through the crowd, looking for a good position to get a look-see. As their eyes meet, she smiles with him. The smile is reciprocated. The crowd goes into this deep, pregnant silence, mind-raped by this man who is smiling in the face of death.
Love is powerful. It is another word difficult to define, but we all want it. It is important to have people in your life who you know unconditionally love you. It is also important, probably more important, that you give unconditional love to select people in your life as well. We can’t be free without love.
So the moment of decision comes, and William looks up at ‘the system’s’ face. He swallows his spit, takes a deep and hard breath, readying his mouth for speech.
“The prisoner wishes to say a word!” says ‘the system’. ‘The system’ smiles in anticipation of the word “mercy”. Instead, in true dramatic form, William breathes deeply, and roars, “FREEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOM!”
‘The system’ is confused and outraged. The masses are watchful. Friends are unsure. Love is smiling. William is free.
In this movie, William is beheaded. Essentially, he suffered the very fate that all of us are afraid of suffering. None of us want to fail at life. But what does that mean anyway? He won freedom. A freedom that is powerful. One that gives hope to others; one that shatters fetters with its words.
William is free. I am free. Are you free?