Dalrymple on freedom

Here:

Certainly, it does not seem to me that the future necessarily belongs to freedom as we have known it, and such as it was, and that therefore China must break apart under demands for personal liberty. It is a mistake, in my view, to assume that all people want to be free, in the sense of the American pioneers.

I think they much prefer to be comfortable; as the establishment of welfare states almost everywhere as the political summun bonum has shown, the greatest of all freedoms, the one that more people want more than any other, is the freedom from responsibility and consequences. It is true that the Chinese have never had the freedoms of speech, etc., that we have enjoyed, and have taken for granted, but I am not sure how much they are missed there.

Moreover, I fleetingly, and no doubt dangerously, wonder whether freedom is as importantly a matter of the soul as of political arrangements. I cannot ever forget Arthur Koestler’s book, Spanish Testament, in which he said that the time he spent in the condemned cell in the Nationalist zone was the time in his life when he felt most free.

These are, of course, night thoughts, that disappear by light of day. But the fact is that I do not feel particularly free by comparison with all previously existing people, not even with my own self of, say, thirty years ago.

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