Claims for freedom by Black Lives Matter demonstrators and by MAGA supporters show that there can be clashing meanings of “freedom.” What factors are contributing to this tension? This essay explores the ways in which social and ethnic groups and society’s many institutions complicate the concept of freedom. It points to a basic lesson: Learning and compromises are necessary before we can agree on what it means to be free.
Debating today’s social priorities
The United States has been an active member of UNESCO for just 10 of the last 40 years. If the U.S. rejoins, it would not just be re-upping its membership in a global organization, it would be rejoining the global community of science and culture.
Popular culture is undoubtedly an arena for debating social priorities. And with the rise of social media, these debates now happen at the global level—often through the exchange of music and other types of art. Sometimes, such debates evolve into deep ideological discussion and can spur worldwide movements for social justice.
Life and death are individual matters, yet we need the support of organized groups to nurture us and extend our lives. This tension is stark in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused deep changes in society, exacerbated racial and economic inequities, and led to widespread reflection on what value to give to life itself.
In response to COVID-19, dedicated health care workers saved millions of lives, and communities all over the world came together to support one another. But it is government leaders and CEOs who have claimed credit for this work. Given their track record of greed, why should these leaders be trusted to guide the next step in overcoming the pandemic—economic recovery?