Monday, August 31, 2009

Reconsidering The Four Freedoms

I'm not at all fond of Norman Rockwell's famous paintings based on Roosevelt's speech. They omit an awful lot, such as dissenting opinions, secularists who do not believe in God, and anyone of color. The biggest omission is urban America which, for all its messy vitality, is every bit as old and authentic as "small town" America.

I think the idea of the Four Freedoms is maybe one we should consider bringing back. Roosevelt's original idea (and even Norman Rockwell's idea) is not the freedom of the isolated self-reliant individualist cleaning his gun out in the wilderness. It is what the Greeks called the freedom of the city, the freedom created by a social compact, a mutual agreement to respect the consciences and liberties of individuals, while at the same time cooperating to protect all the members of the community from the tyrannies of poverty and insecurity.

Something to think about as health insurance reform eventually peters out.

Here are some samples from Roosevelt's speech, the State of the Union address, January 6, 1941:

"We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests."

"The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment -- The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement. As examples:

We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.

We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.

We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it."

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb."