For most people in the world, “freedom” is very limited, if not a total illusion, at least if they don’t want to pay an inordinate price.

Take “freedom of speech.” Even in the supposedly liberal or protected sphere of higher education, it doesn’t exist in all too many institutions. I personally know of three tenured faculty members who no longer have academic jobs because they spoke out against a university president. It turns out that revealing unflattering “confidential” information, especially if reveals administration acts against university rules and policy, is apparently cause for dismissal. In another case, a university brought assault charges against a professor because he fought an unfair dismissal, even after all the review boards exonerated him, most likely because he’d earlier protested university policies. The court dismissed the assault charge as totally unfounded. But he still doesn’t have his job back, after more than three years, because this public university keeps dragging out the matter legally.

Then there was the tenured choral director at prestigious private university. He upset people so much that the university abolished the entire choral program to order to fire him, because he hadn’t done anything remotely wrong, except for what he said – and then reinstated the program several years later. Or the dean of a university library who was removed from his position because he told the university provost that the library couldn’t provide all the services demanded without more resources and people… something about the fact that longer hours require more staff or overtime.

Or the recent revelations about Placido Domingo, who made unwanted advances toward young female singers for decades… and because of his power, those women, if they wanted a career, couldn’t say anything and had to avoid him as best they could and endure it when they couldn’t.

It’s been revealed that some of the hedge fund and banking middle managers who protested against overleveraged, securitized bad loans were told either to approve them or leave. And if they left, who was going to hire them?

Now, I’d be the first to admit that not all universities or opera companies or businesses are that restrictive, but I’d wager that most are, if only in places. I also could come up with more examples, as I suspect almost anyone who’s spent time in academia, professions, government, or business could as well.

Outside of the professional fields, it can be even worse, as recently documented work practices at Amazon have shown. Yes, you can quit, but that assumes there are other jobs… and that someone will hire you.

What’s even more insidious is that it’s often more dangerous for one’s career to speak out the higher up you are… and correspondingly more difficult to find another comparable position once one is past the age of fifty, especially for women. And yet, as the new saying goes, this is a “first world problem,” and sadly doesn’t even compare to the lack of freedoms people face in developing or underdeveloped nations.

Or, as Janis Joplin sang in Me and Bobby McGee, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…”

1 thought on “Freedom”

  1. Wine Guy says:

    It has never been a safe world for those who stand up for what is right when expediency and flexible ethics permit greater and greater profit. Has it ever existed on this planet?


    A couple places/times may have come close, but they would be the exceptions that prove the rules.

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