Free and Easy
There is one place in this world where everything is free. There is one place where one does not have to work for a living but eats, sings and sleeps just the same. In this one place one does not worry about house rent, grocery budget, electricity, phone and water bills and other day-to-day expenses. In this one place one does not get annoyed over rumor-mongers or fear criminals. In fact, there just isn’t anything to do because there isn’t any obligation at all. This one place is so accessible to the human race. As a matter of fact, this place exists because of popular demand. This one place is the prison cell.
It must be safe to say everyone wants anything for free … the way each one wants to be free. Freedom, oh freedom! And every single being finds freedom the sweetest name of all. Who is free and who isn’t? Who says there is no freedom behind iron bars? And who argues there is absolute freedom outside those bars? The prison cell can be freedom itself. But why is it an abominable, humiliating and horrifying place to be in? People go to jail on their own will or with their consent, whether it be direct or indirect, against all odds – beyond the control of society and the law. Ignorance of the law excuses no one, so it is said. And isn’t one’s conscience his own law?
I was shocked and worried and horrified upon knowing the plight of a good friend put to prison, a simple human being who has spent most of his life on the streets uncomplaining, humming his pain and his hunger as he makes his rounds to collect garbage. I rushed to the jail, questions and anger and anxiety and pity rumbling in my insides, only to heart a calm and consoling voice assuring me he is in a more convenient situation at last! At last???!!! But, of course, he had a roof over his head when he sleeps, to protect him from the sun and the rain, while most of his life he had slept and rested on sidewalks and alleys, or wherever sleep or weariness beat him. And, of course, he enjoys three full meals a day without any effort now, while most of his life he had to exhaust might and main for a single meal each day, not knowing when his next meal will be … that he had almost murdered a person to survive his plight! Did I get the message that the very crime that shut him off the free world was a blessing? Did he make me believe he was willing to be a criminal in any circumstance, if only to avoid the miserable state he left behind? Did I see the logic of his realization – that being good and noble all this time for him was a mistake?
I realized I was shivering inside as he was speaking, feeling so disillusioned in front of a stranger, the friend I was convinced I knew so well until today. No, I can’t be afraid of him … or angry with him. He sounded more convincing than defensive!
My friend’s plight had its candid way of piercing into my whole being, that I felt I was the prisoner … and all the rest in the “free world” I am living in. And worse, we weave our own despicable and horrifying webs around us and sign our own death warrants. Unseen prison cells that devour, devastate, and consume our precious lives … vices, luxuries, insecurities, fears, vanities, greed, pride, ambition – anti-virtues, obsessions and idols that are slowly extinguishing the human race. Show-windows are prison cells just the same, no matter how nicely they appear and are decorated.
What and where is freedom? I felt so ignorant! The blunt words in a poster nagged my illusions and glared at my realization: “They call me a beggar, a scavenger, an eyesore. But what do you call a society that has reduced me to this state?”