Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Freedom and the Ghetto

Contemporary American society is rather quick to drop the word "freedom." We value freedom, cling to freedom, fight and die for freedom. What is seldom - if ever - asked is what this "freedom" is? Freedom from what? Freedom to what?

How do we get this freedom? What does freedom entail? How can freedom be attained? What kind of society is necessary to promote and protect freedom?

Of Particular interest to me is this: Take a child raised in a ghetto, a slum. Is he free in any meaningful sense? Sure, if he is incredibly talented and very lucky he may transcend his environment, overcome his struggles. But what are the odds?

Raised in a broken family, taught crime from an early age, living in a society where only drug dealers have the money to eat, where violence is an everyday norm, jobs are practically non-existent, and your home is a run down slum, can you really be free? Can you blame someone from such a place for being angry and desperate, uneducated and severely limited in opportunities?

My heart goes out to those who are forced to live in such awful conditions. And unless and until we recognize the systemic problems that have created these ghettos, we cannot hope to help the situation. It will simply not do to treat people coming from these areas as capable of "pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps," and overcoming their environment.

I recently discovered a blog called Ghetto America that largely takes a look at images of these urban slums. It is worth looking into it.

This sight reminded me of Elvis' song, "In the Ghetto," which I post here:

The 17th century Philosopher Baruch Spinoza declared that "The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free." But how difficult must it be for those raised in these dire circumstances to be allowed to understand enough to be truly free.


  1. Hey Doc,

    My sound card is out, so I couldn't hear your last two blogs, but this one stood out like a sore thumb.
    I grew up in Appalachia. Coal dust in the home, coal dust on my clothes. Never really had a valuable keepsake and during that time I never had any new shoes or clothes ( hand-me-downs). No bike, no football, no little-league team participation, and definitely no boo-hooing about it.
    I am not anything exceptional; there were thousands of us, and we all thought the whole world was emblematic of where and what we were.
    When we moved to Oklahoma (trust me, I wasn't much better, sans the coal dust) I was bound and determined to "make it out".
    You know the story. I went to college just to get away from the poverty and the ignorance.

  2. Hey Doc,

    I grew up in Appalachia. Coal dust everywhere; on my clothes, on the shelves...ubiquitous. Never had new clothes or shoes. Christmas was just so much trimming of the freshly cut tree (from just up the hill).
    All my buddies and I thought everyone everywhere were just like us.
    When we moved to Oklahoma things weren't much better, sans the coal dust.
    Went to college to get the hell out. Most remarkable episode was my dad saying that I wasn't smart enough to go to college and that I should work in the factory. Sadly, I he believed that until he died.
    Yep I understand the ghetto.

  3. Incredile Del! It's amazing that people go through things like that, and even more amazing that they pull through! Good job on pulling through!


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