Alice in Neverland: My Freedom Is Better Than Yours

"John Tenniel - Illustration from The Nursery Alice (1890) - c03757 07" by John Tenniel - This file has been provided by the British Library from its digital collections.It is also made available on a British Library website.Catalogue entry: Cup.410.g.74.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The age of individualism has been upon us already for some time. Our Western societies seem mesmerised by the idea, and it’s not only a liberal quality. We tend to hanker after having our personal affairs left to ourselves, we believe that no one knows what’s best for us better than we do. The Emersonian self-reliance, a promise that blinded our perception for a long time, now backfires. Now is the time to pay the price for “the right of the individual to freedom and self-realization” that was granted  by a non-existent entity to all of us, no matter who we are or where we are. Because it wasn’t granted to everyone on equal terms. But as long as WE don’t have to pay for anything, right?

Thoureau wrote that “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” And that’s where the problem starts. We love talking about ideas, what we lack is action. We say we advocate freedom, but our claims lack substance. Why should we fight for somebody else’s freedom, let’s say, of the Ukrainians, when we have our freedom right here. Freedom not to act is also an act of exercising freedom. And, after all, my freedom is more important than yours.

So we exercise our personal freedom, taking it for granted, but offer nothing in return. Because to whom should we give something back? Those who would need our support are, after all, far away in a Neverland (rather than in Wonderland) of this or other sort. We are the Peter Pans of today. We play not worrying what comes tomorrow. But tomorrow has already come and it’s not pretty, to say the least. We face fundamental crises of values – events in Middle East proved them false; world order established after WWII is shaking in its foundations; EU, our own American dream of prosperity, seems disappointing in view of its inability to help maintain peace in the Eastern Europe. Well, it’s not our problem, right? The Union works well. Or does it?

The freedom of our Eastern neighbours seems to have fallen into the rabbit hole. Ukrainians will not catch it on their own. Only Alice holds the key to unlocking their civic rights, but Europe still refuses to man up and play this part. The Mad Hatter won’t stop being mad just because someone tells him to do so. And we just keep smiling and talking in riddles like the Cheshire Cat.

So what’s left is just me and you and our mere words, which hopefully will end up working as a magic spell. Because our freedom is not better than theirs. Now it actually seems even less relevant.

Olga Labendowicz