What is the perfect balance between freedom and order? Not only is it a question American society has been asking itself since its creation but also a question humanity has yet to answer. In all likelihood such a perfect balance will never be achieved but doesn’t mean people won’t strive for such perfection. Before delving on deeper one must first ask, ‘what is order? ’ Order is the limitation of freedom; limitation of freedom is necessary, to an extent, to uphold society.
Human society has two extremes at each end of its spectrum, anarchy and tyranny.
Two complete opposites, anarchy is pure freedom and tyranny is the ultimate repression of freedom. In the middle there is the perfect balance between order and freedom that humanity has been fighting for since its creation. Currently, as Arthur Miller said, ‘the balance has yet to be struck between order and freedom’. Miller’s statement, a direct reaction due to the second red scare, is undeniably true and is applicable to all times of American society, especially today’s.
In regards to American society the line between order and freedom has been like a pendulum, swinging back and forth due to cause and effect. Lately, for the past decade, the line between order and freedom has been swinging towards the side of increased order; this is evident by the Patriot Act, recent internet censorship bills, and the people’s reaction to American society via the Occupy movement. While there is always going to be a back and forth, currently the line between order and freedom is moving towards one direction. It is still impossible for man to organize his life without repression” said Arthur Miller. The balance between order and freedom shifts based on cause and effect. In September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four planes midflight and used two planes to crash into the Twin Towers, killing almost 3,000 people. The third plane crashed into part of the Pentagon, and the last one crash landed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Because of this event George W. Bush signed into law The Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act undermines Freedom from Unreasonable Searches, Right to a Speedy and Public Trial, Right to Liberty, and allows the government to monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity (Walker). This Act greatly increased order by repressing and undermining certain freedoms. The reason this happened was because the 9/11 attacks induced a pervasive sense of fear into the American environment; this allowed the government to pass legislature to increase order. The reduction of freedoms for increased security has happened multiple times in the past.
Another such instance was the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950. The McCarran Act required Communist organizations to register with the government, prevented people of such groups from acquiring citizenship, gave the government authority to detain anyone suspected of espionage, and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate and monitor people suspected of planning to undermine the government (White). This legislature was enacted due to the widespread fear of communism, known as the second Red Scare.
These examples show that the line between order and freedom fluctuates throughout history thus supporting Miller’s statement, which was a direct reaction to the second Red Scare, that ‘the balance has yet to be struck between order and freedom’. It is also shown that lately the line between order and freedom has been swinging towards the side of order. The creation of the World Wide Web greatly expanded on the constitutional freedoms already enjoyed by Americans. Now these freedoms that the people of the United States were given are under attack.
For the past decade there have been numerous attempts to reduce freedoms by restricting internet freedoms. Two recent examples are Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Both of these bills were attempts to restrict online freedoms but eventually failed. The bills would allow the government to force ISPs to restrict its users from accessing certain foreign sites, prevent sites from linking to infringing sites, and cut off funding by prohibiting payment services from being used on infringing sites (Magid).
In a sense, the bills would create an internet blacklist. These bills did not pass through congress due to mass protest by people. Multiple sites such as Google and Wikipedia had a day of ‘black out’ in order to raise public awareness of these bills, which in turn lead to the protests that prevented these bills from passing. Though the American people were successful in preventing those bills, there were others that were signed without the majority of the public knowing. An example of such a bill is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
ACTA has a very strict definition of copyright infringement, would require ISPs to monitor all your data traffic, force ISP to remove service from people who infringe copyrights (Solon). This act was approved by congress but was eventually denied by the UN. Whether or not ACTA will still be enforced in the United States is highly doubtful, but it may lead to further legislature advocating internet restriction. Such legislature could be the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact (TPP). With similar writing as ACTA and other internet censorship bills, however, a difference is that it includes pacific countries such as Japan, Mexico, and Australia.
While the internet did extended the American peoples freedoms, these freedoms are now under attack. All these examples of internet censorship bills show that for the past decade repression has been rising in American society, further supporting Millers statements on how American society have yet to reach the balance between order and freedom. It is human nature to rebel under repressive conditions, history is littered with examples. America is an example of such human nature. When the people of the British Colonies felt repressed they rebelled from their oppressors and gained freedom.
While it is human nature to react to repressive situations the extent to which people react is based on the situation. Due to the line between order and freedom swinging towards order for the past decade people are reacting to the increased repression through The Occupy Movement. The Occupy movement is an international protest movement originating from, and most prominent in, the United States (Walters). The fact that such a movement can subsist shows that people are feeling oppressed and are thus taking action.
This reaction by the people supports the argument that repression has been increasing for the past decade. The question is how much of an impact will the Occupy Movement make? It may be too early to tell, but just like a pendulum, when the point between order and freedom swings too far in one direction there is always another force that will begin to push in the opposite direction. This Occupy Movement could possibly be that force that pushes in the opposite direction, supporting Miller’s claim that we have yet to strike the balance between order and freedom.
The perpetual battle between order and freedom in American society has been going on since the very beginning of the nation, and will likely never stop. American society tries to keep the line from deviating too far in one direction, for the results are often quite pernicious. Examples of such deviations would be of the Salem witch trials and the Red Scare during the McCarthy era. During these times the line between order and freedom swung too far in the direction of order and as a result hysteria flourished.
Even though the line eventually swung back towards the comfortable medium, irreparable damage had already been done. As human society advances these deviations occur less and less often; as Arthur Miller said, “When one rises above the individual villainy displayed, one can only pity them all, just as we shall be pitied someday”. The people of the present will always be able to look back on those of the past during these deviations and pity them because human society will continue to progress and evolve.
The question of order and freedom has applied to America since its creation and Miller’s statement about the balance between order and freedom having yet to be struck is applicable to all times of American society, especially the recent. As mentioned the fight between order and freedom has been like a pendulum, swinging back and forth, and for the past decade has been swinging towards the side of order; this is evident by the Patriot Act, recent internet censorship bills, and the people’s reaction to American society via the Occupy movement. While recently society has been swinging towards the side of increasing order, there are signs that there is another force beginning to push back towards the side of freedom and continuing the seemingly amaranthine battle between order and freedom.
Magid, Larry. “What Are SOPA and PIPA And Why All The Fuss? ” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. . Rossini, Carolina. “Prominent Academics Respond to the TPP | EFF. ” Prominent Academics Respond to the TPP | Electronic Frontier Foundation. Electronic Frontier Foundation, 23 Aug. 2012. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. . Solon, Olivia. What Is Acta and Why Should You Be Worried about It? ” Wired UK. Wired, 24 Jan. 2012. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. . Walker, Jade. “Patriot Act: Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Government’s Use Of Surveillance Powers. ” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost. com, 16 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. . Walters, Joanna. “Occupy America: Protests against Wall Street and Inequality Hit 70 Cities. ” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 08 Oct. 2011. Web. 01 Sept. 2012. . White, Michelle. “Impact of the McCarran Internal Security Act. ” Impact of the McCarran Internal Security Act. N. p. , Spring 2008. Web. 02 Sept. 2012. .
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