Freedom of Mind

Feb 9 , 2019
By Tsion Fisseha

Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed (PhD) has changed Ethiopian politics. Since his inauguration, words such as reform, hope and unity have been frequent. One other word that has gained traction in conversations is freedom.

The word has manifested itself several times in the journalists and opposition figures that have been released from prison, the formerly banned parties that have been allowed to participate in local politics, the fluid border between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the general air of freedom on social media.

But that is at best political freedom. It speaks nothing of the social and civil liberties many in the world are starved for at the moment.

Many people have tried to define freedom in various contexts and from different perspectives. Mostly, its definition is explained by the lack of it. It requires deconstructing.

Visually, the lack of freedom is depicted through images of bars, chains, darkness and concrete walls. Nonetheless, freedom is more than concrete walls.

“I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind,” Antoine de Saint- Exupery, the famous French writer, poet, journalist and aviator, once said.

Captivity is not limited to jails cells. Imprisonment is much more than the definitions it receives from law books. For the most part, freedom requires an external force stepping on one’s right to be free. It has evolved from not being physically confined to being emotionally liberated.

People have become prisoners of their own doing. They have been taken over by gadgets and social networks that feed into their ego. They have become captives of anxiety, stress, heartbreak and apprehension. In the illusion of being free to do as one pleases, they have been forced to stay in the first stage of grief, which is denial.

The abstract that is freedom is not easily achieved nor is it easily practiced. The freedom of an individual can be constrained by various factors including economic and financial status. The abundance and lack of this particular aspect of life could either give or take away from having pleasure in the freedom to enjoy all the materialistic pleasure the world has to offer.

Individual freedom is also highly affected by other individuals who would like to exercise their right to freedom. This could range from the freedom of speech that highly affects the freedom of silence to a larger scale of freedom spread across a whole country.

Not so long ago, the women of Saudi Arabia were granted the freedom of being able to drive on the streets. At first glance, the idea of women not driving would seem petty or small, but the individual freedom of the men of Saudi Arabia crashed the right of women to do as they please.

Much focus is given toward the fundamental rights of human beings. But while talking about political freedom, civil and social liberties should be taken into consideration. For instance, the freedom to think is a naturally given freedom that has been taken away with unnatural methods from our society.

A baby girl automatically gets a pink ribbon when she is born, while a baby boy gets blue. By doing as such, we are attaching colours that are not gender neutral to our newly born by taking away their right to think for themselves. We have been taught so many different things from the way we talk to the way we move on a subliminal level, we have lost the one true freedom we ever truly had, the ability to think for ourselves.

The right or idea of freedom is one that is complex and abstract but we have to realise that the chain that is enslaving us is just as strongly in our minds as outside.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 09,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 980]

Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at

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