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Freya cat

Freya was my joy. She always made me smile, no matter how gloomy the day. My connection to her was one of the strong threads that weave me into the Web of Life. And now she is no more. Her kidneys took a sudden turn for the worse and she died a week ago. We laid her to rest under the apple tree in the garden.

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The Price of Freedom

Lying awake at night is not something I do a lot. But last night I found myself musing about the state of the world and thinking some really disturbing thoughts. I travel on the London Underground regularly. In the light of what happened on 7 July, and is likely to happen again some time, I wonder: what if it happens to me?

After the first week or so of going back on the tube with trepidation, I now use it without a second thought again. I know that one is still a lot more likely to die in a car crash than in a terrorist attack. Nothing has really changed. The likelihood of a terrorist attack on the Underground must be roughly the same now as it was before 7 July.

And anyway, I refuse to be scared. Scared is what the terrorists want us to be. And I’m not one to be manipulated, thank you. I will – at least for now – continue to exercise my right to go where I want by the means most convenient to me. And a lot of the time, that’s by tube. So unless the risk increases to a much higher level, I will be there, making several journeys a week on the Underground. It could happen that I get on the wrong train at the wrong time some day. But I will take that limited risk, because it is a small act of defiance against those who would see me hide away scared. And if I did get blown up, that wouldn’t be such a bad reason to die, given the way the world is going these days. Speaking only for myself and disregarding any people I leave behind, I think it may be a price worth paying for freedom.

And then, last night, a very unpleasant thought occurred to me: what if I don’t die but I lose my legs? Dying seems easier. I won’t mind being dead – whether you believe in a life after or not, and I do, I think it will be easier to cope with than losing limbs. The thought of that just horrified me. Is that a price I want to pay for freedom? And suddenly I am less certain…

I am concerned about the assaults on our legal system and civil liberties that the government are perpetrating with the excuse that they are protecting us. I don’t think it is a good idea to lock people up for 3 months without charge, no matter what you suspect them of. I don’t think it’s a good idea make people carry identity cards that will fail to prove anything anyway. And I don’t think portraying the complex difficulties that the world faces as any kind of war between good and evil is a good idea either. I think all those things are a worse assault on our way of life and our values than anything a bomb could do.

But what if I did lose my legs in a bombing? I’m sure I suddenly would no longer care who gets locked up for any amount of time as long as the guilty get punished. I would probably gladly put the whole country under 24 hour surveillance if need be. Which is why, I realised whilst still unable to sleep, victims or their families should not be the people who make the laws. They have lost all perspective and ability to judge objectively.

Tony Blair has said recently that the first duty of government is to protect its people. I’m not so sure. I think it is the government’s first duty to protect the values of its people. It is time now for us to work out what kind of a society we want to live in. Do we want to be safe but become prisoners of our security? Or do we want to be free and risk one day getting on the wrong train? I think in the long run we will be better off if we insist on the hard won liberties and privileges we have acquired over centuries. We will be the stronger for defending our values of liberty and openness against assaults from misguided governments as well as suicidal extremists.

So I’ll be on the Underground tomorrow, and for some time to come. I honestly don’t think I’m risking life and limb for freedom quite yet. I’ll give you an update if it ever comes to that.