On Human Freedom: Mikhail Khordorkovsky

I often expound upon the lack of Self Responsibility evidenced in our Society. It amazes me how easy it is to ignore the consequences of our actions when those consequences accompany our getting what we wanted.

Mikhail Khordorkovsky is currently serving prison time in Russia for doing just that. He broke laws which had not yet been written and he gathered to himself wealth and power which had not been explicitly denied to him. And he did it in the name of Freedom.

This essay, Khordorkovsky On Freedom the Russian Way, submitted to Mosnews.com brought me to tears in its earnest definition of the ubiquitous and oft-abused word: freedom.

Freedom is an indelible aspect of a human being, a special aspect. It’s either there, or it isn’t. If a person is critically dependent on something beyond himself, he is already not free. And this can be any dependence: vodka, heroin, personal vanity, or money.

This is no new idea which could only have been discovered in the bowels of a Russian prison. It is a universal, objective and demonstrable statement of fact which has meaning and consequences throughout all human culture.
No matter what kind of political system we have had in our country, there was always freedom and free people in Russia. It has always been there, and it’s not going to go anywhere. In my view, it’s important that freedom is the right for a person to be himself.* And you can be yourself only in your own cultural environment. The protection of your own environment is also a struggle for freedom.
As an addict loses their fix for long enough to no longer need it; as a parent watches their children succeed on their own and realises that their life is theirs own once more, all people must acknowledge that we are held back or rocketed forward by our own desires or fears. We are all free or not depending upon our own decisions as to how to express that freedom, regardless of the amount of leeway the political, cultural or family environment in which we live gives us to do so.

I hope I never need to experience a state imposed prison sentence in order to always keep this value at the fore of every action I take. I've chosen enough personal prisons already and I've managed to free myself of many of them; with more freedom awaiting me when I choose to release myself from each of my addictions and fears. Mr. Khordorkovsky's message brings home to me just how thin the line is between personal and political responsibility. He reminds me that I am free to be as great or mundane or just plain as free as I decide for myself.

*emphasis is my own


  1. One clarification:

    Some of the laws Khordorkovsky broke were indeed already codified in Russian law. I wrote it the way I did with the intention of cleaning up the sentence then forgot...

    Apologies for any misunderstanding. Laziness is caused by some combinations of my other addictions... {sigh}

    "It's gettin' better all the time..."

  2. Nonetheless, the sentence handed to Khodorkovsky was excessive. And it was a politically motivated trial, a revenge by Putin and an exercise of his authority. I don't like it - and I sure as hell don't trust Putin to handle a fledgling democracy.


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