The Victorian government’s decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for essential workers, and the proposed vaccine passport which would grant certain privileges denied the unvaccinated, have precipitated a vast amount of public debate over the past few weeks, and the news media has devoted countless hours and words to the subject---with arguments both for and against championed with the same passion and conviction.
The debates about the balance between individual freedoms and public good are fascinating, but I am not going to go into those. I can’t tell anyone whether they should get vaccinated or not, only they can make that choice (though I will say that I am double vaxxed and believe that the benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the potential risks, having made sure I’d educated myself on the facts around both for myself and could make an informed decision—just like each person should do).
Some of the good things in life aren’t, after all
Putting aside who is right and who is wrong, one thing I have found fascinating about the ongoing debate is the way modern society uses the word “freedom”. Not just in this case, but in general usage, and by default. When people talk about their right to freedom, what they are actually talking about is their right to not have to face any consequences. But, as the old cliché goes, freedom isn’t really free.
When we talk about freedom of speech it means that we are allowed to say whatever we want, but that doesn’t mean that people have to listen to us or take us seriously or agree with us. Freedom of religion means we can worship as we choose, but it doesn’t mean that we can expect others to believe what we do or take it seriously.
On a platter doesn't matter
In our society there seems to be a sense of entitlement, that we can have freedom but never have to pay a price for it, where we talk about our rights but not so much about our responsibilities. What we forget is that the things we take for granted had to be earned by those who have gone before, who fought for those freedoms on the streets or in the trenches and that we are reaping the harvest of their sacrifices.
This can be especially true of the Church at times, when we expect society to give us the same respect that we received in the past, or to listen to us on matters of morality and give our views the same significance. We take it for granted that this should be the case, as if it is our due. But, again and again we fail to live up to the Gospel or show the love and compassion Christ did, and act like we are in a position to hand out judgement.
For the sake of argument
Maybe it is time that we earn that respect again, the way that the generations before us had to. And, as a whole we need to realise that our freedoms sometimes come at a cost, that they are something to be earned, not taken for granted.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html