by Hossein Aghababa
“Braveheart”: Foundations of Freedom
The movie is an epic story of the life of William Wallace (Mel Gibson) who is a Scottish rebel uprising against Edward the Longshanks as the tyrant king of England. The atmosphere, characters, and music take the spectator to Scotland at the years around 1300. Wallace, who has lost many of his beloved ones including his fiancé, takes revenge from a local commander in their neighborhood. Gradually, he and his allies attack to other castles and conquer the English army in a few battlefields. The movie is a mixture of military tactics, bloody battles, emotions, politics, treachery, and slogan. To be fair, Mel Gibson is number one in war movies scenes especially where infantries of both sides are supposed to run towards each other and mercilessly kill each other. Benjamin Martin in “Patriot”, Lt. Col. Hal Moore in “We Were Soldiers”, and here William Wallace are good examples of this idea. Randall Wallace as the writer and Mel Gibson as the director had teamed up excellently in this movie. The idea of defeating English army by Scottish farmers is under serious question. However, as far as mythology is concerned, it can be neglected. The movie supports this historical theory that freedom is obtained at the cost of many lives. However, the political freedom which Wallace and his allies were fighting for is much different from the concept which has been developed during the past centuries.
Political freedom (also known as political autonomy or political agency) is a central concept in Western history and political thought, and one of the most important (real or ideal) features of democratic societies . It has been described as a relationship free of oppression  or coercion;  the absence of disabling conditions for a particular group or individual and the fulfillment of enabling conditions;  or the absence of lived conditions of compulsion, e.g. economic compulsion, in a society . Although political freedom is often interpreted negatively as the freedom from unreasonable external constraints on action, it can also refer to the positive exercise of rights, capacities and possibilities for action, and the exercise of social or group rights . The concept can also include freedom from “internal” constraints on political action or speech (e.g. social conformity, consistency, or “inauthentic” behaviour.) The concept of political freedom is closely connected with the concepts of civil liberties and human rights, which in democratic societies are usually afforded legal protection from the state.
Hannah Arendt traces the origins of the concept of freedom to the practice of politics in ancient Greece. According to her study, the concept of freedom was historically inseparable from political action. Politics could only be practiced by those who had freed themselves from the necessities of life, so that they could attend to the realm of political affairs. According to Arendt, the concept of freedom became associated with the Christian notion of freedom of the will, or inner freedom, around the 5th century C.E. and since then, freedom as a form of political action has been neglected, even though, as she says, freedom is “the raison d’être of politics .”
Arendt says that political freedom is historically opposed to sovereignty or will-power, since in ancient Greece and Rome, the concept of freedom was inseparable from performance, and did not arise as a conflict between the “will” and the “self.” Similarly, the idea of freedom as freedom from politics is a notion that developed in modern times. This is opposed to the idea of freedom as the capacity to “begin anew,” which Arendt sees as a corollary to the innate human condition of natality, or our nature as “new beginnings and hence beginners.”
In Arendt’s view, political action is an interruption of automatic process, either natural or historical. The freedom to begin anew is thus an extension of “the freedom to call something into being which did not exist before, which was not given, not even as an object of cognition or imagination, and which therefore, strictly speaking, could not be known.”
Anyways, as Wallace said, it’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom. The finale is the shout of the hero:”Freedom”.
1.Hannah Arendt, “What is Freedom?”, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, (New York: Penguin, 1993).
2.Iris Marion Young, “Five Faces of Oppression”, Justice and the Politics of Difference” (Princeton University press, 1990), 39-65.
3.Michael Sandel, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).
4.Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (Anchor Books, 2000).
5.Karl Marx, “Alienated Labour” in Early Writings.
6.Isaiah Berlin, Liberty (Oxford 2004).
7.Charles Taylor, “What’s Wrong With Negative Liberty?”, Philosophy and the Human Sciences: Philosophical Papers (Cambridge, 1985), 211-29.
8.Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”; Nikolas Kompridis, “Struggling Over the Meaning of Recognition: A Matter of Identity, Justice or Freedom?” in European Journal of Political Theory July 2007 vol. 6 no. 3 277-289.
9.Hannah Arendt, “What is Freedom?”, Between Past and Future: Eight exercises in political thought (New York: Penguin, 1993).