Last Sunday, we celebrated the liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis. It’s a national holiday to celebrate freedom.
How should we handle freedom, actually? Who determines what “freedom” means? Everyone for him/herself? Politicians? Banks? God, or Allah, or your parents, or your neighbors? And how do we create freedom in every part of the world? What does freedom mean, actually? Is your freedom the same as mine?
To me, freedom means that you can be who you are. That there’s an openness for differences. That it’s safe to express a dissenting opinion. That we take each other seriously and dare to ask critical questions. That we can put aside prejudices. And also that we dare to set boundaries. That I can let you know what I don’t like. That I can tell you my opinion and that we can enter into a dialog and debate with each other about this, so we can determine what we consider “normal” together, how we can live and work together, how we can respect each other’s differences, and perhaps even use them.
People need to connect with each other. Without some sort of rapport, teams, organizations, and social networks break down. At the same time, people need individual room to develop their talents and to work with inspiration. This is a perpetual dilemma. On the one hand, there’s the power of connectivity that brings about harmony, binds social networks, and emphasizes mutual similarities. On the other hand is the powerful energy that comes along with individual freedom – the need to act upon one’s own point of view, and an emphasis on oppositions. This is a universal, human dilemma that, in a culturally diverse environment, can cause extra controversy and regularly results in us/them and right/wrong thinking. To me, freedom for diversity means we can handle divergent values, conflicting truths, and different norms and needs between individuals (including their different talents and qualities) as well as between groups (such as different departments, nations, generations, and ethnicities).
Freedom means that we can be open to our differences, that we continue to see our similarities, and that we can, and dare to, determine our boundaries together. That seems like truly “Act Normal!” to me.
Sometimes we are as different as day from night – as in the clip. So…let us enjoy it!
Long live freedom! Long live diversity! Long live life!