Australia is the greatest country in the world, at least in my opinion. I have been fortunate to travel many places overseas and have loved every moment - but there isn’t anywhere else I would rather live.
But I am probably just a little biased – as we all are. In fact, from my experience, most people love to proclaim that their own country is the greatest in the world. And rightly so. Patriotism is a good thing.
And if you asked people why their own country is the greatest in the world, there would be common themes as well. It’s all about the lifestyle, the people, natural wonders, opportunities to ‘live the dream’ – along with the availability of high class education and medical facilities and more.
But most of all people will also talk about freedom. The freedom to go about their daily lives without the perils of war and corruption. The freedom to live in a democratic society. The freedom for unobstructed travel. The freedom to be able to make life choices not dictated to by governments or society. And freedom also implies living in safe, caring, encouraging communities, where our children can dare to dream big dreams, and be whatever they want to be.
But do we all have the same definition of freedom?
Our friends in the USA claim to be the “land of the free” and have more freedoms than anyone else. As a non US citizen it is hard for me to comment on that, other to say that discussions around freedoms in the US seem to have a stronger tie to rights than they do here in Australia. The right to bear arms. The right to defend yourself and your family. The right to live the American dream. The right to rise up against the establishment. And there is a patriotism in regards to the flag, the national anthem, those who serve and those in high office. And there is also a strong defence of the freedoms people believe they share which is unique in the world. And of course the 4th July is sacrosanct. I must say I have always admired that level of patriotism.
Here in Australia, we don’t talk as much about rights. We like to argue over our flag, our anthem and what our national day actually stands for – and we seem to hold little respect for those in authority. We are certainly have a much more relaxed view to patriotism, though it comes through strongly in different forms.
But are we more or less free?
Do I have more freedom because most citizens in Australia don’t own (or may never have owned) a gun, or less?
Does that make me more or less safe?
Are we less attuned to our freedoms because we don’t all have an Aussie flag on our front verandah and can’t remember the words to the national anthem? Or is that casualness what makes us free?
And what does it mean for us as farmers?
Our Northern hemisphere farmer friends have a high level of govt support. That potentially gives them a safety net and security it could be argued they deserve as those who feed and clothe their nations. But with that comes a high level of government compliance, community expectations and red tape.
Aussie farmers are among the least subsidised in the world, and it could be argued that puts us at an economic disadvantage. But, we can (comparatively) grow what we like, where we like – and make management decisions without the restrictions of our overseas friends. And now, with the GM restrictions about to be lifted in South Australia, that freedom to make choices about what we grow may open up new possibilities.
But all of us as farmers, wherever we are in the world, have freedoms that our city cousins could only dream of. Flexibility of work hours, the ability to make our own business decisions, being able to work outdoors, the joy of having our kids work and play side by side with us – and be able to stop and stare at a sunset in awe. Is that not true freedom?
Covid-19 has been an interesting time to reflect on freedom. Some would say we are less free because of the lockdowns and restrictions we have put in place to curb the pandemic. In some states and countries there have been differing ways of managing this, with varying results. Has this made us less free? Or is it a reflection of our freedom that we as a nation seek to protect our citizens with rules, restrictions, face masks and mandatory quarantines? Is that protection a right? Is it what makes us free?
To me freedom is being able to stand in a line at a polling station to elect a new government, knowing that the person in front of you may have a diametrically opposed political view to you, but you can still have a civil discussion or even a beer with them at the end of the day. It's being able to let your kids ride their bikes into town to school or to play with their friends with the confidence they will be safe. Its knowing that as a nation we have religious freedoms which allow people of all different faiths to worship as and where they see fit. Its knowing that as a society we allow people with different views and values to live and work together harmoniously, with protocols in place to help us sort out any disputes. A society in which people of every nationality, colour and class are accepted as one people, and we don’t need to make arguments over who matters more.
That is what I see as living in a land that is free. How about you?