I sometimes wonder at the absurdities of life. Late trains plus rain and no umbrella, grumpy waiters who are grumpy for no apparent reason and the ringing of the phone just at the very moment I thought about somebody specific. I also wonder about why only the glass bottles slip out of my fingers and the plastic ones do not. But when I pause and stop to wonder and look around closely, in the big picture of things, these are really only minor problems and they do not disturb my personal freedom at all. I can walk and enjoy the rain and I can either accept that glass bottles simply slip through my fingers or buy the other version. But what if these little choices in life are simply not there anymore? What if, by some misfortune I find myself in a situation in which I cannot decide about even the smallest aspects of my life? For me this idea is very frightening. For Ingrid Betancourt, this lack of freedom was part of her life for 6 and a half years. She was captured in Colombia by FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and held captive in the jungle. In her book “Even Silence has an End” Ingrid Betancourt describes her ordeal in the jungle. And as frightening as the book is, at times being as graphic as it is necessary to describe the situation, its main message is loud and clear and very simple: Value and understand and use your freedom!
Ingrid Betancourt learnt the hard way how it is to loose your freedom and the little choices that make life so valuable. She also quickly understood the absurdity of her own situation and that in a situation like hers, human beings are not necessarily reliable anymore, although one has trusted them before. Being totally dependent on herself made her realize that life is all about freedom and that we value our everyday freedom often far too little. We think so much about the things we need to do and about the things that annoy us. We can be very critical of other people and severely hurt their feelings without even thinking about it. Our life is full of choices and especially philosophers should be aware of these choices and should act in an ethical manner. And in essence we all know Kant and think his ideas to be right, but it seems that we are acting far too little on them. Nobody has to make the same experiences like Ingrid Betancourt to understand what life is all about, but I do believe that we have to listen to her. Therefore, and once again, her message for all of us is: Value your freedom!
Ingrid Betancourt: “I still have nightmares” in the Guardian
By Anne Margaret Baxley, Washington University in St. Louis
Vol.2. August 2007