A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty
Is worth a whole eternity in bondage.
Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719)
Heard in a overly-condense bus in Jakarta, exchanged between two women of different generations.
The younger one looked around her, securing her her footing against the vehicle's jerky stops and runs, balancing herself while at the same time protecting her companion from falling. She wiped the gleam of heat and suffocation off her lips and forehead, then smiled to her companion, “If only I could just like living in Saudi, things would have been so much simpler. I could just get married to a Saudi guy who would adore me as long that I obeyed, who could provide me with all the neat conveniences that all Saudis enjoy in Saudi Arabia, and even my mother might start to like me again.”
The older one reflected, “It really depends on you. What is it that you really want? Do you want to spend the rest of your life here, like this? Can you enjoy a life without the typical Saudi conveniences, dangling like this on stuffed buses, living on minimum wages in tiny houses and barely making it for the rest of your life?”
The younger one said, “Those things never really bothered me. This lifestyle outshines everything else financial. Relationships seem to fall back on the priority list; it doesn’t seem to matter what my social status is, because I can still reach all ends of town on my own. I can still walk and run with my dog on the street, just the two of us. If I ever got hungry, I can just put on my shoes and find something to eat. By myself."
She sighed and continued, “I couldn't do that when I was in Saudi. I had to wait for someone to allow me to get out of the house, to eat, to walk, to window shop, to go to my favorite café to write. I had to remain the half of someone for as long as I lived there.” She saw a passenger leave, and shouldered her way for the older one to be more comfortable. It's a long way home.
The older one sat down and sympathized, “It’s what the culture expects you to be; that your entire identity is the shadow of someone else’s light. And your problem is that you can’t live without liberty.”
“Why should I make a big deal of this liberty? Why can’t I just live without it?” said the younger one, preparing to leave the crowded bus, barely hearing what the older was saying.
“Because liberty", revealed the older woman in her mind, "can build and crush nations. It’s not a menial matter if for the sake of it thousands of men would die. Liberty can give your life its meaning.”
Bus stop. The younger one hops off and starts walking home. Alone.
Her liberty allowed it.