As a society, Central Asians willingly give up freedom to gain security. They have been abused by one oppressor after another and they have learned to cope by keeping their heads down and complying with whoever currently holds power. Generally individuals don’t make waves. Even personal achievement is not aggressively pursued. They recognize that it is the tall blade of grass that gets cut. Conformity is more highly valued than independence. Security is better than freedom.

So, they silently accept the dictates of their authoritarian governments. It is better to be oppressed than dead.

Central Asian values are different than mine. However, as an open-minded student of culture, I accept their values as different, not wrong. I don’t feel it is my place to criticize or change other cultures. Cultural values are built over generations by complex and often painful experiences. Even if I did feel some obligation to change their culture, it would be useless to try. Culture tends to only change incrementally over time.

Periodically I wonder how I should respond to a shift that I believe is happening in my culture. During my lifetime I have observed a shift away from freedom being the unquestioned superior value. My grandfather and his peers were fiercely independent. They questioned and resisted any social or governmental restraints on their personal independence. They willingly sacrificed security for freedom. For them freedom was much better than security. My parents and their peers were more cautious in their defense of freedom. They believed that government could provide certain levels of safety for citizens. They incrementally traded bits of freedom for “safety nets.”

Now it seems that the exchange of freedom for the promise of security is gaining momentum. Take air travel as an example. When I first started flying, I was free to walk directly to the gate without any checks. To board the plane I only needed a ticket to prove I paid for the flight. How this process has changed! I am grateful for the security I feel, but I miss the freedom.

I wonder how much freedom my culture is willing to sacrifice for the sake of security? Obviously we don’t want authoritarian dictators ruling over us. However, every additional safety net is a step in that direction. My personal preference is to err on the side of freedom. It seems to me that we should not give up our independence too quickly.

What about you? Do you think our culture should prioritize the protection of us, the people? Or, should we stand for freedom which allows and/or causes more people to suffer the consequences of evil, poor decisions, and other dangers?