Freedom - myth or reality

While working in the New Zealand Police, I was stationed at Ngatea, a very small rural community in the Hauraki Plains, when the sole cop took his annual holidays.  I was in the station when the call came in about a fight at the hotel (only one in town).  I drove down in the patrol car and when I went into the carpark, there was a crowd gathered around one individual, giving him a hiding.  I intervened, fearing I might have a homicide if I did not.

Once the melee settled down I established the “victim” had been in the hotel drinking and when he finished his beer he threw his empty glass across the bar into the face of a local.  The local had a massive slash on his forehead and nearly lost one of his eyes.

I arrested said victim, handcuffed him and deputised a local to help me out till I got him to Thames, the nearest set of cells.  In the patrol car, I leaned over the front seat and enquired why my man had committed such a dangerous act.  His answer floored me.

“I got out of prison a week ago, and I cannot cope.  I want to go back.”  The next day the judge obliged.

I reflected on this incident ever since.  The offender felt freer in prison than he did in open society.  It was the only place in his life where he felt safe, secure and as close to love as he had ever known.  For him, freedom was behind bars.

In my various careers since leaving the Police I have encountered many people who feel imprisoned (psychologically) in their everyday life.  I meet people, who going to work is like torture, as they sit in a modern office with a computer and phone all day long.  Talking with someone else is not the same as feeling needed, loved, cared about.  They earn their money to pay for the things they want to do outside.  Or it could be to provide for their family and they feel they are trapped on a treadmill.

This all leaves me wondering, which is more important, physical or psychological freedom.