Its 10 o’clock on a hot Sunday morning in May. This is where I found myself every Sunday here in Ceuta, sitting still in the square with the rest of my fellow men from the no. 1 Tetuan Regular barracks. Waiting for the never-ending mass service to finish so we could get out of military grounds and enjoy a few hours of freedom.
Whilst we waited on the platform and the religious ceremony carried on I looked around out of the corner of my eye at the other lads. Juan, who was basically agnostic, and right now looked like he was in a bad mood, always asked for attendance to mass to be optional, but they always gave him the same answer: if he wanted to go out for a walk, he had to go to blessed mass. Antonio was on my right, some of the guys said he didn’t really care about anything, he did what he had to so long as they left him in alone; those of us who knew him better could tell that he was just putting on an act, it was his way of surviving this hostile, disagreeable environment.
Up ahead was Alberto; I couldn’t actually see his face, but I could imagine what it looked like. He was a believer, but he didn’t look happy either, he too felt uncomfortable in the situation. When you are obliged to do something, even if it is good, the outcome is not always positive. Just behind me was Damian. He was always being the joker and he hid behind irony and cheap laughter, he made a joke about everything. However, he didn’t see anything funny about being here, if he could have he would have saved himself from the boredom of it. I didn’t like being here either, but, like the others, I didn’t have any option other than to hold on and wait till it was over. We all felt the same sense of resentment: wishing the distasteful experience of having to sit out this imposed religious sermon was over.
After changing our clothes we left the barracks and went straight to the beach. Once there, free of our military uniform, we felt free to talk. We didn’t have to obey anyone; we could simply enjoy each other’s personality without any limits other than the ones we imposed.
We mucked around for a while and laughed cathartically and then we started to talk. Today Juan was very annoyed, he found the situation we were forced to live through more and more unbearable. We tried to calm him down: “we’ve only got a few days left and then we can do whatever we want”, “its not worth making your life difficult for the sake of a few more months”… But he was vehement: doing all this stuff in the absence of freedom is worthless. Things have either got to be human, or in other words, free and intelligent, or they aren’t worth anything. We all have the right to live by what we believe and you can’t force anyone to go against this.
We all felt the same, and quickly came to the agreement that this kind of scenario doesn’t just feature in obligatory military life, it is there in many aspects of a person’s life. How often are we obliged by our family to act in a way that is outside our beliefs? Not to mention in our professional or working lives… How difficult can it be to know how to live coherently and not let yourself be subject to outside influences! If, said Albert, people systematically and automatically obeyed outside stimuli, we would become slaves to outside realities.
Now on a roll, Alberto went on to say that being free is about knowing who I really am, being aware of myself and then expressing who I really am and the projects I want to create in my life. Damian reaffirmed this by saying “ergo, being free means being true to yourself”. Instead of letting each person be themselves and develop into whatever they can become, in the name of false equality, they impose a boundary on us, which everyone must submit to; we put on either a civilian, army, or religious uniform and in this way they think we are all equal. They don’t understand that the true richness of life is about letting everyone be themselves, that is the true meaning of fighting for people’s freedom.
We all felt we would have to make a big effort to free ourselves from the mental boundaries we had accumulated over the years and that now stopped us from enjoying our own personal freedom, and allow others to be free.
Tired of philosophizing, Damian says that his conciousness is telling him he needs to get wet. We agree with the proposal and run back to the water, playing and laughing. Let this be a symbol of our desire for freedom.