Introduction

“Liberty and Discipline” written by Sir William Slim was a British Military Commander and the thirteenth governor-general of Australia. Slim saw active service in both the first and the second world wars and was wounded in action three times. His experience makes him well qualified to speak on the subject of Liberty and Discipline.

Summary

What are Liberty and Discipline?

The writer begins by defining liberty and discipline. When you get in a car you can choose where you want to go, that is liberty. But while driving, you will keep to the left of the road that is discipline. The author very aptly points out the difference and relation. Discipline is a restraint on liberty. Many of us generally are inclined to avoid it, but we cannot. Man has been accepting some kind of discipline in past but discipline is unavoidable for the modern man.

History teaches us that with idleness the order fades in a nation, the economy decays, the standard of living falls and security vanishes. Then to enforce discipline, some military power or a dictator steps in, but the question is that shall it be imposed by physical violence and fear or by consent or understanding? Shall it come from within or without?

Discipline begins with officers

The author quotes his personal experience of the discipline. One morning, as a brand-new second lieutenant, he was walking on to parade. A private soldier passed by him and saluted. But the author acknowledged his salute with an airy wave. But suddenly he heard an authoritative voice behind him. It was his colonel who said, “You don’t know how to return a salute”. He told Sergeant Major to plant his staff on the ground and let the author practice how to return a salute. This experience taught him that discipline begins with officers. The leader must accept a higher degree of responsibility. If he does so, his order will be obeyed.

Oliver Cromwell demanded that every man in his army should know what he fights for and love what he knows. It is the only discipline that enables man to live in a community and yet retains individual liberty. Without discipline the security for the poor and the weak vanishes.

Importance of Discipline

Totalitarian discipline submerges individual liberty. Self-discipline fosters character and initiative. It makes a man do his work without being watched. The author quotes the example of British railway signalmen who during the war never left their post. They knew its importance to others and their country. That was discipline.

No nation can get out of a difficult position, without discipline. Democracy means the responsibility is decentralized and no one can shirk his share of strain. Nowadays, we think more of liberty than discipline. But we never get anything worth it without paying for it. You can have discipline without liberty but you can’t have liberty without discipline.

Conclusion

Discipline is necessary to continue liberty. Liberty is a state of being that requires a person to take care of themselves. If someone else has to take care of them, then they lose their liberty to do what they want to survive and are required to do as the supplier of their needs demands. Those who wish to live with liberty must not succumb to the desire to be lazy and let someone else take care of them and that requires self-discipline.