Freedom. How many times have you heard this word? How many cities and countries have been soaked in blood in attempts to preserve it or further its cause? Is it really worth all the hell it unleashed on earth since the dawn of man? Before embarking on the glorious quest of answering conundrums that perplexed some of the greatest thinkers on some obscure blog, we will first have to answer the root question: what is freedom? You must have plenty of associations that are coming off the top of your head: freedom of press, speech, movement, conscience, belief, assembly and on and on that it feels like you can stick ‘’freedom’’ to any other word’s butt. The freedoms you just mentioned (or more like me putting them in your mouth) is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is true freedom.
What is true freedom? How does true freedom differ from what people believe to be freedom? What should you be free from exactly to be truly free?
By the end of this article, you will realise that true freedom is a beautiful treasure you will want to cling to for dear life — not only because you will be one of the very few who got to know what it means, but also because of its truly inspiring message.
What does true freedom mean?
Off the top of my head, freedom is to do what you want, where you want, when you want, however you want. In other words, freedom is to exercise free will.
How free is free will?
Smashing someone’s face for no reason is also an exercise of free will. However, would doing so not infringe their freedom to be left alone? You and I have just stumbled on the first limit to freedom: we live with other people who have a right to it as much as we do. Therefore, true freedom cannot be unlimited: It is a negotiation betweeen our freedom and others’. It is to exercise free will as long as it does not violate theirs.
What if you yield to your anger and end up smashing this person’s face anyway? It means you are not able to keep your reptilian impulses in check. Therefore, true freedom cannot exist without control: you either contain yourself or someone else must do it for you.
Come to think of it, you cannot smash someone’s face if you do not exist in the first place, and what is existence but time to live? Normally, if you were truly free, you would spend your time the way you want, but since living requires sustenance, you must sacrifice part of your time to work. Hence, work is both an obstacle to and a guarantor of freedom.
Your work must also be legal for your freedom to be secure, so the law is part of it. However, as you will see, the law can diminish it, too.
Society, control, biology, work and the law are apparently all relevant to the definition of true freedom. Let us examine them in detail.
What should we be free from to achieve true freedom?
To know whether you are truly free or not, you must think of what is currently controlling your life. For most humans, this should include:
- The government
- the law
We have already mentioned some of these aspects of freedom in the previous section. However, in this section, we will explore them in more detail and introduce a few more ideas along the way.
Let us begin!
How can you be truly free? The first obvious step is to know what true freedom is. Knowledge not only drags you out of the ignorance hole, but also offers you autonomy: the autonomy to think.
When you learn how wrong you were about something, it makes you wonder how many other things you could be wrong about. In no time, you will find that critical thinking has sprouted in every corner of your conscioussness, fighting off the thorny roots of gullibility, false knowledge, propaganda and manipulation. With more questions will come more answers, and with more answers will come even more questions; your expansion against ignorance will be never ending, and as your knowledge expands larger and larger, the distance to true freedom will grow shorter and shorter.
Know thy freedom.
The mob. Big Brother. The one-percenters. Whatever you decide to call this — bunch, there is one thing that does not change about them; they own you, me, and every living and non-living organism within national jurisdiction. They have influence over virtually every aspect of our lives.
Now, This is not necessarily a bad thing. In a true democracy, control does not necessarily mean loss of freedom. On the contrary, there cannot be true freedom without someone or someone”s” to uphold it, just like there cannot be a football match without a referee ensuring there is no foul play. On the other hand, as soon as the government starts putting its interests first and those of the people second; when the referee’s bank account had already been pumped up with a few million dollars before the match started, freedom has indeed been lost.
Like John Locke puts it, there is a contract between the people and the government. You did not sign anything at birth nor is there a physical contract, but what he means is that by virtue of the fact that citizens willingly delegated part of their natural freedom of autonomy to a bunch of — politicians, they have the right to take it back as soon as those at the top betray the reason why they came to power in the first place. When this contract is breached, the raison d’être of the government evaporates, and so it would be right and legitimate for the people to overthrow it to reclaim their lost freedom of autonomy.
So, contrary to popular belief, government control is an indispensable part of true freedom because it guarantees it. What is not part of true freedom is using control for purposes other than that it was initially delegated: the well-being of the people.
The question that must have been pounding away at your fierce self-independence is: why is control necessary to be truly free? Why must there be a a group of people to enforce it? Is enforced freedom true freedom?
These are the questions we are going to answer in the next section.
In Idealistan, humans would have wings on their sides and halos above their heads. They would also be free of hunger pangs; drought pangs; sleep pangs; and all other pangs that come with being human. They would also not jump queues, tame the desire to slit each other’s throats in traffic, pay their bills on time, return expensive phones they randomly found to the rightful owners and leave all their doors unlocked at night.
In Realistan, both you and I know that these things are too much to ask of humans. This is exactly why their free will should not be free; which, paradoxically, is the only way to be truly free. Firstly, Humans’ ability to exercise self-restraint in dealing with others varies. A lot of them are able to get on reasonably well with one another — but a lot of them are not, too.
A lot of humans are slaves to their reptilian impulses: pleasure, anger, violence, thirst for power and dominance, etc. This is exactly why the government needs to curb such people’s freedom; they breach others’ and sometimes take it away altogether through heinous acts like murder. Through punishment like prison sentences, the government helps people to be truly free by protecting them from those who do not have enough restraint to be so. This also acts as a deterrent to those who are unaware that true freedom has limits.
As the human brain is composed of three parts; two of them, the reptilian and mammalian, being animalistic, humans will always have these impulses and some of them will always mishandle them. This is why control is crucial for true freedom to thrive.
What is life but time? True freedom must mean spending your time the way you want. What do you spend most of your time on? If you were trully free, you would spend it on the things you would like to spend it on.
I have not been stalking you nor am I a witchy fortune teller disguised as a blogger, but I can pretty much answer that for you. Out of the roughly 79 years you will be living, you will be responsibly wasting away 33 years of them on sleep and another 13 years on work. This amounts to a total of 46 years for both work and sleep.
Ah – the good life!
While we can never be free from sleep, can we from work? After all, work cannot be just another pawn of biological determinism, right?
You will not be able to eat if you do not work. It is that simple. However, how much you work also makes a big difference in terms of freedom. Imagine there were two farmers. The first works an hour and secures a food surplus that would last for a week, while the second works an entire day to achieve the same result. Which farmer is freer, the first or the second?
Of course it is the first.
In 21st century terms, the higher your hourly pay, the freer you are; the less – the less! The only two tickets to true freedom are either to be rich or to get a job that would not feel like a job anyway. As the saying goes: choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
So, which one would you pick — matter, or mindset?
The government’s legislative power guarantees our freedom, but it can also diminish it. Yes, control is part of true freedom, but remember what we said about when control stops serving the interests of the people? What happens when the law stops having people’s best interest in mind?
It becomes the primary enemy of freedom.
I am a big fan of true crime, and I often come across horrible cases in which the law shows complete disregard for human freedom; cases in which repeat offenders ended innocent people’s freedom forever because of a flaw in the law; cases in which fake trials took place because the government wanted to scapegoat someone for a crime they did not commit; the list of legal loopholes and corrupt practices never ends. In previous articles like ”population control” and ”queues for coffee make you lose faith in equality”, we proved that legality does not confer morality. What is legal is not always right, and I believe it is our reponsibility as citizens to pinpoint these failures and rectify them through proper channels to uphold true freedom.
Ah — society!
I have already used this word in some of the previous articles, but I guess it is as unescapable as my big vegetarian breakfast at my favourite café.
We are going to talk about the relationship between true freedom and society in two ways. First, we are going to talk about it in terms of self-consciousness; second, in terms of established norms and rules or what some may refer to as ”culture”.
Time to party!
As a teenager, I used to be very self-conscious and, sometimes, I feel I still am despite my adamance to deny it. It does not come naturally to us humans to be ourselves in the presence of others, though we can achieve it through consistent practice.
What would people think of me if I wore yellow fliflops to downtown Manhattan? What would they say about me if I went to the restaurant’s bathroom twice? Would people carve ”HP” on my forehead if they knew I could not get off without watching hentai porn?
The list will end when a massive meteor decimates planet earth.
Let us start by saying that this ”mental” prison has nothing to do with other people, but is purely a product of your worryingly rich imagination. Why? Because these thoughts and fears are rooted in irrationality.
If you act in a certain way, how would you know what others really think, especially if they are strangers? People are different, and so are their opinions and personalities. Some of them will like how you act, some of them will not and some of them will not even care. People’s reaction to what you do is and always will be varied.
Variety is the spice of life. It is that simple.
So, why would you be self-conscious about the way you want to think or behave if it is part of life for people to have different opinions of others, including yourself? Why suppress your will for people’s sake? Bear in mind that you hold as much ”imaginary power” over people as you think they do over you. After all, you are part of society, too.
The power you think society has over you is a mirage. There is no prison. You are already free — and now, you are truly free.
Norms and rules
Some humans think they are trapped in society’s prison while they are actually free. Others believe they are free while they are actually in society’s prison.
How often have you heard people saying that they are ”crazy”, acting like they they do not care about society’s rules? They think they are free by acting unconventionally, but unconventional behaviour is already within society’s list of acceptable behaviours.
Teenagers are the perfect example of this. They rebel and do things most adults would not do, believing that they are truly free from society’s ”lame” rules. However, society already expects teenagers to act in this fashion and; at least unconsciously, tolerate it — which is why you often hear the phrase: ”Ah, teenagers!”
Even if adults do decide to rebel against society’s norms in their quest to be free, it would still be within the society’s ”black sheep”, ”lone wolf”, ”karen”, etc.
True freedom lies within society’s norms, and since we do have different societies with different cultures, it could be argued that the wider the range of unconventional behaviours a society tolerates, the freer it is.
To be truly free is to be aware that we are actually freer than we thought.
So, what is true freedom?
First, to be truly free is to to know what true freedom is. True freedom is to do what you want as long as it does not infringe others’ because they have a right to it as much as you do. A collective understanding of true freedom will make people aware that it both has limits and that they are all responsible in upholding it.
Second, true freedom does not and cannot exist without control. Control does not curb freedom, it guarantees it. It is an intrinsic part of true freedom because; for freedom to exist, humans’ violent reptillian nature must be kept in check. Punishment not only rehabilitates offenders’ understanding of true freedom, but it also acts as a deterrent to others who do not know what it really means.
Third, to be truly free is to spend your time the way you want. There are two ways to achieve this: inherit a massive fortune that will spare you a lifetime’s time to do what you want, or get a job that you love spending time on anyway so it will not feel like a job at all.
Fourth, to be truly free is to know that you are already free. You have as much power over others as you think they do over you, even though that power is really a product of your fiction because you are supposed to be different anyway. Variety is part of the natural order, and thus it is impossible to avoid controversy. Remember, even when you think what you are about to do may be unusual, it still falls within society’s list of accepted and expected behaviours. It is nothing new to society since it already has acknowledged its existence and given it a name; unusual. So, you are just being usually unusual!
Fifth, we must take some pieces of legislation with a pinch of salt. Nothing should be spared our critical analysis — not even the law. The law is not the bible; and neither is it perfect, which is why it is sometimes revised and changed. If there are loopholes in the law which undermine freedom and justice, we should actively seek to raise the issue through the proper channels.
Finally, true freedom is to know that there is more to true freedom than this article can cover, so keep learning!