It didn’t occur to me. Not until I gave this as a topic for an extempore exercise a couple of days back. The topic was “Freedom”.
As expected, one after the other speaker started praising- no – eulogizing freedom.
And suddenly, I found myself wondering whether we truly understand freedom?
I believe freedom is one of the most glorified and least understood ideas. It is a notional virtue whose value is enhanced by its amorphous definition. When somebody says “freedom”, he may mean any of the following:
Freedom from Human Slavery
Freedom in this form is the noblest idea indeed. Nothing more shameful has inflicted mankind than the idea of one human enslaving another. The world deserves to be endowed with the implementation of this notion of freedom.
Freedom to follow a religion
This notion of freedom is pure and noble indeed. Although religion is not necessary for existence as we can see in case of animals, it can give meaning to human existence. Thus a person must be free to choose the way (s)he wants to seek that meaning. A Cassius Clay must be free to become a Mohammad Ali.
Freedom from hard work
In this form the idea is “a free man doesn’t have to work hard”. A mind that seeks this form of freedom is representative of all that has slowed down the progress of certain individuals, societies and even nations as a whole. At the same time, individuals and societies that have cohabited with hard work have led the way to achievements and prosperity.
Freedom from discipline
This seems to be the ideal of modern lifestyle. In this form, discipline is considered to be antithesis of freedom. People driven by this idea of freedom like to do things when they like to do and not when they are supposed to be done. From students to employees, people crave for this freedom.
Freedom from traditions and customs
Freedom in this form is sensible when it challenges those traditions and customs that defy logic or lack contemporary relevance. But seeking freedom from traditions simply because it doesn’t gel with idea of “modernity” is indicative of low self esteem.
Freedom from the notions of health and hygiene
Today, most of the people look down upon someone who advises to avoid indulgence in junk food, smoking and alcohol. “Don’t even try to take away my freedom to choose what I eat and drink” seems to be the stern message.
Freedom from “Ugliness”
We are living in the age of standardized notions of beauty. Not that earlier there were no standards for beauty, but they were not strictly imposed by an individual upon him/her self. Anorexia is a relatively recent phenomenon. Nose jobs, lip jobs, liposuction……….. “ugliness” should be defeated at any cost.
These distorted ideas of freedom are primary breeding ground for consumerism and are being marketed by the corporate that stand to gain the most from this freedom.
Most of the advertisements today feature either “attractive” women or “smart” kids and try to dictate the “ideal” notion of freedom. And most of the people gradually respond by getting enslaved by these notions of freedom.
Freedom is having a soft drink / drink/ fag whenever you want it. (Freedom from discipline)
Freedom is being fair and having blemish less skin. (Freedom from “Ugliness”)
Freedom is the ability to choose a particular brand of tobacco. (Freedom from the notions of health and hygiene)
Freedom is having glossy hair without any human frailties. (Freedom from “Ugliness”)
Freedom is insulting the elderly. (Freedom from traditions and customs)
Freedom is buying a degree. (Freedom from hard work)
Freedom is putting on jeans and shoes of a particular brand.
Freedom means showering bullets on the innocent.
Freedom is using abusive language freely. (Freedom from traditions and customs)
Also we are given to understand that if you are not free by the above and similar standards, shame on you.
The world is being increasingly inhabited by “free” zombies – people who want freedom without understanding the responsibilities inherent in the idea of freedom.
Instead of celebrating our freedom we are falling prey to the clutches of distorted ideas of freedom.
Thanks for your time.