A challenging paradox
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Manela
Most of us in the world take freedom as a pillar of our existence. However, externally there are many who are not fully free, such as people in North Korea, China and prisoners. There certainly are other countries where freedoms are curtailed, but they would be too numerous to list here. The spectrum of collective freedom, going from absolutely curtailed to absolutely unlimited. The latter is an oxymoron because with absolutely unlimited collective freedom, individual freedoms will be curtailed to one level or another, depending on the perspective of the individuals. In today’s divisive environment, the debate between individual vs. collective freedom is raging. Freedom is another one of these paradoxes that we have to experience from every conceivable perspective to understand. My idea of freedom is going to be different from everyone else’s.
When we consider freedom, we look at, choice, thought, expression and action (to a limited extent). It is when individual perspectives of these come at odds with the collective, and we resist considering all perspectives, that we experience division. It is the perpetual question which should take priority, personal or collective freedom. Which do you think should take priority, if any?
Have you ever thought about freedom as a feeling that you have inside, available to you at any time? Society and politicians will tell you that they are fighting for your freedom, which, I am sorry to tell you, is an illusion. They are fighting for you to think you are free to maintain the status quo, because anything else is change and is threatening to them. Nelson Mandela’s epiphany came when he was imprisoned for 26 years, that freedom is not something you experience through external stimuli, it is an internal experience. No one can limit what you think and how you feel. They can try to alter your thought patterns and break you down mentally and emotionally, but at the end of the day it is your choice to letting someone do this to you. However, hard that choice might be, it is, nonetheless, a choice.
When we feel free we are free. However, once you feel free you will start to understand how society is tricking everybody to feel free by redirection of their attention, while holding them back from their true freedom, and that can be a shocking realisation indeed. So, what is true freedom, do we have a responsibility to give up our individual freedom for the sake of the collective, or is it the collective’s responsibility to respect the individual’s right to his/her own expression of freedom?
I will leave that up to you to decide.
Also published on Medium.