What Is Freedom?
What is freedom, and how do we know if we have it or not?
Let’s look at a standard definition, I put the question to Google, and it threw off the following answers:
Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. The absence of a despotic government/The right to freedom of association is recognised as a human right, political freedom and civil liberty. However, this can be limited by laws that protect public safety.
But when I read this, it didn’t satisfy my need for a holistic answer. It is talking in worldly terms and doesn’t give the individual any direction on obtaining it if liberties are being stripped away by a subtle form of tyranny.
Arguments Against Freedom
There is an argument that Humans are naturally selfish, particularly if basic needs are not being met according to Maslow’s hierarchy.
Therefore, total freedom in this context would lead to civil unrest and anarchy (in the commonly held meaning of the word – not its true meaning). If we look at countries like Liberia in the ’90s, for example, we can see that when basic needs aren’t met, and there is no rule of law, human freedom can be incredibly destructive. Our lower nature leads to murder, rape, pillaging, which all become commonplace.
But as per Immanuel Kant description – freedom is the ability to govern one’s actions based on reason, and not desire. Once fundamental needs are met, we can then operate with reason, rather than through our desires.
If a society operates within reason (a positive level of consciousness), and not desire (a negative level of consciousness), then freedom can be of harmony. How can we meet these fundamental needs of Humans without government if a society is on its knees? In the west, it is easy for us to shout freedom, because we have safety and security needs met, many other countries do not, and that is something we need to be aware of.
The Developed World
In the developed world, we have relative political freedom, although that is questionable at the moment. We had the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence – with all men having a natural right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. And in Britain, we hold certain values dear such as democracy, the rule of law, respect and tolerance, and of course, individual liberty.
Are there certain people and groups usurping these values? Of course there is. And unfortunately, it seems people and groups in high places with a lot of influence.
Regardless of how loud some groups shout and try and put these countries down; it does not defy the reality, that the western world has built a civilisation to be immensely proud of. Something other cultures aspire to.
Is it perfect? Far from it. But it is something to build on as we evolve as specie. Take Silicon Valley for example – by giving companies the freedom to create, we have technology that can drive Humanity forward. It can also destroy us, but freedom requires responsibility. And freedom is the fundamental principle that has allowed this flourishing in human creation.
Freedom to express is the medium of using man’s mind for creation. Think about it… has there ever been anything created by humanity that first didn’t start in the mind?
Therefore, a man’s decision to halt another man’s creativity, by whatever means he thinks necessary, is a disruption of this process. There is no coincidence that abundance (in all its forms) flows when individual liberty is held as it’s highest value.
Only when people are free in thinking and expression can we create magic that drives higher consciousness as a species.
What stops this process of Human creation and evolution? The main obstacle is coercion. Coercion is forcing another party to act involuntarily by use of threats or force. For example, I still have to pay tax to the government even if I completely disagree with how they operate. If I don’t pay, then I’ll receive threats of legal action against me. That’s coercion.
I would have no problem paying some tax if I had the freedom to choose where that money was going. But not when it is used to drop bombs on villages in the middle of nowhere. I am not an accomplice to that atrocity.
Over-regulation could also be seen as a form of coercion. Having to work around boundaries set by dark-suited bureaucrats, decreases creativity and productivity. Entrepreneurs and the creative types will not bring magic into the world because the regulations put up too many hurdles for them from the outset.
It is no coincidence that entrepreneurs flee to the places that encourage innovation with little coercion from government. Freedom and creativity are intrinsically linked.
Supply And Demand
As in enterprise, supply always follows the demand. If there is a demand for safety, people will beg for it regardless of how it is supplied. And this is how tyrannical governments get into power – promising a brighter future after a time of relative hardship. Evil prays on a man’s virtues.
With this begging for safety comes the supply of tyranny, stripping individuals of their liberties. We cannot blame the tyrants; they do what tyrants do – blame the people who ask for it. Therefore, the problem is not the tyranny itself, but the state of mind that begs for it.
Freedom From Within
And so, where does real freedom reside? Freedom with a capital ‘F’? It resides within each individual. No government, no society – nothing can give you freedom. Because freedom is a state of being, it isn’t something handed to you.
If you’re at the mercy of emotional reactivity and ego consciousness – if anger, fear, apathy, guilt and the like cloud your reality, then how can you expect to be free? We must transcend those levels before believing you have any sense of freedom.
I have been to the slums of India, and they’re free people, and I have walked through the city of London, bankers in their suits and ties, sitting in their ivory towers, despising themselves – they are not free people.
Freedom is in an inner state of consciousness, and we arrive at that point with introspection; inner development work.
When enough people do this work, there will be no demand for tyranny, and therefore no supply. Freedom in the world manifests when people are free within. Not the other way around.
In the words of Patrick Henry, a founding father of the US – “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
Free yourself. Be well.