These days our Freedoms (which so many died for) are being eroded to the point where there is no such thing as Freedom in our Lifetime.In this post I am going to try to express what exactly personal Freedom is these days.
I am not going to exam the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which has over 30 Articles, or what is left of free speech, or the Black freedom struggle, or woman’s struggle for freedom. Or the idea of free speech which is a view of freedom that is inseparable from the
political arena, flawed in theory and politicised in practice.
⌈ Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.
Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.⌉
All of which are impossible to implement, and has never been implemented anywhere historically – not even today, in liberal societies.
The freedoms that we once had are now dissolving because of the Internet, and the need for blanket surveillance due to fear mongering politics over terrorists plots ever since 9/11.
Our every move is tracked, we are under surveillance around the clock, our buying habits are logged, our preferences are hacked, and most of us don’t raise an eyebrow.
It is a mistake to think of a search engine as an oracle for anonymous queries they can set off a chain reaction that can have troubling consequences both online and offline. All this is because being online increasingly means being put into categories based on a socioeconomic portrait of you that’s built over time by advertisers and search engines collecting your data—a portrait that data brokers buy and sell, but that you cannot control or even see.
Our background and our relationships are becoming inescapable features of our human existence.
So what is freedom.
In the modern sense freedom is achieved by one’s individual nature, or inner voice. A sovereign self – a monological consciousness that fundamentally excludes the other.
However one can still be imprisoned by an oppressive internal forced liberation from an interior force.
So how can one reconcile two seemingly opposed senses of freedom?
One sense views freedom as bound and situated, while the other sense views freedom as liberation from such bonds.
What is required is a notion of self hood that recognizes and embraces both senses of freedom – to see the self not as an isolated and detached entity from the social world, but one that is deeply enculturated and dialogical while simultaneously liberated.
These are the limits, the boundaries, of what allow us to be free and for things to be meaningful.
So instead of viewing boundaries as something that disables our freedom, we should recognize that boundaries are what might actually enable our freedom.
The received ideas of our present-day institutions are composed of the religious, philosophical, economic, and political status quo.
The goal for each of us is to break free of these ideologies and re describe our world as a whole. This sense of freedom, which I referred to earlier as freedom-within-boundaries, is what ultimately makes possible a freedom-from-oppression.
If men wish to be free, it is precisely sovereignty they must renounce.
As Charles Taylor puts it, this sovereign and self-determining freedom characteristic of the modern individual “demands that I break the hold of all such external impositions, and decide for myself alone.
In this view, individuals could exercise their gifts and powers only by
participating in the common life.
That is to say, our freedom is contingent upon the greater public world.
Modern thought (especially evident in the political philosophy of Rousseau) externalized the source of oppression onto authoritative forces such as society, church, law, and government.
This is no longer true due to the indebtedness of the world.
At the expense of eliminating fundamental characteristics that make us human we are now confronting a world with unlimited new possibilities but having no meaningful boundaries.
Modern Social media come to see others as a part of – Us/Selfies.
Unfortunately this unchecked freedom is leading us to a void in which nothing would be worth doing, nothing would deserve to count for anything.
Life is dialogical by its very nature.
To live means to engage in dialogue, to question, to listen, to answer, to agree, to return to your own position, enriched. We need to identify with others in order to open ourselves up to new ways of being without forgetting where we come from to achieve any freedom.
In the past our background was essential to our identity. These days one’s uniqueness is maintained through continuous exposure to novelty in a consumer culture that thrives on the latest fad.
Is it this quantity of novelties that appears to take precedent over quality of relationships. So where do we turn for redescription of Freedom, to open us up to new and fresh ways of being human?
That can enable us to break free from our own pasts and increase our level of sensitivity and sympathy to those without freedom?
Is it severance from the status quo.
I fear that if you were to ignore you background, and try to break from your own past, “You would be crippled as a person, because you would be repudiating an essential part out of which you evaluate and determine the meanings of things. Our background, often times inarticulate and unformulated, carries the values and traditions that constitute who we are. This background is no longer not just our personal past and memories, but it may also be the lineage, tradition, and culture from which we have emerged.
Instead of dropping our historicity, we should be interested in owning up to the background and tradition that gives significance to our identity.
Meaningful freedom can only be achieved through enculturation.
Therefore, our freedom is bound in a sense, or situated in the environment that has shaped us, because that is likely to be the most meaningful environment to us.
Perhaps it is only in a bounded space that we can move about freely.
Fusion of horizons’ between ourselves and others..we must always have a horizon in order to be able to transpose ourselves into a situation.
Background is what initially provides persons with the possibility for understanding anything at all. Our background, or tacit knowledge of the world, is the horizon out of which things have meaning for us. It gives us our “referential context of significance.” A liberating freedom, which occurs when our world is enlarged not downloaded on to a data base.
Our identity is formed by the web of relationships that surround us. Therefore, it is precisely ourselves, which implies our background, that we must bring into the other’s situation.
The fundamental significance of language and conversation, and its ability to bring us closer to understanding one another is now rapidly diluted by technology.
We are not born precocial and fully hard-wired creatures.
Instead, we are born as incomplete beings, needing enculturation and society for healthy maturation.
Our biological need for one another requires certain physiological signals, that are not possible on the Web. Through facial expressions, infants learn to not only replicate another’s face, but to empathically feel what the face exhibits.
Biologists consider this skill of emotional matching to have been “crucial for escape from predation, foraging, hunting, and mass migrations” before spoken language entered our evolutionary history.
In spite of the modern liberating sense of freedom which may encourage isolation and detachment, we should also note that it can promote a healthy release from oppressive external forces. These forces can manifest in a variety of forms, everything from an abusive relationship to a manipulative religious group.
Emphasis on a socially dependent self can lead to passivity in daily life or submission to totalitarian regimes.
By being sympathetic we are capable of being liberated from ourselves.
On the other hand egocentrism shouldn’t be overcome at the expense of forgetting ourselves. So freedom is one that respects the boundaries of selfhood, instead of annihilating it.
Although we may be transported into the sandals of the Buddha, we still need to come back to our point of departure in order to be enriched.
Because in recognizing the necessity of one’s interpersonal relationships, social and moral commitments, culture, tradition, memories, and of course, biology as constitutive of one’s experience of liberation.
Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean fleeing to a new land. It can also mean discovering the oceanic depth of a single, bounded situation. And this entails having new eyes. Remember, “Life is immense!”
We are free to become authentic only after we accept our boundary, which is our finitude.
Death is the ultimate boundary of human existence, it is only by facing up to this limit that we are capable of becoming truly authentic Free.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
by narrow domestic walls;
Where the words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening
thought and action–
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,
let my country awake.
–Guru Rabindranath Tagore
National Poet, Freedom Fighter
Modern day freedom-is freedom within boundaries.