Society & Lifestyle
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|by Naira Yaqoob|
Freedom. It is a mighty word with mighty implications. Some may love it. Some may crave for it. Some may detest it. Some may enjoy it. But yes, no one can or ought to be indifferent to it. For argument's sake, lets even say that some are indifferent to it. But only when they don't understand its real meaning and implications'
What is freedom? What does liberty mean? What does independence signify? Is it being able to vote, to work, or to acquire property? Or is it just having the right to eat, sleep, and talk? Each one of us may interpret it in a different way or context. We may even have to redefine these very concepts with the changing times. Holistically speaking, I believe it means being able to live'to live and exist on our own terms and responsibility. It simply means to be happy, sad, and angry ' when one wants to; to study, work, act, speak ' what one wants to. Not when and what one has to! Ideally, freedom would mean to expect nothing, to depend on no one, to ask none.
In the words of William H. Whyte:
In the words of Montesquieu: 'Liberty is the right to do whatever the law permits'. This thought restricts freedom to the boundaries of the legal system of any society or nation. But isn't it that liberty ought to be the right to do whatever the conscience and value system of a person permits. It would mean to be accountable to no one but one's conscience and self. It ought to be the right of a man to exist ' to exist by his own mind and for his own sake. And why shouldn't we get and give this freedom? It is this very freedom that takes us to the threshold of integrity, character, and individuality. Without it, man can exist and live a life but not his own. His own life demands him to have a unique character, an admirable integrity, and a strong individuality.
Character in a person precedes both integrity as well as individuality. Without a sound character, a person may not be able to nurture his thoughts nor develop his desires. He may not be able to pay or receive respect in his life nor be able to accept responsibility for his deeds. Joan Didion explains it aptly:
Integrity, on the other hand, is the ability to stand by an idea. As is rightly said that if you don't stand for something, you may fall for anything. Hence, it is vital for a person to have a belief and a value system. This presupposes the ability to think. Generally, we are conditioned to listen to others instead of trust our own instincts and common sense. We may not be given the liberty to develop our own thought process or integrity but we ought to struggle for it. This is important for it enables us to discover our individuality, which lies at the root of all progress. The basic foundation of liberty is this self-ownership. It implies that you own your life. If you don't believe that you own your life, then you are admitting that some other person or entity claims that ownership ' either in whole or in part. This individuality speaks of each person with a difference.
However, it seems that the very foundation of freedom seems to be under attack. It is here that a conflict arises. If our freedom is curbed, we may cease to exist and live on our own terms and responsibility. When you are denied your right to your own life, you are denied your basic liberty and independence. An oppressive culture and system destroys our individuality, our character, and our integrity.
Socialistic creed is that of self-sacrifice for the state and does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality. Though it may do well to worthless and weak people, it can never benefit mankind. On the contrary, free societies recognize that freedom is a prerequisite for the development of our character, individuality, and integrity. Capitalism accepts individual rights and liberties. It supports the theory that the each man may get what he deserves and the worthy may survive. But then, it may have certain objectionable aspects as well. These views in themselves point out to the inadequacy and limitations of the social or economic systems that create laws, rules and regulations that may destroy the very concept of liberty, freedom, and independence. To quote Ayn Rand again:
As freedom has no significance without intellectual freedom, and intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom and political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom, it thus becomes imperative to create social and economic systems that support the ideology of self-ownership and liberty. Once created, each individual can feel his power of freedom that lies within him. But remember to use this power wisely. With humility'
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