"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." -Socrates

Friday, April 8, 2011

What is Freedom?

Freedom is defined by our dictionary as, “The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.” It then defines free as, “Enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery.”

So, how do we do that? How does a person obtain freedom? People for centuries have been asking this question and actively pursuing their definition of the term. To some extent, every individual enjoys certain liberties. Even a person in prison has the right to sleep, use the toilet, or exercise within their cell. They can read a book, think, and philosophize about the most intriguing questions of the Universe. But, they are in a confined area and under certain physical restraint (they cannot leave their cell or the prison whenever they please).

Looking back at the days of slavery, those enslaved also had certain freedoms, similar to an imprisoned person. They could enjoy the rights and liberties to think whatever positive or vengeful thoughts while being forced to work. But, forced to work doesn’t make sense. If a slave refused to work, they could be beaten or killed, so technically it was a choice to work.

In America, “the land of the free”, are we truly free? Do we enjoy personal rights and liberty without being enslaved? Compared to a person sold in the slave trade or someone incarcerated in a prison, I would say we are most certainly free; but we are also enslaved. We are enslaved to paying taxes for things we have little to no say over, enslaved to the global economy for which provides our livelihood, and enslaved to a set of rules enforced without our permission known as laws. However, enslavement is too bold of a word for these things, as anyone could break the law or not pay taxes, and thus pay the consequences for their actions. A person could attempt to live off the grid and become self-sustained, providing more freedom for the individual, but would that be true freedom?

In this world, I believe ultimate freedom is impossible to obtain, as we are confined to the boundaries of this planet to live, and the imagination our minds allow us to wander. No one has the liberty of thinking with a blank slate, as we have all been influenced by our environment since birth. Plus, we are all enslaved to our bodies, reliant on temperature regulation, food, and water for life. Even someone who lived on a self-sustained island without any regulation from other people would still be bound by their mind and body.

When looking at freedom, something valued so highly that people have given their lives, we must view it as a relative concept. While someone could enjoy more freedom than someone else, ultimate freedom is not possible in this realm of existence. Understanding this leads me to question the valor of the men and women who have been killed or incarcerated for more liberties. Were their efforts in vein? Did they realize that true freedom was unobtainable? Is it worth the time, effort, and possible persecution to enjoy more freedom than you’ve had in the past, or what others around you have? This is the question, as freedom and liberty are solely relative, and more of a state of mind than anything else.

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