Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On Freedom Pt I: Slaves of Circumstance by Jersey Campbell

Here is Pt. II
                I don’t know what freedom is. You don’t either, don’t kid yourself. We’re talking about ultimate platonic freedom. Total uninhibited actions. We have never seen freedom and I’ll bet we will never see freedom. Freedom is one of those concepts we love to talk about and throw around in conversation like we know what it is, kinda like objectivity. 

                My question is how can we possibly be free when there is so much going on around us totally out of our control? Freedom stops precisely where circumstance begins, and we can’t escape circumstance. A man may want to run along the shoreline of a beach but that’s never happening if he has no legs. A president may want to run for a third term but the 22nd Amendment forbids it. A 15-year-old girl may be in love with a 35-year-old man but her lover would face rape charges at the end of the day. Freedom of action will always be checked by the conditions that a person finds themselves in.

               Like a footballer on a marauding run through the opposing side’s defense, something always gets in the way of the ultimate goal. The factors that determine whether the ball carrier will finish the chance are infinite. The speed of the man in possession, the speed of the defenders, the position of his teammates, the condition of the pitch, the skill of the goalkeeper, the ball carrier’s dribbling abilities, the weather, the health condition of his mother, etc.

             But what about freedom of thought? Supposedly, we are free to think whatever we like, but if our actions are influenced by outside stimuli, then wouldn’t it be the case that our thoughts are as well? Our actions necessarily come from our thoughts. The transitive property points toward the conclusion that our thoughts are as malleable as our actions.  What does this all mean?

                Yes, we have the freedom to choose what careers we want to devote our lives to. We have the freedom to vote for the Turd or the Douche Bag in the next election. We have the freedom to choose which drunken girl at the bar we want to take home. None of these thoughts necessarily debuted in our minds when they were conjured. We’d like to think they are of course, but we cannot decide what we’ll be attracted to or what our minds will be inclined to think when we see a 15-year-old making out with a middle aged man. 

                I’ve associated freedom with control because freedom is control. Freedom isn’t just the outcome of a desired set of thoughts and actions anymore than sex is just for reproduction. If one were to find themselves in a truly free world, nothing would make sense. We wouldn’t exist in a world of freedom. Is a truly free world even possible? What would it look like? How would people behave? Allow me to answer my own question. No, it is not possible. We are humans living on an organic rock floating around a sun that allows us to experience life. Any semblance of total freedom passed whenever the universe began. Everything affects everything. Cause and effect leave little room in the van of existence to squeeze in any notion of individual actors determining their ultimate fate irrespective of outside conditions. 

Thank God for colonial slavery
                What was that you said? You’d like some examples? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say if Malcolm X doesn’t go to prison he never becomes a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. If World War I didn’t decimate Germany, Hitler doesn’t rise to power. If social and political unrest in France wasn’t created by the French Revolution Napolean doesn’t conquer Europe. If the United States and other western nations don’t go poking around in the Middle East, Osama bin Laden doesn’t (allegedly) blow up the World Trade Center. Have I gone too far? Too bad. If Europeans don’t take people from Africa and enslave them, Afro-American communities aren’t turned into underfunded projects with crack dealers on every corner… and 50 Cent doesn’t release Get Rich or Die Tryin' (maybe slavery wasn’t so bad after all). If young Bruce Wayne doesn’t fall down that bat cave and witness his parents get murdered he’s not snooping around Gotham city like a ninja taking down criminals. 

                Our minds cannot escape whatever infectious ideas and ideologies are prevalent at the time. Our freedom is consumed by the overbearing chains of the situation. And if our innermost desires aren’t individually determined, then the actions that those desires produce are not free at all. Many aspects of our lives cannot be chosen but are forced upon us, especially at an early age. We cannot choose our parents, our siblings, and most importantly, we cannot choose what we are attracted to. 

                Maybe, just maybe, the freedom lies in our ability to interpret the world and interact with it however we wish. Actually no, that can’t be the case. If you’ve been paying attention to anything that was previously said we know it can’t be. Just as homos can’t choose to be homo and Tiger Woods can’t choose to be a sex addict (I suffer from the same condition, I’m seeking help as we speak), we can’t choose whether we’ll like ketchup or whether we’ll have an affinity for Nigerian films. 

                Still, the freedom we allude to in everyday life is more concerned with what we are allowed to do versus what we are not allowed to do. Where the idea or motivation of the action originated from is a side note reserved for armchair philosophers and people with nothing to do, like me. 

                K.V. Sart and I had a discussion on free will and determinism not too long ago. My position was firm on the side of all of our actions being determined, but free will still exists. Sorta like Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five", how the aliens from Tralfamadore were able to see in the fourth dimension, meaning they could see a human’s entire life span when looking at him/her. Our entire lives have already been mapped out, we just can’t see it. Just because our existence may be set in stone from before we are born does not mean we don't have the ability to make choices. It sounds ridiculous, I know. How is a deterministic world compatible with freedom? Well maybe we aren’t as free as we’d like to believe, maybe the shackles of circumstance and setting have programmed in us mindsets and belief systems that we hold to be our own. Maybe we aren’t free at all.  

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