Do we enjoy Freedom?
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Politics and Activism

Do we enjoy Freedom?

We cannot be free of the consequences

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Do we enjoy Freedom?
Preston VanderVen

Picture for a moment, dear reader, that you, as an individual, are free in every sense of the word. You have no higher authority to tell you what to do, to keep you in check, or bedraggle you with any nonsensical legislation. You are also free of any and all judgment by your friends and family and people you haven’t even heard of, and you are free to pursue any passion that you see fit. The only limitations you have are those that you impose upon yourself, however everything outside of yourself has absolutely no effect upon you whatsoever. In every sense of the word, you have achieved the ideal freedom that man strives towards, sounds appealing, right?

Well, freedom is a double-edged sword, and although we wish that we had the freedom we wish we did, we are not free of the consequences that freedom provides (A lovely paradox isn’t it?) For starters, if we truly are free, then we are completely free to choose whom we want to be; as Jean-Paul Sartre said, “existence precedes essence.” Since we are born into this world with no purpose, or no idea of our purpose, it is up to us to define who we want to be, but even that comes with its own set of problems.

For instance, say that I am free to choose any profession I want, and I choose to become a mason, the minute I put on my work uniform I am no longer Travis Bederka; instead, I am just a mason with the name Travis Bederka. I am free to become a mason as I wish, but is it Travis or the mason who carves, cuts, and lays stones down? The self is an open-ended question, always changing by the second, and giving way to new possibilities that would not have even existed one minute before hand. Choices will be put up against both Travis and his mason self, but if I am in a precarious situation, and rely on my mason self to get myself out of trouble, or simply use it as an unavoidable excuse to do my job, then I am forgoing the freedom Travis would have and using my masonry to get myself out of said situation. This forgoing of freedom to someone or a different form of self is what is known as “bad faith.”

Bad faith is a loophole out of our freedom; it leaves our freedom of choice to someone or something else in the hopes of avoiding any consequence that may result from that action. By doing this, we are not exhibiting our true freedoms and forgo our responsibilities by giving our choices to a higher power. Being free not only means doing whatever we see fit, but it’s also about being responsible for whatever we do. As Sartre said in his essay, Existentialism is a humanism:

“Man is condemned to be free: condemned, because he did not create himself, yet nonetheless free, because once cast into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

Sartre is saying that it is not entirely good that we are free because not only did an outside force create us, but we also have nothing to blame or praise, leaving all our accomplishments and mistakes completely up to us. Of course some people may see this as a liberating concept, but others simply cannot handle the responsibility and look for other outlets to blame it on. Some people, in order to dodge their responsibilities and consequences blame their faults on governments, social circumstances, other people, or unforeseen situations, each one of these an example of using bad faith.

To some people, the burden of freedom is too much in deciding what one can be as each decision is as difficult to make as any other. While some may gladly have the choice placed in their hands, others would rather not take it and resolve to, say, flipping a coin or letting the decision solve itself out. Either way, the power to make a decision can be too overbearing for some people; in fact, complete freedom can be a terrifying concept.

If we truly are free, then not only would it signify that we are solely responsible for all of our actions, but that we are all alone in a universe completely indifferent to our existence. In order to alleviate this pain, we create institutions that give us the impression that someone cares about us: churches, schools, governments, etc. but nonetheless, our freedom assures us that we are loyal to nobody and nothing so long as we exist. However, some people would see it as a positive that we would be free with nothing stopping us but ourselves, and constantly strive toward that ideal. But should they choose to fulfill that path, they must be ready to cope with the stress of making decisions and the existential emptiness that can fill up a person only after a short amount of time.

We aren’t living in a society that is free in its entirety, some areas more free than others, but not fully, and yet, we continue our quest for more freedoms and more liberties. But, dear reader, should we one day encounter the ultimate ticket to freedom and personal responsibility, would it be as ideal as the books and movies make it out to be? Or will it just be another labyrinthine segment of our existence, which we may never come to understand?

Besides, isn’t choosing not to choose a freedom itself?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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