Freedom is an illusion…REALLY???

autumn 2014

by Kenneth Justice

~ Earlier this morning when I arrived to coffee a couple people were talking about the upcoming election tomorrow and dragged me into the conversation, “Kenneth, what do YOU think? Isn’t voting a waste of time? Isn’t it true that they are taking away all of our freedoms anyways so voting is pointless?” asked a forty-something gentleman who was the leader of the bunch.

In philosophy freedom is something that has been discussed and argued over for thousands of years……what does freedom really mean?

Most people think of freedom in the context of being able to do what they want, and while that is an interesting starting point for the discussion, it leaves a lot to be desired;

—-) If people were allowed to do whatever they want, murder and rape could become commonplace; thus we have laws to discourage such activities

—-) if people were allowed to do whatever they want, pranks such as yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater, when there really is no fire, could cause people to be injured; thus we have laws to discourage such activities

—-) if people were allowed to do whatever they want, people groups such as ISIL could invade city after city in their attempt to conquer an entire region; thus we have laws to discourage such activities

Freedom comes in all sorts of color. A friend of mine lives in a city out West where the city council passed an ordinance which mandates that the color of your house be only one of three colors; anyone who paints their house a color other than those three choices will get serious penalties. Does that mean people don’t have the freedom to choose the color of their house? Not necessarily, since my friend does have the freedom to move to another city where he can paint his house a color of his own choosing.

Are you free to choose your vocation? People in some countries (like North Korea) don’t have a choice at the profession they will work in; the government chooses a job for them. Yet in the United States, if you are born into extreme poverty, you might believe that you don’t have the choice to choose your profession because you have a limited amount of resources to aid you in life.

Are you free in your own home? Young adults often complain that their parents are putting too many restrictions on their life. Curfews, rules, etc. are often a source of conflict between parents and their children. One young adult explained to me, “My mom and dad can come home whenever they want, and at any time of the night, so they hold me to rules that they don’t even live by! I’m like a slave in my own home!” she said. On the other side of the coin a young mother of three children also felt like a slave… her children, “I’m stuck at home all the time changing diapers, taking care of kids. I feel like my whole life is wrapped up in these children. I feel like I’m a slave in my own home!” she told me.

What is freedom? I’m sure a black slave of the 19th century would be more than annoyed by that young adult and mother using term “slave in my own home”, what do modern suburban men and women really know about freedom and slavery? A friend of mine is stuck at a job he hates. He makes a lot of money and to leave his job wouldn’t make sense considering the financial obligations he has in life; he feels like he doesn’t have the freedom to ‘do what he really wants in life’.

Are you really free? An old Proverb says, “The borrower is slave to the lender”. Since most people throughout the Western World owe money to either a bank, a credit card company, or some type of financial institution, I suspect that everyone can relate to the feeling of being a slave to the people you owe money. Are you really free if you have to go to work or else go bankrupt? Can you really quit your job and afford to not pay rent or your mortgage?

Are you really free to speak your mind? If you go to work today and tell your boss what you REALLY think, you might not have a job to go to work to anymore. Managers and bosses don’t usually want to know what their subordinates really think. The freedom to speak your mind is a freedom we don’t really have in life without disastrous consequences.

Am I taking my freedom for granted? Tomorrow is the big election here in the United States. I will be voting, I haven’t missed casting a ballot in a Federal election since the day I was old enough to vote. Admittedly, I haven’t voted for either of the two major parties in nearly eighteen years. Close friends of mine tell me, “Kenneth you’re throwing your vote away if you vote Independent!” They tell me I’m taking my freedom for granted when I throw my vote away on people that most likely won’t be elected.

All I know is that at this moment I’m free to finish my coffee, and that is what I’m going to do,


Categories: Culture & Society

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35 replies

  1. Excellent reminder that we do have freedom of choice…… most captivity is self-imposed as we tend to have more rules and regulations than any military organisation… thank you.

  2. Freedom is Slavery—George Orwell (1984)

    There is no true freedom, just an trade of one master for a more appealing(?) one.
    Only at some point appealing doesn’t seem so good and we want out.

  3. Freedom is a complete illusion and it doesn’t matter whether you vote or not. It’s meaningless. It’s already too late.

  4. Freedom to anything we choose and decide carry consequences. Even though a child is constrained by their parents, most parents do it out of love. Without moral rules, the world is chaos. Now, moral values are deteriorating due to too much freedom.

  5. Hi Kenneth,

    Thanks for your thoughts on freedom. It points out to me that though we do have freedom of choice to do good or evil, one choice leads to freedom while the other leads to non-freedom. That’s why Jesus said, “Anyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).

    I don’t think Jesus was engaging in some fancy theological argument. He was simply pointing out that if we choose to do evil and destructive things, we will bring upon ourselves consequences that involve loss of freedom–such as, for example, prison–or its spiritual equivalent.

    Laws against various actions that harm other people don’t impinge upon our real freedom. They simply recognize the divine law that doing evil leads to slavery.

    However, when laws prevent people from choosing to do things that are good, such as choosing a particular career if that’s what someone wants to do, or traveling to another country if that’s what someone wants to do, then those laws do take away our freedom.

    Just a few thoughts as I sip my morning . . . wait a minute! I don’t drink coffee! 😉

  6. Excellent post. You bring up some very salient points; there are two sides to every aspect of it. For someone to be free, someone else is restricted. Cause and effect for everything, I think…

  7. To me freedom is having the choice. Of course with any choice you make you have to be willing to live with the consequences. I make the choice to come to work everyday because I prefer what happens when I do than if I don’t. However that I am consciously making that choice gives me a peace that I did not used to have when I felt like a prisoner. My freedom came from a change of mindset, of perspective.

    • Agreed, freedom is definitely connected to choice; the question is how much choice we really have in certain matters.

    • We only really ever have the choice to choose between a set of consequences that are decided by outside influences. The impact of that i suppose depends on your outlook. I try to view life from an eternal perspective through mu faith in Christ. The result is the limitations if our earthly freedom do not concern me as much as they otherwise might

    • I agree. We may not always like the choices before us, but that is life. To have a choice at all, that is freedom.

  8. Man can be free if/when possesses unversal values, absolute, unchanging, matured virtues, a heartistic growing for the sake of others. Like the Creation is free, it has natural laws, what benefit each and every element of it. We hardly can call our conceptual freedom a real one, until anyone is starving or just can’t get clear water…

  9. Aren’t rules a means of ensuring our freedom, which has now become the source of taking it away.

    In this maze called life, while searching for freedom we actually give it up!!

    We are indeed cray!

  10. You are right, but in reference to voting, the Independents are frequently running on more than one party line and once elected will tend to vote with one major party or the other. Unfortunately it will take many years to break the power of the two major political parties, but then again everything begins with baby steps.

  11. We are free to choose, but not free of consequences of the choice, therefore control freedom to escape slavery.
    Right now I’m free to enjoy this beautiful fall. 🙂

  12. Wonderful points you raise. With freedom comes great responsibility… to govern oneself. A government of free people is by the people and for the people. Of course we know all of that. The responsibility of free people is to understand and vote on local issues and public servants.
    The problem Americans are having right now is money in politics. According to the Supreme Court, money is “speech” and “corporations are people”. What makes us feel that we are losing our freedom is this: Businesses are not democracies. Their monetary influence in politics goes well beyond what individual citizens can manage. It feels like we are headed toward an plutocracy (rule of money; rich people dominate society and politics). I am sure it feels like freedom to them.

    The important thing to remember is that we take serious responsibility for how we vote, understand what we vote for or against. This is key.
    Thanks again for the post.

  13. “A friend of mine is stuck at a job he hates. He makes a lot of money and to leave his job wouldn’t make sense considering the financial obligations he has in life; he feels like he doesn’t have the freedom to ‘do what he really wants in life’.”

    Seems to me this is a typical example of ‘choosing’ Lack of Freedom. Your friend is free to release himself from those financial obligations if he so chooses, so in reality, he DOES have the freedom to do what he wants. All he has to do is change his mindset and release himself from all those debts and material possessions (for which he needs a high level of income to pay for).

    Nearly everyone (in the Western world) has the freedom of Mind. In general, we can all have opinions (if not openly). We are only restricted in what we choose to restrict ourselves in.

  14. freedom is a necessary warm and cozy mirage . . . in cold reality there is no such thing . . .

  15. Back to voting. I’ve just tried to educate myself for voting tomorrow, and I’m new to the area. But the choices I’m offered are pretty much all franchises of either the democratic or republican platforms. I am casting one vote out of thousands, to elect someone who then has the choice of making a multitude of decisions affecting me to which I’ll have no input. I feel much more ‘freedom’ when I decide to purchase toothpaste.

  16. Interesting discussion and string of comments. You do have some very paranoid

    and irrational friends. Beware of the company you keep.

  17. Great post! It puts a lot of things Into relative perspective.

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