This is the story I see behind the above picture.
They were all drowning, every single one of them. The waves dragged them into the rapids of humanity. Fighting against the current, fighting against the flow. But it was too late. They found themselves in the middle of the ocean, trapped by the water. The flood in their lungs made them feel heavy, so they raised their hands, trying to grab the sky. A flag raised between all those hands, seeking for help. But help never came.
They had no option but to keep trying. In reality, that was the sea that surrounded them: the sea of freedom. They wanted to swim freely, with no fear of death. They wanted to do things that they couldn’t do at the time. Do human beings have complete freedom in life? What actually is freedom? Are our decisions truly ours? Are they?
Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Freedom is the ability to decide what actions you are going to take without being restricted by anything (e.g. judgements, laws). Some views also suggest that freedom includes taking responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.
How we make choices and, most importantly, why we make them is based on a dispute between determinism and free will. In psychology, determinism is defined as behaviour controlled by either internal or external forces. In other words, it means that our actions are made for conscious or unconscious reasons that we don’t necessarily truly want to satisfy. We also have soft and hard determinism. Hard determinism says that all behaviour can be predicted and there is no free will. Soft determinism is a version of determinism that allows for some element of free will.
If we think about every decision we make, we can’t. Some (or most) of our actions are not conscious, even if we think about them. For example, if we are buying a bag of crisps, we are more likely to choose a flavour or brand that we have already tried before, believing that we are deliberately choosing the same crisps over the others. Past experiences, social attitudes and education are some of the factors that are omnipresent in our behaviour. Sometimes we take certain decisions because they are “the right thing to do”, “it’s the way it should be done”, or because we will be judged by our actions. We are somewhat restricted, but still capable enough, to pick from a few options. So in my perspective, we all live under soft determinism; not hard determinism or free will. Therefore, we are not completely free when choosing our decisions.
The thing is that we idealise freedom so much that we don’t want to have too much freedom.
As they drowned, their energies dissolved into the ocean and their bodies lost their natural motion, sinking more and more. Just when everything seemed over, this society, where everyone was the same, realised that maybe, all this time, they were holding too much freedom. They needed someone in charge of society, someone that could take control and take them back to shore. Without rules, everyone used their efforts to help themselves but not the group as a whole. They all raised their hands and voted for their new leader, a leader that would take part of their freedom but would give them another chance to live.
If everything was legal for 24 hours, what would you do? If you could do anything for a day without being judged or punished, what’s the first thing you would do? Rob a bank? Steal a car? Burn down a library? I don’t know what it would be, but it wouldn’t be good. After some research, I found out that this kind of liberty has a name. In 1941, Erich Fromm released his book “Escape from freedom”. According to it, there are two types of liberty: positive freedom (AKA ‘Freedom to’): the possibility of acting in such a way as to take control of one’s life and realize one’s fundamental purposes; and ‘negative freedom’ (AKA ‘Freedom from’): the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints so any action is available. The example we had before was a negative freedom case.
The difference between both is what makes freedom toxic. We should seek freedom ‘to’ do the things that fulfil us, rather than freedom ‘from’ laws and authority. As Fromm said, “the modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automation”.
The new leader was inexperienced, but effective. The society swam back to the surface and reached the shore in no time. Once they were there, they were exhausted and began trying to empty their bodies of water. Their tears ran over the salt water in their cheeks, and life was kind enough to give them another chance. They all celebrated their survival in a huge party and danced all night to the music. That night was the happiest and most harmonic night ever in society, although, a few months later, it would end up in rebellion for a greater independence…
A blog. One story, four scenes, one image.
We don’t have complete freedom in life. We don’t even know if what we want is really what we personally want, or if it is society’s wants that we take as ours. Don’t let soft determinism bring you down. Just remember that, in the fight of liberty, choose the right type of freedom. Choose freedom ‘to’ make your life, not freedom ‘from’ all of our rules.
Let freedom rule, before we sink more and more.