It is a natural desire for humans to wish for freedom, for the ability to make their own decisions and be the master of their own destiny. However, is it possible to achieve this individuality despite various restrictions imposed by society? Whether “free will” exists has been the center of argument for centuries, but my personal opinion is that, the answer is negative.
It is said that all ideas are children of their time. This even applies to ideas that are ostensibly the direct opposite of the social norm. For example, the horrifying gorgon Madame Defarge in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, in appearance, is a person who is brave enough to join the most progressive activists in the revolution. However, her obsession with vengeance and ruthlessness is undeniably a fruit of her upbringing. Although she takes a drastically different stand, one that opposes the aristocrats, the method of her working is no different from, if not crueler than, the oppression she endured.
In reality, the horror provoked by the French revolution – epitomized by the guillotine, the “national razor” – is a prime example that the consequence of a new ideology might, in essence, be a twin-brother of its predecessor. The reason is that the revolutionaries couldn’t transcend the philosophy of violence and “eye for an eye”, taught to them by the life they lived. It was only hundreds of years later that people understood the sordid price they had paid, and realized that violent actions would very likely backfire and lead to further catastrophes.
This phenomenon is by no means a rare occurrence: every now and then in history we see regimes collapse and similar despots arise. Likewise, in natural sciences, the facts we are now familiar with and take for granted were only perfected in a gradual process: Aristotle thought men and women had different numbers of teeth and motion could only be a result of forces. Even a man as...