Freedom Essay

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Freedom does not mean license, but the wisdom to choose what is right for oneself

‘Freedom’, be it from fellow humans, prevalent customs, way of life or society, is a word that symbolises man’s intrinsic nature and individuality. It is a feeling that has been experienced and expounded differently by different people: freedom- the ultimate goal of thousands of revolutions, the ideal that inflamed the minds of myriads of nameless, faceless people and their illustrious leaders. Battles for freedom everywhere are coeval with the beginning of hierarchy and civilisation. They are being fought all the time, albeit on different scales. And in all these struggles or movements, the definition of ‘freedom’ is almost always different. This is essentially so since freedom, being a psychological factor is not the same for different people. But, invariably, all these definitions have to undergo the test of time and the scrutiny of history. So, on one hand there are movements for freedom or liberty which have united people and on the other hand there are those movements which have succeeded only in tearing up the social fabric and leave the people high and dry. Thus, freedom is best defined by this time tested statement: “freedom does not mean license, but the wisdom to choose what is right for oneself.” So freedom can never be intrusive that it encroaches upon the rights of others. As Lincoln famously declared in 1859, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves”. There are two sides to every coin and just as rights are complemented by duties, freedom cannot come without responsibility and the wisdom to exercise it properly. George Bernard Shaw was, therefore, bang on target when he commented in his book ‘Man and Superman’, “The revolutionist’s hand book” that “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” To be able to enjoy freedom, a person must also be willing to respect another’s claim to it. And those who consider freedom to be an unconditional license to have their own way would do well to remember that such a notion of freedom is the immediate precursor to anarchy and mayhem. A prime example of this common but nevertheless colossal misinterpretation of the idea of freedom is the age old conflict between generations. Since time immemorial, youth have seen themselves as harbingers of change and grab every chance they get to overthrow the ‘superannuated old order’. They don’t seem to spare a thought for the validity or the efficiency of the time- honoured systems that they work so hard to denigrate, nor do they realise how their chosen path can even lead them to destruction. They tout themselves as vociferous exponents of change and seem to see freedom as a tool to break the ‘shackles’ of control and guidance imposed upon them by their elders, disregarding the fact that all restrictions and rules imposed by society were aimed at maximising human welfare, though it must be conceded that the end result may sometimes be quite different. Heraclitus noted very long ago that “There is nothing permanent except change”. And in the same way, human needs and requirements also do change over time, invalidating many old customs and practices. Going by an erroneous understanding of freedom, youngsters criticise their elders’ ‘conservatism’ and celebrate everything that deviates from established norms, regardless of their potential outcome. The thin line of differentiation between freedom and license is very often a tricky one to negotiate. Many parents fall into a dilemma when they try to determine exactly where freedom for their wards should end and where it starts turning into license, because what was once considered unacceptable may now be considered quite normal. But then, the youngsters must be made to understand that they cannot get away with whatever they do and that they can still be pulled up by their elders as and when their behaviour demands correction. After all, experience has always...
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