Fredom of the Individual Is a Myth

Topics: Salman Rushdie, Political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes Pages: 2 (730 words) Published: August 12, 2013

William Pitt, the outspoken British Prime Minister once remarked and I quote, “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

Honourable Chairperson Sir and Members of this august house, the myth of freedom of the individual is the unspoken agony of modern man. Are men really born free? Individualists would have us believe that freedom of choice and control over one’s life are the two most important things to man. Is it possible to reconcile the need for individual freedom with life in an organized society? The very social structure man lives in demands conformity. The paradox here: men gain control over their lives by agreeing to surrender free will!

The classic literary example of this is the book Lord of the Flies where, in the absence of a coercive authority, young boys marooned on an island degenerate into a Hobbesian state of nature where there is and I quote, “war of all against all” and life is “Nasty Brutish and short (leviathan). To impose order and guarantee freedoms and rights John Locke suggested a social contract where people came together to vest authority in a sovereign but by doing so had to also agree to do what the sovereign demanded. Today we call this political obligation.

Does the common man have individual freedom? Of sorts, yes...perhaps. He has the choice to live or to die. He has the choice to accept, to gripe, to reject and to rebel and that too only in democratic societies. In a place like China even the right to rebel is taken away as is the right to criticize the state. The latter option will lead to incarceration and loss of almost all his freedoms sooner or later. The realities and limitations of national, cultural and secular frontiers have to be squarely faced.

The world around us is replete with examples of how all types of individual freedom have been curtailed on one pretext or the other. The...
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