I’m an Indian. It is the 15th of August, 2013. My nation is officially 67 years old today as more than 1.2 billion people in the country celebrate independence and freedom. An odd phenomenon that I’ve noticed in this country (one that I assume must be prevalent in others too) is the way people generally feel overtly patriotic, responsible and experience a sense of belonging and cumbersome self-worth on this day which usually goes missing for most of the remaining days of the year.
While the country’s wise populace is split between celebrating freedom and making cynical expressions about how freedom is a fallacy in a nation plagued by hypocrisy, corruption, crime and poverty, I decided to indulge myself in a moment to evaluate what the concepts of ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ truly mean and how we have come to perceive them, sometimes to our own convenience. I do not wish to stir up a storm and throw up a controversy – I’m a proud, patriotic Indian myself, but I strongly believe we have somewhere forgotten what freedom truly means to us.
Is freedom and independence truly restricted or dependent (ahh, the irony here) upon who governs us in the modern world? Does it truly matter to us enough to influence every single decision and choice we make every second of our lives?
The intellectual world has debated often and enough upon the definition of ‘freedom’ and what it means to people; I am of the belief that freedom is a subjective term to be defined and experienced by each individual in his own right.
To me, freedom is the ability, will & motivation to do exactly what makes you happy without the manipulative force of the society we live in. Freedom is where an individual’s priorities are defined by his deepest desires; and where your desires require the participation of another individual’s actions, freedom is about making the choice to be able to play the part you wish to play without the participation of the other, in contrast to manipulating the will of the other individual into participating towards fulfilling your own desire.
Somewhere during our evolutionary transition from a wild to a social animal, we have lost track of our instinctual freedom. Somewhere within the complex nature of our carefully built society, we have allowed manipulation to replace our instincts. It’s rare to see an individual chase a passion with the raw emotion and power that we have come across only in literature and art recently – be it for a person or a thing they love to do.
True freedom to me, is the ability to experience that indefinable love for an individual or thing irrespective of the outcome. Of course, it is always ideal when the chase is fruitful and you feel rewarded for your efforts – that is how the universe revolves I suppose, around a reward structure. Many people however fail to recognize/accept or understand that the journey and the experience in itself is a reward far beyond the imaginable fruit of the alternative of not doing it.
I suppose the human race has picked up an uncharacteristic weakness in standing alone. Loneliness makes us uncomfortable, even momentary loneliness – it makes us want to rush to the first familiar person or thing that we see/know. Before treading an untrodden path, we’re afraid of not being able to find our way back if we’re lost; afraid of failing to the extent where we do not belong to the group we previously belonged to anymore. It has messed our value systems up and created unnecessary confusion within our concepts of right and wrong; this I believe, is our one true obstacle to true freedom, complete independence.
Do questions like who governs us, whether they are honest or not, whether we’re rich or poor really matter against this backdrop? I personally do not agree. Irrespective of the situation and environment you find yourself in, there’s always a choice. To do things that truly appeal to us, based on our interpretations of right and wrong. That of course presents a whole new debate about how right and wrong is completely subjective, which indeed is the beauty of it all – the freedom to believe in what you believe, as long as you know for yourself what you’re doing is the exact and absolute right thing to do, without the influence of the collective value system.
I believe we’re nearing the end of the evolutionary branch of the animal within a human being who can understand this premise and live by it, and I won’t pretend to be the perfect specimen of this species either. Lord knows I have my own struggles with the choices I make, but there are moments of clarity in all of our lives when we know the absolute right and I believe our choice at these moments is what truly sets us free and on our way to achieving the purpose we set ourselves instinctively 🙂
We are like sheep without a shepherd
We don’t know how to be alone
So we wander ’round this desert
And wind up following the wrong gods home