Liberty is one of those globalised products that all of mankind has accepted whole heartedly. Today, the idea of liberty or freedom has been treated like a commodity that every individual wishes to ‘own’. Liberty is in its very essence a priceless commodity, albeit one which hasn’t been made available to all of mankind in the strictest sense. In fact what has been made available to the most of mankind under the pressures of nationalism is “restricted liberty”.
Our liberty and freedom is subject to regulation on a regular basis. The degree of violation may vary from person to person and even depends upon who the figure or figures of authority under question are. Violators of our liberty could be the state, our parents, our relatives, the society, our friends, our teachers etc.
Throughout their lives, humans have to face various restraints; some of these are forced upon them whereas some have been voluntarily accepted by them. Restraints on freedom are omnipresent in both private and public domains. A child has to meet various deadlines imposed on her by her parents. She could be burdened with homework from school which acts as a deterrent factor to the pursuit of her interests, thereby preventing her from doing what she wishes to out of fear of the consequences should she fail to live up the expectations of both her school authorities and her parents. After a certain age, it is often noticed that while choosing her career path a young adult might not be allowed to do what she strongly wishes to, and instead has to pursue what her parents’ wish for her. The parents have in this case unwittingly erected barriers to the child’s liberty in her personal life. But in this case arguments contesting the child’s inability to decipher what is the best for him can be made, thereby necessitating interference by parents. Unintentionally, but this interference usually takes the form of forced restrictions, hindering the child’s overall development. At the same time it acts as a barrier in the child’s overall development and prevents him from thinking freely in fear of the consequences that he might have to face.
To understand when liberty has been violated, however, one needs to understand the difference between choice and imposition. Freedom of choice and an environment conducive to make such choices freely is what is required to live with liberty and dignity. Many constitutions enshrine the values and rights of freedom that it grants its citizens, but what mankind needs to realize is that freedom is more of a universal birthright more than something the state has the authority to grant. The duty of the state is to construct an environment conducive for us to enjoy the liberty that we are born with.
Freedom and liberty is something that one is born with and not something that should be forwarded to us by our government. By virtue of being humans, every human has a right to pursue his or her interests. Sadly governments over the ages have made the minds of common men slavish, and have succeeded in making them believe that freedom and liberty are favours that can only be given to them by their rulers. Mankind thus came up with evil concepts like that of slavery and bonded labour. It was only after independence movements and the influential writings of various scholars did the idea of liberty spread. But freedom they say is restricted in order to control the evil in man. With fear of punishment man doesn’t freely explore the evil rationale in him but does it not act as a deterrent to the enjoyment of freedom too? Do restraints always lead to a positive result? Any restraint overly implemented has its set of drastic side effects. For instance if a child is overly restricted from playing he/she tends to indulges in rebellious activities simple to try and break free; activities which may not always be healthy. But acceptance and understanding the need of these restrictions by the child would act as catalyst in his development.
On a more global platform, has this intrinsic liberty been enjoyed by all? If one were to look at the case of people in Afghanistan who live under the terror of the Taliban regime or even look at the citizens of North Korea, lack of free movement, freedom to express their own views and continuous ruthless treatment of the people is a norm in these countries. Words like liberty and freedom are utopian concepts to these people.
Scholars tend to associate democracy with liberty. A democratic country has been associated with the land of the free where people have the choice and the right to pursue happiness. But one can only truly attain liberty when one leads an individualistic life. People tend to confuse individualism with selfishness. But individualism is the ability of man to take moral decisions for himself freely and work to his/her full potential for the betterment of a collective.
Liberty is a gift that needs to be protected by us individuals in order to lead a life of dignity. Some individuals might have to work harder in order to shield this value as compared to the rest who enjoy the benefit of a more conducive environment that allows them to enjoy this value to a greater extent.
-Contributed by Urvi Lahoti
Picture Credits: travelandleisure.com