Freedom Is An Illusion

Sometimes it’d just be easier to eradicate the necessity of decision making. Remove freedom. Wipe the slate clean of guilt and second guessing and those formidable ‘what ifs?’. To be pre-programmed, wired, robotic; emotionless. To drift through life carefree. Robotic-robust-mundane.

”Robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes”

– Richard Dawkins

I’d condemn this as being painfully and poisonously cynical, but really are we anything more than robots? Does freedom even exist in reality or is it just an idyllic concept?

What even is freedom?

To summarise the Oxford Dictionary, freedom is:

  1. The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants- absence of subjection, independent of fate or necessity
  2. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved
  3. Freedom from the state

The absence of restriction: does that really equate to ‘freedom’? How can absence correlate to things that we have been granted, for instance; the right to vote? It’s logically impossible for absence to equate to something: the absence of sadness does not revel the subject into happiness.  ‘You can’t prove a negative’ (James Randi) so can a negative be ‘something’?

Freedom from the state: can you call a society that is so heavily stipulated by money, and the media, free? Why if we are free to do as we please do we all aspire to such similar ideals, why do we follow the same path and conform to the same standardised expectations? Complete freedom from the state would entail a society whereby aspirations were based purely on happiness rather than social, political or economic factors. Where people had the opportunity to do whatever they wanted to do rather than being pigeon holed, spoon fed and indoctrinated into a ‘career’ prescribed to them by their socio-economic status- and nothing else. Why do we feel obliged to do things that we don’t want to do? It still feels like we need to break free from the constrictive chains of society, the cyclical 9-5 ominous clock ticking lifestyle- if that’s the sentiment how can this adhere to ‘freedom from the state’?

But do we even want to be free?



All we seem to do is restrict ourselves. Walking the same paths over and over again although there’s nothing stopping us from wandering off in another direction. It’s as if we all know we’re free but there’s some mental incapability to allow ourselves to fully embrace the freedom that we’ve been granted or to overturn the constraints of society. We enjoy being comfortable, not having to worry, eradicating decision making is so much easier- but then nothing seems worthwhile. We can’t have it all.

Are we free by nature but extrinsically restricted by our own surroundings?

Intrinsically free- extrinsically constrained.

The Green Light

“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away” (The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald)

The American Dream; an ideal that was, and still is, inexplicably unreachable.  However, was this ideal in danger of being on an even more unreachable precipice in the last week? As with Gatsby, there’s always that object, the dark water, blocking our ability to fulfil our dreams, be that the restrictions of society, our own fears or the actions of others; it is arguable that this dark water, this object preventing us from reaching our dreams and fulfilling our desires was going to have a face: Mitt Romney’s.

Romney’s political stance, the political stance of GOP in it’s entirety, jeopardises any hope that the American Dream still exists. Like Gatsby’s world, the proposed policies of Romney involved money, and money alone; reminiscent of the laissez faire-minimal government-maximise profits ideology of the 1920’s, with one difference: economic state. The idea to maximise profits and minimise government policy seems justifiable in a society where social issues are non-existent, however, this utopia is purely fictional. Similarly to the 1920’s, 2012 America has many social issues; issues of welfare, rights and still, race. Romney condemned Obama’s social policies as ‘extraordinary financial gifts’, citing free health care and contraceptive medications in particular, things that we, in Britain, perhaps take advantage of. Nonetheless, doesn’t the fact that we take advantage of these things, show how essential they are to our welfare?

Romney claims that the ‘big issues for the whole country’ are: military strategy, foreign policy and a strong economy. But what about freedom, education and healthcare? Surely these are greater, and more widely applicable issues for the population of America. The foundation of every society should be personal liberties: freedom of speech, press, the right to vote and so on. But, even in America, these liberties are still not established. Romney’s stance on social issues projects anti-abortion and anti-gay rights and therefore anti-freedom, setting back the progress of the last 60 years. Is this really in the best interests of the American population: imposing on, rather than granting further rights?

The loss of, or lack of such rights seriously imposes on any ideal of the ‘American Dream’, an ideal dependent on the ability to choose, and hence the availability of freedom. The loss of our, the common people’s ability to achieve their ‘American Dream’ allow people, like Mitt Romney, to achieve theirs. This is unethical, at least, according to Kantian Ethics: an act that uses others as a means to an end is wrong. The eyes of a Dr T.J Eckleburg looks over us judging our morality, or lack of, placing our dreams on a precipice.

And so, the dark water ebbs onwards between us and our dreams, until disillusion forms and we are left with nothing, hardly a glimmer of hope.

All in the name of political ideology.