On Freedom and Society
“Man is a social animal and we live in a society. Each one of us is dependent on the other directly or indirectly. For example, the milk man brings the milk to our door step every day, the news paper boy throws the paper in our balcony every morning, the washer man washes our cloths, our cloths are manufactured in factories by the factory employees so on and so forth.” This was what my class second teacher told our class while teaching something about profession of people. I distinctly remember of having felt a deep pain and anger over the idea of my being dependent on so many other people and not being free. It was in that moment that I decided I will study Mathematics for the rest of my life as that was the only subject in which ideas and concepts are built in air and one has to not think of society and various un-freedoms. A man can be truly free only in the realm of Mathematics. Mathematics gives the freedom I valued. My love continues to this date. But I have realised no one can live in vacuum and existence as a man implies there will be certain givens like – inter depended-ness, relatedness, emotional bondages etc. By being ascetic one can practice sacrifice and meditation. One can try to connect to God and be content with the self but that is a though way of living and not all men turn to monkhood. Is freedom, in its true sense, meant for monks only?
Living in a society why should a man value the value system of the society even if he disagrees with many? For example why should a man not go out naked on street? Why should a woman behave in a certain dignified way only? Why should there be conformity and not chaos? One answer can be chaos leads to destruction and man wants to avoid destruction and look forward for peaceful re-creation or creation of a new world around him. Man feels happy to be alive and develops a love for nature. He learns from the conformity in nature. He sees how plants, flowers, honey bees, butterflies, birds, trees, rivers, clouds etc are dependent on each other and value each others’ existence. They nourish each other and do not burn the earth for petty issues. I believe my decision to conform is not so much rooted in the fear of persecution by some hard-headed members of the society but is rather in the respect for natural order that I see around me. For, I know that if I find something deeply moving and outrageous in the social fabric, I rise in revolt and opposition. History is full of personalities who rose against oppression, racial discrimination, gender issues, human rights violations etc. against very strong powers. I would like to add another aspect to this by presenting Jermey Betham’s on the reason behind such co-operation between men: He believed that the human beings by nature were hedonists. Each of their actions was motivated by a desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Every human action has a cause and a motive. “Take away all pleasure and all pain and you have no desire and without desire there is no action.” Which probably is in contradiction with the teachings from Bhagwad Geeta that directs men to act without the thought of the fruit.
We have judicial system which is loaded with work. People have a sense of being wronged or not being wronged and therefore they seek justice. Because they think there is something like justice. Some way of living which is just. “In this little world, in which children have their existence, nothing is so finely felt and perceived as injustice”, says Pip in “The Great Expectation” by Charles Dickens. Man has a sense of justice and injustice and around such (and similar such) senses social fabric is woven.
It is widely expected today, that men should be able to enjoy the freedoms they value and they have reason to value (as I might want to have the Taj Mahal but I don’t have a reason to value such a freedom in a country of 1.2 billion people. I can ofcourse have a piece of land and build a house but ownership of the Taj may not be the freedom which I can value). I might want to hoard all the food grain stocks available in the market for export so that I can build a Taj Mahal for myself, but again that would mean everyone will go hungry and therefore here again I have no reason to value such a want or whim. But I certainly can want a freedom of speech, of choosing profession, religion, faith, travelling, political freedoms etc. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights 1948 identified certain Rights which a Human Being should be able to enjoy. Jeremy Bentham found the idea of human rights as non sense. He felt that rights were children of law. Some scholars believe rights are parents of law and laws are made under the light of the rights men should enjoy. I think there is a duality here. In some cases rights can be parents of law for example Right To Information or Right To Education are essentially rights that have now translated into law and find their place in statue books. Also, some countries have laws against abortion. Such laws override the Right To Life. Which shows right can be child of law.
What is the role of State? What is the aim of political setup?
Kant believed that the aim of Politics not making the subjects happy, but is to provide them with enough freedoms so that they can work forward for their own happiness. It’s to provide an enabling environment where peaceful pursuit of happiness is possible. He was opposed to benevolent despotism. Jeremy Bentham advocated utilitarian ideas. He believed the purpose of a State should be to ensure greatest good for greatest numbers. Amartya Sen critics such a view and says that focus should be on means as well as ends. Greatest good can be achieved through several means. But while achieving such ends the State should ensure that people have freedoms to chose from. “Development”, to Sen, “is fundamentally a aimed at empowerment.” There is a complementarity between freedom and development. If freedom is enhanced the State would develop, if development is done then freedoms (that men can enjoy) will get enhanced. The purpose of State should be in only making the people empowered and let them work for their own set goals. Public debates and reasoning should be given great importance to weed out conflicts and seek solutions in conflicting situations. The society might not be made totally just (no body knows what that is) but it certainly can be made less unjust. And it is the State to take care of such transformation from unjust to less unjust.
(...conclusion to be written later)