The conversations today are full of the fight for liberty. We are told that we must throw off the chains of oppression and marginalization and fight for true freedom. What is seldom answered however, is freedom to what??
This pushes us up against the next big question, what is true freedom? Anytime you try to answer this question you are going to inevitably bring in some sort of moral judgement. We must be freed from such and such evil in order that we may experience such and such good. Anytime we are talking about fighting for freedom we are talking about liberating humanity from some sort of wrong state and into some sort of, more right, state. In essence we are talking about a right way to live, a order for life the way it should be.
Freedom is never merely from something; it is always into something. We are asserting a new and presumably better order of life. The crucial question to ask today is what is that something for which we are fighting? This is the question that is not given much attention today. It seems like we are fighting for freedom for the sake of freedom. A freedom from the old, oppressive ways, but not into anything concrete.
The trouble is that the moral revolutionaries of our times do what they do in the name of a pluralistic mindset, a mindset that states that there are no moral absolutes, a mindset that states that we all get to chose what we do. The deconstruction of the historic values that have shaped our society is replaced by mystical black hole called “the self”. The Self is what decides what is right and wrong, what is truth and falsehood. But what is the self? Here again we run into a wall. We must define the self, within a certain moral grid, a structure of right and wrong, a definition of what causes the flourishing of the self, and what causes its demise.
There is no self sustaining, self defining self. Our sense of who we are – be it our gender identity, our spirituality or our sense of right and wrong – all come from places that we ourselves do not create or invent. We are always borrowing and drawing upon that which we have been taught to form our answers. We are always subjecting ourselves to a certain moral grid. The question is which one, and what is its basis?
The freedom of the supreme autonomous self is a myth. We do not have the capacity to define our existence. Its like trying to prove you can talk without vocal chords. The moment you try to do it is the moment you prove yourself wrong.
It seems then, that true freedom is not merely the absence of all rules and structures but the presence of the right ones. The liberation of the self is based in aligning it with the structures and ideals that most potentiate its flourishing. This point is critical to make because the argument is often framed differently. It is said that there are some who want to impose their rules upon society, and there are others who want to let true freedom reign, and let people decide for themselves.
The reality is that we are all imposing rules upon ourselves and society. The real question is what is the basis for those rule? Who are the people that have shaped the foundation of your worldview and why?