Monday, February 22, 2016

Freedom

Freedom

[Originally written in March 2015, and which I meant to revise, since it definitely needs it, but have never gotten around to. However, I wanted to include it here nevertheless.]


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Never before has freedom been preached more than in our day; never, perhaps, has it been practiced less. I mean an authentic freedom; that is, the freedom to live one's life in pursuit of the good, in accordance with one's own dispositions. For the Christian, it is obvious that the ultimate good being pursued is God, but even from a more earthly viewpoint that can be accepted by even nonbelievers, that of a natural human happiness, we are, in the name of "freedom", more and more constrained to accept a limited range of "choices" with which to pursue it these days, which correspond to no real choice at all. That we are supposedly living in a representative democracy does not alter this fact. An American can "choose" his representatives, for example. However, in practice this means little more than which of two candidates backed by a plutocractic establishment will get to vote on how to control an ever increasing number of details of his daily life. Indeed, such is the attitude of the times that the most extreme proponent of the divine right of kings in former ages never dreamed of giving such despotic power to a monarch as that which is taken for granted as natural in a modern "democracy" to grant unto the government. Yet the citizens nevertheless celebrate their "freedom". And the reason why such can be calmly accepted is because we have lost the vision of what freedom actually means.

But then what does freedom actually mean? Perhaps the first thing that should be established is what it does not mean. It does *not* mean anarchy. Indeed, the more a nation is in anarchy of whatever sort, the less freedom it has, for order is the first essential for human living, and it will assert itself in one way or another. If it does not do so within the confines of an ordered liberty, it will ultimately do so through an ordered tyranny. Anarchy cannot survive, for it is merely destructive, not creative. It is death, not life. And death has an uncommonly high mortality rate. That is why with an anarchy of morals has come a corresponding increase in the power of the government, to re-establish the order which individuals have forfeited to determine for themselves. Indeed, it is no coincidence, it would seem, that it is from those in high positions of government who have most encouraged such an anarchy of morals disguised as "freedom" which we see today. The more such counterfeit "freedom" granted to the populace, and hence the less self order (with corresponding self-restraint), then the more power ultimately given to the government to re-establish the order necessary for human living. Except it will be an order beneficial, not to the people, but to the elites. As Chesterton said, "If you will not have rules, you will have rulers." 

But if freedom is ordered instead of anarchic, then does that mean it eliminates an authentic freedom of choice for individuals? No, it does not. Indeed, a society becomes more ordered, not more anarchic, the more it grants freedom of choice, in most matters. For order by its very nature is based on knowledge. And knowledge, in its turn, is in so many cases dependent precisely on those things which only an individual is in the best position to know, and hence to apply such knowledge. In such cases, it is the individual that must choose, not merely as proper to his own dignity as a human being, but also so that the best possible order may be achieved. That there are boundaries within which the individual must make such concrete applications is true, and which is why the government has the rightful authority to exist at all. (Thus, no person has the right to take the life of someone on the basis that he dislikes the person; hence the legitimacy of laws against murder for instance). But, speaking generally, how principles apply in specific cases are dependent on a variety of factors that often can be only known by the individual, not the government. That is why freedom recognizes the necessity of choice to individuals as well. But notice that if it is an authentic freedom of choice, then it must be an *informed* one...otherwise, it is not an ordered freedom any more, but a chaotic anarchy, with the death to freedom that inevitably results. The order must then be imposed from an outside source.

And that is why we no longer live in a free society. It is not simply that we have lost *external* forms of freedom, due to government interference. Indeed, as far as that is concerned, while there are enough encroachments on such freedoms making it harder and harder to maintain we live in "the land of the free" anymore, it may be fully granted that there are yet many aspects of our lives in which we still do have considerable freedom, externally speaking. Our modern masters are shrewd enough to allow us many external freedoms still, so that we may suffer under the delusion that we are still free essentially. Rather, our poverty is even greater. For we are starving for *internal* freedoms. We are not sufficiently granted truth to make informed choices, or, in other words, to live authentically free. Modernity has enslaved us by denying us truth. Indeed, a relativistic society which denies objective truth deprives us not merely of actual practice of freedom (which deprivation has been a curse throughout all of human history), but even to hope for the *potential* for real freedom.

After all, if authentic freedom (as distinct from the anarchy which leads to tyranny) can only be exercised by making choices based on truth, then it follows the only way we can increase our freedom is by embracing the truth. "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Deny truth, and thereby increase anarchy in the mind, then a society becomes further enslaved. Deny even the possibility of truth, and you destroy hope of redemption as well. That is why we need to re-establish the liberating rule of truth, and proclaim our emancipation from relativism, if we wish to have any hope of freedom and justice in this world. It was, after all, a relativistic politician asking "What is truth?" who as a consequence of his philosophy gave into the demands to crucify an innocent person in the greatest crime of human history.


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