The concept of freedom make people giddy to their bellies but does it really mean what we think it means?
Some people say our country is still better than most despite the challenges being faced by the Nigerian populace. For starters, the majority of us exercise our franchise during an election period and we are pretty much allowed to do as we please as far as it is within the confines of the law, right?
Now, we can spend time punching holes into the two aforementioned examples, but we won’t waste time here because that isn’t the crux of the argument.
First off, what is freedom?
Like most researchers are wont to do, we had to consult the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary to get a clear meaning of the word Freedom and we came up with this definition:
“Freedom is the quality or state of being free: as in the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action”.
Finally, a dictionary we can argue with!
Now read and cogitate on that definition. Does that apply to your life? Is your life completely absent of necessity, coercion, or constraint in your choices or actions? Do you have total freedom for every minor necessity? Is anybody free to make any choice or take any action they so, please?
The irony of the concept of freedom is that it is tied to our basic needs to survive.
An explanation will do justice to what we meant in the aforementioned statement. During years begone, humankind was still wild with a free-for-all, survival-of-the-fittest kind of culture with the penchant to do as he pleases.
No government. No laws. No constraints.
The stronger ones were at liberty to prey on the weaker ones especially if it advances their cause on the power pyramid but the advent of agriculture halted this barbaric mentality.
Suddenly, hunting and gathering weren’t as necessary for survival as it once had been, because men could manipulate the land and grow his own food. With this drastic change, man’s survival became more secure.
However, with survival instincts still intact, the man was still vulnerable in his own behavior to act to secure his own survival. As the man began to grow and produce crops, other men remained a potential threat. The theft of goods was an inevitable possibility.
Eventually, with men desiring to ensure their survival, societies were formed. Although even in society, men still posed many threats towards each other, thus, the government was formed.
Thomas Paine, the English philosopher wrote, ‘Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil…’ but why was man resorting to a government? Why is a government seen as a ‘necessary evil’ in the opinion of Paine?
Man’s survival instincts are like a double-edged sword; helpful and dangerous in equal measure. This is because even though these instincts allow for the propagation of the human race, they can be overpowering during desperate times.
When John Locke theorized that the purpose of a government was to protect the life, liberty, and property in his Two Treatises on Government, he was absolutely correct because man is incapable of protecting himself from his own instinct of survival, and the security of survival.
If the government is abolished, man will act out in a savage manner because there is no longer a higher order restraining his instinct for survival.
When the first form of government was formed, man willingly gave up his freedom(s) that he would have had in the wild in exchange for this protection.
By establishing a higher order, we give up much of our freedom for the sake of the protection of our possessions, our lives, and the lives of our families.
Yet the question still remains: Are we truly free?
What is sacrosanct is that we are not free of constraints – all the constraints in our lives are for the sake of survival and sanity in the society but it is also true the government mandates these constraints as a means of serving their purposes but these still beggars the question.
If the purpose of the government is to protect humanity from itself, what makes a government evil?
The answer is so simple yet mind-boggling.
The government, unfortunately, comprises men who are also in survival mode for the preservation of their own interests. Even though they knowingly serve in institutions established for the preservation of humankind, these men are still humans to the core ergo; survival is still paramount.
Being in a position of power means access to limitless privileges which they would not have had access to had they not been in a government position.
Greed is inevitable for human beings because of the instinct to survive and ensure survival.
Even if excesses in riches and power is not necessary for the means of basic survival, the fact is that, instinctively, humankind believes that their chances of survival are more definite if they possess more.
Everybody, the haves, and the haves-not have this instinct instilled within their minds. A government, though necessary, is ‘evil’ simply because it is run by men who are controlled by instinctual means of survival.
With this knowledge in mind, we often ruminate on whether true freedom is a ruse.
We’re supposedly allowed freedom as long as we do not harm the freedom of others, but we’re also pre-programmed with a strong instinct to survive. It’s all quite fascinating how restrained our freedom truly is.
Everyone is susceptible to greed because they are under the impression that it will secure their survival.
However, our greed and desire to survive has also drastically shaped our society today.
Inevitably, our society has become driven by riches. The desire for wealth connects to a desire to survive; however, this basic survival instinct has also driven our society so far into a greedy oblivion.
Our greedy oblivion, in turn, has also changed our view of just about everything, especially education.
Before the advent of the Internet, education was viewed with a deified reverence but society inevitably crawled back into the abyss of greed. Higher education has been especially affected by this change in the general view of the society.
Yet now, education and knowledge growth seem to have become secondary, which is almost frightening. Fewer and fewer students desire true knowledge as more and more people enter into career fields that promise high salaries.
Indeed, not every person is guilty of this motivation for success, however, as higher education becomes required by more and more job fields, even people with technical knowledge seem to have caught this bug.
In Nigeria, more students gain admission to universities every year but is this a bad thing? Of course, not. In fact, a majority would argue that it is a very good thing. Many will portray these students as ‘studious and good’.
Yet with the idea of ‘free time’ diminishing from the lives of many of these students as their hopes of university education and high-paying careers is instilled into their minds constantly, where is the time to simply be truly free?’ Is this done by choice?
Yes, all of it is done by choice; however, it is done to ensure survival.
According to our society, survival is ensured through the gain of riches and wealth, and riches and wealth are only gained via higher education, which we often argue is simply an expensive job training.
Are these economically-driven students free to break from their busy routines in order to have moments of ‘freedom?’
As you attempt to answer these questions, consider the modern-day teachings of not only students but everybody. How many people do you know who work more than 50 hours a week?
How many people do you know taking on extra work for the sake of impressing a teacher or a boss? Why do people do this?
Why do people want to become rich? To secure their survival.
If the government were to be abolished by a group of radicals, would people still work extra-hard for the security of their wealth and survival? No; without a restraining government, we have no reason to conform to the expectations of society, because savage animalism would take over human instinct, and we would revert to looting, murder, and any means that seem appropriate for our survival.
Our idea of freedom is a misnomer because we are free to choose how we conform to society, but we are not as free as our ancient ancestors once were. We are free within our means, but our survival is more secure within the control of a government.
Willingly, we give up much of our freedom in exchange for our protection. Is this a bad thing? No, but if you wish to be free of almost all constraint, feel free to venture out into the wild and attempt to survive out there on your own.
Chances are, nobody will try and stop you.