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Spiritual Meditations ( 17 Apr 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Why real freedom does not exist?

By Kourosh Ziabari


Historically, freedom has been a vital and mostly unanswered question of mankind who has constantly endeavored to realize a free and tranquil life, particularly in the developing world, where the abundance and pervasiveness of natural resources almost sows the seeds for the emergence of corrupt, illegitimate and despotic power and lays the groundwork for a long-term instatement of totalitarianism and autocracy.


The annals of our contemporary history is full of the real fictions and stories of people who have bargained their life at the expense of freedom, fulfilling the ambitions of nations and achieving sustainable liberty. Struggling for freedom and helping the suffocated masses broadcast their voice is a perennial catchphrase of wars and revolutions, so even the hardliner monarchs and dictators know well how to use the motto of freedom competently.


However, what a real freedom essentially looks like? Why the candidates of Presidential and Parliamentary elections constantly orchestrate the slogan of freedom to win the hearts and souls? Why the international powers always employ the pretext of "liberating people" in order to justify their military expeditions all around the world? Why the unique catchword of popular advocates of human rights, political prisoners, opposition leaders and social critics is the one-word pledge of "freedom"?


Personally, I have for so long had the problem of defining the concept of freedom and materializing it from an abstract perception to a concrete and tangible reality.


What we usually think of when emphasizing the inevitability of freedom is rather an idealistic and impractical mindset about a liberal, unrestricted and limitless society in which the residents, from the grassroots, proletariat and workers to the rhetoricians, journalists, dissidents and scholars are free to act, express and challenge in any way they want to. So, what is the external incarnation of this "free" world where the constraints and chains do not exist and people breathe in the air of "freedom" and "liberty" perfectly?


Can we basically mark out the example of an absolute manifestation for such a free society where the people in authority would not forcefully defy their opponents even faintly, the intellectual diversification is not refuted and the dissident voices have the opportunity to be publicized?


The inarguable hallmark of contemporary literature, Paulo Coelho, stresses in his latest novel, Zahir, that the "absolute freedom does not exist, what does exist is the freedom to choose anything you like and then commit yourself to that decision." [1]


Richard H. Bube of the Stanford University argues that basically, the "absolute freedom does not exist in the created universe", because it fails to take into account objective reality; "absolute freedom is characteristic only of chaos and is incompatible with order." [2]


The renowned British thinker and professor of the late 1850s, questions the same obscurity: "There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought" [3]


So, freedom should be conceptualized in a realistic, practical and possible manner. We must yield ourselves to the fact that freedom, in is very existence is not free absolutely. By providing a definition of any given subject, take freedom, you restrict it to a certain domain which would not violate the other contextual areas and can be recognized from the other meanings and definitions precisely.


It's a universal fact that freedom, which conventionally signifies "the condition of not being subject to restrictions, coercion, or control, imposed by another person or society; to choose goals and actions on one's own initiative", cannot be borderless and unrestrained, even if the borders and limitations are infinitesimal.


In his "How To Save Our Country" book, the University of Arizona Professor Miklós Szilágyi exemplifies the limitation of our freedom in a smart and conceivable way: "If the actions of a person constitute a threat to the freedom of another person, it is a justification for curtailing the freedom of the attacker... consequently, absolute freedom does not exist. The destructive elements of freedom must be constrained. Take, for example, smoking. Free people should not be restricted if they wish to smoke. Other free people, however, who happen to wish to breathe smokeless fresh air, should not be restricted, either. The solution is evidently the designation of smoking and non-smoking areas in public places." [4]


Therefore, freedom would be defensible and worthwhile as long as it does not undermine the freedom of others or violate their rights. A free driver, for instance, may prefer to drive at the speed of 200 km/h in streets, which would be his "unalienable right" according to the virtues of freedom; the right to act upon your own convenience and desire, without the interference of others or their obstruction; however, what would be the fate of passers-by who have equally the right to cross that street safely, without being endangered or coerced by external forces?


 If we lift the ideology of logic from the whole equation, we will devote the right to the driver to sprint with the speed of 200 km/h and the right to cross the street to the passer-by at a same time, which is reasonably impossible. So we adopt the "law" and "regulation" to prevent the disastrous incident from taking place, hindering the driver to employ the atypical speed and saving the life of walker-by.


Liberally, this would contradict the absolute freedom which the mankind is supposed to be endowed with; nevertheless, we should note that living in a material world, where we don't deal with mere reflectivity and mentality, where we visualize our notions into action and where we should "decide" ultimately, does have its own obligations and observations. Even if we are led toward conservation, we have to brace ourselves for the reality that freedom even has its own remarks.

Kourosh Ziabari is an independent journalist based in Iran.