At the suggestion of a regular reader of this series, who I shan’t name as I haven’t sought permission to do so, I offer my thoughts and feelings on the subject of free will. This is the first request of sorts that I’ve taken and should serve as proof to readers that I do and will take your feedback on board.
This more or less follows on from my previous article about the status quo, where I talked a lot about how blindly accepting the ‘current state of things’ is a blatant violation of your right to freedom of thought, speech, and expression, aka your free will.
So, what is free will objectively speaking? Without consulting dictionary definitions, I believe free will is the fundamental right for one to do as one chooses. It’s as simple as that really. The conundrum of free will, however, lies infinitely more in the subjective than the objective, much like anything else.
Subjectively, free will is something I crave. I crave a lot of it. As a fervent advocate for freedom of thought, speech, and expression, it’s my opinion that free will is something we should all have the right to exercise. There’s a liberating power of great magnitude that comes from one being able to do what they want to do when it suits them.
The thing is that free will isn’t as cut and dried as the last sentence in that paragraph. I’m sure a lot of us have heard the term ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. That stands true where free will is concerned. One thing one must always consider when exercising free will is a little thing called consequence. When I say little thing, I’m actually being facetious; it’s pretty bloody huge. Our actions will always beget reactions. Being able to do as we choose is all fine and well, and a lot of us are more than happy to act on our desires and impulses. Not as many are happy to deal with the resulting effects of those desires and impulses.
Another important thing is self-reflection: the ability to look back on past choices and learn from them to better guide us in what actions we take in the future. Again, not so many people are happy to do this, choosing to blame external factors for things that went wrong rather than their own actions.
Therein lies the rub. It’s a common thing for people to do as they choose this day and age; however, they genuinely don’t feel they should have to suffer the negative consequences of their actions. Many will even go so far as to label themselves a victim of circumstance and shun the blame altogether. This is an example of entitlement, and entitlement is well and truly on the rise. Look up Narcissistic Personality Disorder and I’m sure you’ll recognise many of the traits in others and maybe yourself, unless you yourself are plagued with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, then you probably won’t…
At this point, free will and our right to as much of it as we like breaks down. It’s all too clear that people are generally incapable of using free will correctly because there’s always more take than give if such things aren’t regulated.
That’s where rules, laws, et al come in. There has to be some kind of comeuppance for those who abuse their right to free will and use it solely for personal gain or to cause suffering for others. Think about it logically and it becomes clear: often, the use of free will means to take away the free will of another by either stealing from them, harming them, or perhaps even killing them. Certain barriers have to be enforced to ensure everyone gets their fair share of freedom.
The problem is that this has snowballed to the point where a lot of freedoms have been stripped unnecessarily. There are certain things people are no longer allowed to do or even say with very little justification behind that being the case. It seems that if someone says, “Well, it’s the law,” then that’s all there is to it. No discussion to be had. I disagree wholeheartedly. We have a right to question anything that inhibits our free will and we also have a right to a clear answer as to why that measure is in place.
I suppose it’s difficult to draw the line when it comes to free will. Some are more prepared than others to, for want of a better descriptor, have the piss taken out of them, so will kneel to the say so of others more easily. Some are happy to push their luck and encroach on the free will of others for their own gains. If there was a clear line when it came to free will, with everyone knowing exactly where they stand, then there would perhaps be no need for the rules set by those who are ‘in charge’. Unfortunately, as things are, I suppose I’m grudgingly forced to admit that rules and restrictions are a necessary evil.
I still stand by my belief that there are too many rules though. That’s not even a political statement as such either. Life in general is littered with rules we have to follow. There’s always this idea that people do have a choice in everything. While that’s true, it comes down to what I said earlier about consequence. I could choose not to go to work next week and spend the time writing. Nothing is physically preventing me. However, if I do that, I run the risk of losing my job for going absent without leave. I then lose my stream of income and can’t afford to pay my bills or for the upkeep of my son. That one choice sets a chain reaction of adverse aftereffects. It puts me in mind of a quote I really like from The Matrix Reloaded:
“Choice is an illusion created between those with power… and those without.”
When it comes down to it, I don’t think we have much of a choice at all unless we have sufficient resources (usually financial) at our disposal to make them and not suffer heavy repercussions. If your position is tentative then your range of realistic choices is reduced dramatically. So, technically, we do all have the free will to do as we wish, it’s just that most of us are on such a knife-edge that we can’t in case we topple off it.
In conclusion, free will is a thing that exists that we don’t have much access to. We think and believe we do, but it’s likely we’re only telling ourselves that as not to fall into the depressing thought that humankind is hurtling towards a dystopic future.
And on that cheery note, I’m going to disappear for a while and work on my novel. I’ll see you all soon.