Monday, November 8, 2010

Find the Cost of Freedom

"Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity." -Hannah Arendt, political theorist.

We've all heard the old-age adage "Freedom comes at a cost," a tired phrase that implies an individual's agency is dependent on her/his collateral paid to the powers that be.  What are these freedoms we're running after? What costs are we sacrificing in Freedom's name?  I started writing this post with the usual moral ambition seen strewn through the last three posts. But then a horrid copy/paste error reconfigured where I was originally intending on going.  So I tried again, but with a twist.
Rather than taking this perspective on freedom down the righteous path of how we should ban together to help grant less-privileged groups their freedoms, I couldn't help but take this chance to lay out my rambling, airy, foolish train of thought for all the world to read.  I want to put the motive of this blog on hold to examine on a more personal level what it means to be free, to have freedom.  I've reached a point within myself where I realize that Freedom and Desire are two separate entities.  You can desire to be free. But you're not always free to obtain your desires.

Take higher education, for instance.  With knowledge breeds power; and with power, there's freedom, or so the story goes.  So you go to school to learn how to live, and how to have relationships with fellow learners, and how NASDAQ is manipulating your stock, and when you get out, you realize that all your time spent dedicated to achieving freedom through power has crippled not just the old bank account, but the old skills and relationships you once called upon as a refuge from harrowing studying sessions.  As if your diploma has leverage over the rest of your life.  But then again, that piece of paper grants you access, theoretically, anywhere your desires want to take you.  Grants you your "Freedom."

Admittedly, my own desires directed me to where I stand today.  But among all that I stand with, I keep the knowledge of what I no longer have with me. Are these lost connections to my self the Cost I've paid to get me thus far?  I ask this of myself, of you gorgeous virtual audience, not as rhetoric *...ahem, look below, ahem...* but as a pre-transitional transnational academic who is sincerely curious.  How can we gauge if the ends will justify the means?  

Once you decide to follow a desire with utmost conviction, there is bound to be an element of your life that is virtually impossible to incorporate as you continue.  Or you could venture away from your goals to pursue a present wayof living, and with direction and finesse could feasibly make yourself a cozy life out of what you already have.  But then you run the ultimate risk of never being able to pick up where you left off.

I don't pretend to know what I'm getting at here. But my last question to leave you with is this: If you sacrifice costs for one freedom, is it possible to still have enough to salvage for another?  


  1. I think the goal of reflective, ambitious, genuine persons is to pursue what fascinates them, drives them, inspires them. They do that within or against the push of their society and their moral constitution. The person who results from these different forces varies according to just the question you ask, how much we are willing to sacrifice the advantages of following whole hardily one of those forces in lieu of the others. We can only emphasize the genuine part of our being to guide us to right balance of all those forces. We may be right, we may wrong. But as Gil-Scott Heron says, "You can always turn around."

  2. Maybe, Gil-Scott Heron, but Thomas Wolfe would argue that "You Can't go Home Again." Maybe you can start over, but starting over doesn't imply you'll be back at square one. Squre one might not be there anymore by the time you return.
    The worth of our freedoms are defined by the confines from which they escaped. When those confines no longer exist, then wouldn't "freedom" then become "aimless wandering?"