Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Freedom and the democratic society - II

I really have not had a chance to read more existentialist works lately. But I can readily recall a couple of conversations in the recent past where I spoke of or alluded to existentialist attitudes. Ofcourse, I claim no certificates at all for my understanding of existentialism. At best, one could say that I have a very rudimentary feel for existentialism. However, the notion of choice that is available to us in this Godless world is one of the more intriguing aspects of existentialism. It is also reflective of freedom in the sense that we are free to choose what defines our 'own' truth.

As I wrote in my last post on the subject, the rule of law, the code of ethics, schools and value systems can, in a way, be thought of as constraints that push us towards the accepted and general good or right. But let us just imagine for a moment that there is a choice available. And imagine, too, a society replete with people who choose their right - and ofcourse they can choose their wrong too! -. Now choosing personal rights, as a general rule, need not be in complete contradiction to social rights.

So the essential difference between a society that chooses its rights & a society that follows its rights is that for the former that gamut of rights is a personal choice. And this therefore means that the chosen rights, patterns, ethics etc are already internalized. They are strongly believed in & acted upon, beyond any rule of law or fear of punishment can ever guarantee.

Passion, therefore, demarcates & underlines our choices.

Do we want to nurture a society, therefore, that nourishes our passions & encourages making choices? Or do we still want to play safe in the domesticated rule of law?


Huckleberry Finn said...

Are you presupposing that all individuals are by nature mature, responsible, sensitive individuals - that they will not make immature, uninformed, dangerous choices that negatively affect the lives of other people too?

Though many people will make good choices, the risk of bad choices and the huge fallouts thereof, I think, are what makes societies hesitate at giving absolute right of choice. In community living, damages can have far-reaching consequences and could be impossible to rectify.

People, if left completely to themselves, can make stupid choices at 50 too - age does not always guarantee maturity. I am all for freedom - but somewhere I feel the discipline of rules does serve a purpose in community-living where many things we do affect others.

Will put down further thoughts on this in my blog - have been thinking of this a lot during my third reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance!
I think the "choice" that existentialism speaks of is also about how we choose to react to what life/society does to us. There is this line of Sartre that sums it up, but can't remember it now!

ManojG said...

Lets try to digress from the human society and think of the animal kingdom. What you would see if perfect harmony - animals are just bound innately by the rules of nature alone. Animals exercise absolute freedom and there is no demarcation of right or wrong as far as actions are concerned. Perfect, isnt it? Why? The rules of right or wrong are something that are enforced by what we call society, not nature. Nature is just about perfect.

Now, try mapping this to the human society..err..race.
There would be no society, no rules, no right or wrong doctrines and everything would be perfect. We would have nothing but freedom; we would be animals!

Now, coming to the point : I am insane!

Kamlesh Shankar said...

Hmmm..well, all I can say is that if it werent for rules, I'd be one nervous wreck thinking about which not-governed-by-rules-of-decorum neighbour of mine would try and pass on his genes by mating with my not-governed-by-rules-of-marriage mate....hahaha