What is Freedom?
Can we truly be free?
Is Freedom even desirable?
We must ask these questions before we can contemplate Authenticity, Authentic-Being. Why must we ask these questions first? Authenticity must necessitate freedom; how can I be my-Self without first having the ability – the Freedom – to become my-Self?
But, do we need to go further than the three posited questions? At this moment, no. We must build a foundation before exploring further. We shall here move from these questions regarding freedom to questions of Authenticity:
Can we become Authentic, is it correct to say that we find our-Self in Others?
Does the influence of the modern ‘They’ (classical media, mainstream media, all those with the power to shift the herd in various directions) prevent the ability to find the Authentic-Being?
Is Authenticity desirable?
In both groups of questions, I have put proposed whether these conditions (Freedom and Authenticity) are actually desirable. Some may regard the mere questioning of desirability preposterous, how dare someone questions these two ideas: “do you dare threaten my Freedom? Do you wish to question my autonomy? Are you questioning my ‘right’ to be Free?” To which I will reply, yes. We must question everything, in this day and age the need to play ‘devil’s advocate’ is extremely necessary. We have stagnated, curiosity and objectivity are considered a threat to society and ‘progress’. We need now more than ever for people who will break the mould and take a hammer to the status quo, openly and brazenly asking questions that agitate the masses.
In our current era the questioning of Freedom is vital, people have come to view Freedom as a complete absolute without any attachments, without responsibility to anyone else. In the case of Western society, a region which claims to be democratic, Freedom seems to have been an ideal once strived for but has never truly existed – always a theory, never a practice.
For people like myself, observing the Left and Right from a parallax view, it is perceivable that both are accusing each other of restraints on Freedom, but only one side is actually carrying out these restrictions. The journalist Tim Pool (someone who is most-definitely Left-wing) is one of the most outspoken individuals on the topic of censorship and the silencing of dissenting voices.
The question of political Freedom, the ability to hold a view and express it openly, the ability to put forward an idea with the intention to debate it – these Freedoms are no longer acceptable. Thus we must challenge the notion of Freedom and ask whether it has ever truly existed in the West at all.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The pre-requisite for political Freedom is individual Freedom. In discussing Freedom philosophically, we could be referring to any number of theories, so to keep this essay interesting an accessible we shall avoid diving from theory to theory, thus boring the reader half to death, we shall try to paint our own path while borrowing as little as possible.
It is customary in the dying academic scene to load every essay and book with millions of references, to write as dreary as possible, to make your writing as unpalatable to the public as possible as to prevent them from bothering to try and understand exactly how you are directing the general public – you do not want to startle the deer you are hunting, you must mask your scent and tracks. I find this despicable, philosophy should be presented to the public, the intention should be to make their lives better, to provide new ways of looking at our existence, and so I endeavour to make my work as accessible as possible. Certain academic endeavours do require dry, verbose arguments with a hundred pages of notes and terminology which requires decoding – that is a given. But overall, it should not be the norm.
It is necessary to ask these questions before we arise at the other aspect of this essay, Authenticity, can you ever truly be who you are or do external factors determine your Being? Can we truly be ourselves in a society dominated by constant interconnectivity? We are lambasted day and night by the Spectacle, ever consumed by consumerism, we have various ways of life promoted to us to choose from, how do we know who we are when we are forever implicitly – or explicitly – told who we are?
What do we mean by Authentic-Being? This is most likely self-explanatory. To be Authentic means to be myself, to be who I am without masking any aspect of who I am. And by Being we clearly mean a human-being, you and I. However, we must go a little further in our explanation here. In the Existentialist tradition, a Being can refer to two things (which I will give simplified explanations of here).
The in-itself refers to an object without the ability to act independently: a chair, a table, objects without consciousness and the ability to ‘act upon the world’.
The for-itself is a Being with consciousness who can ‘act upon the world’ with intention, in short – you and I, human beings. For Heidegger (who we should note that – along with Albert Camus – rejected the label Existentialist) the for-itself is Dasein.
These things are important for our discussion on Freedom and Authenticity, as the Existentialist tradition, influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger was the most recent and thoroughgoing school of philosophy that questioned these two aspects of human existence from the standpoint of reality, not just from the political/social view that we will get to later on.
We cannot contemplate the political/social ‘right’ to Freedom without first asking about our actual ability to be Free. For the Existentialist, Freedom is an inherent quality. It seems quite simple, I can enact any action that I do desire, whether it be for Good or Evil – these two distinctions were brought into question by Nietzsche as well, but questions such as this are for another essay. What matters most is my ability to actually carry out an action: what dictates the action, drives it, what is the actual cause of the action for which I enact? Is the answer as simple as this though? Is an action which you carry out truly made from Freedom if external forces shape it?
I do not believe it is quite as simple as this. If a man or woman picks up a hammer and goes for a walk down the street attacking people at random are they truly acting out of Freedom? Or is this a consequence of something else shaping the mentality of such an individual? In our current world we are bombarded endlessly with media-productions, we are fed stories which stir everyone with anxiety to the point where alcoholism and drug addiction become ever increasing ways to numb internal agony. We are not referring here solely to illegal drugs purchased off the street, but pharmaceuticals as well. The more time we spend on social media, watching the television, looking at news stories of atrocities happening around the world that do not in any way, shape or form impact our lives directly (unless our government happens to get involved after receiving orders from multinationals) we become not just overwhelmed emotionally, riddled with psychological strain, but also subsequently shaped and directed into committing certain actions.
This is by no means hyperbole, nor is it Marxist ramblings (though the most commonly referred to writer on this media-manipulation of society was best discussed by the Marxist, Guy Debord, an intellectual who is appreciated by the far-Left to far-Right and everything in-between in his text The Society of the Spectacle). We must ask the question here: are our actions Free or are they reactions to our existence?
Some may respond to this by comparing it the “what came first, the chicken or the egg?”
“If all our actions are reactions then would not the first action itself be an action made of ‘Free Will’?”
No, all actions throughout human evolution have been actions to the environment around us. The creation of a tool is itself the creation of an object needed for a specific use, a reaction to a need. Just as the making music is a reaction to a human desire for pleasure.
But is not desire itself part of individual Freedom?
No, just as babies react to the sound of peaceful music, so do adults. Tastes change over our life but the individuals who move towards certain types of music they are not alone in what they enjoy, they follow a band of which other people follow. Their tastes develop as a reaction to society.
Cultures develop independently through groups reacting to the environment and people around them, people congregate around other people with similar drives, they move towards what appeals them. This is not done of Freedom, it is the making of a choice from a selection of options. Freedom necessitates no external influences, it would require an infinite amount of options. The making of a choice between options is not a ‘Free’ choice.
Some may argue here that they have the ‘Freedom’ to not pick an option and create something new, this is again a reaction to existing external circumstances – a reaction that will be met with consequences. People may decide to act in-authentically and project a fictional version of themselves differentiated from everyone else around them, this is again not an act of Freedom, it is an emotional response, a demand for attention.
If we contemplate here all those who have sought to ‘rebel’, to try and emit the projection of a ‘Free’ and rebellious character, completely different from the society around them, we always find someone who lives a life of turmoil, many dying young, most of which are consumed by drugs, a lot of them die at their own hands. What creates this instability that leads to self-destruction?
(Continued in Part 2)