Freedom

Freedom releases, ideology binds. Freedom, for all of the glowing qualities instilled upon it by the word liberty, is as much a force of destruction as it is of creation. Life, as personified in the Hindu concept of the Trimurti, assumes a different face at a different time, whether a Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver or Shiva the destroyer. The three in concert embody everlasting change.

Political ideology is a force of restraint and control, a force of transformation and direction of society. Like freedom, it, too, can destroy as much as it creates, for every road the country takes there is another that man is prevented from taking, every fragment of stone carved off the bas-relief of society is material that can no longer be repurposed. Ideology creates, fashions, shapes, but in doing so it also limits, restrains and suppresses. When man finds himself at the side of creation he feels the joy and energy of meaning and purpose. When he finds himself at the side of restraint, he feels the cold chains of the state preventing him from realizing his dreams.

Every revolution is an adjustment between the two forces, the will and desires of the individual and the tenets and rules of communal ideology, pushing against each other, much like the violent friction between the tectonic plates composing the surface of the Earth. The plates push against each other and the friction and pressure keeps building up – up until the point of release when the earth and rock finally crumble and the plates repositions themselves, announcing change with violent shockwaves of earthquakes to be felt miles away.

As man’s needs and desires change, they begin to push against the walls of ideology he lives in, and, like an ill fitted shoe, the constraints begin to be felt – a little at first, an irritation of tightness and restraint, but growing with time, to the point where man finds the situation around him unbearable, the chains around him so tight that he cannot move, the potential of his life made impossible to realize. At this point either the man or the ideology has to give, and when neither are prepared to move, a violent clash ensues.

Freedom is a force of release, it opens up the space for adjustment and evolution, but while the newly opened space allows for creation to take place, the creation of the space itself is an act of destruction, an act of breaking away rules, ideas and ideals that formed the previous mould. Liberal philosophy is a Shiva to the ideologue’s Brahma, destroying one path for the opportunity to pursue another. Freedom cannot be pursued as an end in itself. Breaking the order of the old ideals leaves you in the chaotic flux of possibilities, and unless you attempt to shape and direct this energy, you will remain in that free and turbulent water, being pushed every which way by the fickle waves of public whim.

Ideologies are like beacons on the dark and unexplored terrain of life. Every time a beacon is lit, the leader, the philosopher, the theologian believes it to be the final, the infinite, the absolute – being less like a fire on a mountaintop than a star in the sky, never to be reached but always there to reveal the right way. The direction is set for the tribe, the country, the empire to follow. But along the way we always reach an unassailable mountain range or an impassable ravine, and try as we might we cannot follow the direction we have up until this point kept to. When this happens, the old star is abandoned, and a new one is found – the beacon of the old ideology being replaced by the new – and the movement resumes. Sometimes the destruction of the old beacon is accompanied by a violent explosion, other times the old beacon slowly burns out on its own.

It is only when it is encased in and directed by the metal shell of the engine that the energy of burning fuel is put to productive use, acting as a force of propulsion for the vehicle it sits in. Unbound and let free, that fuel will consume itself. The problem with liberal philosophy is that after successfully identifying areas of strain, it aims to remove the pressure, to release the binds, but then, when that energy is finally released, it is left undirected, left to its own devices to slowly burn itself out. Freedom matters when it is freedom for something, when the shackles of outdated ideology are broken for the pursuit of the new, when a path that once looked promising but is now deemed hopeless is abandoned for one that seems favorable, one that shows signs of a future to strive for. Without direction, freedom is an agent of disintegration and atrophy; focused, freedom is an agent of change. Freedom is beautiful, but its beauty – just as it is with ideology – lies not in the breaking of the chain but of the opening of possibilities – it lies in creation, in what’s possible, in what can and will be achieved.

Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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