What is freedom? Freedom to do evil is, of course, unethical. While humanity has a conscience, individual or collective, and a capability of making value judgements, either quantitatively or qualitatively, absolute freedom does not exist. An ability and permission to choose is not freedom, because otherwise freedom might accept the right to choose to do evil. While anything is considered wrong, while anything is judged as being bad – freedom does not exist. It is time to stop kidding ourselves that there are free societies and un-free societies. What we have are cultures that allow and tolerate certain things that others do not allow or tolerate. What exists are different values, but values are not freedom. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, but that is not freedom. Even freedom of speech is regulated by the negativity toward telling lies, or even telling defamatory truths. Freedom has its consequences and those consequences are regulated, mitigating freedom, putting limits to it, or drawing a line of acceptability through it. And how can we have less freedom or more freedom? In the pure sense freedom shouldn’t accept such conditions. We either have freedom or we don’t have it.
But, as we are well aware that abolishing the term’s common usage will be impossible, let’s see if we can make “freedom” and its usage a little more meaningful at least. In most cases it seems that “freedom”, as we use the term, is concerned more with necessity than with freedom. The freedom to protest becomes important when there is a need to protest, and legislation in a free state would take that into account, but conflict arises in the interpretation of what is important enough to warrant the staging of a legal protest. A freedom to take drugs is important when there is a need – a need to escape from an otherwise insipid and unbearable life –, but drug taking is regulated and prohibited because there can be an indulgence in drugs when there is no real need, or an indulgence simply because one is addicted. Taking drugs without any need to take them is pointless… Ok, but the conflict comes when an individual feels that he or she has a necessity to relax or escape that the society does not or cannot accept. In a labour-oriented society in which coping with the stress of life is considered one’s duty, for example, relaxation and escape may be considered luxuries that must not be abused.
In any case, freedom has to be grounded in necessity. Necessity must regulate freedom in order for freedom to be meaningful. Because of this the problem of freedom is a deontological one. It becomes an issue only when our needs are denied us, because someone has decided that my needs are not necessary. To do or not to do? The answer resides in necessity, and it is in moments when needs are very clear that we feel most liberated. When necessity is unclear, even getting out of bed can be a chore. Psychologically, the worst thing about being unemployed in Western culture may not be the lack of necessary income, if one is getting benefits, but the lack of necessity. If necessity is freedom then futility is oppression. The burden of the depressive is the snowballing futility of life, and for many of them in the system, their lives are ultimately empty. For the majority of us, capitalist expansion is not reason enough, and that makes us all potential depressives.
Sartre says that he found his freedom in the permanent possibility of abandoning his book. Sartre’s question was: keep writing or not keep writing? But Sartre was mistaken to see the freedom in the mere question. The freedom is really in the decision, otherwise freedom loses all of its positive connotations. Freedom has to be positive and ennobling., otherwise why have such a concept. If Sartre did not have a choice of writing or not; if he had been obliged to write, he would probably first of all lose his need to write and through loss of necessity lose his capability, and through loss of capability lose his freedom. If, on the other hand, a writer was locked away and ordered to come up with a book… if that writer was a real writer who had a real, vocational need to write, then the obligation would be carried out happily. The depressing reality of being locked up and robbed of his or her need to breathe fresh air and exercise his or her limbs and senses, would be oppressive, but not necessarily unbearable. A real writer has his or her liberty taken away from them if he or she is denied the option and capability of writing, or is denied the possibility of writing about what he or she needs to write about – through censorship or market-place apartheid, for example. Paradoxically, a writer who needs to write about injustice and oppression would be stifled by a society in which injustice and oppression were hardly tangible, or apparent problems. This ideal situation would create a disorientation in the freedom-fighting writer, and he or she would be forced to find other necessities to inspire them in order to allow him or her to breathe the air of freedom again.
The nihilistic, liberal, or existential worlds are absurd, for they are worlds that mitigate and undermine the power of necessity. Lack of need is a perfect condition for the Wall Street Whale system. The system oppresses us by downplaying necessity or twisting it by creating false or superficial necessities. Necessity is not relative anymore. There are things now that really need to be tackled, things that really need to be done, changes that really need to be made… but the system prefers to push its head deeper into the sand.