Freedom is to be a Subject, not an Object ; Dr Shalini Yadav

Author : Dr Shalini Yadav

Writer, Editor & Professor 

Freedom is the state of being free where ‘free’ is originated from the German word ‘frei’ that means ‘to love’. It is a notion that is central to the human experience and to act as oneself. It is a word that evokes feelings of liberation, empowerment, independence, self-love, self-realization and self-determination. Many philosophers such as Jean Jacques Rouseau, Thomas Hobbes, and John Stuart Mill have spoken about freedom differently. In ‘The Social Contract’ Jean Jacques Rousseau said that it could be “achieved when individuals can let of amour propre (the love of oneself) and instead become possessed by amour de soi (the desire for self-preservation and self-mastery)”. 

In Isaiah Berlin words from ‘Four Essays on Liberty’, in context of positive freedom, any individual wishes to “be a subject, not an object.” People long to pursue freedom in all aspects of life - in their political, economic, social, and personal lives. It is hard to imagine a society that does not value freedom, or a person who does not long for it. One can sense the feeling of being liberated in many situations. It can be felt when a baby smiles being free from all earthly anxieties; a student runs towards the gate after school bell rings in the afternoon; and a student’s exams get over and he comes out of the examination hall after the last exam. 

The exuberance of a young girl and the feeling of being oneself in the momentum which is enjoyed to the fullest is seen when veteran actress Kajol sings the song ‘Zara Sa Jhoom Lu Main …Main Chali Banke Hawa’ in the movie ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’. Manisha Koirala Aaj serenades of freedom in the movie ‘Khamoshi’ when she sings ‘Aaj Main Upar Aasamaa Neeche…’

Achieving freedom often requires a dogged determination. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and many other leaders fought for freedom and justice and comprehended that freedom is only possible if people are willing to stand up for it and fight for it. Fight for freedom from colonial rule of Britishers, the way Indian had fought and struggled at the time of partition which is portrayed in various literary works of eminent authors such as Amrita Pritam and Khushwant Singh; in movies like ‘Border’, ‘Train to Pakistan’, ‘Gadar’, ‘Mangal Pandey’, ‘Lagaan’, and many more: and in songs sung full of patriotism in the reminiscences and to pay tribute to the martyrs deeply shake the souls and make us realize the importance of freedom that we enjoy now.

In the contemporary world, freedom is the keystone of many of our rights and privileges. We have the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom of association, and the freedom of the press - all vital elements for a serviceable egalitarian society. In the commercial territory, freedom is epitomized by the skill of individuals to chase monetary prospects and achieve success according to their desires, diligence and capabilities. 

However, freedom is not an absolute right, and it certainly does not mean that we can do anything we want without thinking of consequences. For instance, the freedom to express ourselves does not entail the freedom to harm others, nor does the freedom to wander freely authorize us to trespass on someone else's respective space. 

A balance must be struck between individual freedom and social responsibility remembering the lines of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem- “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high… Where the mind is led forward by thee/ Into ever-widening thought and action/ Into that heaven of freedom….”

Unfortunately today’s techno-savvy young generation represents freedom in terms of having their individual space imitating western culture, engrossing more in gadgets than in studies and family affairs, indulging in dark web, social media and drugs than fruitful activities and eating junk than picking up organic and healthy food stuff etc. Thus, there is a dire need of right orientation and understanding of the true meaning of freedom and it should be used to explore ‘self’ rather than spoiling life.

People's experiences of freedom are contextual, and they are often shaped by their particular socio-economic, cultural, and political context. For example, in some countries, women may not have the same level of freedom as men, or specific groups may be underprivileged due to discrimination or marginalization. 

In the Indian context if taken, Meghna Pant’s thought-provoking novel ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and Meena Kandasamy’s tear-jerking semi-autobiographical work ‘When I Hit You’ are perfect examples to express what freedom means for a woman and how she exerts to attain it beyond all kind of suppressions and sufferings.

Freedom in its real crux signifies the state of being able to express oneself without external restrictions or restraints. It comprises the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual provinces of a human being. In an interview with revered Bill Moyers in 1973 on freedom, Maya Angelou says- “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

In terms of body, freedom means having the ability to move freely without any physical disabilities or limitations imposed by the society or environment. If one has serious ailment such as knee pain issues or osteoarthritis and if not able to move or walk properly, freedom is at halt there. It also includes the freedom to choose one's clothing or grooming style without the fear of judgment or discrimination hence what you wear brings confidence inside and defines your persona.

When it comes to the soul, freedom refers to the state of being able to follow one's beliefs, values, and passions without any external pressure from the society or culture; to the state of being free from negative energies or feelings and to have a big heart for forgiveness and a feel of love for all. It includes the freedom to choose one's own spiritual path and to seek knowledge and enlightenment. 

In Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, saints and bodhisattvas talked about Nirvana and Moksha, which mean liberation from the cycle of birth, life and death and attainment of enlightenment.

True freedom also means having the ability to express oneself emotionally without the fear of ridicule or judgment. It encompasses the freedom to express love, happiness, sadness, anger, and other emotions without any fear of social or cultural backlash. 

In quintessence, true freedom permits a person to be true self and to live a life that is accomplishing and realistic, without any peripheral boundaries or barricades and can be inferred by individuals differently. It necessitates the capacity of individuals to make their own choices and have authority over their lives, but it is also counterbalanced by the accountability and sensibility to respect the freedom of others. Freedom demands incessant attentiveness and struggle, and it is up to each individual to grasp it and confirm its existence in their own lives. It is said that by establishing a dialogue with Swatva, we achieve Swantantrata that enables us to attain Swarajya.