FREEDOM! It is a noble and heady notion and rivers of blood have been shed in its cause. These days we think of it more as a political quest than a personal attribute. At the very heart of freedom is an unyielding demand for respect of each other that is not easily translated into everyday living, perhaps because it would eventually erode many of our notions of superiority, and even inferiority, and pavé the path to genuine equality.
At an instinctive level we would be forced to admit that while we might be “different” to each other in terms of race, gender, class and ideology, ultimately we are all human beings, valiantly striving along one another to find some semblance of purpose and happiness on this planet. And as the sages remind us, destined one day to return to dust and ashes.
But, whether we have evolved to this consciousness or not, the truth remains that our similarities are greater than the constructs, most of them artificial, which divide us. Scientists have verified the genetic inter-connectedness of all humankind and over time we have acknowledged and honoured environmental factors such as culture that further unite us.
Coming to a clear understanding and acceptance of one’s right to an unassailable place on this earth is the real beginning of personal freedom. It makes the fight for political and social freedoms worthwhile, if not easier. In explicit terms, the mere fact that we have incarnated in this time and space irrevocably says it is our universal entitlement to be here. This knowledge becomes intuitive and empowering when we realise that our path during this passage is sacrosanct and does not have to mimic the lifestyle of any other person, except maybe in exemplary cases. The power of choice confers on all of us, individuality and independence of thought.
However, it can be a Herculean task getting to this state of mind. Oftentimes our struggle for emotional and spiritual freedom is hindered by the need for validation from several sources outside of ourselves. From childhood many of us were bombarded with negative images about who and what we are that became a part of our mindset.
Instead of lauding our unique looks and abilities, more often than not, the people around us highlighted what they considered our shortcomings and reinforced destructive messages designed to limit us. A friend recalls, with a measure of pain, being labelled “duncy, picky-haired and ugly”.
In the same voice, a few parents sought to restrict their children to a safe zone urging them not to hang their hats higher too high, because anything that went beyond these adults’ prototype of the world reeked of suspicion and fear. Fortunately, hard-ears children with whom I am acquainted respectfully ignored the warning and aspired and achieved some of their heart’s desires.
In essence, finding oneself and, in the process, mental sovereignty, calls for a regeneration of self-love and self-worth. When self-respect takes its rightful place in the psyche, you will not allow yourself to be manipulated by anyone.We need to be friends of all and satellites of none.
The breakdown in family structures, loss of traditional values, social marginalisation, sexism and racism, and the exposure to violence in our daily lives, sends a profound message that we might be progressing at the physical level but regressing spiritually. In our workplaces, the system of “divide and rule” is prevalent with some of our overseers, aping the antics of the former slave masters, using fear, distrust and envy for controlling purposes. In our homes, the majority of men and women still castigate each other through negative words and actions, thwarting the growth of loving productive relationships.
So, the struggle for freedom continues at many level, but first it must negotiated in the mind.