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Freedom, what is freedom?


The term ‘Freedom’ has been given varied descriptions and definitions. Some of these include: conditions of being unrestricted and uncontrolled, state of not being imprisoned or enslaved, right to do whatever one wishes to do. Here, we may notice that the concept of freedom embraces absolute liberty, and sometimes, this absolute liberty is practised even to the point of non-conformity and rebellion against expected human behaviour. If what is meant by freedom is the absolute liberty for everyone to be unrestricted and uncontrolled in his or her actions, there is bound to be chaos and confusion in all areas of human activities. Thus, one may say that the notion of freedom is a concept that is prone to misunderstanding and abuse.

If one accepts that the functions of law are conceived in terms of regulating and controlling human behaviours and activities, then one may tend to ask questions such as “What do law and freedom have in common?” One may think it paradoxical to find freedom in law. But is it? Does freedom not stem from observing the law? And is this observance not important in both mundane and spiritual matters?

To appreciate the meaning of freedom as intended by law, one should not look at the individual from his unrestrained state; rather he should be perceived as a human being in a complex inter-related world, confronted with everyday challenges as well as different options (good and bad) to tackle these challenges. For example, a man who has worked really hard but has not been paid for months faces challenges such as hunger and poverty. Without the law, he may decide to engage in some type of vice or the other in order to provide for himself and his family. Hence, law begets order.

Thus, the first sentence of Jean Jacques Rousseau‘s ‘The Social Contract’, reads as follows: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” If every road user has the freedom to drive in whatever manner he wishes, then there certainly would be road accidents and misfortune far and wide, near and far. Nonetheless, there would be no basis for justification as to who was wrong or who was right. If people were allowed to act according to their whims and caprices anyhow they wished without any measure of control, then there would be a continuous increase in accidents and mishaps and a great lack of security amongst the world populace.

For this reason, the concept of freedom should be perceived as that which is permitted or allowed by law. Freedom is established when the people of a society behave and act as provided for by law in which context, the human being is, therefore, free and unrestricted in the choice of these freedoms. And it is indeed freedom if the law allows their choices. Therefore, when it said that an individual has his fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech; it does not give the individual the right to bear false witness against his neighbour or to have an abusive attitude. Hence, one should not make statements that can be categorised as slanderous or defamatory. Also, the human right of freedom of association does not permit the individual to join an armed robbery gang. The Law prohibits this.

This is also true of the concept of freedom in Spiritual matters. Interestingly, unlike our earthly laws, the laws of God, known also as the laws of Nature are so simple and uncomplicated that this very simplicity and clarity often make men neglect to observe and obey them. As an example, consider the law of sowing and reaping which brings back to man, multiplied, the final effects of his works. Has any man stopped to contemplate the immense freedom this law affords him, such freedom that enables him earn whatever he wants from the store house of creation. He can plant by thinking and saying whatever he wants and willy-nilly, he will have the fruits of same returned to him multiplied. It is like telling man “Do a little work and reap an abundant harvest”. But man misapplies the freedom he is meant to enjoy by making wrong decisions and thereby sowing evil seeds that bring unpleasant harvests in their wake; for as one calls it into the woods so shall it re-echo. Thus, rather than the intended freedom, man shackles himself instead. Hence the validity of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s profound words: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

So it is with the other two natural laws. In many cultures, proverbs, idioms, etc. show that men have the knowledge of the freedom innate in the natural laws. When it is said for instance that “A spindle legged person wearing anklets is calling for the comments of the minstrel” or “The snake cannot but beget long offspring” are they not referring to the law of attraction and its ability to arrange matters on the basis of quality? When matters and even people are so arranged, freedom and flexibility are afforded man by the mere convenience of moving from the known to the unknown.

We often speak of “wearing a heavy countenance” and of “being bogged down by problems and worries.” Both these expressions touch on the natural law of gravity. Interestingly, what man captures by these expressions are only the after effects of actions previously carried out which, judging by these expressions, were in discord with the laws. Actions in accordance with the laws bring about happiness and freedom.

Thus, while we are free to choose, we are not free from the consequences of our choices. Consequences are determined by and inevitably bound to the choices that we make. Furthermore, as the higher knowledge spreading on earth today points out, “Only the man who lives in the Laws of God is free! Thus and not otherwise does he stand unoppressed and unconstrained in this Creation. Everything then serves him instead of obstructing his path. It “serves” him because he uses it in the right way.”

All others are bound by threads of wrongdoing and, therefore, are not free. Conformity to these laws benefits every human being and re-establishes the Ideal Freedom we all long for and which the Creator intended for His Creation.

• Nworgu wrote to shed light on the meaning of freedom. He lives in Abuja.

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