I have always found defining freedom, not just the word, but its true meaning as a concept quite hard, almost undefinable. Mainly because throughout time and history, the very idea of freedom kept changing, mutating, and even at points divulging towards unsettling metamorphosis. Intriguing, isn't it? As we humans evolved, our sense of true liberation evolved too. Even if it seems undefinable, some may characterize it to be a choice. We either choose slavery and let our masters think for us instead, or rather, we choose to become the masters—different choices, which perfectly symbolizes the red pill blue pill philosophy.
But, for a person who is financially solvent, who doesn't have to fear the loss of lifestyle due to uncertain factors, being opinionated towards such superfluous concepts is easy. Because we are biased towards freedom being deterministically associated with the more luxurious, more abstract aspects of life as we don't have to constantly look for ways to fulfill the basic necessities to live. Because most of us are born into freedom. Whether that may be financial freedom, freedom to think, freedom to choose seafood over spaghetti for dinner. But, to someone who doesn't even get a chance to think about such intricate philosophical queries, what is freedom?
A few days ago, when I came back running some errands, I had to face a dubious situation. A family lives next door who has been tailors for three generations. As a kid, I have seen their parents work as tailors; as a grown-up, I see their kids do the same. I had almost crossed the porch of my house thinking of whether to cook up some ramen as an afternoon snack or wait for my mum to cook something up when suddenly I heard a scream and a blunt thud followed by a cry. Almost as if someone has been bean bagged onto the ground. As it was coming from their house, my initial response was to avoid it. But hearing a woman cry afterward, I had to react. In most cases of domestic violence, the perpetrator does it again and again because they are allowed to do so.
When I reached their front door, it was wide open. Through the doorway, I could see The Wife lying on the ground like a carpet, all messy, and the guy perambulating around her all feisty and angry. Not a pretty sight, which in turn made me react out of pure impulse. It began with a few cold verbal exchanges and evolved into fuming threats. And then something even more unexpected took place. The wife got up from the ground, and instead of taking my side, she took his! She told me whatever happened there was between them couples, and I was overreaching my boundaries. Oh, what the hell! I was nothing short of stunning hearing her response. It was as if the beating she got, which gave her a black eye, was justified.
At a later point, I had another encounter with the guy when he wholeheartedly apologized to me and cleared up the situation by telling me what had happened. Due to covid, his clothing orders got cut short, and he, along with his family, was going through a vicious financial torment. Which that day had resulted in a heated conversation with his wife, and she had slapped him. So he, in a fit of rage, had retaliated.
If you closely analyze the situation, you'd see that even though they live in a free society where freedom is preached practically at every turn, they are actually not truly free. They are not financially free to maintain a stable lifestyle. The socio-dynamic approach in this context is so complex that even though he is the sole proprietor of a family business of three generations, a single societal mishap can take away everything from them. And if I were to look around me, such people are everywhere. For example, my country has 11 million workers who work as manual laborers for around 45 cents an hour. If the covid situation goes on like this for any longer, a big chunk of them will be homeless, which will only result in socio-economic and political instability throughout the country. And I confidently can say that this is not unique to my country.
So in that context, what is the definition of freedom? And this is only one peephole with which we are looking at society. Bangladesh, the country I live in, is only 50 years old. Before that, back in 1971, 3 million people had to die in forgotten mass genocide, so when a millennial like me sit in front of a keyboard, he can type away basically anything to his heart contempt. This means that I and many like me did nothing to earn our freedom. So for those human beings who were not as lucky as me and were born into war-torn parts of Africa and likewise, to them, what could the definition of freedom be, I wonder.