Friday, 14 October 2011

The Enlightenment Project

My head is still swimming with one of my reader's comments on my previous post. According to this reader (who knows me personally), the author is free because she is not bound by the responsibilities of a marital relationship. I would like to prod my gentle reader to widen her perspective.  This author could also have chosen to settle down with a man or woman (depending on sexual preferences) but she did not. I stand by my thesis which I put forth in my previous post that I am free because I choose to be.

This post is an attempt to further examine the subject of liberty. It is not simply enough to be free in your psychological and physical space. Freedom is important but what is more important is what you choose to do with it. Do you simply kick back on your couch and spend the evenings drowned in a haze of smoke, alcohol or whatever your favourite poison might be? Intellectuals and creative artists across the world strive for the right to speak, write, and paint their ideas. Without these liberal thinkers where would human species be today? For, ladies and gentlemen, however much you may want to believe in religion it is not religion that has contributed to progress and advancement in human civilization. In fact, every liberal thinker and artist had to face the ire of the Catholic Church, Islam, etc. The list is endless but let me refresh your memory with a few that come to my mind: Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Socrates, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Taslima Nasreen, M.F. Husain..... One can go on and on forever.

We cannot all become celebrated and influential liberal thinkers who are able to change the course of mankind but we can strive to build a free creative space for ourselves. And then, my gentle readers, live, breathe, create, write, and think freely in this creative space. Also, recognize the right of other people to hold distinct and varied viewpoints. Above all, resist. Resist any attempts from authoritarian institutions like religion, state, society, and family to encroach upon this sacred space. This is my interpretation of enlightenment. May it always be a source of light to you in the darkest of your hours.

I'll leave you today with two of my favourite thoughts:

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
-Mark Twain

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.

Yours Truly

Friday, 23 September 2011

On Liberty

This is by no means an attempt to scrutinise or critique John Stuart Mill's celebrated essay. So now that I have defined what this is not about, maybe I need to tell my readers what this is about. You see this part is much more complicated.

What is liberty? Is it having the right to vote once every five years to elect a democratic government? Is it being able to get married or have a relationship without having to worry about the society's approval? Is it being able to practice your religion without fear of being judged or being able to critically analyse religion without fear of being persecuted? I don't know. I believe freedom is always defined by the individual. For a 6 year old rag picker on the streets of Mumbai, freedom is being able to go to school and having time to play. For a woman trapped in an abusive marriage, freedom is divorce and financial independence. For the thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square, Egypt, freedom was the right to demonstrate and protest.

Throughout history people have struggled, rebelled, died, killed, conquered, and escaped to be free. Why is it so important for human beings to feel free? How is it that this seemingly noble concept inspires so much bloodshed and slaughter? I do not claim to have the answers but I am glad that I can raise questions. To me, this is freedom. To be able to question everything and more importantly, to be able to choose. I am free because I can choose to read till midnight or to go to sleep at 10pm. I am free because I can choose to study or to find work. I am free because I can choose to say that I am an atheist without the fear of execution. 

I am free because I choose to be.

Yours Truly