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Is Freedom Overrated?
The Desire for Freedom is Universal
For some, the concept of freedom is meaningless, for they have never had any. It would be analogous to get someone who has never seen or used a computer to help you in working your way around a new application. From this platform of ignorance, nothing can be understood nor accomplished. To these unfortunate people, freedom is not overrated. To the slave, the idea of escape from a life of overwork and hell for someone else's freedom is an ideal that is reflected in desires and with a religious fervor.
One might ask a slave, even in contemporary times, if freedom is overrated. To fully understand freedom, you have to appreciate it in the context of necessity. There is no freedom without fulfilling necessity. Freedom only comes when necessity is fulfilled. In a class divided society, which most societies historically have been, the rulers gain maximum freedom by transferring the necessity onto the backs of the ruled. The ruled thus have their own necessity to fulfill as well as that of the rulers.
Necessity covers all that must be done in order to maintain life from cradle to grave. Whatever it takes to fulfill all needs is necessary for continuance and development of life. For people and all other life this includes things like breathing fresh air with suitable oxygen content, obtaining and drinking clean water or water based liquids, food of sufficient and nutritious quality and quantity, shelter sufficient against the changing extremes of weather, clothing for the cold and heat, a suitable mate for procreation and a means of learning to deal with everything needed to handle every possible circumstance. All of these are the material needs that must be fulfilled before we have freedom to pursue other venues.
The history of civilization has been about the creation and distribution of surplus value, upon which freedom became based. Without a surplus, there is no freedom as all time is consumed providing for basic needs. With a surplus, some or all people have time that can be now applied to any other area of interest. It is just this freedom that allowed for innovation that included ways to increase production and thus free up even more time away from necessity and generate more freedom. It is a self generating process. This would be fine if all shared equally in producing that which is necessary and any surplus over that. Even if one group produced more of one item and another produced a surplus of something else, these surpluses could be traded between them and still allow free time for both.
However, civilization as we know it did not follow this pattern. Instead it evolved where a few appropriated the surplus production of others and managed to achieve wealth and subsequently power thereby. In addition, the ones who obtained the surplus production, obtained with this, the maximum freedom for themselves, while the rest were tied to more or less absolute necessity without freedom. The producers in this scheme fulfilled not only their own necessity, but the necessity of the overlords too. This system has been extended to cover laws concerning the ownership and property rights of the extent of the means of production including title to all lands, raw resources like mines, trees and wildlife, agriculture and technological production. These rights and entitlements were either forcefully taken and forcefully maintained or bought from the original holders. Sometimes the sale was not mutually agreeable. Sometimes it was expropriated, which can be defined as a legalized theft. The difference is maintained by the existence of an armed state that manages the whole society keeping the order intact.
All aspects of society are covered in the process of the division of necessity and freedom. Education is molded to train those who rule and those who are ruled. Religion and ignorance are used to keep division intact via the means of terror of state designed and designated gods who were sometime self-appointed as such. Gods have powers and can work wonders because they have the freedom to pursue the art of making a convincing show. Alongside this are the enforcers of state mediated morality; the courts and the police. Any and all prejudices are fostered to keep the ruled warring among themselves and the powers left alone and safe to rule by their means.
Every now and then when life becomes too oppressive and intolerable, people rise up and seize freedom so long denied. The old order is toppled and a new one rises in its place. Where it goes after this depends on the alertness and vigilance of the people. In almost every circumstance, the cycle degenerated to the old ways of class division where a few had freedom and the rest had necessity as a result of a legally enforced split. The new order thus became indistinguishable from the old despite propaganda to the contrary.
There is likely no one that wants to live an entire life of drudgery, living only for necessity. Yet there are billions caught in this trap right now. All of them want freedom in a true sense and not merely an epistemological freedom. They want an actual freedom after fulfilling basic needs, the freedom to socialize outside of a factory floor or mine, the freedom to pursue cherished dreams. These are the ideas that freedom is sold on, i.e., the right for association with whoever one chooses, the pursuit of happiness however that may be defined for the individual, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, unreasonable search and seizure. In a world that has a lack or freedom for most, the concept is not overrated; certainly not by those who lack it. If anything, freedom is underrated.