Monday, June 07, 2010

Freedom isn't free...

It's highly regulated. Posted this notion on my Facebook page and got into a cyber shouting match with a friend of mine. Some conditioning is very hard to overcome (for both of us).

To me, it seems patently obvious that we are not truly free in the U.S., despite claims to the contrary. I understand that power of conditioning, but this seems like a fairly mundane observation. We cannot do “as we please” in this country (or any other for that matter). Of course, we can do some things, but if freedom means the ability to engage in behavior without consequences or fear of consequences, then no one is free. The physical environment limits our freedom...I am “free” to walk through a wall, but I will be stopped as soon as my body makes contact with it. People don't seem to have a problem understanding this one.

What is more intriguing and apparently much harder to see, is how we are regulated by our social environment, too. Funny thing...many people claim to dislike the federal government and all of the regulations on our lives (I being one of them), but we gladly regulate each other (“Hey, cover your mouth when you sneeze!”). Prime example is our wearing of clothes. I don't know the history of clothing, but I suspect that it originally was borne out of body decoration and/or necessity for protection against the elements. Either way, today it is a requirement, not an option, when we are out in public. Today, it seems the reason we are required to wear clothes has nothing to do with either decoration, nor protection, but to cover up our “privates;” (after all, there are laws against going nude in public) again, absurd...who has never seen him or herself without clothes on? Are we unaware of what we look like nude? Similarly, I would suspect that at a fairly early age (especially if one has siblings) one sees a person of another gender nude. So, really, is there a need to cover our “privates” when a) we all have them and b) everyone has seen at least their own and in all likelihood, someone else's too? Sure, there are situations in which nudity is “legal” (truly an odd idea...our bodies being, “legal”), but we learn at an early age that we “...have to put on [your] clothes before leaving the house.”

Of course, the prime irony is that we have made the culture that we live in. We may have little control over who gets elected to write our laws (We don't get to “choose” our candidates, they are chosen for us and we get to vote for whomever is left after the weeding out process), but we sure do like to vote for regulatory legislation. To be sure, not all regulation is bad, and some of it makes sense in terms of protecting ourselves and each other; but to claim that we are free or that we are the “free-est” country on earth (whatever that means) is at best inaccurate and at worst a nice tool to get people to act against their own best interests.

1 comment:

K Roddy said...

Is this not the crux of sociology? We have social norms that guide our behaviors in positive as well as negative ways. Public indecency laws stem from social norms in America. This is not tyranny, but a byproduct of living in a society. If you're not happy with the social norm of wearing clothes, I'm sure there are nudist colonies or specific tribes of unclothed peoples who would be happy to take you in. Or if you'd like to live "free-er" still, there are also places of complete anarchy (Somalia, for one), you may prefer to live in, (though I have it on good authority that it's a real drag to live there). I'm not saying that social norms and behavioral laws are never problematic, but the test tube, theoretically-pure "freedom" you seem to espouse is really a formula for disaster.