Sunday, April 09, 2006

Freedom, choices, culture and morality...

No matter how much George Bush touts the values of democracy and the need to spread it throughout the world, be it Iran, Iraq or Polynesia I won’t vouch for him. This is because I have a choice to disagree with him. I have a choice to evaluate him, respect or reject his opinions on the “War of terror” or ridicule him on the colour of his cat. This is exactly because of the word he chooses to profess throughout the globe. Freedom.

India is a democracy and democracy is the best thing that can happen in contemporary times. It is because democracy gives us freedom to exercise our opinions. It is as if the whole body has been divided into subatomic particles and power has been vested with these particles. Democracy gives us the choice to think about democracy itself. If society needs to move forward democracy is an essentiality. No doubt. But for me, an individual how much does this virtuous word matter? Why is it significant to me? The answer is freedom. I am not bound by the rules and regulations of society that does not give me enough rights to exercise my freedom. At the same time I have not chosen to be a hippie.

What relates democracy to choices?
An aspect of democracy is that the number of choices varies from more than one to infinity. Of course freedom should be profound so as to exercise those choices. In a dictatorship there is only one choice but the nature of that choice might vary from regime to regime. The choices might be bad for the person which implies that either the leader is too cruel to latch onto power or he is living in a utopian world ...Nepal is such an example. Contrast this to China. It too is a dictatorship. But the Government there is relentlessly working towards making it developed. I don't know if it is for its (read: the Communist party) own benefit or for the benefit of people. But whatever it is doing is elevating the profile of China to a superpower.

When we use the word freedom we obviously associate responsibilities with it. So, there is a caveat. Presently freedom is a misused or much maligned word. One man’s freedom can become another man’s bane, the use of loudspeakers for example. So, when anyone objects to the use of loudspeakers at 3'o clock in the night someone else might just yell at him and utter "Freedom". In recent times the world has been gripped in a controversy that questions the very essence of unlimited freedom or using freedom with responsibility. Like the Danish cartoon controversy. Europe on the one hand justifies the use of violating a religion and people’s beliefs in the name of freedom and the opponents cry for restraint. For me, an individual, that controversy is more of a cultural issue than a religious one.
People have different beliefs and views and I choose to go with this view. It is a matter of choice. The choice of whether we commit anything as blasphemy or satire, the choice of whether we are expressing opinions or hurting the sentiments of the masses of a certain community, the choice of how we interpret freedom and imbibe the values that comes with us while maintaining dignity.

Here I must mention the issue of conflicts and debates. When choices, opinions on an issue vary there is a debate. The choices with solid logical foundations and/or quantitatively better end up as universally acceptable.

What really matters to me as an individual is the plethora of choices that exists today – be it foods, clothes, houses, opinions or entertainments.

I will now touch upon the negative aspect of this “choice” mentality.
The subject of freedom and its misuse (or overuse as you see it) assumes a colourful dimension in the world of entertainment. The best example is music in general or music videos in particular. Music is entirely borne out of human imagination and human imagination knows no boundaries. But for an individual like me remixed videos are a bane because they pick up on other people’s compositions. Similarly for me, an individual, showing vulgarity is obnoxious too (Please note that the very notion of vulgarity varies from person to person) We as a society have been swamped with so many options and choices that it is increasingly becoming difficult to judge morality and profanity, the line between good and bad has become fine and increasingly becoming blur. We are unable to decide what is wrong and what is not. If for me, wearing something in a particular way is not vulgar, then, at the same time is wearing anything at all unjustified?

We, as a nation, can only move forward and as we move forward we are going to have more and more choices. We are going to be further swamped by external influences (choices from globalization) and what some Bengali politicians might say “Apasanksriti”. In that case should we shut our eyes and ears to those choices? Should we decide to follow a Taliban lifestyle and take a retrograde step? For me, an individual, the answer would be no.