Sunday, July 09, 2006

What I think of freedom.

Looks like I too (along with the million others!) have fallen into this Blogosphere.

(This being my first blog I am not sure how good it might turn out)

The very fact that the blogs gives us the freedom to express ourselves and share our thoughts with e-world, let me start by writing on my views on freedom! I am sure many might not agree to my views wholly, but I would really appreciate constructive criticisms.

Recently I heard a beautiful song from 1966 movie Born free:

Born free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart

Live free and beauty surrounds you
The world still astounds you
Each time you look at a star

Stay free, where no walls divide you
You're free as the roaring tide
So there's no need to hide

Born free, and life is worth living
But only worth living
'cause you're born free

- Andy Williams

To me this summarizes the very purpose of life. I believe Freedom is the main factor for a human to grow into a unique individual. Degree of freedom to an individual also reflects in some sense the degree of happiness. By freedom I am not talking absolute freedom to do anything. Freedom should come with responsibility to see to it that it does not harm others in any way. To me this topic is interesting since I have lived in two different countries: India and USA, with each country offering different degree of freedom to individuals. Also you can see the distinct attitude difference between an average Indian and an American.

Any society which tries to curb the basic freedom of speech, expression, culture etc poses a potential threat to growth of an individual and in turn creating an unrest and disharmony in itself. In India, freedom is restricted right from childhood in almost all socio economic classes. In the school, child has to strictly follow whatever the elders say (parents and teachers). Getting better grades than his/her classmates becomes a top priority. There is no freedom for the child to explore the world on its own. This inherently narrows the growth of the child. Participation in theatre, art or music is considered unnecessary and often takes a back seat in favor of board exams. Child is left with no choice than to become prey to the ambitions of their parents, to choose a career of their wish. Most of the Indians choose their career by force and competition than by choice and love. I regret that during the childhood I didn’t have freedom to choose what I liked to do. Now it is hard to revert it back. I am sure there are millions of people in India whose dreams were shattered due to lack of freedom and opportunities. At some point either they regret their life or blame situations. Inspite of we getting Political freedom and living in a democratic world I still wonder why society tries to restrict freedom? Conservative attitude is still rampant in Indian society.

Couple of months back, great writer Salman Rushdie gave a talk at Penn State on importance of freedom of expression in society. He held the audience astounded with his in depth understanding and clarity of thought. His book Satnanic Verses was banned in India as some of its content appeared to be offensive to Muslim Community. Much more conservative countries like Iran have announced a Fatwa of $3mn on him! In a reply to them, Rushdie said- If you don’t like the contents of book, close it, it then looses the ability to offend you! (Ironically most of those protesting against the book, had hardly read it!). His message at the end was-“Let’s make the world bit more open”.

Recently Indian government tried to ban ‘blogs’ after Bombay bomb blast, citing that it might create turmoil in society. Censoring books, articles and blog’s is a sign of autocracy. How can democracy be successful if people are not free to express themselves?

Let’s come to the issue of social freedom. In Indian society social freedom is severely restricted. Familial and social obligations forces people to choose not on the basis of what they feel is right but by what others think is right and what is accepted widely by the community. Here Women suffer the most. Consider this, girls are not allowed to come home late (guys are hardly questioned). Parents of girls look suspiciously watch daughter’s movements. Well with respect to guys they are quite liberal. Even economic liberty for women is severely limited in many house holds. Not to talk about their sufferings in villages. Most of them are not even sent to schools. In cities many parents from middle and upper middle class families still feel that higher education is not needed for women. There is also an attitude that men should be more educated than their life partners.

Let’s come to ‘forbidden topic’ of Sex. In India talking about Sex in public is a taboo. In this way freedom of speech is limited. Every one is afraid of talking about it openly. Conservative mentality, societal compulsion, shyness and ignorance seem to be the main reason for it (Ironically most of the Bollywood movies directly or indirectly portray the sexual attitude of society often linked to the higher class society). But this in no way means that Indians are not interested in sexual topics or do not indulge is sex outside nuptial bond. India currently stands #2 in the number of HIV infected patients. Teachers are reluctant to teach sex education to kids. Parents ? No No.. how can they talk about such issues with kids??!! Well this is the attitude people carry. This breeds ignorance and misconception among young minds. Sexual curiosity leads them to Pornography and later some turn to prostitutes. The more society tries to curb, the more it comes out. How then do we expect people to develop a healthy attitude towards these issues?

Lack of social freedom shows its dirty face when it comes to the issue of marriage. barriers of Caste, religion and family come out in all wildernesses. In most of the conservative families, sons/daughters loose their right to decide their life partners. Some, who boldly venture against such evils often, have to meet stiff resistance. Parents assume that they know very well their son/daughter interest is in marrying to whomever they like. At the end most of the marriages just ends in compromise between the girl(/boy) and parents. In my most such ‘happy marriages’ are forced upon. Continuing on the same line, what is the state of most women after such marriages? Most of them become partial servants to their husbands (in the name of loyalty to their husbands). Most women

loose their freedom to take decisions on their own. Women have to compromise their career options. This is not only the case in middle class but also in many high profile societies.

Well so far I talked about the freedom and society. I do plan to write an article on how freedom is also intrinsically linked to the development of a Nation. This would be based on the book Development as freedom-Amartya Sen.


Jason H. said...

I too just started a blog and I must say it is quite liberating. I look forward to reading yours from time to time. Thus far I must say I really enjoy your point of view.

the-problem-is-choice said...

Hey Shivu,
Extreme freedom isn't good either, else everybody would end up like this... and where to draw the line is a debatable issue, and the current line IS democratic. Everybody already knows what they need to know, and the gov't needn't spend tax payer's money on teaching kids about birds and bees. What's more such an education would cross the line of decency our conservative society has drawn, can't let that happen!

Musings.. said...

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high!!!

Shiv said...

musings: you rightly quoted Tagore's words.. Sadly Indian's have still not achieved social liberty.