09 July 2012

The Responsibility of Freedom

I tend to lean toward Existentialism in my philosophy of life.  So, when I came across this site: Freedom, Responsibility, and Agency, earlier, I had to let others know about this.  This is not the first time I have felt compelled to remind myself and others of the responsibility that comes with freedom.  As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog post about it, which can be read here. 

It was nice to find others that think the way I do in regards to this.  When I read the opening paragraph, I immediately felt as if someone had reached into my mind and pulled the thoughts out and put them into words:
Freedom, from an existential perspective, cannot be separated from responsibility. With freedom comes responsibility. Yet, it is common for many people to seek freedom while trying to avoid responsibility. While, at times, it appears that people may be able to succeed at this, there remains a psychological consequence. This consequence is often not very noticeable, but may find expression through guilt, anxiety, depression, or even anger.
The website makes a distinction between existential freedom and political freedom, such as the freedom of speech.  However, I think they are closely connected, though many people think of American political freedoms as god-given rights which should not be subject to responsibility in any way.  In my post I discussed comments (which I see as a form and example of the freedom of expression, but also as a violation of this existential idea of responsibility), but, of course, responsibility goes beyond that.  However, from reading comments, one can often get a good idea of the way in which people are shirking their responsibility, while exercising their freedom of expression.  

Closely related to this idea is the misconception that has been prevalent in recent years concerning the word “responsibility.”  Somehow, it has obtained the meaning of “the ability to respond.”  Well, it might mean that, but in its truer sense it has a meaning closer to “duty.”  And many people despise that word and that idea.  It sounds too much like work, or worse, slavery. 

Well, all it takes when it comes to our freedoms and the responsibility that goes with them, is a few seconds to ensure that what we say and do does not negatively affect others.  Can you do or say something that will hurt others?  Yes.  But, even if there are not legal consequences, even if they don’t retaliate in some way, you still have consequences.  And as the site mentioned above states, these are often mental or emotional problems. 

I have seen this happen.  I have experienced it in my own life.  I know people who think it is fine (they even brag about it) to just say whatever is on their minds, even if it is hurtful to someone else.  And, yes, they experience anxiety, depression and anger, and even though I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist I am able to tell that they struggle with guilt.  It’s in their speech.  It’s in their behavior.  It’s eating them alive. 

Here is the link to the website again: Freedom, Responsibility, and Agency Please take the time to at least skim it.  It is very informative and useful.

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