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Are we really free?

Straight Talk
by by Nimfa L. Estrellado

“Man is Born Free, but is Everywhere in Chains” - Jean-Jacques Rosseau, a great Genevan Philosopher

In my own opinion, Rosseau was making a point about the chains that we put upon ourselves through duty, whether through work, family or social role. Perhaps he was stating that although we believe that we are born free without any inhibitions, it is just a pretense due to the constraints inflicted on us by social conditioning.

These feelings of conscience are difficult to get rid of in a civilised society and therefore we have to ask ourselves if we really are free. Is freedom an illusion of the mind? Or can we strip the bonds of social conditioning away easily?

In our country press freedom is already under grave threat. On the brighter side, Internet use is not restricted in the country. Filipinos are actually among the region’s most active users of social media websites.

Personally, I believe that I am free in basic choices such as what to wear on a given day or whether to have an ice cream at the beach. However, I believe that we are a species are not autonomous beings. There are silent rules which guide us through life, which some interpret as conscience or responsibility, and others as God’s will on Earth. We are held back by conscience and laws we place on each other in society. These chains are man-made, but they are binding beyond our free will. For example, society dictates that we look after our family, that we go to work on time, that money is the most important thing that we can gain in life. Through this, we can see that we are constrained by more than simply ourselves.

Of course I am free as far as I can be, as a girl living in a third world country, protected by the Human Rights Act of the Philippines, which is a lot more than can be said for other people. These ideals of freedom include freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to a free trial, freedom of expression, freedom from forced labor and slavery, and freedom from discrimination of any kind.

Generally I believe that I am free, and there is only one law which could be made to further my own freedom, that of equal rights in the workplace between men and women.This is because as long as there is such thing as a civilised society there will always be socially conditioned constraints on what we can and cannot do, both to ourselves and to other people.