For me, I find that there are two different answers to the question: “Are we free within Society? ” – and that there are many variations, with thanks to culture, socialization, social interaction and social structure. For the most part I find freedom all around. I’ll give some examples of that and show some areas where I see other’s struggle with finding a sense of freedom, whether it be external or within. First, what is freedom? It’s an ambiguous term that can hold many different meanings to different people.
Where a person comes from, their socio-economic status, their race, age, gender and other factors play a role in defining what freedom is. It’s used in many different senses, for example: is freedom being able to do as you like within society or is it free-will? Is it something you do or a way you feel? For me, it holds many different meanings pertaining to many different things. It isn’t the same for all matters and some hold-fast ideas I have on freedom, have or can quickly change or slide into a different meaning with new discoveries.
Reading the news paper can be profound enough to shine a new light on something that changes me as a person. Isn’t education liberating?! Some people say we are free… if we say we are. Some believe we are not free in society because we willingly give it power over us, thus we are not free. What about the laws that govern us? As a law abiding citizen, I don’t find any issues with the laws that are in place to protect us. Some people who smoke pot think it should be legalized and that it is just “The Man” infringing upon their freedom.
Some think it should be legalized for other reasons such as medical purposes (in some states it is legal for those said, medicinal purposes. ). See the variation of reasons!! Culturally is one free…… say, to change ones sex? Yes, but the individual should be comfortable enough to go forward knowing that for some, it causes fear, because changing one’s sex is seen as a threat to the “normal” way of life. I certainly don’t and never have had a problem with anyone’s sexuality or sex characteristics, being different from my own.
I think in today’s society we are more open to change and difference. How much freedom does a homosexual person have when it comes to their sexuality? Certainly as much as anyone else but for the individual this varies drastically per their own learned ideals, their culture, their families outlook on it and the experiences they have had. For those that are homosexual, the risk of “coming out”, can either be very easy or one they hide all their lives. I see much younger generations now, unafraid of what people may think about their sexuality.
Conversely I know families that have a homosexual father or mother, who didn’t make it known that they were gay, until the kids were much older. My childhood best friend has five brothers and sisters. They had the biggest house on the block. They were wealthy beyond all recognition and the parents seemed happy. When I was twenty, so about ten years ago, I heard her parents were divorcing. Dad moved out. The next thing I know, when she had her first child three years ago, was that Dad came with a male friend. Okay, I for some reason immediately knew it was his boyfriend.
Never the less, I had questions of how life was for him living with a beautiful family, I’m positive he loved every moment of, but really wanting that family with a man, instead of a woman? Did he not feel free to choose a man thirty-five years ago? If not, what enabled him to feel free to be with the man he loves now? Did he impose certain restrictions on his own life at the time and eventually shake the feeling of being limited or fearful of what negative impact his lifestyle would have? I imagine the political and social strides, plus the acceptance homosexuals have present day, made quite a difference.
It is possible that he was never bound by fear, but that his family life was full and homosexuality came to him later in life. I’m not positive as to when he knew he was homosexual but this is a random analysis. Oh yes, the family also had a strong faith in Christianity and the bible condemns homosexuality. His religious belief could have surely left him feeling as though he had no choice but to marry a woman. The bible says a lot against homosexuality. Back when we were children, homosexuals were not as widely accepted as they are now.
Thankfully, our society as a whole dose not look to the bible for answers. In several states there are now laws giving marriage rights to same sex couples, just as a men and women can marry. There was a huge social calling for it. Also, homosexuals exists in all cultures across the world, including in nature. So sure, we are free in society but in some cases have cultural obstacles to overcome in order to get there. What does socialization have to do with freedom? I think if anything it allows us to understand what freedom is, it shapes how we feel about it.
Without socialization we aren’t human. Socialization is essential for learning how to think, feel, reason AND how to interact with others. In an isolated environment where you have no grasp of self or society, there is no understanding of what boundaries are. There is no need. Through socialization we have social encounters that show us different ways of life and encourage us to find alternate ways of thinking. We meet with individuals that have other views of the world and so we too, are exposed to new ideas, feelings and can form our own thoughts and behaviors.
Our formal socialization or ideas that have been imposed upon us, can be changed and discarded as we see fit. Some people are not as emotionally strong or too afraid to change things about themselves let alone confront social injustices. This could be a fear one blames on society. I mean where does one’s own fears and or learned behaviors come from? Who and or what is really standing as a hindrance to their freedom. It’s important for people to feel some sort of freedom within social structures. Is society a prison? NO! Imagine having the type of upbringing where it was ingrained in you that you are a slave.
Imagine always feeling trapped, searching for a way to get out, but get out of what? I guess real freedom isn’t about that, real freedom is freedom from the past: from your own conditioning, from fixed sets of ideas inherited from others or yourself, from behavioral habits which turn you into a “machine” instead of a fully alive human. There are all sorts of discussions on morality going on in Japan right now, and that the nation is slave to materialism and climbing the socio-economic latter. That’s seemingly a norm here in the US.
What really makes me think, is the polar opposite -the kind of freedom you can have anywhere, even in jail. Inmates being completely free in their minds. Imagining they can travel the world and learn different cultures from the confines of their physical space -a four foot by six foot cell. Social structures may limit you, to what you want to do anyway but most importantly, certain structures are in place to protect society as a whole. We are not free to kill or harm people! Sociology says individuals are actively involved in the construction of self -reasoning, personality, morality, emotion, gender.
You are free to think whatever you want, follow whatever religion you want, vote for political candidates of your choice, wear you pants backwards, have expectations of the people around you etc. For some, that is not enough. Defining what freedom means to you will determine whether you are free within society or not. Some will find limits and other’s will find that freedom falls within a matter of degree that can vary. Culture, socialization, social interactions and social structures all play their role in the individuals creative definition of freedom. They say, free your mind and the rest will follow!