Of individual freedom, wealth and ethics

Freedom. A way to express it mathematically is by comparing it to the limit of a function, where every increment of the dependant variable gets you closer, but…

Sounds counterintuitive to question your our own level of freedom, or more to try to become aware of any limitations to it. For centuries culture has devised mechanisms for pre-packaging freedom (religion?), so we can feel free but not really in essence. The question of real freedom in modern everyday life doesn’t imply a free life doesn’t exist. But, in our times the truly free individuals are rare, in fact they are not role models of society — I would argue probably artists and artisans of a craft in control of their income and ethics are still part of the few examples. The CEO’s, politicians, and highest earning professionals are not free, they are mastered in a way or another by their position, and easily become a puppet of the situation while losing their individuality. Unfortunately, many people don’t realise how wealth and power (not mastered properly) just complicate their living and made them dependant on sources outside their control, hence constrained to exercise their true being. Money (like a medicine) has its side effects, the more you have the more you need to keep up, and when not aware of this property, money will just rule the fool’s life. Very opposite of the one that doesn’t need money at all to exercise its being, where money is just managing the unexpected and having the upper hand in terms of income control.

The intention of the idea expressed here so far, is not to justify poor people state of affairs in regards to money, or disqualify ambition and drive for power. Nothing worse than an individual that fits its own system of beliefs to their current situation, and implicitly assume they are justified, with no room for improvement, and with even a license to lecture others on how to conduct their lives (Soviet style).The point is that wealth takes away more freedom, for more people, than what it provides to some. Or, like Seneca would have put it “Wealth is the slave of the wise man, and master of the fool”

This modern Freedom, is intertwined with limitations to the concept of ethics and personal conduct. Since for many people their ethics are not first, they actually depend on what their uncontrolled source of income demands, and then adapt their personal conduct to it. Like someone in the business of selling cigarettes justifying it as an exercise of freedom of choice in society, then putting more weight in the value of generating that choice, than in the harm they create to human beings in the long-term. This is not really what used to be considered personal conduct —or ethics itself — , but the version adapted to the new circumstances of work, politics, and consumerism, in the new age.

A correct system of beliefs, is one that puts ethics, choice, and wealth in their right place. An order that is characteristic of individuals than we can consider truly free. A question to ask is whether we should all aim for this level of freedom? Or leave it reserved it to some individuals that can understand the limitations of the system and go around it to be masters of their own?

Looking around us, probably give us the answer. We don’t believe — as a society — we can handle being free (“you can’t handle the truth” Col. Jessup in A few good men). We can cite many experiments with anarchy in history that had gone terribly bad, and ended up with people begging for controlled or directed life in some shape or form. We don’t know why, but as the proverb says “avoid extremes”. Not everybody can be completely free, and not everybody can be slaved forever.

The question is whether freedom in society is a point in time where this balance of proportions, between the really free and the system puppet is skewing towards the latter. An extreme in itself to be avoided. As a society with no free men cannot generate the necessary adaptations to bring stability to the ones looking for guide and control.

Anarchy, and Big Brother regimes— although opposite —share the same long-term outcome to the society that follows them.

Is an utmost responsibility of the few free people (in any historical point) to take the lead and challenge for change when they see extremes, and be prepared not to compromise their ethics, risk their wealth, and preserve dignity of humanity in the process.

Freedom is to aim for the limit of the function ( limx→x0 ) as infinitely impossible as it could be to get there.

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