Man Is Not Free

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The West is grappling with the question of whether the individual has primacy or society. Many aver that an individual is free to do anything he or she likes. But can a man claim to have absolute freedom? The individual cannot do anything by himself. He has to work in conjunction with others. He is completely reliant on others for his food, nourishment, routine activity, and almost everything else. Even as science progresses, the individual is becoming increasingly dependent on others. The farmer produces food grains, but for clothing, he remains dependent on others.

A human being is the most helpless creature at birth. All activities—walking, talking, eating, learning everything is taught to him by others. His joy, happiness also depend on others. Eating, drinking, travelling, celebrating festivals, and visiting fairs alone give him no joy. Our happiness multiplies on auspicious occasions. Like in a wedding, it multiplies only when others come to visit us. Even though, during illness and grief, visitors can, at times, prove more of a burden than help, their company tends to lighten our grief and provide succor. The conclusion is that one cannot live alone. Materially, socially, in all respects, man is dependent on others.

The slogan of individual freedom of liberty is, therefore, meaningless

In one of his poems, Rabindranath Tagore also put a question mark on the notion of individual freedom. Our Creator is bound by the laws of his own creation. He can’t save someone from being burned if he has a fireball in his hand. Only the application of some ointment can provide relief. Some say, God is capable of anything, but this is not quite true, God cannot be unjust; else he will be the devil. He can only be righteous. His actions are not unbridled; he too is bound by the laws of his own creation.

Capitalism, Socialism, Communism and Other Isms

Some people treat freedom as the absence of all restraints. Western thinking is that, be it society, nature, or all creation as such, – all is meant for the individual. The West says, “Conquer nature’. The frequently used English expression is “exploiting natural resources,” that is to say, using everything or personal consumption and aggrandizement. Slaughter animals and eat them up because everything is meant for me. This is their worldview. A man is big and mighty, hence everything is meant for him. Man is large and powerful, but our definition of “large” is “one who is for others and serves others.”

In the West, one talks of the conquest of nature. They call climbing Everest the ‘conquest of Everest’. We too went to the Himalayas and climbed peaks, but with a sense of worshipful renunciation.”I will conquer, I am the mightiest. This attitude is egotistical. It is egotism that gave rise to capitalism and communism.

The communism that exists today is not true communism either. This is also a kind of individualism. The communists say that the owner of the machine employs labourers, pays little to them, and consumes the most himself. They arouse a feeling of jealousy among the workers (against the entrepreneurs) by stating, “They move around in cars on the fruits of your labour.” Your labour, but being alone, you are weak. You should therefore all unite. “ Statements such as these do not reflect a sense of society, but rather an envious otherness.

The communist organisation also implies the rule of labour and not of society. In the labourers’ collective, the worker cannot do anything by himself. He is asked to surrender his power to the collective. Thus, the worker loses his freedom too. It is, therefore, a dictatorship of the proletariat, not the sense of society. Communism is a totalitarian ideology that leads to a total loss of freedom for the individual; the entire ideology is predicated on conflict and struggle.

Conflict is inherent in capitalism too. Competition forms its basis, and the principle of survival of the fittest provides its underpinnings. The communists do not believe in competition but in class struggle. This system also gives rise to competition within the class instead of the individuals. The West thus doesn’t think of the whole but rather of the parts. This mode of thinking is, in our view, partial and not holistic.

Co-operation, not struggle

It is not just the fittest who survive in this world, the weak survive too. That is precisely the meaning of civilization, that the weak are protected. So that the weak may also survive, is exactly why medical science like Ayurveda is required. The strong and fit will survive anyway. Police also exist for the protection of the weak. The State was created to obviate the justice of the dominant. Society and laws are created so that the strong do not run over the weak.

It can hence be said that the basis of society is co-operation and not struggle. Nature also follows this principle. Vegetation and human life are complementary. There is no struggle between the two. We require oxygen, and plants require carbon dioxide; the two thus complement one another.

(Source: Integral Humanism – Deendayal Upadhyaya)
Published by Prabhat Prakashan, New Delhi