In our current societal setting we, as citizens, are essentially free. Many people have differing opinions as to what this freedom should entail. Americans have always stood their ground in the fight for liberties and privileges, both civil and personal, which we feel are deserved. This is a continuing scenario as cultural progression opens new doors for a variety of people. Many have written in the past concerning this topic. These writings are transcendent through time and are still applicable today. One noteworthy author who discusses freedom being Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Rousseau’s writings focus on the defining of what freedom is, how to acquire it and how to maintain that freedom once it is achieved. Countless times these works have been used as reference to help people make a more solid decision as to their own definition of freedom. I will be using these works to discuss my own views concerning this subject and how society today is affected by these different scenarios. Freedom can be defined in different ways by different people depending on their personal experiences and beliefs. Most people will agree that our society offers a freedom which is acceptable for comfort in their daily lives.
Yet there are others who will note the underlying causes of restriction within our given rules and regulations. Our laws are given with the intent of protection of our fellow citizens and maintenance of peace. Many of these laws can be defined as upholding morality such as those stating that murder or thievery are wrong. Others are more susceptible to circumstance such as traffic laws. The latter may be considered by many as an infringement of personal rights and an annoyance. We are subjected to these rules by others who hold positions of power and many may feel their opinions are neglected when these are put into place.
Even though the majority of these laws can be agreed upon as being right, we must obey those we do not agree with as well or face the consequences. Commonly debated laws include the legalization of controlled substances and restrictions of medical practices, such as abortion. According to Rousseau, “Just as the shepherd is superior in kind to his sheep, so, too, the shepherds of men, or, in other words, their rulers, are superior in kind to the peoples. ” (Rousseau 60) I believe this to mean that only a select few are given the opportunity to actually instate certain regulations, while the citizens may or may not agree with them.
This would be a definite violation of the peoples’ collective rights. Often times, people will follow these rules anyways in order to avoid the persecution that may accompany fighting against them. Others choose to take the opposite approach and make a stand against whatever power may be enforcing these unjust laws, regardless of consequence. People have, in the past, been able to make great changes by putting in the work necessary to accomplish this. In turn, many doors have been opened for groups that would have otherwise been denied.
Rousseau also states, “Obey the powers that be… no case will ever be found of its violation. ” (Rousseau 62) As most laws do provide a sort of security for the general public, I feel that some sacrifices or annoyances are bearable and necessary. Achieving an ideal state in society is a difficult task and as a member of this society it is my responsibility to think of the needs of others regardless of my own preferences. The rules that are in place are there for good reason and ensure that other, more necessary freedoms are not violated. Often times in our society, the luxuries given are taken for granted.
Many other nations are subject to difficulties and atrocities which the majority of us simply cannot relate to. It can sometimes be difficult to look past what we have in the way of rights and privileges. Also, for us to be free it is not enough that no one stops me from doing something I want to do. I must also have the means to do that. Even if no law prevents me from doing something, should I be unable to act in the chosen way because I lack the necessary education or resources? Certain laws such as taxes and fees for government processes are devised in such a way as to eventually come full circle and direct the benefits back to us.
Many don’t agree with these certain taxations despite what was previously mentioned. Our roads, parks and other public works are a perfect example of what these laws provide for us. Laws such as these are necessary for the upstart and maintenance of comfortable living in our communities. It needs to be understood that we, as a nation, have such a great opportunity that many other nations and people in this world can only imagine. We must be careful not to let our freedom slip away as a result of that freedom being taken for granted.