Is there even a contest between what we should choose between freedom and happiness, if we had to. Or is the answer very simple, like life is, according to many people. All the complexities residing in my head.
To someone trapped in an unpleasant situation, freedom might mean more than happiness. It being likely that trying to be happy is what got them trapped in the first place. Whereas, for a child, freedom and happiness don’t necessarily mean two different things. In their view, which is often carried over through adulthood and sometimes an entire lifetime, the freedom to do something that makes them happy, even if that requires some ‘adult’ or ‘superior’ supervision, is enough. Infants learn to suddenly burst out into tears while they may have seemed perfectly happy a second before to begin being happy again. Of course to them happiness is a status record, of being fed or hungry, wet or dry, in a comfortable lap or hanging in the air on a harness, hot, cold or cozy. That’s a lot of states for an infant and they learn that a wail or two and eventually more, with tears, can usually get them as much attention as is needed to make them happy again.
What I didn’t realize while doing the growing up and getting the education was that all that was not really intended to lead to a job and have a standard of living better than what my parents had. After all, that was supposedly synonymous to being happy, which for all intents and purposes I already was. Now, children who are unhappy because of family conditions or the non existence of one, I would imagine, would trade anything for happiness, for the adult supervision that would make them feel wanted, secure and happy. Even for some children in loving families, things that could threaten their happy lives, make their parents less loving (even for just an hour) would be things to avoid. Hence, trading freedom for happiness is easy and understandable. For children.
Education, at least what passes for it in schools, unlike what I was told as a kid, almost certainly does not lead to the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. Often that has to be learned in life, living it. We are not robots, if people could be taught exact definitions of right or wrong in schools and expect to live by them, we wouldn’t have most societal issues would we? We also won’t have anything new, courageous or crazy wonderful. What we can be taught in schools is how to stay out of trouble, discipline and social interactions. Knowledge and its use, how to be a part of the society which is influenced by math, physics, geography, geology, biology, chemistry, politics, economics and every thing we are taught to pass exams in. All that doesn’t necessarily make us wise, just helps us integrate into the society we already inhabit. Additionally, we should be taught is to have an open mind to the rights and wrongs in the world and the grays, some of us learn that young enough. Especially in troubled families, where no one is entirely good or evil. It could be harder, in some ways, for children that are doted on and smothered and over protected, they have the expectation that society owes it to them. Just because they exist. That happiness is in fact, the norm, not something you have to work for. Perfect parenting, may not always lead to perfect kids. Once you get used to perfection, it is hard to live in this world!!
So as we go through all the early phases of learning and figuring out our status in our class, school and within the community of our parents’ friends, relatives, we adjust our expectations from ourselves. Some children are very good at it, compensating early for their short comings, by altering behavior and expectations. Some don’t do as well, may feel inadequate or unhappy and trapped in a place they didn’t ask to be in. Adjusting to what one is, the true nature of self, takes a life time or more.
Then comes a phase that everything seems like a trap, in the west it is called the teenage angst, and later the mid life crisis, in the east it often appears much later and stays on. We have such focus on taking our education to an endpoint of ‘success’ or at least a job that being one with our soul can take a backseat. At any rate, wasn’t the job, the success, and money supposed to bring us the happiness? Then the family was supposed to add to it. It does for a lot of people.
For some, however, the job and the possibility of or the state of being married, may not lead to happiness. I am all for equal rights, I was brought up thinking that girls are as good if not better than boys, but I know its not true. Being a man often comes with the sort of freedom, a sort of expected reign on your life and choices, that women don’t have. So freedom is traded again, for happiness and security. The education they had received, that led to freedom for men, is not enough for the same freedom for women. They look up to their children and husbands for happiness, if not freedom.
Even in a perfect world, no one has everything, one may think. So trading a career, spontaneity and top priority in your own life, for happiness, should work. It did, for the longest time in our, still, patriarchal society, when girls were brought up thinking that freedom was not even an option, were married off early. Some continue to marry quite early of their own volition now, because freedom is hard to deal with.
It doesn’t work so well for women who inadvertently picked up the ability of thinking freely and being able to cope with the responsibility of what comes after. The side effects of a real education. No one they can blame, because men will always blame the women, wherever possible. Because, hey, it was your decision to not marry or not listen to the husband or family. Momentary happiness is easy to get, but to people who understand it, fragments of freedom close enough to touch, but not quite, is worse than complete serfdom.
A man can expect to be happy without giving up freedom. That is the worst kind of gender discrimination, because it is so basic. It of course doesn’t mean that all men are happy and free. Its not a perfect world for them either. But at least they have a higher chance to make decisions that can lead to both.
Why blame society anyway, it could just be that the very career a man or woman chose for themselves, takes away their freedom, because they can’t give it up. They have invested everything in it. So might as well take the fragments of freedom offered by money, and moments of happiness provided by the family wherever and whenever possible. It is more than a lot of people have, considering the state of the world.
However, just for the sake of argument, I don’t think that trading freedom can lead to lasting happiness, not for anyone with an independent streak at least. The ones who don’t always need adult supervision and are not afraid of taking a chance now and then. So you want a brain, courage, independence, freedom AND happiness? What was it.. yeah.. you can’t get everything in life!
So, in the pursuit of happiness, commit to liberty of thought and expect great obstacles. But, girl, don’t settle for less. It is in the freedom that you will find yourself, and it is in yourself that you will find happiness.
But let me end with a quote from my demi-god – Orwell, as clearly ending in that last line ( as I did originally), was not in line with the real, true, cynical me..“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”