Thursday, August 18, 2011

i-TFTD #333: What Freedom Means

August 15 every year brings the word freedom into prominence. It is a simple word but not a simple concept. Everybody wants it but apparently everybody does not easily let others have it. One man wants to have the freedom to stage a symbolic protest in a particular place in a large city that would disrupt traffic and inconvenience a lot of his compatriots. The people running the Government of India are learning (hopefully) the limits of the freedom that they have. The quotes below indicate that freedom has many dimensions.

#333-1. Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.
-Stephen R. Covey

#333-2. Regulation is designed by h! umanity itself, it would be ridiculous to presume that everything that is not regulated is not even allowed. Regulation is an exception and freedom is the rule.

#333-3. Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
-Mahatma Gandhi

As happens often, I sense a useful point of view in what Covey says but have to disagree with the broad sweep and finality with which it is made. One of the hottest topics of research in recent times is on the irrational working of the human brain and the ways in which our thoughts and beliefs are unconsciously affected. But within the context of our reactions to events, it helps to perceive the freedom we have, to choose our responses.

Freedom is the default state unless specific limits are commonly agreed for collective benefit.

Having the freedom to make mistakes does not mean we should not design to prevent processes or products unwanted mistakes.

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