This weekend, Uranus in Taurus trine Jupiter in Capricorn, Uranus is freedom, detachment, awakening; Jupiter is philosophy, worldview, optimism, and understanding. A trine aspect between the two planets means harmonious integration of awareness in freedom. Although living in United States close to thirty years, I know little about politics. Only in recent months did I shockingly discover the extent of decay in destructive politics in our system. In a time of Pluto return and Transit Uranus square U.S. nodal axis, I feel compel to visit some of the fundamental ideas of western democracy. I want to compare the east and west studies about the concepts of freedom – a huge subject in the western mind that is deep in the western psyche and ran as far as since the time of Enlightenment.
According to Two Concepts of Liberty, Philosopher Isaiah Berlin separated freedom into two category. Tom Richly’s channel gave very good explanation on these ideas. Negative liberty (freedom from) is the freedom from outside interference; you are able to act unobstructed by others. Jefferson’s famous sentence in the Declaration of Independence – “Life, Liberty and In pursuit of happiness” is a good example of this classical view of freedom. So is the First Amendment of U.S. Constitution. In this view, a person owes nothing to society as long as he does nothing to harm the society. And if you are prevented by others from doing what you would otherwise do, you are to that degree unfree. Because there are other goals like justice, equality, happiness, and security etc. that are necessary to fulfill human purpose. In the interest of these goals, or in the interest of freedom itself, it is deem necessary to curtail freedom to a certain extent. There is disagreement as to how wide the area of freedom or non-interference would be to not posted as coerced or enslaved. A case in point for negative freedom is the Chinese government’s extradition bill imposed on HongKong.
Positive liberty (freedom to) is the ability to act upon one’s will. We can be our own masters, we are entitled to do something. What if we are unable to attain our goal due to lack of resources? Like in the case of Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation, the slaves in the south are free from their masters, but what now, what can they do? They do not have any money, they do not have any property, nor do they have any marketable skills. So the slaves were free from negative sense by the emancipation decree, but not from positive sense. And this is where we ask ourselves, should all members of society have Education, Healthcare, employment and Food? Do people have a right to be taken care of when they are sick, and right to have basic living necessities? In a state of nature, they certainly do not have. But in a civilized society, do we recognize these rights? In the case of New Deal of FDR administration, the notion is “Freedom of speech, Freedom of worship” (negative freedom); and “Freedom from want; freedom from fear” (positive freedom).
In order to implement positive liberty, you are going to redistribute wealth and resources. If people are short of basic resource of a decent living: food, healthcare, education, employment, then, in a civilized society, as different from nature barbarian situation, society create government for the purpose of easing out these type of problems so these people can achieve their goal. And considering the resources available to disposal, and the consensus of the people, there are important decisions to make regarding the public policies for redistribution – and this is how economic policy, taxation and central banks’ monetary policy related to the idea of freedom.
If a person is being discriminated, by something like Affirmative action, so libertarian will say this is not right, one person’s freedom is being compromised by another person’s freedom. At the same time, without any redistribution, a portion of population is without wealth, education, that portion of people is not free. So looking from perspective of positive liberty, a portion of people are un-free because they are lack of basic resources just as what Rousseauilluminated in “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chain.” So liberty is complicated. And there is an on-going arguments between what Jeffersonian concept of negative liberty and more twentieth century Roosevelt concept of positive liberty which also incorporate negative liberty as well. Libertarians believed that two people can not be both free if one people have to take from the other in order to be free. This very idea, although extremely wrong, I believe is the underneath issue that provoke United States to fight with so many countries all over the world, especially those coming into power and have potentials to exceed U.S.A in some way.
From Buddhism point of view, Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of restrictions. It means possessing unshakable conviction in your choices in the face of an obstacle. Buddhism is meant to free our minds to view the world with perspective and taking self-discipline to make right choice, right action. For example, if you are addicted to drugs, although you do not harm others, you fail to control a passion that you would rather be rid off, which is preventing you from realize what your recognized to be your true interest. So liberty is not only about absent of obstacles external to the agent, it is also about presence of control on the part of agent. To be free, you must be self-determined, you must be able to control your won destiny in our own interest.
For Buddhism, freedom means that we detached from three poisons – greed, hatred and ignorance. The Buddha teaches us: “Life is constant change.” We may not be able to totally let go of all those shortcomings, we can come to the awareness that freedom does not lie in trying to escape but in accepting the impermanence of the physical world and freeing yourself from attachment to material things. Because we do not hold so tight to material things, we are much happy to share things/wealth with others, and we rid of ourselves many psychological burden related to possessions. By adjusting emotionally, mentally, spiritually, we adjust to the constant changes and grow individually/collectively.
Freedom also means we are not imprisoned by anyone else’s words, deeds or thoughts. We are able to have independent thinking and take actions accordingly. Under the societal expectations, judgments and conformity, a prevalent phenomenon is people have been trained to love permission instead of freedom. Franz Kafka said “Sometimes it is easier to be in chains.” Buddhism emphasize our interdependent with one another, and our interdependent with our environment. Love and compassion would naturally become the mindset in guiding our daily interaction with the world at large.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “The foundation of all mental illness is the unwillingness to experience legitimate suffering.” Mental illness is an indication of our un-free emotional state. It is in this sense, Carl Jund said, “Be grateful for your difficulties and challenges, for they hold blessings. In fact, man needs difficulties; they are necessary for healthy personal growth, individuation and self-actualization.” By cultivating a positive awareness and taking responsibility for our own freedom, we control our destiny.
- Age of Individuation and Abundance;
- What is Wrong with Objectivism ?
- Too a Degree, We Are All Susceptible to the Fear of Freedom
- Too a Degree, We Are All Susceptible to the Fear of Freedom 2
- Reforming Capitalism;
- Strengthen Our Mind to Handle Modern Stress;
- Where to find true happiness? The False Claim of Happiness Industry;
- Where to Find True Happiness? 2 Mind’s False Perception;