Friday, October 03, 2014


You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose freewill
-Rush, "Free Will"

You don't have free will.  I know that sounds crazy, but its true, you don't have free will the way people usually mean it.  When the topic of free will comes up, most people think it means they have the ability to shape their own lives and decide however they wish about any topic. 
It sounds nice, and for modern man it is appealing in terms of self destiny and autonomy, but its all just bunk.  Each of us has a will, this is true.  We have the ability to decide what we want and a desire to direct our lives in a certain way.  But that will is not free the way people think of it.
Our will is only free within certain limits of our personality and circumstances.  And that doesn't sound truly real, does it?  That's because it isn't in the sense of what people usually mean by freedom of the will.
For one thing, our freedom of will is directed by our nature; who we are, how we were raised, what we believe, and our fundamental worldview.  The way we understand the world and others around us shapes our will and directs us into certain paths and patterns.  My will is shaped by who I am; what I want and desire from life and try to accomplish is designated by my worldview, ambitions, and character.  I am not free to utterly be anyone whatsoever, only me.
Like a train free to run on any track, we're free to decide and act within the limits of who we are and what our circumstances are.
Despite some slogans and the declarations of some thinkers, our will is severely limited by reality.  We cannot shape the world and the others around us by the strength of our will.  Because each person has a will of their own, no one's can be so totally free and powerful as to constantly manipulate reality to our will, because we would all be clashing with each others' desires.
Consider.  Almost all of life is out of our control.  We may have a will to be rich, powerful, successful, attractive, healthy, and live forever.  But our lives dictate a different path.  Few will themselves to become old, blind, crippled, diseased, poor, starving, or dead.  But that is our path, all of us to one degree or another.  All of us will die.  All of us will have ill health.  Very, very few will have enough money to not worry about having more for tomorrow.
I have the will to be a successful author, not wealthy, but comfortable from the income of writing.  I have a will to be strong and healthy.  None of that is true, not yet at least.  My will changes nothing about this circumstance.
At best, our wills can shape how we respond to and act within our circumstances, but even that is limited by our nature and the situation we find ourselves in.  Our will is not free, not in the sense people mean it.
Yet our culture wants to act as if that's true.  And further, they wish to make a world where our will controls reality, even when it cannot.  Here's one recent example; Germany has announced that tuition at all institutions of higher learning starting next term are free.  Young people in the country celebrated, young people elsewhere cried "why not here??"
Older people said "what the??"  Because they know that this term "free" means something different than how it is being used.  Tuition isn't free, its just being forced out of everyone in the country at gunpoint.  There's no free university education here, its just being paid for by thousands of people who get no education out of it.  Instead of people paying for what they receive, they're demanding others pay instead.  Because even if a college student has a job that pays any taxes, they've only paid a tiny sliver of the cost of one student's education with their taxes so far.  They're just getting an education at everyone else's expense.
“Tuition fees are socially unjust,” cried one student named Dorothee Stapelfeldt.  Her term is undefined and vague, but essentially it means "we want this, so we should get it, without needing to achieve it."  She wants to assert her will upon reality, and is demanding that everyone else make it possible.  She demands that the world around her change to reflect her desires, rather than her change to achieve them.
And this is incredibly common today.  Each new demand for a "right" or "justice" is not about rights or justice at all, but about people frustrated that things aren't going their way demanding that everyone and everything change to make it happen.
Most of the Occupy Movement was highjacked by this perspective.  Why should I have to pay my bills?  Why can't you just give me what I demand?  The world isn't like I was raised to understand, its hard and cruel and cares nothing for my snowflake feelings!
Health care, contraceptives, feminine hygiene products like tampons, higher education, endless unemployment, food stamps, on and on it goes.  You should give it to me because otherwise its hard and I'd have to make my own way.  You should give it to me because that's how I think the world should be.  You must change to accommodate my will.
When the world got in the way of what Americans used to want, they rolled up their sleeves, dusted off their hands and started working harder.  It was a challenge, an opportunity to show what they were made of.  That's how the country got built, that's how the US went from a backwater bunch of crazy colonists into the world's most powerful country in less than a century.
Today, when faced with a problem, the country whines for government to fix it.  When we are confronted with how our will is thwarted or slowed by reality and the way we are, tantrums start, requiring that things change so our will can be obeyed.  I want.  I need.  You should give.  If you don't you're heartless, cruel, racist, bigoted, homophobic, sexist.
Its sort of pathetic, watching people pretend they can make the world be what they wish it to be.  The world is what it is, you can affect it, shape it, and influence it by your efforts, but you can't make it not be what it is.  Beating your fists on that rock won't make it into marshmellows.  But with a chisel, a hammer, and skill you can make it into a statue.
Your will is not free.  It is flexible and controlled by you, but not free.  And that's a good thing, ultimately.  Grow up and face reality, instead of demanding people fix it.

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